Yazdi Desai , the new Chairman of BPP, along with Armaity Tirandaz, Noshir Dadrawala, Zarir Bhathena, Kersi Randeria and Viraf Mehta
Photo Courtesy – Parsi Times
Yazdi Desai , the new Chairman of BPP, along with Armaity Tirandaz, Noshir Dadrawala, Zarir Bhathena, Kersi Randeria and Viraf Mehta
Photo Courtesy – Parsi Times
A. H. Wadia Baug, a small but an extremely close knit baug full of talented people is celebrating its 50th birthday 🎂 🎂
On this occasion, there is a 2 day extravaganza which starts on 21st November with a fun Fair and DJ Music & Dance 👯💃🏻
The finale on 22nd November is an ALL PARSI TALENT CONTEST with cash prizes upto Rs. 50,000 to be won with celebrity judges.
Give in your entries for participating !!!
Lots of lip smacking snack stalls 🍴🍕🍔🍟🍦🍹 and fun game stalls throughout the event.
So Hurry !!
Block the dates and let all roads lead to Wadia Baug, Parel Tank Road on 21st and 22nd November,2015. 🙋🙆
For any query or detail – contact : 9820160725 / 9820391453
Turn on your sound and enjoy !!
Zoroastrian Initiation Ceremony in Copenhagen
by “European Centre for Zoroastrian Studies”
Wonder if you have seen this before?
That is our friend Khushro K. Pardis spreading Zoroastrianism in Northern Europe.
Lucky new Zarathushtis they get to sip wine, we got smelly nirang.
Indian Zoroastrian (Parsi or Parsee and Irani) weddings are called a lagan in the Gujarati vernacular.
The Parsees (Parsis) immigrated to India from Iran over a thousand years ago following the Arab invasion of Iran. The Irani Zoroastrians of India immigrated during the last two or three hundred years. Some Irani Zoroastrians continue to have relatives in Iran.
According to the story of the Parsi / Parsee migration to the state of Gujarat in India, the Kisse Sanjan, one of the conditions imposed by the ruling king of Gujarat, Jadi Rana, for allowing the refugees to settle in his kingdom, was that the Zoroastrians would perform marriage ceremonies in the evenings, just after sunset, and that the women would wear the clothes of local women, namely saris.
However, the Parsi / Parsee tradition of holding marriage ceremonies just after sunset does not necessarily stem from the conditions imposed by Jadi Rana. Back in the country from which the Parses migrated, traditional Yazdi Iranian wedding ceremonies were also customarily held in the late evening after dinner. (See Yazdi Wedding Customs)
Indian Zoroastrian weddings and pre-wedding festivities can be quite elaborate, and regardless of size, they are joyous and fun-filled occasions. The rituals, ceremonies and festivities related to a wedding start as soon as a couple decide they want to marry.
While in the past, families played a significant role in introducing prospective partners from within the community, nowadays, Zoroastrians for the main part find their own partners. In the west, these partners are often individuals from other communities.
There is a trend for Indian Zoroastrians to marry in their twenties and sometimes even later. This is because Zoroastrians by and large wait until they have graduated from university and have settled in a profession. A corollary is that Zoroastrian families are having fewer children and there are more deaths than births in this emancipated and highly educated community.
|1942 Silver Indian Rupee|
As a rule, when Zoroastrians decide to marry, they inform their parents and seek their parents’ approval. Approval is usually forthcoming, unless of course, the parents feel a marriage would be harmful or ill-advised for some reason overlooked by their daughter or son. It is not uncommon for the parents of both parties to engage in a conversation between themselves to discuss the intentions of their children. If the parents’ consideration is objective and made in the best interests of the couple-to-be, their advice can be invaluable in preventing errors of judgment and short-lived marriages.
Once the parents give their blessings, the rupia peravanu ceremony is arranged at the earliest date. Rupia is a word for the Indian currency – the rupee. Until just over fifty years ago, the rupee was made from silver. The ceremony marks the start of the two families coming together to bless and support the couple, and takes place at the bride-to-be’s family home.
In preparation for the rupia peravanu ceremony, the bride-to-be’s family home is thoroughly cleaned and the main doorways are decorated with torans and chalk designs.
|Knitted toran simulating marigolds and mango leaves|
|Toran of white tuberoses and red carnations|
The photographs above, to the right and below, show examples of different kinds of torans.
|Kusti weaver Monaz Variava hand makes a toran
on a loom at her home in Parsi/Parsee Vad, Navsari, Gujarat, India
Designs include fish, roosters & flowers
Designs stamped from powdered chalk, sometimes called chuna or rangoli, festoon the floor on all sides of the doorway. Inside doorways are also decorated.
