Category Archives: Rituals and practices

Meherangan Celebrated by the Zoroastrian Association of California.

Meherangan Celebrated by the Zoroastrian Association of California.

A Jashan was performed on Sunday, February 27th, Meher roj at the ZAC Atashkadeh by Zerkxis and Zarrir Bhandara, which was well attended by a strong crowd of 84 Zarthostis. This Jashan was arranged by Dolly Malva to celebrate her birthday along with other members born around this time.

After the Jashan Zarrir explained the importance of this very ancient Jashan which was among the most important and popular Jashans in ancient Iran. He explained the qualities of Meher Yazad,  one of the coworkers of Sherevar Amshashpand, whose quality is moral strength, courage, and physical strength.“The other coworkers of Sherevar Amshashpand are Khurshed Yazad, Mino Asmaan, and Mino Aneraan. All of them collectively are responsible for giving us the illumination to brighten our lives, Meher Yazad is also in charge of all the billions of stars. Hence, Meher Yazad’s light is the most luminous, and light is synonymous with wisdom and knowledge, by removing/transforming the darkness and imperfections that are within us and around us. How do we attain wisdom and be part of that infinite light? The other qualities of Meher Yazad are ‘Rast’ being just & giver of justice. In ancient times, there always was an enthroned fire in the courts of law and that is how we got the name ‘Darb-e- Meher’. In North America, some of our fire temples are known as Darb-e-Meher, which literally means abode of Meher Yazad who is also present with Rashne rast Yazad on the dawn of charum to render justice to the deceased. The other qualities are friendship ‘Mitra’ AV, ‘Maitri’ Sanskrit, & ‘Fragyod’ who is the lord of wide pastures and giver of abundance in life. So when you tread the path of righteousness, when you move towards the light, the light gives you the abundance of health, an abundance of happiness, and abundance of wealth, so I wish all of you a long life full of the abundance of all good things to enjoy with your loved ones & with the courage and moral strength from Sherevar Amshashpand to do the righteous things in life.

I can talk a lot more about Meher Yazad, but taking the current world situation into consideration, I request you to join me in a prayer to grant wisdom to the involved leaders, so that an amicable settlement/solution is reached with the least destruction of human lives. Normally, we sign a petition right? Instead of a petition, we would send a spiritual message by praying together and through the vibrations of our collective prayers to bring about a 180-degree change in the psyche of the leaders involved, so that wisdom prevails upon them to make righteous peaceful decisions. This prayer in particular is geared towards bestowing blessings of wisdom and righteousness to the leaders of our community, society, country, and world at large. It is part of all Afringan and Jashan ceremonies. The whole congregation prayed the following prayer together: ‘

‘Ahurahe Mazdao raevato khvarenanguhato afrinami xshathrayane dainghu-paiti uparai amai, uprai verethrai, uprai xshathremcha, aiti astimcha daregho xshthremxshtrahe daregho jitim ushtanahe drvatatem tanubyo, amem hutashtem hurodhem verethrakhnem ahuradhatem vanaintimcha uparatatem pouru-spaxhtim tbishyantam paiti-jaintim dushmainyunam hathranivaitim hamerethanam aurvathanãm tbishyañtãm.âfrînâmi vavanvå vanat-peshene buye vîspem aurvathem tbishyañtem vîspem akhem tbishyañtem arathwyô-mananghem arathwyô-vacanghem arathwyô-shyaothnem. vavane buye rathwya manangha rathwya vacangha rathwya shyaothna nijane buye vîspe dushmainyû vîspe daêvayasnê zaze buye vanghâuca mizhde vanghâuca sravahe urunaêca darekhe havanghe.  âfrînâmi, darekhem jva ushta jva avanghe narãm ashaonãm ãzanghe duzhvarshtâ-varezãm vahishtem ahûm ashaonãm raocanghem vîspô-hvâthrem, atha jamyât ýatha âfrînâmi”.

