Category Archives: Agiaries and Atash Behrams

ZAC Celebrates the 7th Salgreh of their Atashkadeh 

A Day of Celebration
The 7th Salgreh of the Zoroastrian Association of California‘s Atash Kadeh was celebrated with great religious fervor and Parsi gusto on the 12th of November. The celebration started a day in advance with deep cleaning of the premises by volunteers Freny Bacha, Vira & Burjor Santoke, Dhun & Ketty Alamshaw, Jimmy Colabewala, Firoze Avari, Xerxes, Zane & Zara Commissariat, Ruzbe, Zubin & Farzan Daruwalla, Mehernosh Pithawalla, Kerman & Annu Dangore, Khushroo Dubash & Zerkxis & Zarrir Bhandara.

On the day of Salgreh, in the wee hours of the morning, the Chowks were done by Annu & Kerman Dungore, the hars and Torans were made by Rukshana Colabewala. A Hama Anjuman maachi was offered to Atashpadshah in all five gehs. A Jashan was performed in the morning by Ervads Ardaviraf Minocheherhomji, Kyan Arzan Lali, & Zerkxis, and Zarir Bhandara which was attended by about 75 Zoroastrians.

The ZAC Cleaning crew


The ZAC Youth in Action

The Importance of Service
After the Jashan, Zarrir thanked the donors Hootoxi and Dr. Ervad Ardaviraf Minocheherhomji who also sponsored the celebrations, and gave a brief talk explaining the terms:

  • Agiyary: A Sanskrit word meaning “Agni rakhvani jagya” which means Atashkadeh in Persian, which can store either of the three grades of fires Dadgah, Adaran and Atash Behram fire.
  • Dadgah fire: The ZAC Ataskadeh which houses the dadgah fire, which was duly consecrated under the guidance of Dasturji Dr. Firoze M. Kotwal.

He stressed the importance of service, saying serving our community and humanity in general is serving God. Further, he stressed the importance of focusing on our feelings, emotions, that we derive from experiences, as we are living, feeling beings, by transforming our feelings, we can transform our thoughts, words, deeds, and our life.


Captain Khush & President Rooky Fitter, Ervads Minocheherhomji, Kyan Lali & Bhandaras,
Treasurer Firoze Gundevia, Secraetaries Vira & Burjor Santoke

A Time for Reflection
After which, he invited Ervad Dr. Minocheherhomji to speak, who said:

Anybody can donate money, but the important thing is the serving, which these ervads do so devotedly and the community coming here to pray. By quoting the Jasameavanghe Mazda prayer, he said:

We are peace-loving, bridge-building community. Hence, it is important that we stay united and spread peace in the world by decreasing the negativity and increasing the positivity quoting from the Haft Amshaspand Afrin. Further, he spoke about “Ossmoi oozaresva Ahura” Which means “You unfold to me, be with me Ahura, and if God is with you, you don’t need anyone else”and Ushtano Zato Athrav Yo Zarathushtra”  meaning “the whole creation rejoiced at the birth of Asho Zarathushtra, that is how great  our prophet is” engraved in Rustom Framna Agiyary Dadar, Mumbai


A Community Comes Together
At the conclusion, ZAC President Mrs. Rooky Fitter thanked the then President Mrs. Tehmi Damania and the ZAC community for their stupendous team work and that we have come a long way and we can continue to progress further unitedly.

A Delicious Feast
Afterward, the chashni was served along with the delicious compassionate Pulav Dal prepared by Reshma Rustomi, Ravo by Xerxes commissariat, and Flan by Dhun & Ketty Alamshaw, Fruits- Freny Bacha. The afternoon ended with merriment and laughter by the ZAC members. Everyone had a great time, and it was the perfect way to end the event.


The Parsis residing at Bai Maneckbai Nusserwanji Chenoy Fire Temple Compound, Hyderabad, India, are facing an urgent sewerage issue.
This contamination threatens ancient rituals and overall well-being. Despite all efforts, including approaching relevant authorities, media coverage and petitions, a resolution is elusive.
Join the call for justice, harmony, and the restoration of this sacred space.

