A decade of bonding, praying together at Bhikha Behram Well

The initiative of holding Parsi community prayers every month on Ava Roz (day of water) is completing 10 years on Friday

Once a month, 80-year-old Parsi businessman Nariman Mody ensures he stops by at Bhikha Behram Well at a corner of Cross Maidan in south Mumbai. For Mr. Mody, the humbandagi or praying together is a good opportunity to catch up with fellow Parsis. This initiative of community prayers every month on Ava Roz (day of water) is completing 10 years this week.

“Barring three to four times when I was unwell or someone in my family was unwell, I have not missed the humbandagi for the past 10 years,” said Mr. Mody, a Grant Road resident.

The idea of organising the prayers was thought of by community members Hoshaang Gotla and Perzon Zend in 2009, and they approached the trustees of the well. “They were very supportive of the idea,” said Mr. Gotla. They started with leaner crowds of 20 to 30 people and now see up to 200 to 300 Parsis, especially on the weekends.

“A lot of bonding takes place when people pray together. We wanted to create that atmosphere,” he said.

The Ava Roz, when Parsis pray to the divinity of water, falls on different days every month. Bhikha Behram Well, which is a rich source of water, is a perfect religious place for such a gathering. Viraf Kapadia, one of the five trustees of the well, said it is a significant religious place for the community. “Dating back to 1725, the well was built by Parsi gentleman Bhikaji Behram, who came to Bombay on foot all the way from Bharuch,” said Mr. Kapadia.

Anniversary talk

The monthly prayer is followed by a talk delivered by several people from the community. From senior priests to religious scholars, many Parsis have delivered the talks over the past 10 years. On October 25, for the 10th year celebration of humbandagi, Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trustee Noshir Dadrawala has been invited to deliver a talk on the topic, ‘Pray together, stay together’.

“I have delivered talks at Bhikha Behram Well earlier too,” said Mr. Dadrawala. The gathering is a great way of getting the young and old together, he said. “The crowd fluctuates every time. But when Ava Roz falls on a weekend, the place is packed,” he said.

However, the news of Mr. Dadrawala delivering the talk to mark the 10th year has not gone down well with some Parsis, who consider him a reformist. Mr. Kapadia said, “Mr. Dadrawala has delivered talks at the event many times. The platform is open for all community members, including trustees of BPP.”

Jyoti Shelar

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-decade-of-bonding-praying-together-at-bhikha-behram-well/article29772127.ece

 

2 comments

  • If Bhikha Behram Well is considered a significant religious place, as quoted by Mr. Kapadia, which I personally question – nonetheless, should that be the case, and if our long standing practice of paying our homage to the Water Divinity as per the ancient Mazdayasni Religion is still considered valid, and as if that’s not enough, the local mobeds perform our liturgical prayers as per our Mazdayasni Zarathushti Religion, then I wonder aloud as to why should a reformist of Zarathushti religion like Dadrawala be allowed to even attend this religious event, let alone give a talk – shame on him, and others who bow down to him and make this event a big farce.

  • Paradoxical is the only word I can think of when it comes to our Parsi community.

    On one hand, we see orthodox Parsis who still faithfully cling on to our religious tenets and traditions, which is great. Yet, we see them encouraging events such as this one, where mobeds openly perform Afringans next to the Well which is fairly visible by everyone walking along the path of the road. Not only do the darvands see the Kriya-kam, but they also hear our precious Avesta prayers. If this is deemed okay, then we should have no entry restrictions to our Fire Temples. We should then have no problems inviting the darvands to come into the Fire Temples, and have them attend the Boi ceremony, Jashans, Baj and the likes. Would we do that? The answer to that is a definite No! When the religious scholars, including our forefathers have concluded that doing so, drastically interferes with the energy and vibrations surrounding the Padshah Saheb and the recital of our Avesta Prayers, then what is the logic behind doing this farce of rolling down the ‘Satrengy’, putting the Afarganyu, other alats and starting to recite Afringans on the side of the road, so to speak? And, by the way, I rather not have a wise acre intervene and say that there is a partition to block the view, as if that acts as an enclosed sound barrier.

    Anyways, this is something that the Mumbai Parsi community should think about before proceeding with this type of events and participating in what I call a ‘feel good exercise’. Think about it… in the days gone by, the Bhikha Behram Well was just a place, where some of the Parsis when passing by the Well would bow down the wall of the Well, and then simply proceed. There wasn’t much fuss at the time about making the Well an important religious spot as proclaimed today. Are we to then think that the trustees of the Well and the Parsi community at large, including the priests at the time, were less caring, less religious and less wise than what is made out to be these days? One can possibly look at this as a very insidious way of falling into the trap of the reformists’ eventual goals, which are to amalgamate outsiders into our community through wedlock, allowing the inter-married couples to attend Parsi funerals and religious ceremonies, to name a few. As time rolls on, and being a part of such events on a routine basis, it then eventually becomes an accepted norm within the Parsi community, including the orthodox Parsis to easily accept the attendance of darvands in our religious rituals and ceremonies.

    My fellow priests, I ask you – by doing Afringan on a roadside, how do you ensure that no menstruating woman would see the Kriya-kam and hear the recital of Avesta prayers? How do you reconcile your current actions with the clear stipulations that are prescribed in the Vendidad in this regard? Obviously, you can’t, can you?

    Enough said!

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