Orthodox community members, reformists divided over sanctity of fire in Pune temple
Mumbai: For the reformists who built the newly opened Asha Vahishta Zoroastrian Centre in Pune’s Kondhwa area, the fire it houses is a holy one, kindled after carrying out rituals like a jashn ceremony and recital of the Atash Niyeash prayer. But the orthodox in the community are deriding it is just like “any other bonfire.”
At the root of the heated words is the fact that the centre welcomes Parsi Zoroastrians who have married outside the faith. Parsi Zoroastrians have traditionally not allowed non-Parsi spouses to convert to the faith or even enter agiaries and participate in rituals like funeral ceremonies. Further, children of female members of the community who marry outside are also not considered Parsi.
“The idea of our centre was to welcome all and not differentiate on the basis of religion or gender, “said Vispy Wadia, founder member of the Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism, under which the centre has been built. Around 150 Parsis — including Maharookh and Darius Forbes, Kerbanu and Viraf Pudumjee, Darius Khambata, Cyruz Guzder, and Bapsi and Fali Nariman — and the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation donated funds and the land for the centre was purchased in 2010. Work on its construction began in 2014.
“These religiously ignorant legal persons like Fali Nariman and Darius Khambatta have made a mockery and insult of our glorious religion and they must be prosecuted,” says Yazdi Desai, chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet. “The so-called fire temple in Pune is definitely not consecrated. It is just an ordinary fire, like a scout camp fire, and anyone can pray before it.” Dinshaw Mehta, a former BPP trustee, says there is a whole ritual for consecration of an agiary fire: “The Pune fire is a joke on the donors. Just lighting wood in an afarganu vessel is not consecration.” Medioma Bhada, a retired naval officer, says that he is upset with the centre being referred to as a fire temple. “One can call it a prayer hall but not a fire temple.”
Mr. Wadia retorts, “The fire may not be holy for them, but it is for us.”
In 2015, reformers had built a prayer hall near the Worli crematorium for community members who chose cremation instead of the tradition of leaving the body in the Tower of Silence to be consumed by scavenger birds. Since they were not allowed to conduct the four day funeral prayers inside the doongerwadi, the idea of alternate prayer hall was executed. “In a way it is good,” Mr. Mehta said. “Just as the Worli prayer hall stopped the demand for a cremate-ni-bungli at doongerwadi, the setting up of this cosmopolitan fire temple will hopefully stop the inter-married ladies from moving courts to demand right of entry.”
Two high profile battles are already being fought in the courts: a woman is fighting for her grandchildren born to a Hindu father to get entry to the only fire temple in Kolkata; and another Parsi woman married to a Hindu is demanding similar rights from the Valsad Anjuman in the Supreme Court.
India Post dedicated a stamp on Dadabhai Naoroji, an independence stalwart, celebrating his 100th death anniversary in Ahmedabad on 29th December 2017 by Gujarat Governor along with officials n community members Stamp was long overdue.
Presented as a recitable prayer in English compiled from the following publications which give different versions of the Holy Gathas as per links below, (a compilation by Jimmy Wadia ( firstname.lastname@example.org) :
Thank you Jimmy for sharing.
I am happy to announce that my new book VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE was
released by Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor at Iranshah Udvada Utsav on 24th
You may take a printout of the outer jacket and display it at your nearest
agiary/colony notice board.
I am currently in Mumbai for three weeks.
SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE
VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE
320 pages, hard bound, illustrated, printed on art paper
Foreword by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retired)
An index of names – surnamewise of 550 Parsi officers and men with 200
Price:Rs.700/- plus courier chargesRs.200/- per book in India
Marzban J. Giara, WZO Trust Funds Senior Citizens Centre, Pinjara Street, Malesar, Navsari,
Gujarat, India Pin 396445
Available from 1st January 2018 at Mumbai:
- Mr. Hoshedar E. Ichhaporia. Desai Building, ground floor, (opp. Bank Of
India). 668, Katrak Road, Dadar Parsi Colony Tel. 24124303
- Rustomfaramna Agiary Dadar
Karani Agiary, Cusrow Baug, Colaba
Tata Agiary, Bandra
Mevawalla Agiary Byculla
Parsiana book shop, K. K. Chambers, A. K. Nayak Marg, Fort, Mumbai Tel
Jame Jamshed office, 2282020223
The author Marzban Giara has documented the lives and contribution of Parsi
officers and men of the armed forces, police, fire brigade as a labour of
love. It has an index of names surnamewise of 550 Parsis and 200
This book has an attractive outer jacket with colour pictures of all the
Parsi service chiefs on the front cover and Lt. Generals, Air Marshals,
Vice/Rear Admirals on the rear cover. It has a foreword by Air Chief Marshal
Fali H. Major (Retired)
There is a special section 24 pages with colour pictures of medals pre
independence and post independence and life sketches of the Parsi service
chiefs – Field Marshal Maneckshaw, Admiral Jal Cursetji, Air Marshal Aspi
Engineer, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. A. Major, as also Vice Admiral Rustom
