Fire Temple Blessings
FIRE TEMPLE BLESSINGS by Aban Bana
In our Zoroastrian religion, the ten day period between Astad Roj of Asfandarmad Mahino and the last day of the five gathas is reserved for the Muktad, the ceremonial prayers in memory of our departed relatives and friends. All the Atash Behrams and Agiarys and places of worship set up marble-top tables, one for each departed soul in whose memory the prayers are to be recited, with fresh flowers, fruits, ceremonial eatables, a divo and a prayer book with the names. The priests are given the task of reciting the prayers at a given time.
A visit to a Fire Temple during this period is a wonderful experience indeed. The place is full of the pure fragrance of the sukhad-loban and the sound of priests reciting the prayers in loud melodious voices. Large numbers of devotees attend these prayers and the whole atmosphere is festive yet solemn. People greet one another and meet in memory of the loved ones who have departed from us but who are believed to return to our plane for this short period. Some people even set up the Muktad tables in their own homes.
Last Muktad Sunday for the very first time I went on a one day trip organised by Mr. Dinyar Mehta of Dini Travels to visit Atash Behrams and Agiarys in Mumbai. We were a group of 43 Parsis, many of them senior citizens, and we went by bus very early in the morning. The group was humorous and jovial in a very Parsi way (eat, drink and be merry) but at the same time serious enough to undertake such a pilgrimage at such an unearthly hour on a Sunday!
After visiting the four Atash Behrams, the group proceeded to Ranji Agiary at Corner Grant Road. This very ancient agiary is like an oasis of beauty in a rather turbulent and grimy locality and the sukhad-loban fragrance greets you as soon as you enter. Here the Muktad tables are placed on the first floor.
From Ranji, we went to our famous “Zoo-agiary”, the Byculla Mewavala agiary, dating from 1846, right next to the Jijamata Udyan zoological gardens or Ranibagh. This too was full of worshippers, not surprising because the big Parsi Baugs, Jer Baug and Rustom Baug are but a stone throw away. Back in the bus we were served a sumptuous breakfast, and Mr. Mehta does not forget that even Parsis can be vegetarians! Then it was a straight road to Dadar Parsi Colony for a visit to Rustam Faramna agiary, consecrated in 1929 but renovated by Mr. Jimmy Mistry very recently. This agiary is always full of devotees, considering that the Dadar Parsi Colony has the largest number of Parsi residents in one place.
From Dadar it was a straight road to Andheri East to the agiary in the recently constructed Seth Ardeshir Bhicajee Patel Dadgah in the parsi colony of Salsette. This is very convenient for the colony residents and they also have a big hall attached for functions. The roads leading to the colony is really and truly terrible, but once within the boundary walls, one forgets that one is in Andheri East!
Then we made our way along the national highway to the Manijeh Pirojsha Sachinwalla Dar e Meher in Vasai East, in a place called the Green House, dated 2000. This is a most amazing place of worship, in a rural setting surrounded by greenery and next to a river. The fire temple stands apart and is connected to the well and the washing place by a path. There is even a varasiaji in the garden. After we prayed there was delicious lunch served, catered by Mr. Mehta, followed by a talk on our religion. Here I would like to mention something of importance. A full time priest is needed at this place, but he needs to be paid a salary of about Rs. 15,000 per month. You will agree with me that this is not too much in our times. Rs. 5,000 has been sanctioned by the Vasai Anjuman, but the rest has to come from somewhere. Would the Bombay Parsi Panchayat look into this matter please?
Then we went to yet another far off place, namely Thane, to the Cawasji Patell Dar e Meher, consecrated way back in 1829! Thane has a sizable Parsi population and there is also a 10 storey building for Parsis, right behind the fire temple. How important it is to have these holy places to ensure that the Parsi population continues to worship in the fire temples. And how fortunate we Parsis are to have these places of worship which ensure that our Good Religion continues to thrive and that the priests perform the many different and extremely complicated ceremonies – Kirya Kam – without which there would be no Zoroastrian religion. Our deepest gratitude are to the priests of our community and also to the Khandhias at our dakhmas.
My gratitude also goes to Dinyar Mehta, who organises this religious tour year after year and does it so well too. Many people who had come on this trip are regulars, some for the past twenty years or so. Last but not the least a thank you to Marzban Giara for his book “The Zoroastrian Pilgrim’s Guide” which gives us all the information about our places of worship, dharamshalas and sanatoria not only in India but in other parts of the world too.