Category Archives: Agiaries and Atash Behrams

Saalgreh of Palia Street  Agiary, Surat

Today is the Saalgreh of Palia Street  Agiary, located in Surat, which is not only considered as one of the oldest, but also full of historical fragrances therein.
Jamshedji Zahiya belonged to a noble family, who was highly commited towards our Mazdayasni Zarthusti Din.
He was not having any child, so he always prayed to Paak Dadar Ahuramazda for its blessings and vowed to build an Agiary, if he was blessed with a child.
Well, one can also perceive why he was not having a child, as Paak Dadar Ahuramazda didn’t want to make Jamshedji see his child’s fate with such a disappointing end.
Anyway, prayers from the bottom of one’s heart, offered by a Din Parast Zarthosti can never be turned off, so was the case with Jamshedji too, whereby he was blessed with a son, who was named Homaji Jamshedji Zahiya.
Dae Mah Govad Roj is the death anniversary of a pious and saintly (Asho) person, Homa Jamshed Zaahiaa. The day is popularly remembered in his memory as Homajee Ni Baaj.
It is commemorated as a religious day in testimony to a life of absolute righteousness and truth.
An Agiyari in Palia Street in Nanpura, Surat is named after Jamshedji Zaahiaa, was built as a mark of commitment, thanking the ALMIGHTY.
His son, Homa was a victim of the unfortunate Kabiseh controversy which divided the community very bitterly and violently, around the middle of the 18th century.
Around that time, when the Parsees of India established contact with the Zarathushtis of Iran, they discovered that the Iranians followed a calendar that was one month ahead of theirs.
In 1745, a section of the Zarathushti community in Gujarat changed over their calendar and put it one month ahead, so as to confirm to what it was in Iran. They called themselves Kadimis or followers of the ancient practice.
Those who did not adopt the change called themselves the Shenshahis or those who followed the “Royal” traditional calendar.
This caused a severe rift in the Zarathushti community in India. For many years, marriage between the members of the two sects did not take place and often, bouts of violence were taken to the streets.
The controversy flared up rather seriously in Bharuch in 1782. A Kadimi lady who was pregnant falsely accused a pious an innocent Shehenshahi gentleman by the name of Homa Jamshed for kicking her and causing her to have a miscarriage.
Homa was first brought to trial before the Nawab of Bharuch and then to Bombay before the British court.
Homa pleaded his innocence but incensed by the Kabisseh controversy, a member of a Wadia family gave a false testimony as a witness against Homa.
Based on the witness’ false accusation, Homa was sentenced to death. He was hanged to death at the corner of Bazaargate in Fort, Bombay, on Mah Dae, Roj Govad 1152 Y.Z., 1783 A.D.
Before he was hanged, he declared that he was innocent of the charge brought against him and that his sentence was not just.
He is said to have declared, that the person who had leveled the false witness testimony against him would be found dead on the fourth day (Chahrum) after his death.
Reportedly, the person who gave the false witness testimony against Homa was found dead in his house on the Chahrum day of the martyr’s death.
To this day, devout Parsees observe Dae Mah Govad Roj as a solemn occasion for remembering this martyr of the tragic Kabiseh controversy.
Surprising to learn that the Agiary is currently owned (not managed) by Wadia trust in Mumbai, whether any links prevail with same Wadias who created this major mishap remains a question mark.
Dozens of efforts were undertaken, at several occasions for its closures, but out of the blue someone intervenes from no where and the Agiary keeps on glowing & growing. Most of them are neither from the same locality, nor from the same city, but how they come up to keep the Agiary move on, is amazing.
There are such powerful stories of its might that one gets astonished on its occurances. But the one who witnessed it are themselves very powerful in Din Parasti.”