The visiting entourage from the groom-to-be’s family consists of five to seven (and a maximum of nine) women to give the bride-to-be a gift of silver coins placed in a red brocaded bag. They may carry a sace or ses with them containing a selection of items including the gifts. The visitors are greeted at the door by the intended bride’s mother or eldest woman relative, who performs the achu michu ritual on the visitors. While the ritual is performed to ostensibly remove evil and the evil eye – that is, impediments to a successful marriage – the sentiment is more towards sanctifying the occasion and encouraging positive feelings.
|Chalk (chuna or rangoli) designs|
At the conclusion of the achu michu, the bride’s mother invites the visitors to sit in the living room where tea and refreshments are served. At the conclusion of the sharing of refreshments, the groom’s mother ceremonially gives the son’s intended the gift of silver coins. This can be done by the groom’s mother asking the bride-to-be to stand on a spot designated by chalk designs, garlanding the bride and placing the bag containing the coins in her hand.
After the groom’s family return home, the bride’s family reciprocate with a visit to the groom’s family home, taking with them a gift of silver coins for the groom-to-be. This is so vastly different from the classic black and white tuxedo wedding, my cousin who owns limousine services Sacramento would make 0 income here…
|Bride’s family visits groom’s home|
It is now the groom’s mother’s (or older female family member) turn to perform the achu michu ritual on the visiting group from the bride’s family.
The exchange of silver coins is a token of the two families’ agreement and commitment to the marriage. The exchange of visits and blessings formally demonstrate the families’ support for the couple and their decision to marry.
The ceremony also marks the start of the planning process for the wedding ceremony that includes the fixing of a wedding date.
At a convenient time following the rupia peravanu ceremony, the couple and their families get together to decide on the engagement and marriage dates. For the orthodox, the day of the month according to the Zoroastrian calendar plays an important role in the decision-making. A few also consult an astrologer who suggests dates based on a horoscope (a common practice amongst the Hindus).
Auspicious days according to the Zoroastrian calendar (Shenshai, Kadmi or Fasli) are the first day (Hormazd) or the twentieth day (Behram) of the month.
Once the families finalize their plans and have time to acquire and accumulate engagement gifts, the date for a ceremony to mark the formal engagement or betrothal is fixed. The adravanu is the time when the groom-to-be’s family give the bride-to-be a new set of clothes, accessories and jewellery. It is followed by an engagement ceremony.
|Chalk (rangoli) decorations|
Generally, this ceremony is performed at the bride-to-be’s family home, though the ceremony can also be performed at the groom-to-be’s family home. As with the rupia peravanu ceremony, the doorways of the two homes are decorated with torans and chalk designs.
Some families light an oil lamp called a devo early in the morning on this day. If the theme of the rupia peravanu was silver coins, the theme of the adravanu is fire – adra meaning fire. The theme is reflected in the lighting of lamps and the red colour of the sari and bangles gifted to the bride-to-be.
When the groom’s family arrives at the bride’s family home, they are greeted in a fashion similar to when they arrived for the rupia peravanu ceremony. If the ceremony is planned to go beyond the giving of gifts to an engagement ceremony, the visiting group includes the groom and other close male relatives. The bride’s party welcomes the groom’s party with song and amidst the song, the bride’s mother or senior woman relative garlands the visitors.
The adravanu ceremony starts with the devo ritual. A devo, or oil lamp, is lit by the groom-to-be’s mother who also puts a silver coin in the devo after which she asks the bride-to-be to stand on a stool called a patlo, stepping first with her right foot. The stool is decorated with chalk or rangoli, designs. The groom’s mother performs an achu michu and presents the bride-to-be with gifts that include a red sari and bangles.
The bride-to-be retires to change into her new clothes aided by the other women folk who, if playful, will sing as they wrap the sari around the bride-to-be.
|Placing of the bangles|
On her return, she is invited to stand on the patlo again and this time the groom’s mother then places red bangles on the bride-to-be’s arm. In earlier days, placing the bangles had the same significance as the exchange of rings has today.
The groom-to-be is now invited to join his intended on the patlo and the two mothers or the eldest woman relative from each family take turns performing the sagan ritual. In the sagan ritual, a coconut is placed in each of their right hands and a garland is placed around their necks. The officiating woman then dips her thumbs into a small metal bowl containing kunkun (sometimes called kumkum) or vermillion paste and touches both their the shoes with her thumb, leaving a red spot of kunkun on their shoes. Next, she places the vermillion paste on their foreheads, making a round mark on the bride-to-be’s forehead and a vertical mark on the groom-to-be’s forehead. The concluding act of the sagan ritual is the placing a piece of sugar crystal, sakar, dipped in yoghurt in the couple’s mouths to encourage sweetness in their communication.
