Category Archives: Doongerwadi Process

Performance of the First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies

The Association for Performance of the First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies of the Parsi Zoroastrians.

  1. E. Mithaiwala Agairy Compound, Jehangir Daji Cross Lane, Slater Road,

Grant Road (W), Mumbai 400007. Registration No. F-80 (Bom)


A Society by the name of The Association For Performance Of The First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies Of The Parsi Zoroastrians was founded in the year 1942 for the purpose of performing the essential death ceremonies of Parsi Zoroastrian individuals who desire to have the same performed for themselves, but do not have any relatives who will get it performed.


The Society is headed by Ervad Dr. Ramiyar Karanjia, Chairman of the Association, and ably guided by Ervad Aspandiar Dadachanji, Panthaky, Vatcha Gandhi Agiary, Mrs. Shernaz D.Mehta, Director, Zoroastrian Co-operative Bank Ltd. and other Trustees.


The Society has arrangements with a few Agiaries for the Performance Of The First Year Necessary Death Ceremonies in different areas in Mumbai and Pune. The Society has received a heartening response from many Zoroastrians and who have since become its members.


The Society  offers two Options:

Option 1 is the economical scheme priced at Rs. 30,000/- and covers the essential after death ceremonies for one year.


Option 2 covers the essential after death ceremonies for one year including Muktad and is presently priced at Rs.55,000/-.


Zoroastrian individuals desiring to become members of this Scheme or for further details can contact :

Mr. Ariez Kharas. Administrator. Tel.: LL 23870283. Cell 9769761284.


Ervad Aspandiar Dadachanji, Panthaky, Vatcha Gandhi Agiary, Huges Road,

Tel. 022 23803826 or 919820493812.

Ervad Kersi Bhadha,Panthaky, M.J.Wadia Agiary, Lalbaug. Tel. 24702207.

Ervad Viraf Pavri, Panthaky, B. C. Batliwalla Agiary, Tardeo Road. Tel. 23530142


Ervad Hormuz A.Dadachanji,Mithaiwala Agiary,Jehangir Daji Street, Grant Road (West), Tel.9820493812.

Ervad Pervez M. Bajan,Mewawala Agiary,Byculla.LL: 23716799 or Cell: 9820379781.

Zoroastrians who desire to get their first year after death ceremonies performed should first become members of the Society by paying a nominal sum of Rs.51/- and thereafter can opt for either of the schemes mentioned above.


The Society is registered as per the Society’s Registration Act and also under the Bombay Public Trust Act and is being looked after by its Board of Trustees. Community members may take advantage of this Scheme depending on their needs.

Click Here for Options

Click Here for Application Form 

Urban Legend: Parsi pangs of change – when the sun delivers the soul

It’s a ceremony that few get to see men and women dressed in long white robes singing the song of silence in a temple.
The Parsi Tower of Silence  near Hebbal Flyover where the community conducts the last rites of its dead

 The Parsi Tower of Silence near Hebbal Flyover where the community conducts the last rites of its dead

Few outside the Parsi community in the city would have noticed it. But just as a 950-year-old Tower of Silence looms over Mumbai’s busy Kemp’s Corner, a Parsi Bawdi towers over a sprawling 14 acre orchard just off Hebbal flyover.  The ‘Towers of Silence ’ is where the community conducts the last rites of its dead. The vultures, the carrion that feed off the dead – the Parsi ritual of excarnation – no longer circle above the sacred spot where the Parsis laid out their dead. It’s the fire from the sun and the heat of the earth that reclaim the dead.

It’s a ceremony that few get to see men and women dressed in long white robes singing the song of silence in a temple. Around their waist is a silken thread and in the white sanctorum is a flame that burns 365 days of the year.

Allowed into this holy place are members of a small community of 800 or so in the city. Though few in number, the 280 Parsi families in Bengaluru preserve the world’s oldest religion, the religion of fire, Zoroastrianism.

Parsis have always been regarded with interest in the country owing to their rituals, that remain a mystery to most who can almost never hope to see them.
Closely guarded is the most unique ritual of all, the last rites for their dead performed at the Parsi Tower of Silence or “Dakhmeh.”

Here lifeless bodies are surrendered to nature and vultures in particular by the community that does not believe in either burial or cremation, seeing them as means of polluting the environment.

In Bengaluru, the tower is located in a massive 14 acre campus filled with mango, coconut and other trees overlooking the Hebbal flyover. Despite its massive size it remains inconspicuous and is rarely noticed by the speeding vehicles heading to the Bengaluru airport.

While its exact design is a mystery, the tower is believed to be a huge circular well-like structure with a flat roof. Its concentric circles, open to the sun and wind, are where the dead are left to decompose gradually as nature has its way.

With vultures no longer descending on the Tower of Silence to feed on the dead, as there are not many left in the city now, the community is forced to depend on the sun alone to decompose bodies and allow the dead to attain salvation.