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT – RUSTOMFRAMNA AGIARY

We, the Trustees of the R N Rustomframna Agiary, Dadar would like to inform all our esteemed Patrons that considering the current situation prevailing in our city on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in compliance with the rules laid down by the government, only Priests are permitted to enter places of worship. Hence, we have decided that whilst all the usual ceremonies connected with the Muktads will be performed in memory of the Asho Farohars, we regret to inform you that Family Members will NOT be allowed entry into the Agiary for attending any of the ceremonies.

This decision has been taken with the intent of not only complying with government directives, but also reducing the possibility of Family Members, Mobeds and our Staff contracting this dreaded virus.

We Trustees definitely understand the emotional distress that Family Members will experience, but, hope that it will be appreciated that the Agiary has to be administered in compliance with the rules laid down by the government.

Trustees assure Patrons that all ceremonies will be performed, as have been done over the years, in letter and in spirit.

General Information:

1. For the First year Muktads, separate tables will be provided for all prayers. Charges for prayers will be Rs.25,000 (compared to Rs.33,000 last year).

2. For the Second year onwards, prayers will be done by 1 Mobed for 3 different Families. (3 vases of 3 different Families on one table only). Charges for these prayers will be Rs.15,000 per family.

3. If you wish to keep the Vase of your other family members, then it will be kept on the Anjuman table for 10 days and the charges for that will be Rs.1650 per Vase.

4. Considering the present situation no flowers from Family Members will be accepted. The Agiary will place and replace flowers in the Vases.

5. Chasni will not be given for this year.

6. Ashodads for Mobeds and Staff as well as sukhad batti money for the 10 days should be handed over at the time of depositing the Vases on Sunday, August 2nd 2020. Jashan ashodad for Mobeds and Parsi Staff combined @Rs.1750 per Jashan will be collected at the time of receiving the Vases on Sunday, August 2nd 2020.

Muktads will be performed by our regular Mobeds, along with the support of our existing Parsi and Non Parsi Staff. Outside personnel will not be retained this year.

We request each one of you to please understand and cooperate with us during these testing times.

With the blessing of Lord Ahura Mazda on mankind, may this pandemic end soon and we then look forward to seeing you all back in our Agiary.

Thank you.

Stay Safe & Stay Healthy!!!

On behalf of the Trustees of the R N Rustomframna Agiary

Nasha R. Jassawalla
Chairman & Managing Trustee

Secunderabad: Sacred fire temple turns 100

 

Khan Bahadur Edulji Sohrabji Chenai Anjuman Dar-e-Meher in Secunderabad will complete 100 years on July 14

Ervad Aspi Patel, the head priest of the temple, is seated in the verandah. An air of tranquility, and dominance of white and peace pervade the place as we approach to meet him. The Khan Bahadur Edulji Sohrabji Chenai Anjuman Dar-e-Meher on MG Road, a temple of Parsis – followers of the Persian prophet Zoroaster – .has been like that for a hundred years. Time, place and emotion coalesce, and, a fragrance of peace and purity pervades.

Just a few yards away, the world outside changed with open spaces giving way to matchbox like structures but the fire temple hasn’t changed. Gulbanoo Yadgar Chenoy, 90, the president of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, is one of the few family members of the Chenoys who donated for the fire temple. She shares her past: “Our family came from Jalna to Secunderabad in 1803. The land was donated by the family and the temple was constructed at a cost of Rs 28,500 Hali sikka.” Hyderabad State had its own currency, the Hali sikka, 15 percent less than the rupee in British India. One hundred British rupees got you 116 Hali rupees.

Seth Jamshedji Edulji Chenoy, son of Khan Bahadur Seth Edulji Sohrabji and bai Pirojbai Edulji Chenoy, along with his brothers, built the Khan Bahadur Edulji Sohrabji Chenai Anjuman Dar-e-Meher in memory of their late father. “Fire is a living entity. Since consecration 100 years ago it has been burning continuously and only ordained priests are allowed inside the inner sanctum sanctorum,” says Jehangir Bisney, 58, a chartered accountant and trustee of the Anjuman. For Parsis, fire is a supreme symbol of purity and represents the light of God (Ahura Mazda) as well as the illuminated mind. No Zoroastrian ritual is complete without the presence of a sacred fire.