Save Our Sacred Fire Temple (Agiary): Unblock Sewage, Restore Sanctity

Why this petition matters

Started by Jehangir Bisney

The Commissioner
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC)

The Managing Director
Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB)

Dear Sirs,

We write to you in connection with sewage blockage crises afflicting the Bai Maneckbai Nusserwanji Chenoy Dar-e-Meher (Agiary-Fire Temple) at Tilak Road, Hyderabad. Besides being a place of historical, cultural and architectural significance (it was recognized with the HUDA Heritage Building Award in 2001); more importantly, in this 119 year old Agiary is housed a consecrated fire which is the source of veneration and worship for the Parsi community residing in Hyderabad & Secunderabad.

A consecrated fire is a living pulsating entity who radiates divine energy over long distances and provides spiritual succour and protection to those within its radius. An important and necessary adjunct to an Agiary is the water well in its premises from which water is drawn daily and used for ritual and cleanliness purposes. Infact, before constructing an Agiary, a water source is identified for the construction of a well. It is the site of the well that determines the architectural plan of the fire temple. Consequently, a polluted well brings the workings of a fire temple to a standstill and no ritual work can take place until the well is cleaned and made pure.

The Fire Temple complex also provides a home to 45 Parsi families encompassing over 100 individuals. However, the spiritual stature of the Agiary and the health and lives of the residents have been badly compromised since 2022 when their sewage line, laid over a century ago, was intentionally and unlawfully blocked by Santosh Dhaba, which shares the compound wall. The outlet having been blocked, the sewage water flows right back into the compound of the Agiary, polluting the well water, besides posing a serious health hazard to the residents who are forced to live in unhealthy circumstances and have to personally clean the sewage. Besides the health issues, it is also a sacrilege being committed and affecting the religious sentiments of the entire Parsi community.

Concerned individuals have been forced to raise the matter in the courts of law. While HMWSSB has committed to clearing the sewage by sending tankers, that definitely is not a solution to the problem. The municipal authorities are duty bound to provide adequate civic amenities to residents on a daily basis. Towards that end, you are urged to do all in your power to stop this health hazard and enforce upon Santosh Dhaba to clear the blocked sewage system to allow free outlet. That is within your sphere of authority.

You are well aware of the contribution of the Parsi Zoroastrian community to India. The community now looks upon you to alleviate its problems urgently and restore the sanctity of its holy Agiary and the health of the residents of the place.

Looking forward to a positive and quick action from your end.

Yours faithfully,

Jehangir Bisney

Click Here to sign this petition

The D N Modi Shahenshahi Atash Behram in Surat celebrated its 200th Salgreh on 1st October, 2023

The D N Modi Shahenshahi Atash Behram in Surat celebrated its 200th Salgreh on 1st October, 2023, with a ‘Maachi’ at 7:00 am in Havan geh, attended by over 500 Parsis. The highlight of the salgreh celebrations was the ‘Kavyani Zando’ which was paraded through the streets near the Atash Behram with a decent Parsi population at 7:30am. The Parsees garlanded the ‘Zanda’, performed achhu michhu, donated cash or grains, and distributed sweets. As the procession returned to the Atash Behram, the Parsees sang ‘Chhaiye Ame Jarthosti’, as the flag was hoisted atop the Atash Behram. A ‘Khushali nu Jasan’ was performed headed by Vada Dasturjis of Udwada and Surat later in the day.

Explore the 113-year-old Parsi Fire Temple in Royapuram

Not many have the privilege of stepping into the Parsi fire temple. This Madras Day, we meet members of Chennai’s Parsi community at the recently renovated Jal Phiroj Clubwala Dar-e-meher, and the graceful red brick Parsi Anjuman Baug Dharamshala

A prayer meeting inside the Parsi fire temple.

