To ensure all Zoroastrian Agiaries and Atash Behrams — two types of fire temples, the second being of the highest order —in Mumbai have enough funds and are well-maintained, a team has been formed under Athornan Mandal to look after the upkeep of fire temples. The Mandal, an organisation which looks after priests in the community, has floated survey forms within religious organisations to compile data.
“We didn’t have a complete data of how many priests are actually working and how much they earn. There are times when some Agiaries do not have funds, as a result a few priests are paid lesser than their counterparts. As the community receives a lot of donation, through this initiative their income could be supplemented,” said Ervad Ramiyar Karanjia, committee member, Athornan Mandal.
Survey forms that have been circulated seeks details such as land area, built-up area of the property, average worshippers visiting the place, details of various rituals conducted, number of Mobeds (priests) and staff employed and the remuneration paid to them and the details of expenditure incurred by the trust.
Most of these Agiaries are managed by private trusts and are not a part of Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), the main caretaker of Parsi-Zoroastrian properties in the city. As a result, doubts were raised within the community about the survey being conducted.
“A part of the community isn’t happy sharing certain details about the Agiary because it feels their rights would be infringed upon. But when the survey form was sent to us, there was a clear mention of what the details have been sought for. When the plan is initiated, it will help maintain our religious places better,” said Anahita Desai, trustee. JD Amaria Sodawaterwala Agiary, Marine Lines.
Dasturji Khurshed K Dastur, president of Athornan Mandal, said that a fund would be set-up eventually for repairs and maintenance of religious places, to provide kathi (wood), remuneration for priests and other support staff and to make the system of Agiaries and priests self-sustaining.
“It has been noted that many Agyaries in India are starved of funds and not able to maintain the property or provide for mobeds and support staff. Some of them also do not have adequate devotees visiting them, as a result of which the profession of clergy becomes unattractive to young Zoroastrians. The final plan, when prepared, will be recommendatory and implemented only if the parties concerned give their approval,” said Dastur.