There are three priests who work in shifts. Two live in the residential blocks inside the temple complex and the head priest in Hyderabad. The priests tend to the fire five times a day and also ring the bell thrice to remove evil spirits. Sandalwood and kathi is what the Parsis call, a type of wood is used to keep the fire burning. The fire has to keep burning and is tended to without fail even around 2:30 at midnight.

How often do people visit the temple, we ask Ervad Aspi Patel, the head priest. “The ones residing in the 40 residential blocks do visit the temple but people from the community who are spread across the city make it to the temple for Navroz, the Parsi New year, when the place comes alive.” That the population is dwindling is a topic that cannot be avoided but Gulbanoo says, “Even as a kid, I remember the population was not much. We have always been a small community.”

Video on You Tube on July 14

A 40-minute video on the fire temple would be put up on You Tube to mark the centenary celebrations. Arnaz Bisney, who made the video, says, “As it dawned on us that the celebrations would be low-key due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought of making a video. It was Navroz and the photo frames were removed for renovation. That was when it struck, to make a video. There are 31 frames which is the cruz of the video.” It would be live after 9 pm on July 14. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/4PbBLwX5JLE

https://www.thehansindia.com/telangana/secunderabad-sacred-fire-temple-turns-100-633078?infinitescroll=1

Silvern Journey: The Story of the Afarganyu of the Sukkur Agiary

Recently we had carried an article about the erstwhile Sukkur Agiary in Pakistan. Our dear friend Nerina Rustomji sent us an article she had authored more than two decades ago. This was published on April 10, 1998 in the program book on the occasion of the opening of the Zarathushti Heritage & Cultural Center, in Houston; the home of the Zoroastrian Association of Houston.

Allow me to introduce myself

I am the Afarganyu in the prayer room of the Zarathushti Heritage and Culture Center in Houston, Texas. If you haven’t seen me before, you should drop by. Once you glance at me and my impressive height, you will probably want to know where I came from and how I got to Houston.

My journey was not an easy one. Before I reached Houston, I was living a lonely life in an abandoned agiary in Sukkur, Pakistan. Little did I know that a couple form Houston asked their Pakistani friends if there were any spare afarganyus for the Center. The Dasturji of Quetta suggested that I volunteer, since all the Zoroastrians left Sukkur in 1950’s and I just sitting in an unused agiary. After obtaining permission from my legal guardian – the Parsi Anjuman of Quetta – someone sent two men from Karachi to drive to Sukkur, pick me up, and deliver me safely to Karachi. And so these men drove the dusty road, opened the dilapidated agiary and packed me up.

But I was not telling you the embarrassing part. I was not as beautiful as I am today. In fact, I was jet black and those in Karachi and Houston worried that I was made of copper. But they had faith in me and didn’t abandon me. Instead someone polished me – and then my beautiful shine emerged. (A silver afarganyu needs a bath too!)

And so I was ready for my new home in Houston. The problem was that we needed the permission of the Pakistani government who considered me valuable; in fact, an antique. So the officials initially refused to allow my passage. And after some persuasion, everyone agreed that I could stay in Houston only if work in a religious institution. I was overjoyed to be able to live in a thriving community again. The next day, someone freighted me to Houston.

So there you have it. I first served the Sukkur community from the mid nineteenth century to the 1940’s Owned by Pakistan, I was brought to Houston by the kindness of my friends in Houston and Pakistan. But how did I get to Sukkur? I was donated by a railway engineer named Seth Phirojshaw Rustomji Mehta. This kind man inscribed the following words in Gujarati on to my torso.

sukkur-afarganyu-houston-inscription

Seth Phirojshaw Rustomji Mehta’s gift to Sukkur Pakistan Dar-e-Meher on Roj 20 month 5 year 1286 y.g. date 28 January 1917.