A prayer meeting inside the Parsi fire temple. | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

In the chaos of Royapuram’s congested traffic and crowds, a peahen struts.

Like the bird, we soak up the peace on the quiet campus of the 115-year-old Parsi Anjuman Baug Dharamshala. As we peer up at statuesque red brick building. Tehnaz Bahadurji, one of the historians of the Parsi community, discusses how they have been working on learning more about its unique architecture, amid plans to renovate it.

“Architect friends have told us it could be the work of Robert Chisholm, or Henry Irwin, who came after him,” she says, adding, “Or it could be by Thatikonda Namberumal Chetty, who worked with Irwin, and went on to construct buildings on his own after that,” she says.

British architect Chisholm is credited with pioneering the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture in Madras, with Presidency college and the University of Madras. Irwin followed, with the Madras High Court and Connemara library. Chetty, known as Irwin’s chief associate, constructed many city landmarks through the 19th and early 20th centuries including the Government Museum, YMCA and Connemara Library . (His other claim to fame was the fact that he was the first Indian in Madras to own a car.)

Built to house travellers, the Anjuman Baug has two rooms inside with attached bathrooms and a dining room. The second floor that was added about 60 years ago, in built in a similar style. It predates the Parsi Fire temple Jal Phiroj Clubwala Dar-e-meher, by 2 and half years. Set less than 200 metres away, the temple was built in 1910 in memory of Jal, the young son of philanthropist Phiroj Clubwala.

Explaining how the Parsis moved to India more than 1200 years ago to escape religious persecution, Zarine Mistry, also a community historian says that a delegation met the Governor of Fort St George 1809, and Hirjibhai Kharas, who was one among them became the first Parsi in Madras.

The Anjuman Baug Dharamshala

The Anjuman Baug Dharamshala | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

“The Parsis brought a small plot of land right here, in 1795,” says Zarine, as we look around the expansive campus, which includes a burial ground. By 1799, they expanded the area and by 1822, it was about 32 grounds, leased from the East India Company. “When the Crown took over in 1858, all lands on a 99-year-old lease were given to the lessees, and by 1895 we got proper documentation,” says Zarine.

Madras Day | Century old Southern Railway Headquarters is an office with Chennai’s best views

Today, the Parsis number about 45,000 people in India, of which less that 250 live in Chennai. The tight-knit Chennai community is held together by three central bodies: The Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman (MPZA), the fire temple trust and the cultural association. They have been gathering at the Parsi club, started in the 1930s in the same neighbourhood, once a month for the last 30 years.

We move to the recently renovated Fire temple, which recently turned 113. As we study the graceful building from a garden bright with flowers, Darius Bahadurji, the imposing, yet jovial, President of the Anjuman and fire temple, explains how challenging the renovation was since it included cleaning the chimney, without disturbing the fire that burns constantly, being fed 5 times through the day with sandlewood by the priest.

The community priest, Bamanshah Vazifdar 

The community priest, Bamanshah Vazifdar  | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Tehnaz adds, ‘For the first 100 years, though there was a community living here, we had no place of worship, until this was built.” Built in a style that is typical of fire temples, it has a verandah and a statuesque hall for congregation, lit with sunshine, mirrors and chandeliers. Above the doors are arched stained glass windows, which add an intricate burst of colour when the sun filters though.

“We work together harmoniously, to keep the community together,” says Darius, emphasising that the committee’s role is to not just preserve the Parsi legacy in Chennai, but also to look after their own, while continuing to contribute to the city. With one renovation done, they are gearing up for the next big challenge: renovating the Anjuman Baug.

The project is likely to prove to be expensive and time-consuming. However, Tehnaz states, “We plan to do it with the support of the our community here. Even though it is miniscule, we have great hope.”

At the Parsi Fire temple in Royapuram | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Come Friday, Dadysett Agiary to open once again

Come Friday, Dadysett Agiary to open once again

The agiary will soon have an elaborate religious ceremony to have the sacred fire back in the Kebla, where it will burn 24 hours.

