Through the Lens of an Orthodox Canadian Zarathushti Priest …
I had recently read about the passing away of Dasturji Jamaspasa and I felt quite sad, as I fondly recalled having his presence during my Navar ceremony at Cama Baug in 1957. He was a scholar and a very soft spoken gentleman. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
Soon after the demise of Dasturji Jamaspasa, I learnt about the passing away of the Vada Dasturji of the Navsari Atash Behram, Kaikhusru Navroji Dastur Meherjirana. Although I didn’t know him, the news of his demise triggered in me a very gloomy picture of the future of our religion, just simply realizing that the names of the Dasturjis that I grew up with are slowly but surely departing from this world. Dasturji Kaikobad Dastoor and Dasturji Peshotan Mirza of Iranshah, Dasturji Meherjirana of Navsari and Dasturji Minocher Homji are but a few other names who will be remembered, if not for anything else, for their integrity, religious knowledge, piety and simplicity. Dasturji Feroze Kotwal is another old guard who has certainly made his mark as a scholar of our religion. May he be blessed with a long life!
In the present time, the reformists of the Zarathushti religion all over the world, who simply for their convenience and own agendas are bent upon destroying the religious tenets and traditions that our ancestors have held on for centuries. One wonders in skepticism about the coming new generation of Dasturjis – would their knowledge base, piety and leadership qualities suffice to uphold the tenets of our beautiful religion?
Cleanliness and purity are crucial components embedded into our religion, and yet, one is bounded with utmost grief to see the shocking upkeep of our religious institutions, mainly our Agiaries. On my recent trip to Mumbai, I visited Cama Baug Agiary which holds a special place in my heart – the place where my Navjote, Navar and wedding ceremonies took place. It was nothing short of a painful experience for me to see both, the outside and the inside of that Agiary completely deteriorated. Once a pristine place to worship is now just seen as an unclean structure called an Agiary. The total lack of cleanliness was a pitiful sight to bear. I know there are other Agiaries with the same sad state of affairs and maybe worse. It remains incumbent on the management and the trustees of these Agiaries to take full responsibility of this mess and not pretend that it is beyond their control.
Quite frankly, with my observation of the Cama Baug Agiary, and knowing that Ervad Kaikhushru Rawji has been the Panthaky for over two decades of that institution, I wasn’t much elated when I first found out that he is replacing Dasturji Meherjirana of Navsari.
Notwithstanding my bias, I was very impressed when Dasturji Rawji made a striking statement during his inauguration ceremony as the 18th Dasturji of the Navsari Atash Behram. He said that a Dastur’s rank is next to that of our Prophet Zarathushtra. He also added that a Dastur is expected to provide leadership to the Parsi Zoroastrian community.
His comments somehow exude a ray of hope for the orthodox Parsi Zarathushtis around the globe, particularly when it is clear that the names of the Dasturjis of today can hardly be said in the same breath as our Prophet, or for that matter, even next to Him. Their leadership to the community and their passion to preserve our religion the way it is supposed to, are at best quite debatable.
Will Dasturji Rawji be true to his comments? Will he have the courage to shun the reformists, most of whom appear to possess the political and financial powers? Will he be able to stay away from any and all temptations for his own personal gains? Will he be a role model ready to defend the core requirements to be a pure Parsi Zarathushti? Well, let time be the only judge!
May Ahura Mazda guide the 18th Vada Dasturji of Navsari to follow strictly in His path, and may Dasturji Kaikhushru Rawji make a positive difference which is needed so desperately.
…. Er. Jal Dastur <JalDastur@hotmail.com>