Whoever thought that seventy-nine years later I would be at the gala opening of Houston’s Zarathushti Heritage and Cultural Center? Thank you for inviting me into such a thriving and dynamic community in the New World. May our friendship bring peace and joy to the Zarathushtis of Houston.

My journey was possible due to the efforts of:

Abadan Abadan, Minoo Bharucha, Khurshid Kaikobad Marker, Dasturji Sohrabji Makujina and Purves Rana of Quetta; Sarfaraz and Feroze Golwalla, Rana Thakur, and Adarbad Wadia of Karachi. Baki and Mike Minwalla of Dubai; and Aban and Purvez Rustomji of Houston; and of course Seth Phirojshaw Rustomji Mehta and the former residents of Sukkur, Pakistan

I look forward to serving the Houston community and the Zarathushtis of North America. Be sure to visit me during the Seventh World Zoroastrian Congress December 28-2000, January 1, 2001.

sukkur-afarganyu

sukkur-afarganyu-houston

And later in 2017…Nerina followed up with an article in the Manashni, the newsletter of the Zoroastrian Association of Houston.

Did we miss an anniversary?

January 28, 2017, was the 100th anniversary of the afarganyu in our prayer room. The inscription in the prayer room says it was gifted by Seth Phirojshaw Rustomji Mehta to the Sukkur’s Dar-e-Meher. Over the years the Sukkur Zoroastrian community dwindled and the afarganyu sat in an abandoned agyari. So how did it get to Houston? The journey was not a simple one. Permission was first sought from the guardian Quetta Parsi Anjuman. Then came the arduous task of getting permission from the Pakistan government, who initially refused as it was considered to be valuable; in fact, an antique.

After some persuasion, it was allowed to leave only if it was placed in a place of worship. So it traveled from the dusty roads of Sukkur to the Karachi harbor where it was packed and shipped to Houston. A few will remember the aferganyu was jet black when it arrived and we were worried it was made of copper and not silver. And while Phase I of ZHCC was being constructed, the afarganyu sat in a home garage for a long time. Community members took turns in cleaning it and finally a silver shine emerged.

So there you have it – a 100 years later we treasure this gift donated by a railway engineer named Seth Phirojshaw Rustomji Mehta and thank all those who were responsible for bringing it Houston.

Courtesy: Parsi Khabar

Silvern Journey: The Story of the Afarganyu of the Sukkur Agiary

198TH SALGREH OF PAK NARIELVALA AGIARY, DADAR, BOMBAY

Roj Ardibehesht Mah Adar, April 15, marks the 198th Shubh Salgreh of the Pak Narielvala Agiary at Dadar  –  an oasis of peace, prayer and powerful positive vibrations near the bustling Dadar station.
For close to two centuries, this Sacred Holy Fire has blessed the community with many benedictions and boons.
Today, let us bow before this Holy Fire from our homes all over the world, as we isolate ourselves against a terrible scourge that has beset mankind, and pray that this Holy Fire blesses humanity with immediate relief and enduring good health.
In the evening today, at 6 p.m. India time, the attending Mobed Saheb will offer a Maachi. Since the Agiary is closed to the public as per government orders, all humdeens are requested to join in the Humbandagi from their homes by praying 5 Yatha and 3 Ashem at 6 p.m.
COURTESY: JAM-E-JAMSHED

Parsee Fire Temple in Zanzibar, 1996

In 1996 Henriette and Lucas were investigating the life of Farook Bulsara in Zanzibar, and along the way discovered the fascinating history and the hidden treasures of the old Parsee Fire Temple that was no longer in use. We would gratefully like to credit Freddie Mercury’s music that we have used without official permission, but that is really the only fitting music under this video. Asante sana!