“By custom the dead bodies must be  exposed to the sun and vultures, which are allowed to scavenge. But this has changed over the years as there are hardly any vultures around anymore and they don’t come to the Tower of Silence,” said Mr Shereyar D Vakil,secretary of The Bangalore Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman.

The dwindling number of vultures, be it on the Malabar hill in Mumbai or near the Hebbal flyover in Bengaluru where the tower is located, ,may have robbed the community of a big part of its ritual for the dead, but it has innovated to fill the vacuum.

“As the community in Mumbai is much larger and sees more deaths , its Tower of Silence uses solar panels to hasten the decomposition process in the absence of vultures. However,  we are a small group in Bengaluru and as there are not as many deaths here, the Tower of Silence is hardly used, the last time being five months ago. So we don’t  need to install solar panels. The bodies are just exposed to the sun,” said Dastur (priest) Fardoon. With the vultures gone, its the rays of the sun that help the dead find redemption, he explains.

“When we die, we give our body to nature as charity. We  do not believe in burial as it pollutes the earth,” said Mr Vakil.

The departed souls are later remembered in a ceremony called Muktad conducted by a priest. A group of fire worshippers assemble at the Parsi Fire Temple, oblivious to the traffic on Queens Road, to  conduct the 10-day ceremony. The priest takes the names of those who have passed away and those assembled observe silence and pray.

Despite its roots in Iran, the community has Indianised in many ways since migrating to Sanjan in Gujarat. But it has never forgotten what gives it its unique identity: its culture, which has much to offer and also its distinctive funeral rituals involving homage to the sun and vultures that have intrigued the world for hundreds of years.

Parsis turn to cremations as vultures disappear from skies

Mumbai:  Kaikobad Rustomfram always thought that when he died vultures would feast on his body, as is Zoroastrian tradition. But then the scavenging birds disappeared from India’s skies.

The 90-year-old was cremated last month instead of receiving a sky burial, one of a growing number of Parsis opting to use a new prayer hall in Mumbai that is changing the ancient community’s funeral customs.

Rustomfram’s wife, Khorshed, who died in January aged 82, also chose cremation at the ten-month-old facility, which conservative Zoroastrians oppose, in the centre of Mumbai.

“They wanted to be cremated ever since they learnt that the traditional way of disposing of the dead wasn’t working because there were no vultures,” their daughter, Hutokshi Rustomfram, told AFP.

Zoroastrians believe in the god Ahura Mazda and follow the teachings of the ancient Prophet Zoroaster. They worship in ‘fire temples’, believing fire to be a symbol of god’s purity.

Known as Parsis, Zoroastrians first arrived in India more than 1,000 years ago after fleeing persecution in Persia.

They became one of India’s wealthiest communities, boasting a number of famed industrialists including the Tata family synonymous with the financial rise of Mumbai.

For centuries the community, which is dwindling at such a rapid rate that its future existence is now under threat, have laid their dead out at the city’s Towers of Silence.

Ravenous vultures would devour the flesh of the body within an hour, leaving the bones to dry in the sun before being placed in a well, an efficient disposal system believed to purify the deceased.

But India’s vulture population began to drastically decline in the early 1990s and was virtually wiped out by the mid-nineties owing to Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat cattle.

Click Here for more

Prayers for the dear departed

Many times, in remote places, Mobeds are not available for prayers for the dear departed. In such cases, the family members should not be deprived of having obsequies performed for the deceased. Prayer Hall, Worli, has come out with audio files, which have the prayers for all the ceremonies, with a 10 second gap, for putting in the name of the deceased, wherever required.

Click on each of the links for the full prayers.


Click Here for MP3

Geh Sarnu

Click Here for MP3


Click Here for MP3

Afternoon Uthamna

Click Here for MP3

Mid-Night (Pachhli Raat-nu) Uthamna

Click Here for MP3

Cherum (Charam / Chahram) nu Jashan


Courtesy: Dinshaw Tamboly




Khandias : The Keepers of Doongerwadi

Khandias: The Keepers of Doongerwadi

Khandias are the people who tend to the Parsi community’s deceased. Open listens to their stories

Khandias in their quarters in Doongerwadi, Mumbai (Photo: RITESH UTTAMCHANDANI)

Khandias in their quarters in Doongerwadi, Mumbai (Photo: RITESH UTTAMCHANDANI)

Among Parsis, Khandias are a group of people spoken about only in hushed tones. It is their job to bathe and carry the deceased of the community to the Towers of Silence for vultures, and then tend to the mortal remains, pushing them ritually into a deep pit at the centre of the circular ‘tower’ (for retrieval and burial elsewhere later). Zoroastrian corpse bearers have been at work for millennia. But in Mumbai, home to most of India’s Parsis, no vultures have been sighted for years around the city’s Towers in Doongerwadi near Malabar Hill. This exposes the corpses to the ravages of nature that make the job increasingly nerve wracking. It is rumoured that what Khandias do can be so gruesome that it cannot be undertaken without the aid of alcohol as a calming agent.