The translation: Ahura Mazda, rich, possessing good things. Blessings on the rulers of the land, for greater strength, greater victory, greater rule, greater sovereignty, compassion, long rule, enduring physical vitality, and health (Blessings) to Ama, well-built, fair of form, to Verethraghna, made by Ahura, and to the triumphing Uparatat, completely repelling malice, completely conquering the hostile malicious adversary with a blow. Blessings so that he may be winner of the battle, victorious over every malicious adversary, over every evil(Blessings) that he may be victorious through timely thoughts, words, and deeds; to suppress all the evil-minded, and all Daeva-worshippers, so as to attain good reward, and good renown, and long happiness of my soul. Adversary, faulty in thoughts, words, and deeds. Blessings for long life, for the desired life, for the service of Asha- sanctified people, and for the disservice of ill-done deeds – the best existence of the Asha-sanctified, the luminous, offering all blissful. Thus may it come as I wish.’

Let’s make a wish together, that within a week everything settles down, and may wisdom and peace prevail in the world.”

At this moment one of the participants, Armin said “Thank You Ervad Saheb for conducting the prayers for the religious as well as the leaders of the nations to protect our beautiful Earth made by Dadar Ahura Mazda. I know it will yield very positive results just like the prayers that you conducted brought the pandemic under control. Thank You once again” Thereafter, the congregation recited a Tandarosti prayer for all birthday girls and boys, which was followed by a Rapithwan geh & Machi bui. Finally,  everyone relished lunch of Dhandar & veg Patio prepared by Reshma Adil Rustomi, cake ordered by Dolly Malwa, and delicious Ravo & chocolates prepared by Ketty Alamshaw.

The Significance Of Religious Headgears: The Zoroastrian Mathabana

The Karnataka High Court has recently ordered that girl students should not wear hijab, saffron shawls or use religious flags while attending classes in Karnataka colleges which have a prescribed uniform, till the Court decides the case relating to ban on hijab in certain government colleges. An interim order was passed by the Bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justices Krishna S Dixit and J M Khazi, in response to various petitions filed by Muslim girl students in the State, claiming that they were not being allowed to enter colleges on account of the government order which effectively bans the wearing of hijab or headscarves.

The term hijab describes the act of covering up a woman’s body, either partially or fully. However, it is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear. Some women wear a headscarf to cover their head and neck, while others wear a burka or naqab, which also covers up their face. Even today in Iran, women wear a scarf but keep the face unveiled.

Not restricted to Islam: Headscarves are seen as a sign of modesty, a symbol of religious faith. While headscarves may be rooted in religious tradition, hijab is a personal and cultural concept. Wearing headscarves is not restricted to Islam alone. Covering the head predated Islam. Jewish, Christian and Hindu women have also covered their head at various times in history, across the globe. Covering the head has also been a longstanding custom among Zoroastrians – in ancient Iran and after their advent in India.

Mathabana – The Zoroastrian Headscarf: Wearing the Mathabana or white muslin headscarf is an essential part of Zoroastrian religious tradition. Until urbanization and western education took over, the Mathabana was a part of every Parsi lady’s daily attire. It did not matter whether the lady was rich or poor, urban or rural. The muslin headscarf was worn with pride.

Look at portraits of the philanthropic Jerbai or Motlibai Wadia. They can be seen wearing the mathabana. In all her portraits, Lady Meherbai Dorabji Tata is seen with her head covered by her saree. Covering the head was not just a mark of giving respect, but of respectability. Even today, wives of Parsi Zoroastrian priests wear head scarves daily, at home and when stepping out. Also, it is mandatory for every Zoroastrian (male or female) to cover his or head while praying (even if at home) or visiting a fire-temple or attending a funeral. Men usually wear a skull cap while women wear a head scarf.

Across Religious Traditions: There are certain rules to be followed when one visits a holy place. Various etiquettes must be observed, one of which is to cover our heads while worshiping. Hindu women cover their head in the temple as a mark of respect, gratitude, and humility towards the deity they worship. In the early years of Christianity, men and women were required to cover their heads while entering their place of worship. Later, it was only mandated for women. While this tradition of covering the head inside a Church has faded away with time, some still observe it, especially on ceremonial occasions. Sikhism also requires that both men and women should cover their heads when they enter the Gurudwara.