Contractor, Director General, Indian Coast Guard and Khusro F. Rustamji,
Director General, BSF; Keki Dadabhoy of Black Cat Commandos and Lt. Col. Adi
B. Tarapore, the only Parsi winner of Param Veer Chakra.
There is a chronological record detailing the contribution and preparedness
of the Parsi community during the Second World War. Pictures of the two War
Memorials at Khareghat Colony, Mumbai are included. A list of Parsis who
died during World War II, Indo Pakistan Wars and Indo China War of 1962 is
also given. Date of disbanding of the Parsi Battalion is also given as also
obituaries of several Parsi officers and men.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Recipients of Awards and Medals
Pictures of Awards and Medals
Life sketches of Parsi officers and men (arranged alphabetically
surnamewise) 200 pages
Parsis in Police Service
Chronological record from 1919 onwards
Parsi Ambulance Division
Index of names – surnamewise
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marzban Jamshedji Giara is the author and publisher of books on Zarathushti
religion and Parsi history. In the eighties he helped Dr. Bahman Surti to
publish seven volumes of SHAH NAMAH OF FIRDAOSI in English Prose. What
started as a hobby has become a full time obsession. During the past 33
years he has produced many firsts including the first illustrated Global
Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples in 1998 and its 2nd edition in
December 2002, The Zoroastrian Pilgrim’s Guide in 1999, Parsi Statues in
2000, All India Directory of Parsi Institutions in 2010 and its 2nd edition
in 2015 and The Contribution of the Parsi Community during the First World
War (1914-1918). He has to his credit thirty six other books, some authored
or compiled by him, some translated from Gujarati into English. He is
perhaps the only one who has had a track record of consistent performance in
bringing out new and informative publications that meet the needs of the
community and most of these with his own resources, without seeking any
sponsorship. A keen student of Parsi history and Zarathushti religion, he is
an independent thinker, writer, public speaker, free lance journalist and
His parents and his teachers have been the inspiration for him. Right from
childhood, his father ingrained in him the idea: “Son, be a creator and not
a spectator in life. We must give back to society more than what we have
received from it.” These words have motivated him to pursue his noble work
of bringing out new and innovative books in the service of the community.
Married to Bapsy (nee Daruvala) since 1969, they have a son Zareer and a
grandson Farhad. The family’s support and encouragement from friends and
well wishers drives him to carry on with his work in his chosen field of
He has been featured in The Times of India, Jam-E-Jamshed, Afternoon
Despatch and Courier, Indian Express as also in Parsiana and was interviewed
on Doordarshan TV and ZEE TV alpha Humata Hukhta Hvarashta for his
publications. He is interested in devotional music and has compiled and
published two song books Jarthosti Gayan Sangrah, and Gaavo Maari Saathe
Singalong Treasure Trove of Parsi Songs and also produced audio CDs of
devotional hymns Zoroastrian Melodies, Khushaline Bandgina Geeto, Ame
Mr. Rusi M. Lala has acknowledged his contribution in his book For The Love
Of India biography of Jamsetji N. Tata. His article Through the Lens on
Parsi photographers co-authored along with Dr. Nawaz B. Modi is included in
Vol. III of the tome Enduring Legacy published in 2005. His article “Statues
in the making of Bombay” has been published in the tome Threads of
Continuity by PARZOR in March 2016. He has presented slide shows on Parsi
statues highlighting their contribution to humanity.
Not Just Milk & Sugar is an accessible inquiry into the Zoroastrian faith, its basic teachings, uniqueness, and myths. Through a bedtime story told by a grandfather to his grandson, the relevance of this ancient faith in today’s modern world unfolds as a simple and beautiful ecological message.
A film written & directed by Divya Cowasji, produced by Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India for Jiyo Parsi.
The Association for Performance of the First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies of the Parsi Zoroastrians
E. Mithaiwala Agiary Compound, Jehangir Daji Cross Lane, Sleater Road, Grant Road (W), Mumbai 400007. Registration No. F-80 (Bom)
A Society by the name of The Association For Performance Of The First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies Of The Parsi Zoroastrians was founded in the year 1942 for the purpose of performing the essential death ceremonies of Parsi Zoroastrian individuals who desire to have the same performed for themselves, but do not have any relatives who will get the ceremonies performed.
The Society is headed by Ervad Dr. Ramiyar Karanjia, Chairman of the Association, and ably guided by Ervad Aspandiar Dadachanji, Panthaky, Vatcha Gandhi Agiary, Mrs. Shernaz D.Mehta, Director, Zoroastrian Co-operative Bank Ltd. and other Trustees.