After both mothers have performed the sagan ritual, the couple exchange engagement rings. Family members and invited guests then come up and present the couple gifts – usually envelopes of cash for both of them.
In Zoroastrianism, when a man and woman take part the engagement ceremony, they are implicitly engaging in an exchange of promises witnessed by the angel Mithra, guardian of promises and contracts. The promises are binding and on the pain of damnation, cannot be broken in normal circumstances.
[In earlier days, this ceremony was called nam padvun or namzad kardan (Persian), meaning to name, as this was when the bride-to-be (who until this time was na-kardeh-nam meaning unnamed), adopted the husband’s family name. From this point on the bride-to-be would be connected to the groom-to-be in all religious ceremonies. The marriage ceremony itself was called nekeh kardan meaning confirmation. Breaking the implied contract of the engagement would result in a great loss of face for the families and a shunning of the offending party by the rest of the community. This practice has been discontinued.]
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“The Parsi community is such a marvel that it does not need the protection of anyone. It finds its way and protection by its wisdom, intelligence and ability,” proclaimed Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. Yet, as per the 2001 census, their numbers had halved to about 69,000 from 1.41 lakh in 1941. By 2011, the numbers looked even grimmer, with a drop of 10 per cent in the overall population, as estimated by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), the apex governing body of the community.
While organisations such as BPP play an important role in organising communities, community media plays an equally vital role in engaging citizens with decision makers. Parsiana, a bi-monthly magazine published in English, is in its 51st year of publication. Pestonji Warden launched it in November, 1964. The 180-year-old English-Gujarati weekly Jam-e-Jamshed and The Bombay Samachar, Asia’s oldest newspaper, are the two other popular publications within the Parsi group. Edited by Jehangir R. Patel, Parsiana delves into current affairs, culture, personalities and covers happenings across the Zoroastrian society worldwide.
Geeta Doctor, a freelance writer, who has spent some time in Iran and Pakistan, met Patel in the 1970s. She recalls that Patel wanted to spearhead a publication that would be “of interest to any intelligent reader, not necessarily a community specific one.”
Pooja Nopany Bharucha, a 34-year-old businesswoman, married a Parsi more than a decade ago. “Parsiana is a very informative magazine. It’s interesting to read about how Parsis have succeeded worldwide and how they contribute towards their community.” Since she’s not a Parsi herself, Poona feels the need to stay abreast with developments within the community. Her children, Xenobia and Johann, had their Navjote a few months ago. “They attend the Sunday school to learn about the religion and understand it better,” she says. Having a resource like Parsiana is certainly helpful, she adds.
“The magazine’s voice strives to support and safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights. Parsiana’s is a liberal point of view,” Patel says. Natasha Irani, a regular reader from Pune, concurs with this view. “My family, quite a conservative one, has been subscribing to Parsiana since before I was born! The publication takes a liberal stand on things, yet it seems tolerant of opposing perspectives,” she says over a call. The 29-year-old teacher doesn’t always agree with every opinion expressed in the magazine, but she believes the magazine provides a healthy platform to encourage debate in an otherwise fairly closed and rigid community.
The magazine’s liberal stance was showcased in 1986-87 when it went on to publish a column on interfaith marriages. In Parsi tradition, if a man marries outside the community, children attain natural membership of it. However, the same does not hold true for women. The report on interfaith marriages, therefore, caused alarm, with some demanding a boycott of the magazine. “We’ve taken strong stands on regressive beliefs, we’ve tried to break taboos, and we’ve received negative feedback for doing so. It’s been tough, but someone has to do it,” says Patel.
A team of five part-time writers contributes to the magazine. Usually social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook are updated with breaking news stories. Every bi-monthly issue is about 40 pages, and it’s released on the 7th and 21st of every month. There are two New Year issues, one published in March and another in August, which are 240 page editions. “Revenue is made on the New Year issues. That’s how we sustain through the the year. Given the shrinking market, it’s a challenge to keep up with the needs of the publication,” Patel confesses. Roughly 2,800 copies are printed in a go; 20-22 per cent of the subscriber base is from North America, and the remainder comes from India.
Advertising is the mainstay of the revenue stream, followed by subscription fees and sponsorships. Sustaining Parsiana’s high quality journalism is quite a task given the declining population of those truly interested in the Parsi community. Even writers are hard to come by. “Mostly people into journalism remain in the mainstream. There are few takers for community-based writing,” rues Patel. The need for focussing specifically on community, especially one that’s heading towards probable extinction, is urgent in the contemporary scenario. “General media covers news, but not those matters that affect our community, as these are obviously not relevant to the people at large,” Patel adds.