Our Zoroastrian Tradition: In the Zoroastrian tradition, hair is seen as naso or dead matter. Hence, all Zoroastrians are required to cover their heads, especially while praying or attending a religious ceremony. It is believed that hair that falls off renders the surrounding ritually impure.

As we know, even in good restaurants, chefs and kitchen staff keep their heads covered to prevent any hair from slipping into the food. Surgeons and nurses in hospitals and particularly the operation theatre, also cover their heads for the same reason – medical hygiene! Also, covering the head is a mark of respect – be it in the presence of an elder or the Holy Fire – displaying reverence.

In ancient rock reliefs of the Achaemenian, Parthian or Sasanian era, no king, queen, priest, soldier or commoner is seen bareheaded. This tradition was carried by the Parsis all the way from Iran to India. Rarely would you see an old portrait of a bareheaded Parsi lady or gentleman.

Thinking Cap: In mystic circles, it is believed that covering the head has several benefits. It aids focus and thinking and keeps the highest center of psychic energy (the crown chakra) protected. The common saying, “put on your thinking cap,” denotes an imaginary cap worn to facilitate thinking.

Wearing a headscarf is seen as a display of one’s religious identity. But, so what? If Muslim women wear hijab, Zoroastrian women wear the mathabana! At the end of the day, what a man or woman chooses to wear is a personal choice. One should wear what one feels proud and comfortable to wear.

Colour, style and manner of wearing the headgear may differ. But the principle and essence of wearing the scarf remains the same. It extends respect and earns respectability!

  • Noshir Dadrawalla

The Significance Of Religious Headgears: The Zoroastrian Mathabana

Autumnal Equinox- Mehregan Khojasteh Baad

Wishing you and your family a Happy Mehregan.

23 Sept. 

ALL ZARATHUSHTI  FESTIVALS are a landmark in Nature and should be celebrated on the exact day it occurs in Nature irrespective of which calendar is followed.

Ancient Zarathushtis respected Nature and celebrated the landmarks in Nature with accuracy. This is evident from the names of the Gahanbars which indicate the exact day of celebration. Two of the Gahanbars are named after the two seasons of Aryana Vaejah in the Arctic region where they originally lived. In the Arctic, there are two seasons Summer and Winter.  They celebrated the middle of the Summer and called it Maidhyo-Shahem (Mid-Summer). Summer in the Arctic is for 216 days so Mid Summer falls on the 108th day. Which is 15 of Tir corresponding to 5 July. Winter being too cold for celebration they celebrated the Coming of Winter Ayeh-Threm (Sarem) on the day before the winter started on 30 Mehr/ 21 October.

When they migrated to the Tropics, they celebrated the four seasons of the new home with four Gahanbars each of their name indicating the exact day of celebration.

Maidhyo-Zarem (Mid Spring) 15 Ardibesht 4 May

Paiti-Shahem (End of Summer) 31 Shahrivar / 21 Sept.

Maidh-Yarem (Sarem) (Mid- winter) 15 Bahman/4Feb.

Hamas-Path-Maedem (Equality of day and night) 28/ 29 Espand/March 19/20.

So also, they celebrated the four natural phenomenon’s that indicated the change in seasons.

Vernal Equinox – Now Rooz 

Summer Solstice – Tirgan 

Autumnal Equinox – Mehregan 

Winter Solstice – Yalda 

In the Avesta, we are repeatedly told of the importance of the Solar Year.

The coming of the season at the proper time of the solar year. ‘Haptan Yasht’ Ha-3

I learn about and I work with the solar year, the righteous period. Yasna Ha 1.9, Ha 3.11, Ha 4.14 Visparad Karda 1.4

All these festivals are landmarks in Nature and should be celebrated on the exact day that it occurs in Nature irrespective of what calendar is followed.    