Mumbai News: Come Friday, Dadysett Agiary to open once again |
Mumbai: Come Friday, worshippers from the Parsi community will again be able to pray at the original hall used by devotees to offer their prayers at the Dadysett Agiary. The restoration of the fire temple is almost over with finishing touches being given. Said to be the second oldest Atash Adaran (agiary) in the city, its restoration took nearly three months. It included having original Burma teak wood beams in place of those that had rotten and were bending, wiring, plastering and painting, and polishing of floor.

The agiary will soon have an elaborate religious ceremony to have the sacred fire back in the Kebla, where it will burn 24 hours. It is through the sacred fire that the Parsis worship Ahura Mazdā, the supreme god. During the restoration, the fire was moved to another structure in the compound and the community prayed there.

Dadysett Agiary post renovationDadysett Agiary post renovation |

Parsis History With The Fire Temple

“At present, it is kept inside the agiary complex,” said a trustee of the Dadysett Charity Trust, which looks after the agiary.

First built in 1771, the fire temple was first close to the space where it currently stands. “It was built by the Dadysett family in Shahenshahi rights on a plot they owned,” said Ervad Darayesh Katrak, trust secretary.

The Parsis are subdivided into three groups. The Shahenshahis, the Kadmis and the Faslis. Each group differs marginally from one another due to the different period in which they came to India, the calendars they follow and the rituals they perform. When the temple was moved to its current location in 1803, it was consecrated under Kadmi rights. The agiary, however, is open to all Zoroastrians.

“For a long period we had Persian Zoroastrian priests overseeing the religious affairs of the agiary. It is believed to be the only one to have Persian Zoroastrian priests. Even some of the Atash Behrams (highest grade fire temples) did not have them,” said Katrak of the over 250 year temple, which will celebrate its anniversary on August 2,2023.

Muktads Period

Local priests took over the religious affairs only later on. It catered to a booming Parsi population that lived in the vicinity and continues to do so.

“The last family member of the Dadysett family passed away a month ago. When she was alive, she gave some money and asked that from its interest, prayers be performed for her family and her. On July 7, when Muktads start, we will be having prayers for the deceased family members of Dadysett who have no descendants now,” said the trustee.

Muktads is a period when the departed are remembered.

Ashutosh M Shukla

UNESCO-designated Zoroastrian Temple

Tourism minister visits UNESCO-designated temple, calls for more investment

TEHRAN – On Thursday, the Iranian tourism minister paid a visit to Takht-e Soleyman, which was once a principal fire temple of the Zoroastrian faith in ancient Persia.

Ezzatollah Zarghami called for more investment in tourism infrastructure of the UNESCO-registered site, saying: “We are currently looking for an investor to complete its [tourism] infrastructure in the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.”

Situated in Takab county of West Azarbaijan province, Takht-e Soleyman is now an atmospheric destination for domestic and foreign sightseers.

“This complex is unique in its kind… Being subject to many excavations, its lake has a depth of more than 100 meters,” the minister said.

The minister said more investment may be made to help preserve that ancestral heritage, adding: “By strengthening tangible heritage, we seek to promote the intangible heritage as both are appreciated…”

“The present and future generations should get to know the identity of their ancestors,” Zarghami explained.

Overlooking a lake with a backdrop of a snowcapped highland, the ancient interweaves a scenic natural context with a rich harmonious composition. It reveals architectural achievements of outstanding universal values, which from artistic, religious, mythical, and historical points of view, emerge from the synergy of a man-made and spectacular natural setting.

They established the ensemble in a geologically anomalous location where the base of the temple complex sits on an oval mound roughly 350 by 550 meters. It encompasses a lake roughly 80 by 120 meters and a Sassanid-era Zoroastrian temple complex dedicated to Anahita, an ancient goddess of fertility, parts of which were rebuilt in the 13th century during the Ilkhanid era.