Outdated as it sounds, dokhmenashini, the 3,000-year-old tradition of disposing of the dead by exposing them to scavenger birds, remains an important tenet of the Zoroastrian faith— for it is this that’s said to assure safe passage to the after-life. In the process, however, Khandias have become the ‘untouchables’ of an otherwise casteless community. Many of them live in Doongerwadi, where the ancient tradition is practised, in close-knit quarters of their own. For centuries, they have lived under a cloak of secrecy and in near isolation of the outside world, carrying out an ancient custom hidden away in a patch of woods in the city.

On a recent weekday, I find myself sitting beside a Khandia. He’s far from a man of frazzled nerves that I had imagined. He is old and wears a pair of large dark soda glasses. I also begin to realise that he is half-deaf.
“You can’t become a Khandia,” Kersi Kohla tells me, “you are not Parsi.”

“No sir, I’m asking why you became a Khandia.”

“Why didn’t you say that?” he responds, “Well, I had a love marriage. And then I had a court marriage.”

The towers of silence are located in a verdant sprawl of 54 acres at the eastern edge of Malabar Hill. When the first dakhma, a well-like structure where bodies are laid out for vultures to consume, was built here in 1670, this area was still nowhere close to the city, and it is said tigers and hyenas were frequently spotted. More wells were built over the years, and the land itself was purchased and called Doongerwadi, a Gujarati word for ‘orchard on the hill’. The name ‘Towers of Silence’ was coined later by a 19th century British translator.

Click Here for the full story

Towers of Silence (official trailer)

Published on Oct 19, 2014

‘The Towers of Silence’ explores the fundamental question faced by every small community, namely how to preserve one’s traditions in a rapidly changing and modernizing world. The film focuses on the story of the ten-year-old Dinshah Magol and the decision he has to take between following his fate in becoming the priest of his Zoroastrian community, thus preserving them from extinction, or pursuing his dream of one day becoming an engineer. The expectations of the whole community rest on his small shoulders as he contemplates this decision while waiting to grow tall enough to perform the key rituals to potentially become the world’s youngest Zoroastrian priest in living memory.Produced by Schadenfreude Films

Producer/Co -Director: Magnus Briem
Director : Fani Behraki
Camera: Pavlos Roufos, Eleni Zervopoulou
Editing: Pavlos Roufos
Sound Engineer: Fondas Kontopoulos

Read more about this religion from here:
A GUIDE TO THE ZOROASTRIAN RELIGION, Scholar’s Press, 1982. A Nineteenth Century Catechism by Erachji S. Meherjirana, with translation and commentary by a modern Dastur (High Priest):

Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices:

Frequently asked questions on Zoroastrianism and the Avesta:….

” Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees” by J.J. Modi’s

Courtesy : Tehemton B Adenwalla

Requiem for a Bird

This short documentary will be a synthesis of traditional documentary interviews with animation and choreographed dance. It will illuminate the  private  and public  lives of  the  Parsi through their spiritual relationship to the vultures. We will journey through Mumbai and its outer regions, meeting members of the Parsi community, listening to their hopes and fears for the future. and learning of the efforts to save the vulture population.

Cristin Hughes, the film maker writes:
My name is Cristin Hughes and I am freelance producer working on a film entitled Requiem for a Bird, with German filmmaker cylixe. It is a short documentary that explores the once vibrant partnership of the Parsi people and vultures in Mumbai.

This documentary will be a synthesis of traditional documentary interviews with 3D animation and choreographed dance. It will illuminate the public and private lives of the Parsi through their relationship to the vultures. Cylixe and I see Requiem for a Bird as an opportunity for the Parsi voice and Zoroastrian traditions to find a worldwide audience as it connects the spiritual and natural worlds.

We are in pre-production now with filming in Mumbai schedule to begin January 2015. If anyone within your organization is interested in learning more about the project or the ways they can support, please contact me at or +1 845.216.7664

Many thanks,Cristin Hughes

Courtesy : Parsi Khabar

British Designer to design an aviary for the Doongerwadi

Out of the Box

Shiny Varghese : New Delhi, Sun May 12 2013, 02:08 hrs


British designer Thomas Heatherwick on his new project in India and why design is not about toeing the brief.


………..  His new project is in India — Heatherwick has been invited to design an aviary for the Doongerwadi Tower of Silence in Malabar Hills, Mumbai. In keeping with the Parsi tradition of leaving the dead to be devoured by vultures, the 350-year-old site needs to nurture the vanishing vulture population. Since towering residential complexes have mushroomed in the area, Heatherwick has to ensure that the aviary and the stone towers or dakhmas, where the bodies are disposed, enjoy seclusion and privacy, creating a balance between tradition and modernity. …………


Click here to read the entire article


Courtesy : K F Keravla

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