The Society has arrangements with a few Agiaries for the Performance Of The First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies in different areas in Mumbai and Pune. The Society has received a heartening response from many Zoroastrians and who have since become its members.
The Society offers two Options:
Option 1 is the economical scheme, priced at Rs. 30,000/-, covering the essential after death ceremonies for one year including Muktad.
Option 2, priced at Rs.55,000/-, covers the essential after death ceremonies for one year including Muktad, a few days of rituals and one Vendidad.
Zoroastrians desiring to become members of this Scheme or for further details can contact :
Mr. Ariez Kharas. Administrator. Tel. 022 23870283 or 9769761284.
Ervad Aspandiar Dadachanji, Panthaky, Vatcha Gandhi Agiary, Hughes Road Tel. 022 23803826 or 919820493812
Ervad Kersi Bhadha,Panthaky, M.J.Wadia Agiary, Lalbaug Tel. 022 24702207
Ervad Viraf Pavri, Panthaky, B. C. Batliwalla Agiary, Tardeo Road Tel. 022 23530142
Ervad Hormuzd A.Dadachanji,Panthaky, Mithaiwala Agiary, Jehangir Daji Street, Grant Road (West) Tel. 919820493812
Ervad Rusi J.Katrak,Panthaky,Mehella Patel Agiary,Balaram Street, Grant Road.Mumbai 400 007.
Ervad Parvez M.Bajan,Panthaky,Seth B.M.Mevawala Agiary,Victoria gardens,Byculla,Mumbai 400 027. Tel.23716799 (Res).
Zoroastrians who desire to get their first year after death ceremonies performed should first become members of the Society by paying a nominal sum of Rs.51/- and, thereafter, can opt for either of the schemes mentioned above.
The Society is registered as per the Society’s Registration Act and also under the Bombay Public Trust Act and is being looked after by its Board of Trustees. Community members may take advantage of this Scheme depending on their needs.
A General Body Meeting of The Association will be held on Saturday,the 6th of January,2018 at 11 a.m. at the Administrative Office of the Association.
EDUCATION – INSPIRATION – DONATION
The sleepy village of Udvada is poised for its rightful place on the global map of renowned religious, historical and cultural sites with improved infrastructure, enhanced facilities and better security. This would be in keeping with it’s now officially recognized status of a global heritage village, bestowed by the government of India. The Udvada Atash Bahram is the oldest consecrated fire temple of the highest grade in India; and represents the historical, cultural, spiritual and religious bond with our Motherland Iran.
The divine flame of Iranshah Udvada is one of the oldest and holiest fire that is revered by Zartoshtis across the globe since over a millennium.
Let us join hands together
- To keep this flame live and alive
- For the benefit of our future generation
- Through Education, Inspiration & Donation
To make Udwada the global centre for showcasing OUR Zoroastrian heritage, culture and way of life
To provide a continuous stream of global financial support to perpetuate the Legacy Of Iranshah Udvada – Our Precious And Timeless Heritage
OUR 5-STAR PURPOSE
TO PRESERVE the Sanctity Of Iranshah by honoring, helping and supporting all those who take care of this great spiritual power-house with utmost dedication and selfless commitment – Especially our senior and respected Mobed sahibs who have dedicated their entire lives towards serving OUR Sacred Iranshah with impeccable sincerity, devotion, dignity and integrity.
TO CREATE a monetary incentive for our present Mobed Sahibs and to inspire our future Mobeds to pursue the noble profession of Mobedi as a career. This is of vital importance for the survival and revival of OUR Sacred Iranshah.
A great scholar had once said: “no priest, no religion or religious institution”.
TO KEEP the flame alive by providing firewood (Kathi). The Kathi Fund needs to be increased substantially to meet the rising cost of Kathi.
TO MAINTAIN the structure that houses our holiest fire. OUR Sacred Iranshah, which is over a thousand years old, and the building in which Iranshah is enthroned; requires periodic infrastructure updates as well as major renovations every 10-12 years.
TO PROVIDE round the clock (24/7/365) Security Service for the premises of OUR Sacred Iranshah.
In addition, we also need the voluntary services of devoted and sincere Parsi helpers to keep the premises clean, tidy and presentable for the local, national and global devotees/pilgrims who visit Udvada to pay their homage to OUR Sacred Iranshah.
Together, Let Us Create An Inner Desire, To Support Our Sacred Fire
From USA – Click Here
From India – Click Here
Please Await updates from Other Countries
Sometime between the seventh and ninth centuries, a group of immigrants landed on the shores of India’s western state of Gujarat, after what probably was a long and arduous voyage from Persia, now modern-day Iran. Not much is known about that journey — about how these people looked, what they wore, how many of them undertook this voyage, how long they sailed or even if India was their chosen destination or a twist of fate. What is known is that like many others in similar situations today, these refugees, who came to be known as the Parsis, were fleeing religious persecution in a land they had called their home for centuries. The story of what happened next is well-documented in Parsi folklore.