They say Takht-e Soleyman’s name isn’t based on real historical links to the Old Testament King Solomon but was a cunning 7th-century invention by the temple’s Persian guardians in the face of the Arab invasion.

In the 13th century, Takht-e Soleyman became a summer retreat for the Mongol Ilkhanid khans. The remnants of their hunting palace are now covered with a discordant modern roof forming a storeroom (often locked) for amphorae, unlabelled column fragments, photos, and a couple of ceramic sections of those ancient gas pipes.

According to Britannica Encyclopedia, its surrounding landscape was probably first inhabited sometime in the 1st millennium BC. Some construction on the mound itself dates from the early Achaemenian dynasty (559–330 BC), and there are traces of settlement activity from the Parthian period.


Installation of Godrej Baug Agiary – 1999

Courtesy : Homyar Mistry, BPP, Ronnie F Patel



First hand experience related by Firdosh Khurshed Tolat:



20th December 1999

My Dear Parsi brethren,


I would like to share with you an exciting event in Parsi History, which I have just witnessed.


Some of you may be aware that a new Agiyari – Shapoorji Fakirji Jokhi Agiyari – is being started at the Godrej Baug.  The enthronement of the Holy Fire will take place in the early hours of Tuesday 21 December 1999.


The Holy Fire (originally of Tavri, near Navsari) – accompanied by a busload of Godrej Baug residents and a cavalcade of other Zarthostis in private cars – was brought from the Sir J.J. Agiyari, Navsari to the Dasturji Kookadaru Dare-e-Meher, Sanjan in the wee hours of Sunday the 19th.  All the five Bui ceremonies were performed during the day in Sanjan.


The Fire left Sanjan on Monday the 20th, after midnight and arrived on the outskirts of Mumbai at 4:30 a.m.  The entire convoy was escorted by Mumbai police.


I was fortunate to witness and be a part of this exciting event, in the final stage from Worli to Modi Sorabji Vatchha Gandhi Dar-e-Meher (also known as Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari), where the Fire arrived at 5:15 a.m.


The urn containing the Ātash was brought out from the Tata Sumo jeep, accompanied by five Mobeds, chanting the Maathravaani prayers.  Since one cannot shift the Ātash without grounding, special chains were attached to the vehicle, to maintain contact with the ground, throughout the two journeys.


The silence of the morning was broken by loud recitation of prayers by the gathered devotees.  It was a magical moment, enveloped in an aura of mysticism mixed with religious fervour, when one caught a glimpse of smoke emanating from the urn and the air filled with scent of burning sandalwood.


The Ātash was carried into a special room of the Agiyari and transferred into an Afarganyu; we saw the Holy Fire as bright embers, awaiting to be transferred into bright flames.  Four priests recited the Ātash Nyāyesh, offered sandalwood and as the brilliance lit up the darkened hall, we were witness to a new page being written in the history of our Religion in Mumbai.


The Holy Fire will be transferred from Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari, tonight (Tuesday the 21st at 3:30 a.m.).  The ceremonial procession will leave the Agiyari, walk down Hughes Road upto Ardeshir Godrej Chowk (Kemps Corner), turn up the road leading to Hanging Gardens, enter Ambawadi and then into Godrej Baug.  Arrangements have been made to turn off the streetlights during the procession.  A water taker will wash the entire route upto Ambawadi.  Thereafter, barrels of water have been arranged to wash the path before the Fire can be taken over it.


The Ātash Padshah will be finally enthroned in the Kebla room of the Shapoorji Fakirji Jokhi Agiyari, Godrej Baug and the first Bui ceremony performed at dawn, around 6:00 a.m.


The entire operation of shifting the Tavri nā Ātash from Sir J.J. Agiyari, Navsari, to  Shapoorji Fakirji Jokhi Agiyari, Godrej Baug, Mumbai, is being steered and guided by Ervad Aspandiyar Dadachanji – Panthaky Saheb of the Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari.  An erudite scholar, Aspandiyarji is an authority on our Zarthushti rituals and ceremonies.