 

With Regards

Fariborz Rahnamoon

http://gathas.ca/

http://zarathushticalendar.com/

http://ancientiran.com/

Importance of a Dog in Zoroastrian religion

In Zoroastrianism, the dog is regarded as an especially beneficent, clean and righteous creature, which must be fed and taken care of. The dog is praised for the useful work it performs in the household, but it is also seen as having special spiritual virtues.
A dog’s gaze is considered to be purifying and to drive off daevas (demons). It is also believed to have a special connection with the afterlife: the Chinwad Bridge to Heaven is said to be guarded by dogs in Zoroastrian scripture, and dogs are traditionally fed in commemoration of the dead. Ihtiram-i sag, “respect for the dog”, is a common injunction among Iranian Zoroastrian villagers.
Detailed prescriptions for the appropriate treatment of dogs are found in the Vendidad (a subdivision of the Zoroastrian holy scripture Avesta), especially in chapters 13, 14 and 15, where harsh punishments are imposed for harm inflicted upon a dog and the faithful are required to assist dogs, both domestic and stray, in various ways; often, help or harm to a dog is equated with help and harm to a human.
The killing of a dog (“a shepherd’s dog, or a house-dog, or a Vohunazga [i.e. stray] dog, or a trained dog”) is considered to lead to damnation in the afterlife. A homeowner is required to take care of a pregnant dog that lies near his home at least until the puppies are born (and in some cases until the puppies are old enough to take care of themselves, namely six months). If the homeowner does not help the dog and the puppies come to harm as a result, “he shall pay for it the penalty for wilful murder”, because “Atar (Fire), the son of Ahura Mazda, watches as well (over a pregnant dog) as he does over a woman”.
It is also a major sin if a man harms a dog by giving it bones that are too hard and become stuck in its throat, or food that is too hot, so that it burns its throat.Giving bad food to a dog is as bad as serving bad food to a human. The believers are required to take care of a dog with a damaged sense of smell, to try to heal it “in the same manner as they would do for one of the faithful” and, if they fail, to tie it lest it should fall into a hole or a body of water and be harmed.
Both according to the Vendidad and in traditional Zoroastrian practice, dogs are allotted some funerary ceremonies analogous to those of humans. In the Vendidad, it is stated that the spirits of a thousand deceased dogs are reincarnated in a single otter (“water dog”), hence the killing of an otter is a terrible crime that brings drought and famine upon the land and must be atoned either by the death of the killer or by the killer performing a very long list of deeds considered pious, including the healing of dogs, raising of puppies, paying of fines to priests, as well as killing of animals considered noxious and unholy (cats, rats, mice and various species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects).
Sagdid is a funeral ceremony in which a dog is brought into the room where the body is lying so that it can look on it. “Sagdid” means “dog sight” in the Middle Persian language of Zoroastrian theological works. There are various spiritual benefits thought to be obtained by the ceremony. It is believed that the original purpose was to make certain that the person was really dead, since the dog’s more acute senses would be able to detect signs of life that a human might miss.
A “four-eyed” dog, that is one with two spots on its forehead, is preferred for sagdid.
The traditional rites involving dogs have been under attack by reformist Zoroastrians since the mid-19th century, and they had abandoned them completely by the late 20th century. Even traditionalist Zoroastrians tend to restrict such rites to a significant extent nowadays (late 20th – early 21st century).
SHARIA: Hating Dogs by invading Muslim Arabs was to Hate the Holy Persian Zoroastrian Dogs used in Funeral Rites. ie. Dog Statue to the right of the Persian Immortal Guard.

Pachmasyu

Panchmasiyoo is done in the fifth month, any day is good. Basically, both sides parents do sagan (like we do on birthdays) to both the parents to be. It is generally done at one place, where the families meet to celebrate the coming of the child. Nothing is done for the coming child yet, but you may give gift to the couple.
Best wishes always, enjoy the day.

Thrity Tantra

Panchmasiyu Pachmasiyu,

RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS OF MIXED MARRIAGES

Here is an interesting article authored by Dastur Firoze Kotwal that I found in my archives.  This read may probably not make any difference to those who have already given up on the tenets of our religion, but then again who knows?  Enjoy this invaluable advice from a notable scholar.