Jadhav Rana, the chieftain of the region where the refugees landed, was alarmed at the looks and attire of these strange men and women, and forbade them entry. Instead, he gave them a bowl of milk, filled almost to the brim, as a message that his kingdom was full. It is said that the Parsi head priest added a spoonful of sugar to the milk (or by some accounts a gold ring) to indicate that the Parsis not only would blend into their new society but also enrich it.
Whatever the truth of the story, the Parsis, like many others before and after, flourished in India’s warm embrace. Over time, they became one of India’s most prosperous ethnic communities and have contributed greatly to the development and progress of their adopted home.
Followers of an ancient religion known as Zoroastrianism, the Parsis fled Persia, once the fountainhead of the Zoroastrian faith, when it was overrun by invading Arabs. Their story is particularly relevant at a time when the world is looking increasingly inward, and refugees and immigrants are looked upon unfavorably in many countries, including in traditionally inclusive but now increasingly nationalist and nativist countries like India and the United States, both of which have benefited from the contribution of immigrant communities.
Traditionally, richer countries have considered it their moral obligation to absorb displaced persons, especially on humanitarian grounds. Parts of Europe and the United States initially welcomed Syrian refugees, for example, but public fears of lost jobs, depressed wages, demographic and cultural changes, and terrorism shifted the mood against the immigrants. India largely has been receptive to immigrants and refugees, and more than 200,000 live in India today, including Tibetans, Sri Lankans, Afghans and Bangladeshis. However, India has refused to sign the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and the 1967 U.N. Protocol on Refugees, seeking flexibility, as is currently being exercised in the recent attempts to deport some 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps.
In this context, it is instructive to look at the story of the Parsis.
There are fewer than 70,000 Parsis in India today, but they have made contributions to India that far belie their numbers. Starting off as an agrarian community, the Parsis settled in the fertile lands around the town of Sanjan, before spreading to other parts of Gujarat and eventually to the wild and marshy coastal city of Bombay in the mid-1600s. It was in Bombay that the Parsis gained their industrious reputation, as they took advantage of the British desire to establish Bombay as a prominent port and center of commerce by becoming shipbuilders, craftsmen, merchants and traders in opium, silk and spices with China and others. In the process, they created a new class of wealthy, educated and socially conscious Indians.
For the next 300 years, the Parsi community transformed and reformed, seizing opportunities not only to change themselves but also to benefit the broader society. They were among the earliest Indians to learn English, travel abroad for education, practice professions like medicine and law, secure government jobs, educate women and banish child marriage. Despite their affinity to their English benefactors, the Parsis never forgot the land that welcomed them as penniless immigrants all those centuries ago, and gave back generously to society, building schools, hospitals, hotels, enterprises and institutions that stand even today.
In the historic districts of Mumbai, home to the world’s largest concentration of Parsis, it is impossible to ignore their influence. Parsis set up the National Center for the Performing Arts; the Central Bank of India, the first modern Indian bank to be run totally by Indians; and the iconic Taj Mahal hotel. Additionally, the community contributed to the industrialization and development of India, establishing the country’s first cotton mill, its steel and aviation industries, and the first institute of science in Bangalore. Some of the best-known companies in India were started by Parsis, from the Tata conglomerate to the Godrej and Wadia business houses, which employ millions and make everything from defense equipment to cheese.
Despite having benefited from their proximity to the British, Parsis also played a significant role in the Indian independence movement. Dadabhai Naoroji, known as the grand old man of India, represented Indian interests in the British Parliament, Pherozeshah Mehta was a founding member and president of the Indian National Congress, and female Parsi freedom fighter Bhikaji Cama co-designed and unfurled the earliest version of independent India’s flag in Germany 40 years before India gained independence from Britain.
As they have in the past, Parsis today hold prominent positions in Indian society as captains of industry, artists, musicians, doctors, journalists and judges. Parsis not only have adopted a land, but also its languages and customs. They have integrated and added value, while still striving to maintain their unique identity, religion and traditions.
Over a thousand years ago, the Parsis found a land willing to welcome them and give them space to live and prosper. In turn, they enriched their new home like the proverbial sugar in milk.
According to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, there are 65 million people who have been forced from their homes as of 2017. Of that number, 10 million people are stateless, and are denied the basic rights of nationality, education and employment. It can only be hoped that leaders and communities across the world today will look to the Parsi example when deciding on the merits of opening their countries and homes to strangers from strange lands.