21st  December 1999


Yet another historical chapter was written today morning, when the Holy Fire of Tavri, brought from the Sir J.J. Agiyari, Navsari, was enthroned at the new Shapoorji Fakirji Jokhi Agiyari, Godrej Baug.


The Ātash was originally brought from the Sir J.J. Agiyari, Navsari, to the Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari, Bombay, on Monday the 20th at 5:15 a.m., after a day’s halt at the Dasturji Kookadaru Dare-e-Meher, Sanjan.  All the five Bui ceremonies were performed during the day at the Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari.


A large crowd of countless Zoroastrians had gathered at the Agiyari in the wee hours of Tuesday 21 December 1999, long before the appointed hour of 3:40 a.m.  The process of shifting the Ātash started at 3:15 a.m., when a group of Mobeds circled the Afarganyu and the Ātash Nyāyesh was recited aloud by the priests, accompanied by the devotees in the hall.


After the prayers, Ervad Aspandiyar Dadachanji shifted the burning embers into the same urn, in which was Ātash was brought from Navsari.  Other priests took up their positions with the various liturgical instruments.


Three in the front, each carried a nine knotted stick, with a nail at the end.  This is to draw a Pāvi in the ground when leading the Ātash.  A Pāvi means a furrow, which preserves the sacredness of the consecrated things or of the sacred ceremonies.  Some others carried spears and shields, while two carried swords.  This was followed by three Mobeds each with a Gurz or Mace.  All of these signify that the bearer is a Zarathushti Soldier and undertakes to fight against all Evil – moral and physical.


Two Mobeds carried the special urn, while four of them covered it with a cloth canopy, held at hand level.  All four corners of this group of six were surrounded by Mobeds, who held cloth bands providing a moving Paavi for the sacred Fire.


The congregation left the Agiyari at 3:40 a.m., followed by a sea of Zoroastrian humanity – all in white – all chanting the “Yatha Ahu Vairyo” prayer, exhorted by BPP Trustee Rustom Tirandaz.  The ceremonial procession walked up Hughes Road, U-turned at the road leading to Hanging Gardens and entered Godrej Baug through Ambawadi (near Spenta Apartments).  The entire route from the Vatchha Gandhi Agiyari to the Shapoorji Fakirji Jokhi Agiyari was freshly washed with water from a tanker, driven by a Parsi gentleman.  Sand Pāvis were made by volunteers all along the way.


The congregation started reaching Godrej Baug by 4:14 a.m., where jubilant residents of the colony had gathered to maintain vigil through the night.


The Ātash was finally carried into the Kebla (the Sanctum Sanctorum) and placed in the Afarganyu, positioned on a large slab of stone.  The ceremony of enthroning the Sacred Fire was completed by recitation of Aafringans and other prayers, which we could not witness, due to the surge of humanity at the steps of the new Agiyari.  The Jokhi family graced the occasion and the crowd lustily applauded them when they entered the grand portals.


Today, we were participants and witnessed a historical event of our Religion as well as lives.  May the Sacred Fire keep burning bright in our hearts to keep alive this Great Religion of Lord Zarathushtra.




Sir J J Agiary – Pune

What it takes for Sir J J Agiary in Pune’s Camp to keep the flame alive

For the thousands of Parsis in Pune, the 179-year-old Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Agiary serves as a custodian of their faith, a fire temple that binds the community together.

jj agiary in pune's camp

Continuity and community are at the heart of the JJ Agiary, much like the fire that has been burning since it was installed in 1844 after many days of ceremonies. (Express photo by Arul Horizon)

A few days before a Navjote ceremony at Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Agiary in Pune’s Camp, the grounds are festooned with fairy lights. There is a palpable buzz about the occasion when a boy will be initiated into the canons of the Zoroastrian faith. “A Navjote ceremony is conducted when a child is between seven and nine years old and is considered capable of carrying out the duties of being a good person and citizen. Navjote is very important in our religion. Until then, a child is immature and the responsibility of bringing him to level lies with the parents,” says Dasturji Kaipashin Raimalwala, the head priest. He is dressed in white, including a cap, “because white stands for goodness and purity”.

Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Agiary is one of Pune’s greatest heritage sites and a custodian of the faith and history of the Parsi community in the city. A low gate leads to this 179-year-old fire temple through the bustle of hawkers on Dastur Meher Road. Inside, birds call through the day, giant trees fight back intruding noises and a serene way of life holds its place against heavy odds.

jj agiary pune camp Like the ambience of the agiary, the legend of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy lives on quietly in the work that he did, chiefly the institutions that he founded, from the Sir J J School of Art to the Sir J J Hospital in Mumbai. (Express photo by Arul Horizon)There are fewer than 60,000 Parsis in India, of whom around 6,000 are in Pune. The hall of the agiary can seat 70 people but is visited by less than 30 every day, except on special occasions when the crowd is bigger. “The fire temple plays a part in keeping the community together. I have been staying here since 1983 and even at that time, the population of Parsis was less. But, the number of people visiting the fire temple was higher. The Parsi population is scattered now because of distance and the traffic,” says Raimalwala, who is from Gujarat and studied and worked in Pune where his father-in-law was the priest at this fire temple.

‘A fire that doesn’t go out’

Continuity and community are at the heart of the temple, much like the fire that has been burning since it was installed in 1844 after many days of ceremonies. “That fire doesn’t go out. The priest is responsible for keeping it alive and I have helpers. We use smoking wood for which the temple was built scientifically, with chimneys,” says Raimalwala.

Jasmine Sarah, a Pune student who is now in Australia, says, “We have been visiting the agiary since I was a child. I vividly recall the smell of burning sandalwood encompassing the air. The room is dimly lit and your attention is almost immediately drawn towards the Atash or the holy fire. In general, the inside of a fire temple is very quiet. The atmosphere is very peaceful. I like to watch the flame flicker while I am praying, I find it is a great way to focus the mind. Fire has the ability to cleanse the aura, so, every time I leave the temple I feel relaxed and rejuvenated.”

Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Agiary pune Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy. (Photo: Memorandum of the Life and Public Charities of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy)Apart from the hall where the fire is kept, there is a main hall and a third one where the 10-day prayers are held before the new year. An image of the prophet Zarathustra faces east. During the day, the faithful offer their prayers while facing different directions— east in the morning, south in the afternoon and west until sunset. After sunset, the worshipper faces a source of light. “We generally avoid the north. The reason is historic, going back to the time when Iran used to be assailed by invaders as well as diseases carried by the air from the north,” says Raimalwala.

The main materials used to construct the agiary were wood and stone. The basic structure has been maintained through numerous renovations and plastering. Among the changes is the floor which was once of stone and is now marble. “It is compulsory for a fire temple to have at least one pomegranate tree. The pomegranate fruit has seeds that symbolise fertility. It is also significant that the pomegranate tree rarely dries up and dies in any season. According to us, the pomegranate tree is very deep. This is the reason we use pomegranate leaves daily in our prayers,” says Raimalwala.

The agiary has four pomegranate trees. Among the original structures are also two wells, whose waters are essential for rituals. “At many fire temples, we have to be careful now that well water is contaminated,” says Raimalwala.

Across the world, many people, especially the youth, are struggling to fit in with age-old organised religions. How does the fire temple tackle this problem? Raimalwala says that regular classes are held for children between five and 12 to help them understand the story of the Parsi community and their faith, among others. During the pandemic, the classes were held online. People from other faiths can go as far as the steps of the agiary but it is only Parsis who can step inside.

pune jj agiary Members of the Parsi community greet each other on the occasion of Navroz. (Express file photo by Arul Horizon)The compound on which the temple stands has been re-developed over the last 20 years to include a children’s play area and a folly in the garden. There are separate spaces for celebrations, such as the Navjote ceremony and weddings, and attached kitchens for catering.