Ervad Jal Dastur

JalDastur@hotmail.com

 

RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS OF MIXED MARRIAGES (by Dastur Dr. Firoze Kotwal دستور دکتر فیروز کوتوال)

The Zoroastrian religious tradition has always been that a girl upon her marriage not only takes the name of the husband, but is also deemed to have embraced his religion. As you are aware, there is a religious custom even amongst Zoroastrians, between those belonging to the priestly class and those belonging to the laity. In our religious prayers and ceremonies, female members of the priestly class are referred to as “Osti” and those of the laity are referred to as “Behdin”. If a Parsi girl from a priestly family marries a “Behdin”. her religious title changes from “Osti” to “Behdin” and, after her marriage, she is referred to as a “Behdin”. Conversely, if a girl from a “Behdin” family marries a member of the priestly class, the religious title of the girl changes to an “Osti” and she is referred to as such. In other words, she ceases to be a “Behdin” upon her marriage to a member of the priestly class, viz., an “Osta”, an “Ervad” or a “Dastur”. Thereafter, in all religious ceremonies, her name is prefixed by her religious title, which essentially has to be the same as the religious title of the husband she marries. It can never be different in the Zoroastrian religion.

If, according to the Zoroastrian customs, traditions and precepts, a girl takes the religious title of her husband upon marriage within the community itself, surely when a Zoroastrian girl marries a non-Zoroastrian, the same religious practice has to be logically extended, so as to deem her to have embraced the religion of her husband.

The fact that our religion puts great emphasis on the religion of the husband of a married woman, is evident from the fact that, in all religious ceremonies and prayers, the husband’s name is always a suffix to the wife’s name – for example, Behdin Mithibai Behdin Hormasji. It is also a very old religious practice never to recite a non-Zoroastrian name in any Zoroastrian prayer. Both these religious practices have been followed from times immemorial. To marry outside the fold is next to adultery, since the marriage is not solemnized according to the rites and customs of the Zoroastrian religion. A girl is given in marriage “in accordance with the law and custom of the Mazda-worshipping religion” (awar dad o ayin I din I mazdayasni), so declares the Marriage Benediction. Vendidad Chapter 18, Paragraph 62, prohibits union between a Mazdayasni and non-Mazdayasni. “Such a union hurts and distresses Ahura Mazda.” A woman who marries outside the Parsi community often claims that she wears the vestments of the Zoroastrian religion, viz. sacred shirt and girdle (Sadro-Kusti), and hence she is still a Zoroastrian and is entitled to participate in all Zoroastrian ceremonies and to the last rites on her death. We firmly hold that, from the religious point of view, her claim of being a Zoroastrian is hollow, hypocritical and full of pretensions. A woman marrying outside the community cannot observe the rules of purity as laid down by the Zoroastrian religion. She cannot perform ritual ablutions (Padyab-Kusti) and do prayers (Farziyat and Bandagi) in a non-Zoroastrian environment. When she bears children of a non-Zoroastrian seed (Tokham) and participates in Zoroastrian ceremonies, such women do great damage to the Zoroastrian religion.

Another very important point which needs to be highlighted is that when a woman marries a man belonging to another religion, she moves into his household where the religious ceremonies are performed according to the religion of the husband. Therefore, when a Zoroastrian girl marries, say a Hindu, and enters his household, she is considered part of his family and is expected to participate in the Poojas and other religious ceremonies which take place in the Hindu household. It may be possible that she may not actually participate, but that does not change the religious position since she is expected to follow the religion of her husband. It is for this reason that her children are also expected to be brought up in the religion of the father. the only exception being under Judaism which follows the matriarchal religious pattern. All other religions are patriarchal and both the wife and the children are expected to follow the religion of the male member of the family.

There is no custom or usage to support marriages between Parsis and non-Parsis. A custom has legal sanctity only when it has been followed and transmitted from times immemorial. It should be definite, widely acknowledged and practiced without obstruction from any member of the community. The Parsi community has the right to enact laws for the preservation of its identity and customs which have enabled it to live and flourish so long with distinction.

