Darius Khambatta says Parsis should be more inclusive
Khambatta, known for his oratory skills in the legal circle, said Zoroastrianism was a “universal religion” that supported acceptance.
As long as people such as Darius Khambatta and others with similar views exist within our community, something has to give in. Either, we would end up creating a totally reformed religion and still call it Zarathushti religion and be happy with it, or we can completely ignore such reformists and not get bamboozled by their place in society. Yes… we should respect them for their individual societal accomplishments, but don’t let their status fool you for a minute that they are truly knowledgeable about our religion – in fact, a majority of these ‘higher-ups’ are ignorant of our religion, not to mention, their inability to even enunciate our basic prayers, and that too, if they wear Sudreh Kushti. By shunning the Khambatta’s of life, yes… the end result would be a smaller Zarathushti community with staunch religious beliefs. Surely, there may be some repercussions in the long term of this alternative, but at least we won’t compromise on our basic religious tenets, which in fact, are an important part of our religion. The majority of the Parsis today are shying away from taking this route – some for convenience, and others for their own personal agendas.
However sad it is, the reality of life is that mankind has witnessed severe rifts within many religions over the past hundreds of years, be it Christianity or Islam, these conflicts exist with each side not giving an inch. Is there any surprise then that it’s starting to show its ugly head within our Zarathushti religion? Before any of us take one side or the other, let us not lose sight of the fact that when everything is said and done, each of us will have to face our maker. It’s too late then to change our position.
There was a time when people who knew how to differentiate between Zoroastrianism as a religion and Parsiism as a culture were ignored, confronted and even pushed out of the conversation. I am delighted that Mr. Darius Khambatta had the opportunity to make this seminal statement at an important community gathering. He defines the dilemma and proposes a fresh direction that challenges the community to place the fundamentals of Zoroastrian teachings above ritualistic practices and false traditions.
Among all faiths, ceremonial rites, practices and rituals are usually confused with their religious creed. For Zoroastrians the creed is universal – Good Thoughts, Good Word, Good Deeds.
I want to take Mr. Khambatta’s point about inclusiveness one step further. It is not merely a question of whether the father or the mother is a Zoroastrian (note did not write “Parsi”), but the fact that the non-Zoroastrian spouse, male or female, should have the right to formally embrace and be accepted into the faith, if they wished to be converted!
I am a Zoroastrian man who has been happily married to a Bene Israel woman for the past 44 years. Our children could have had their novjote performed. But I decided against it based on my Zoroastrian principles. The principles that call upon all of us to honor our parents, especially our Mothers! What lesson would I be teaching my then-young children, if I took them to a Fire Temple to perform their novjote, when their mother was not permitted to enter the building? This is where I part ways with the Parsi culture! I believe that Zoroastrianism is a universal creed, and that no anjuman, panchayat or coterie of hired priests can deny access to the faith to any human being desiring to accept it.
I share a paragraph from the anthology, “The Untold Charminar,” for which I was invited to share my experiences of “Growing Up a Parsi in Hyderabad”. I concluded, “As a child I often wondered why our ayah (child care provider) had to sit outside the gate of the Parsi Fire Temple when we walked in. As an adult I felt more than insulted that my Bene Israel wife was prohibited from entering the Fire Temple with me, while I could accompany her into any Synagogue in the world.”
A new era, one hopes, is on the horizon when inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness will prevail, and the debate over conversion will become a non-issue. Inter-faith marriages will continue to increase not just among the Parsis but among all faiths of the world. It is happening and will continue to happen as 21st century mores change and societies become more homogenous around the world.
PS: The report ends with a question by someone of my own age, asking “Where is it written in our scriptures that inter-racial marriages are accepted?” Where indeed, I ask? Since no such pronouncement can be found, does it not follow that no such prohibition exists?
We should applaud Maharashtra’s former advocate-general Mr.Darius Khambata for his bold statement. Actually Mr.Khambata being a legal luminary par excellence should file a PIL in the Supreme Court for free Proselytism activities to be allowed in India by one and all irrespective of their religions. Why put restrictions/impediments in the form of foreign contribution regulation act (fcra) for proselytising activities of sects of Christainity and Islam. In this he should be supported by people like our great Dasturji Khurshed, Mr.Berjis Desai, Mr.Dinshaw Tamboli and like minded reformists and elitists Parsis.
Yes. Inter religion marriage should be accepted, especially if a boy marries an outsider. And Parsee Punchayat should provide accommodation for them.
I agree…but why not a woman as well? Equal treatment starts with recognition of women as equals…something not accepted by the so-called community leaders.
The comment by Mr. Dehqan certainly raises eyebrows, unless I’m reading it all wrong and stand corrected. Is he saying that our great Dasturji Khurshed is a reformist? By grouping Dasturji Khurshed with ‘like minded reformists’ in one sentence, he must surely mean that. How can such a degrading thought be made for a man, who with the wish and help of Ahura Mazda is granted the most holy task of maintaining and protecting the symbol of our religion – The Iranshah!
Why should one even involve our High Priest in matters such as this, as his advice will fall on deaf ears anyways; and to make it worse, imply that he is in favour of proselytising? Quite frankly, it’s shameful to write such a comment and perhaps even sinful to bear such a devilish thought for a pious priest such as Dasturji Khurshed.