The legendary philanthropist

Like the ambience of the agiary, the legend of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy lives on quietly in the work that he did, chiefly the institutions that he founded, from the Sir J J School of Art to the Sir J J Hospital in Mumbai. According to the Memorandum of the Life and Public Charities of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy published in 1855, Jejeebhoy spent £4,500 on the agiary.

In the British Library, an archival photograph of the Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Poona Bund and Waterworks in Pune can be found. “Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy was approached by the residents of Pune to build a ‘bund’ or tank to contain the raging waters of Mulla and Mutha rivers of which this photograph, taken in the 1860s, is a general view,” reads a part of the caption. The Memorandum also states that Jeejeebhoy spent £1,8027 on the project.

“Those who have not experienced the climate or seen the cities of the East can hardly conceive the value of such works…. Where intense heat prevails, where engineering is in its rudest state, and where antiquated forms of social organisation do not foster mutual cooperation for local purpose, it is hardly to be believed how great is the difficulty of obtaining water at all…,” The Memorandum says.

Jeejeebhoy was born in 1783 and rose from poverty by, first, collecting and selling empty bottles to finally, running a fleet of ships that traded with China and other countries in commodities ranging from cotton to opium. According to the Sir JJ School of Art, “By 1836 his firm was large enough…and he had amassed what at that period of Indian mercantile history was regarded as fabulous wealth.”

A spiritual man, Jeejeebhoy gave lavishly to the country and community, disregarding lines of caste and class. In Pune, he founded hospitals, schools, charity shelters and pension funds as well as helped with the building of wells, reservoirs, bridges and causeways in western India. In 1857, the 74-year-old Jeejeebhoy became the first Indian to be knighted — the first Baronet of India—by Queen Victoria. When he passed away in 1859, Jeejeebhoy was remembered in an obituary by a Mumbai-based newspaper as, “Simple in his tastes and manners, and dignified in his address, the personal appearance of Sir Jamsetjee, in later years, was a picture of’ greatness in repose. He had done his work, and entered upon the sabbath of his life.…”

The present owner of Dorabjee, a heritage restaurant that was started in 1878, Darius Dorabjee is among the many Parsi families in the city with close ties to the agiary. “My first experience at the agiary was when I was an infant. As a schoolboy, I used to go regularly, especially before my exams. I would pray so that I would do well. Now, I go occasionally for the peace I find and the fragrance of sandalwood that makes one feel so calm and refreshed,” says Dorabjee.
For his sister, Daisy Dorabjee, the agiary is a space of calmness. “I have visited the fire temple many times over the course of my life. It is always very reassuring to see our Dasturjees (priests) work hard to maintain and care for the temple. The fire must never go out and the Dasturjees work 24/7 to ensure it stays that way. I especially love the occasional sound of the bell that echoes throughout the room,” she says.
Written by Dipanita Nath

Bharuch Agiary



An approximately 1100+ years old Sir Shapoorji Bharucha Agiary lays nestled in the bylanes of bharuch it was built by the Zorastrian priests n was initially for the priestly class. It’s anniversary falls on 1st Oct. Sarosh Roj & Ardibehest Mah A scenic setting n pious atmosphere abound there. There will be a Jashan at 5.00 pm followed by manchi and Dinner their after, Do not miss this opportunity to visit this Agiary of ours which was brick by brick built by our dasturjis. Let’s get together n worship the holy fire n seek it’s blessings n be thankful to the noble souls of the dasturjis who undertook the work of building this Agiary without any help from even the behdins of the community. Such was the faith n integrity of our dasturjis towards our religion. Let us strive to keep the faith alive. Sethna Parivaar


Courtesy : Darayesh Katrak

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