While I am aware of the provisions of the Special Marriages Act, which permits persons belonging to different religions to have a legally valid marriage, I would like to stress with all the emphasis at my command that such a marriage has no sanctity in our religion. In other words, religiously, a Zoroastrian woman who marries a non-Zoroastrian is deemed to have embraced the non-Zoroastrian religion and, therefore, religiously she has ceased to be a Zoroastrian. If a Zoroastrian male marries a non-Zoroastrian under the Special Marriages Act, the marriage has no religious sanctity. In the Zoroastrian religion, a marriage can only be solemnized between two Zoroastrians when the “Ashirwad” ceremony is performed. Any other mode of marriage is not recognized in our religion. Hence, a child born in such a situation is considered to be illegitimate in the Zoroastrian religion, though in view of the Special Marriages Act, the child does acquire all the rights as, legally, the marriage is recognized. In the past. there have been controversies regarding the performance of “Navjote” of such illegitimate children. In certain cases, they were performed. However, these controversies have no bearing on the true tenets of the Zoroastrian religion which only recognizes a marriage between two Zoroastrians after the “Ashirwad” ceremony is performed.

It has to be emphasized that the Dokmenashini ceremonies at the Towers of Silence can only be performed strictly in accordance with Zoroastrian tenets, practices and precepts. The legal position emanating from the Special Marriages Act has no bearing in such a situation. If, according to religious precepts and practices, a Zoroastrian woman ceases to be such when she marries a non-Zoroastrian and is deemed to have embraced the religion of her husband, her mortal remains cannot be consigned to the Towers of Silence after performing Zoroastrian rites. I am aware of the fact that, in the past, in two or three cases the mortal remains of a Zoroastrian woman married to a non-Zoroastrian were consigned to the “Chotra”. In my opinion, this was wrong from a purely religious point of view. Therefore, it would not be correct to accept that as a past practice and continue to do the same. If religiously this is not possible, any action taken in the past would have to be ignored because that was not in conformity with religious customs and traditions.

If, according to the Zoroastrian religion, a Zoroastrian woman married to a non-Zoroastrian is deemed to have renounced her religion and accepted the religion of her husband, she has to be treated as a non-Zoroastrian from the date of marriage, irrespective of the fact that her marriage may be legally valid under the Special Marriages Act and, legally, she may not be deemed to have renounced the Zoroastrian faith. I may point out that the Dokmenashini ceremony is based on religion and not on Law. Hence, only the religious view has to be taken and the legal view has to be ignored. The religious view demands that a Zoroastrian lady married to a non-Zoroastrian ceases to be Zoroastrian upon marriage and, therefore. she is not entitled to the after-death ceremonies as per the doctrine of Dokmenashini. Hence, her mortal remains cannot be consigned to the Towers of Silence.

Issues of faith and identity of a microscopic community, like the Parsis, cannot be settled by Court judgments, but by the upholders of religion who are the High Priests. Courts have no jurisdiction over the community in matters of religion and its long-cherished customs, traditions and practices. Traditions are as important as religion. and they are duly eulogized as the Law of Zarathushtra and the good Mazdayasni religion in many places in Avestan scriptures.

It is for this reason that the priestly class, as represented by the Athornan Mandal. has rightly taken the view that a Zoroastrian woman married to a non-Zoroastrian is not entitled to the after-death ceremonies as per the tenets of Dokmenashini and, therefore, no priest should perform such ceremonies. The fact that some priests may surreptitiously perform such ceremonies, as has been done in stray cases in the past, does not mean that what was done is sanctified by the religion.

I may mention that laws made in a country are changed from time to time, sometimes depending on political pressures. Further, judgments may vary and may even be conflicting as different Judges may take different views. However, the Laws of the religion are immutable and do not change with the vicissitudes and exigencies of time. The fundamental laws of the Zoroastrian religion cannot be changed merely to serve the pressures of the so-called broad-minded and liberal Parsis of today, nor can they be changed in view of the Special Marriages Act. If there is a conflict between the legal position and the religious view, the Divine Laws of God must prevail.