Shree Parsi Panchayat Vadodara – Baroda

 

B. N. Seervai Parsi Dharamshala / Godrej Banquet Hall / Wedding Lawn

New Website – https://www.ppvadodara.org/

Parsis of Baroda

On the banks of the river Vishwamitri lies the erstwhile State of Baroda. The city of Baroda has now been renamed as Vadodara. At present it is the third largest city of Gujarat, after Ahmedabad and Surat and has a population nearing 18 lakhs.

 

On November 6, 1642 the “Parsee Prakash” takes note of a first Parsi Panchayat assembly at Navsari, but it seems that the Panchayat only established its authority after Bombay was taken over by the British The Panchayat was constituted by the Elders and influential members of the Community.

 

With a ‘Dokhma ‘ in Baroda near Vishwamitri constructed as far back as 2nd May 1842 i.e 156 years ago, and the imposing Umrigar Agiari in Fatehgunj constructed on 1st February1845, it is safe to conclude that Parsis have been living in Baroda since the last 200 years or even more. History records that Parsis played a very active role as political agents in the courts of the Maharajas in the 19th century. In 1800 the earliest Parsi in Baroda was A. Desai, he was of great service in negotiations between the British and the Gaekwar. The other Parsi at the court of the Peshwa was Khursedji Jamsedii Modi, who hailed from Khambhat and was appointed Native Agent to the British. These were two of the earliest Parsis, whose names have been recorded in history and who served under the Gaekwar of Baroda. There must have been a flux of Parsis to Baroda at this time and no better proof can be provided than the construction of the Dokhma in 1842 and the Umrigar Agiari in 1845. The next Parsi to be heard of was the eminent Dadabhai Naoroji in 1873 Gaekwar Maihar Rao of Baroda who was charged by the British with maladministration, called upon Dadabhai Naoroji and made him the Dewan of Baroda in 1874. Dadabhai took up the challenge and it has been recorded that during the short period of two years that he was Dewan of Baroda, Dadabhai Naoroji had repressed bribery and corruption which had overwhelmed the administration of justice in the State. Due to uncalled for interference and unsubstantiated allegations against him by the British Resident, he resigned and returned to Bombay and from there went to England where he fought for India’s freedom and was the first Indian to be elected to the British House of Commons by a wafer thin majority of 3 voles.

 

As on today, the Parsi Community in Vadodara compromises of 305 families, totalling 1059 individuals (49% Males, 51% Females). Our Panchayat is a unique institution which combines within itself all types of activities, religious, social, cultural, educational etc.

 

The Trustees’ main objective has always been to work for the welfare of the Vadodara Parsi Panchayat and for the happiness of the entire Comminity. Our Dharamshala in Hira Baug, Fatehgunj, is one of the most well maintained and comfortable rest houses to live who come from outside Vadodara. The Vadodara Parsi Panchayat was officially registered as a “Trust” on November 13, 1953 with the Charity Commissioner’s Office, Vadodara bearing Registration No. C-2. The Trustees of the Vadodara Parsi Panchayat hold dual responsibility, first as leaders of the community, and second as Trustees of the various funds and properties. Each one knows that as a Trustee, he has to be involved in manifold responsibilities involving him in every big and small decision. This involves several hours of work each week, apart from the Board Meetings at which 2-3 hours are spent.

 

The Trustees of the Panchayat have to maintain, manage, improve, develop and deal with the properties. under their control, which includes the Dokhma, Agiari, Dharamshala premises and the Pirojsha Godrel Hall. They also manage the religious, charitable and other trust funds entrusted to them created for the benefit of the Parsi community, or for some specific purpose (like ‘Gambhars’) Other problems concerning the Community also requires their attention and action. While most of the above activities are left to the Trustees of a progressive Panchayat like ours. Their Major achievement has been to maintain complete unity and harmony between all members of the community and have made themselves available and open to new ideas. Various Committees to deal with specific issues been constituted where other members of the Community are involved. This tradition has come, over the in years in Vadodara. At the helm of the Panchayat have been its past Presidents, who have played a very vital role in the running of the Panchayat affairs.

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