Percy Bharucha, a 45-year-old businessman from Mumbai, used to read Parsiana at his workplace. “These kind of publications hold a lot of value for the youth, as it lets you know about community happenings on a regular basis. It’s a good way to stay connected,” Bharucha says. At a broader level, Parsiana, maintains an archive of Parsi anthropology; it’s an open and credible source of curated content, which can enable information dissemination pertaining to key policies, laws and societal arrangements.
The semi-monthly also tracks births and deaths within the community. Considering the criticality of upping its population, Parsiana assumes the role of community watchdog.
Although the numbers don’t match up with desired growth rates — the death rate among Parsis is approximately 800 versus the birth rate of about 185 — getting the new generation enthused to learn about their culture and religion is crucial.
As an afterthought, Bharucha says he wishes to obtain a subscription of Parsiana to renew his connect with the community.
There is a glimmer of hope, after all, of rescuing an industrious community and its language and heritage from the brink of disappearance.
The writer is a content designer based in Mumbai.
Their loved ones may have migrated or passed away, but for many elderly Parsis, the community is there to provide support
There was a royal feast at Aunty Villy Engineer 96th birthday. There was cake, and there was suuji ka halwa too. Everybody inside the Parsi General Hospital came to the party; Aunty Nargis Gyara, Aunty Khorshed Malbari and her sister too. Then there were Gulbanoo Bamji and Homy Gadiali, secretaries of the hospital. The men from the male ward came too. So did the doctors. And the physiotherapist. All the attendants too. Nobody wanted to miss it.
And why would they? After all, Aunty Villy is a superstar. Some boast that the 96-year-old Parsi woman was the first lady admiral of the country’s navy. But Aunty Villy dampens all such talk. “You know I don’t like boasting,” she says dismissively.
Outside her ward, in the corridor, the evening shuffle begins to pick up. It is almost time for tea, and some of the other women have already secured their place on the benches.
On one of the benches are Aunty Nargis and Aunty Ami Jeriwalla, two sisters, both spinsters, now living in one of the wards. “People ask us why you didn’t get married,” exclaims Aunty Nargis. “But then they tell us it was the best decision of our lives!” In terms of agency and choice, the Parsi women living in Pakistan were well ahead of their times.
The chatter in the corridor steadily grows louder.
Meanwhile, the men lodged in the adjoining male general ward are only beginning to rise from their afternoon slumber. Word has spread though that teatime is nigh; there is some shuffling on the beds and some make an effort to sit up. Nobody has bothered to switch on the television till now.
A little later, a male patient from a private ward heads outdoors to smoke a pipe. He chooses the entrance by the main road to smoke, while an attendant keeps him company. The noise and smog around him don’t seem to matter; this is an evening ritual that must be performed.
The 30-bed Bomanshaw Minocher-Homji Parsi General Hospital, commonly known as the Parsi General Hospital, is a pre-Partition facility that was built to provide subsidised quality healthcare to poor Parsis and was run by the Bomanshaw Minocher-Homji Parsi Medical Relief Association.
Although the hospital was inaugurated in 1942, the association expanded the premises as needed. “We didn’t have the 30 beds that you see today, we just had three rooms. We didn’t have the population either that necessitated the setting up of a larger facility,” explains Homy Gadiali, secretary of the association. The infirmary, for example, was set up in 1965.
But the story of the Parsi General Hospital and its inhabitants perhaps mirrors the fortunes and fate of the Parsi community in Karachi.
They were once the crème de le crème of Karachi society and polity, with the city’s first mayor, Jamshed Nusserwanji, also hailing from a Parsi family. Those admitted to the hospital today are all septuagenarian, octogenarian or nonagenarian; many would have seen Nusserwanji and witnessed how the city evolved too.
“The land for the hospital was donated by Sir Kavasji Katrak in 1942. He was the gentleman who built the bandstand at the Jehangir Kothari Parade; the bandstand itself was not donated by the Kothari family but by the Katraks.
Photos by the writer
The hospital initially was built through a donation by a gentleman named Minocher Homji,” narrates Gadiali.
But over time, the number of Parsis in Karachi has dwindled. Gadiali estimates that the Parsi community has shrunk from about 5,000 at Partition to about 1,200 people now. Much of this decline in numbers is attributed to migration and birth rates.
“Even though Parsi people live long lives, deaths were never replaced by a corresponding number of births,” explains Gadiali. “There was a time when people didn’t get married because there was a lack of housing facilities for them. Now, much of the community-run accommodation facilities are lying vacant.”