 

Funeral Rights: The Inter-Married Parsi Zoroastrian

27th September, 2020, marked the unfortunate passing of the very popular and much-loved Bahadur Hansotia, a resident of Cusrow Baug (South Bombay) for seventy years. A true Parsi, he was known to help everyone in need, a true friend to many. His nearly three-decade-long tenure at the Central Bank of India (Colaba Branch) also showcased his ever-helpful and compassionate nature. During the pandemic too, he ceaselessly stood in service of those in need, but unfortunately contracted the deadly disease himself in the process, and being asthmatic himself, succumbed to a cardiac arrest.

Late Bahadur Hansotia was married to a non-Parsi lady who had passed away much earlier, and he is survived by his children – two daughters and a son. The request to have his funeral prayers performed at the Karani Agiary, in Cusrow Baug, was turned away on the basis of his being inter-married. This led to an outpouring of reactions – some hurt and some angry – resulting in a controversy of sorts.

Parsi Time has received a large number of messages and mails sharing their anguish at the refusal for prayers of a man that was as helpful and kind as the Late Mr. Hansotia, especially in keeping with the fact, that male inter-married Parsis (and to a large extent, also the children of male inter-married Parsis) have been largely accepted into the faith. A number of letters we received cited unfair discrimination, criticizing Dasturji Aibara, Panthaky of Karani Agiary, on his decision to not perform the last prayers.

 Late Bahadur’s daughter, Aafrin Hansotia’s anguish went viral on Whatsapp, where she states (excerpts), “My dad… was always running and helping people… he still continued to work for a lot of people even through COVID-19 and then being diagnosed with this incurable disease… he was asthmatic and succumbed to a cardiac arrest on Sunday. We are stuck in Australia and couldn’t even pay our last respect and say goodbye bye properly… Does the Zoroastrian faith condemn people to be treated this way? Does a well-respected and loved human like my father not deserve prayers and respects paid by people who he’s lived with/spent his whole life with? Is this what it means to be Parsi? Do men who marry outside the religion cease being Parsi?”

Well-regarded and respected for his kind demeanour and helpful nature, Dasturji Yazdi Aibara of Karani Agiary, shared his side with Parsi Times. “Let me first state that Bahadur was very close to me too and he was an extremely helpful person – and I have highest regards for him, but I am cannot go against my beliefs and my conscience and the commitments to my service as a Priest. I cannot compromise on the pledge I have made to my Dharam – these are the principles and values I have grown with and I will not do a disservice to our religious ethos. That would be wrong. 

 Whether a man or a woman marries a non-Parsi, both are wrong in our religion. Once you marry a Non-Parsi, you cease to be Parsi and that is the truth. I believe this to be the case for all religions, immaterial of what is being practiced, because once you marry outside, the tokham or the Zoroastrian genes become impure, and this also compromises the other person’s genes. We need to maintain the purity of our man (mind), aatma (Soul), Khorshed (energy) and shareer (body) to nurture the aatmik shakti for the progress of the soul. When we marry outside, we impede the progress of our soul, which goes against the very reason that we were put on earth, i.e., the soul’s progress.

I’m hurt myself to have refused his prayers because I have great respect for him. But religious doctrines cannot bow to wrongful and unacceptable changes, just because these are practiced more regularly now. I’m bound by my religion’s dictats and I will stay sincere to these, immaterial of what other priests practice or our community members believe. Ten or hundred or thousand wrongs, don’t make a right, simply because they are being practiced increasingly. This is not progress when you go against your Dharam na kaayda (religious rules).” 

