Facing shortage of priests, Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat eyes part-timers


At a time when the Parsi community’s numbers are on the decline, an issue has cropped up as a major threat to their temples, also known as Agiyaris – the dwindling number of full-time Mobads (priests). While the issue would affect Parsis across the country, the Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat has found a way to deal with the situation.
 
With graduates drifting away from priesthood towards other professions, the Panchayat has engaged freelance priests of the younger generation, whose services can be availed when in need.
 
While Ahmedabad has two Agiyaris, 132-year-old Vakil Adariyan Agiyari located in Bukhara Mohulla at Khamasa and the other in Kankaria, currently, there are only five full-time priests for the two Agiyaris.
 
Speaking about the issue, Brigadier (retired) Jahangir Anklesaria, President, Parsi Panchayat, said: “Only a priest’s son can become a priest. The younger generation is looking for better opportunities and a better life which is why, not many are opting for full-time priesthood. It is a huge challenge. The Kankaria Agiyari has a priest who has not been keeping well for quite some time. It does get difficult as we need to offer prayers five times and ring a bell through the day. The younger generation priests offer their services to us as and when needed. While the youngest priest is in class 8, others are in various professions such as law, education, business and service, among others.”
 
He added, “I think this is happening in almost every religion. In the early days, anyone visiting a place of worship would bring grains and other things and offer to the priest. Things have changed now.”
 
There is a dearth of Mobads (priests) in the entire country but Parsis believe that the Atash Behram (holy fire) will keep glowing.
 
While priests have been moving for reasons such as education and higher pay packages, the most important of their duties are the five prayers that keep the sacred fire sacred.
 
Speaking to DNA, Vistasp H Dastur, one of the senior priests at Khamasa Agiyari said, “The issue of full-time priest is there as it requires a lot of commitment. But we are very happy here as we get bonus, medical help, etc. When needed, we reach out to nearly 10 part-time priests who practice other professions.”
 
Interestingly, Dastur’s family took care of the Kankaria Agiyari for nearly 48 years. He says, “My entire family including my brother, used to take care of Khamasa Agiyari but it has been two and a half years since I have moved to Khamasa Agiyari. As per our rituals, we need to offer prayers five times a day that begins from sunrise till midnight and these prayers are mandatory.”
 
Further sharing about the rigorous training that a boy has to undergo upon choosing priesthood, Dastur said, “During the first phase, Navar, they have to stay in isolation at the Agiyari for 30 days after which comes the second phase, Martab, they have to follow the same for 10 days. They are not allowed to touch water or have bath and recite prayers all day.”
 
In some countries such as the US and Iran, women priests (Mobedyar) are qualified to perform boi, but in India, only male priests are permitted to tend to the sacred fire.
 
Bejoo R Jilla, a resident of Mumbai, is developing a programme to offer pension to priests from his community. He said, “Dwindling numbers of priests in our community is a serious concern hence I am working out a plan to offer pension to priests, to encourage them to opt for it as a profession.”
Bejoo R Jilla, a resident of Mumbai, is developing a programme to offer pension to priests from his community. He said, “Dwindling numbers of priests in our community is a serious concern hence I am working out a plan to offer pension to priests, to encourage them to opt for it as a profession.”
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2 thoughts on “Facing shortage of priests, Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat eyes part-timers”

  1. The reason being Yamy is being the discriminatory rules adopted by the Blue Blooded Zoroastrians. I don’t to put the leaders down but it is the TRUTH

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