While the Parsi community set up trust funds to take care of their own, the community saw major demographic shifts within. In pursuing their careers and sometimes due to insecurity, the younger generations began migrating from Pakistan. The older ones were left behind, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of choice.
“It is difficult to travel with an ill parent or parents if you are migrating from Pakistan,” says Gadiali. “There is the obvious tension of travelling, sometimes with kids, handling them, looking for a new home, settling down in a new place and other teething problems. Many people can’t afford to take an ill parent along, because medical costs abroad can be extremely prohibitive.”
It is because of this dynamic that the many of the 30 beds in the hospital are now occupied by elderly people whose families have either migrated or who have nobody to take care of them at home or even those whose families cannot afford caretakers able to tend to them around the clock.
In its essence, the Parsi General Hospital also doubles up as an old home facility. The hospital is a safe space for many Parsi elderly, because a sense of community and belonging pervades the hospital environment. Room rents are minimal in general wards; only Rs300 are charged per day. The maximum daily cost is Rs1,750 for a private ward. Four meals are served to patients every day. Every now and then, some Parsi families also send food and fruits over.
Many families arrange live-in attendants for their loved ones, but those who can’t still rely on the hospital without much hesitation. In the infirmary, for example, an elderly woman in her 90s is taken care of by an attendant around the clock, except at 7pm every evening, when her son arrives from work. The woman’s memory is failing, but what she knows is that her son will have dinner with her every evening.
Life is assisted for many old Parsis but it is normal too; there are no qualms about accepting medical help, nor does it hurt anyone’s ego or sense of self in doing so. Their age brings with it peculiar ailments; the majority admitted on temporary basis have arrived due to fractures, weak muscles, and other orthopaedic complaints. The hospital employs a physiotherapist; he helps patients practice movement exercises and walk. For the slightly more in shape elders, he bought them spin bikes to get active on.
“We might have a small staff, of doctors and attendants, but what we ensure is that those admitted here will be taken care of. There is an element of trust and reliability involved, since those living abroad need to know that their loved ones are safe,” says Gulbanoo Bamji, joint secretary of the hospital.
From time to time, donations received by various trusts and individuals have allowed the hospital to expand and keep the existing operations running smoothly. Gadiali regrets that it is only a matter of time before none of it will be needed, since there wouldn’t be many Parsis around to begin with.
But for those who live at the hospital, there is much to be grateful about, much happiness to share and many more days to look forward to. There are no regrets of being left behind. There is only an acknowledgment that those in the hospital shall take care of each other, in the best ways possible. This year, they celebrated Valentine’s Day too. They sang songs together, they ate extra snacks too, and they chatted for hours on end.
“All you need is three magical words,” says Aunty Villy, “Thank you God. Thank you for the gift of another day to serve you better. If you run into mishaps, know that ‘this too shall pass.’ Life is what you make it, so make it nice and bright.”
By Ahmed Yusuf The writer tweets @ASYusuf
Ye Magnificent Seven
In your robes so pure
Spreading the Holy Word
I am not so sure
Having been well versed
In our Scriptures
Especially the Avesta
Preached by our
It seems to me
Ye are ripping
The Community apart
By doing more harm
SInce “Thou art so scholarly
Please kindly explain the meaning
Of Yenghe Hatam
Ye are leaders not enforcers
Cannot force anything down
You think we will swallow
Or follow like a lamb that
To Mary school did follow
Instread of Unity
You are ripping the
Right & left
Why may I ask
You take pleasure
In playing with our Religion
You are leaders
Preaching The Holy Word
Preached by Asho Zarathushtra
He preached humbleness
Simplicity Love Respect
Tolerance & Equality
Instead of Racism
Discrimination & BIgotry
BPP Election Results are now available at bit.ly/BPPResults
Times of India – Parsis skipped their Sunday dhansak to vote – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Parsis-skipped-their-Sunday-dhansak-to-vote/articleshow/49444697.cms
DNA India – Mumbai Parsis Vote Hoping for a more transparent Punchayet – http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-parsis-vote-hoping-for-a-more-transparent-punchayet-2136285
The Hindu – Mumbai’s Parsis elect five new Punchayet trustees – http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/mumbais-parsis-elect-fivenew-punchayet-trustees/article7778277.ece
The Hindu – In pictures: Parsi punchayet elections – http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/in-pictures-parsi-punchayet-elections/article7779971.ece?homepage=true&ref=slideshow#im-image-0
The Indian Express – Development of Community, not Religion, Main Agenda http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/parsi-punchayet-poll-today-development-of-community-not-religion-main-agenda/