Noshir Dadrawala, known for his encyclopeadic knowledge and wisdom of Zoroastrian religion and culture, shares an insightful understanding aimed at addressing the quandary / confusion that numerous community members have communicated, based on this event…

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Obsequies Of Inter-Married Parsi Zoroastrians

By Noshir H. Dadrawala

 

This incident is unfortunate because not only was Late Mr. Hansotia a good and helpful human being, but so also is the Head Priest who refused to do the ceremony – an equally gentle, helpful and much respected priest among devout Behdins. While every individual, be it priest or laity, is entitled to one’s own opinion and has the right to act as per dictates of one’s own conscience, it’s important to discern facts from fiction and myths from reality.

Before I venture to express my opinion, I wish to clarify that personally I too am not in favour of inter-marriages and neither am I inter-married and nor is any member of my immediate family.

Here are some Historical, Religious and Legal facts…

Historical Facts:

Several Achaemenian, Parthian and Sasanian Kings were inter-married. But we continue to invoke their names with great pride and reverence – Khusro – I, also known as Anosharavan or Noshirwan-e-Adil, (531-579 AD) was married to a Roman Princess. The marriage was a political alliance to usher peace. The fact remains that it was a formal marriage but we still remember and invoke the name of Noshirwan-e-Adil reverently to this date. Just as we do the name – ‘Khusro – II’, or Emperor Khusro Parvez (590 AD) who married the Roman Princess Maria, as a political alliance to neutralize the rebellious General Behram Chobin.

Religious Facts:

Marriage from a Zoroastrian point of view is a religious duty/discipline. It is an institution that pleases Dadaar Ahura Mazda, according to the ‘Vendidad’. A number of religious texts, in particular, the Avestan ‘Vendidad’ and the Pahlavi ‘Dinkard’, have proscribed mixed marriages. These texts have considered ‘mixing of the seed’ (intermarriage) as sinful. But, no where does any Avesta or Pahlavi text explicitly or categorically state, that on inter-marrying, a Parsi Zoroastrian ceases to be a Parsi Zoroastrian.

The Vendidad lists out a number of sins and some sins are forgivable and some are unforgivable. But, no where does the Vendidad or the Dinkard or any other religious text state that if a Parsi Zoroastrian inter-marries, he should be excommunicated or not considered a Parsi Zoroastrian, once he or she marries outside the community.

Legal Facts:

Justices Dinshaw Davar and Frank Beamon, (as reported in (1909) 33 ILR 509 and 11Bom.L.R. 85), after hearing evidence led before the Bombay High Court by some of the most leading scholars, priests and High Priests of the period, arrived at the conclusion that the Parsi community consists of: (a) Parsis who descended from the original Persian emigrants and who are born of both Zoroastrian parents and who profess the Zoroastrian religion; (b) Iranis from Persia professing the Zoroastrian religion; (c) children of Parsi fathers by non-Parsi mothers who have been duly and properly admitted into the religion.

While this so-called definition of ‘Parsi Zoroastrian’ is obiter dictum (i.e., a collateral opinion/observation of the judge, which is not binding) it formed the basis of the judgement why the French wife of Ratanji D Tata was not to be considered a Parsi Zoroastrian, despite her Navjote.

Much as this definition is gender-biased, it has not been legally challenged by any priest or High Priest for over a century.

Conclusions:

  1. The religious texts do not approve inter-marriages. But there is not a single scripture which states that on inter-marriage, a Parsi Zoroastrian ceases to be one.
  2. There are several other sins including murder, cruelty and speaking untruths listed in the scriptures. So, one wonders, historically, would priests then have to deny prayers to Parsi murderers, sadists or liars?
  3. One also wonders if such policy applies to those who are inter-married, then what about live-in couples and those indulging in illicit sexual activities with non-Parsis?
  4. In the past and in the present, many priests perform ceremonies for the intermarried rich, be it a Tata or a Wadia – and their portraits adorn their Agyari wall! So, why do the rules change when it comes to the ordinary Parsi?

One is neither questioning nor condemning the decision of our priests – it’s their choice. But the question remains, if this becomes a new trend, will this become one more issue for challenge in the courts of law? We need a unified answer from our learned High Priests in this matter, to undo the confusions of our community members on the most integral aspect of religion. As a community, we need to discuss, debate and decide thoughtfully.

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