Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

The Jury Is Still Out On Women as Parsi Priests

A much debated issue in the Parsi community — the status of women has been reinvigorated after an event in Iran. The Tehran Mobeds Anjuman (Anjoman-e-Mobedan), last month announced that for the first time in history of Iran and the Zoroastrian communities worldwide, eight women have joined the group of mobeds (priests) in Iran as mobedyars (lady priests).

By Ashutosh Shukla | DNA

The event has been welcomed by the liberals and they have been emailing Parsis across the city, arguing that the community should have a re-look at the traditions and status of the women.

These mobedyars (lady priests) are well educated and have passed all the religious tests set by the Mobeds Anjuman on religious matters.

They now hold a certificate and apart from the lower-rung religious functions, they can even initiate people into the religion.

“If Iran, despite being an Islamic republic, can have Zoroastrians being this liberal, why not in democratic India? It is the so-called orthodox who are of the view that only males can become priests,” said Vispy Wadia, member of liberal group Association of Revival of Zoroastrianism.

He added, “What they (Iraninan Zorastrians) have done adheres to the basic principles of gender equality in the religion. They are being progressive and not talibanising the religion.”

One member who did not wished to be named said, “The discrimination is when the woman is not accepted in the institutes. The main object is prayer.”

Noshir Dadrawala, one of the trustees of BPP said, “Nowhere is it mentioned that women cannot become priest but it is also true that traditionally there were no women priest amongst the Parsis. It is like any other religion where certain rituals like touching of the Holy books is not allowed during the monthly cycle of women.”

When contacted, Dr Ramiyar Karanjia, principal, Dadar Athornan Institute, a seminary for Parsi priests said, “India and Iran are two different places. They are confusing the issue. In India, only the ones from a family line can become priests.”