At the age of nine, while his friends spent their evenings playing computer games and watching cartoon shows, Dinshaw Magol was memorising religious texts and learning Zoroastrian priestly rituals.
In a span of three years, Magol, now 12, completed the three degrees of Zoroastrian priesthood study including ‘Navar’, ‘Maratab’ and ‘Shamel’ at the Dadar Athornan Institute. This makes him the youngest priest in the country to become eligible to perform rituals at the 270-year-old fire temple in Udvada.
According to Zoroastrian traditions, it is essential to clear the first two degrees to be qualified as a Parsi priest. However, to perform the rituals in Udvada’s fire temple, the priests have to clear the third degree as well.
“There are not more than ten qualified priests currently living in Udvada,” said the Carmichael Road resident, who is the fifth generation of Udvada’s priestly Magol family. “I was afraid that the traditions and rituals in the temple would suffer because of the absence of qualified priests.”
The class eight student juggles his time between memorising physics and revising religious texts everyday. “I plan to pursue automobile engineering and simultaneously practice priestly rituals,” said Magol, who has posters of swanky cars and holy texts all over his room. “Since I wear the traditional cap worn by Zoroastrian priests to school, my friends call me 'Topi'.”
At Dadar Athornan Institute, Magol’s teachers refer to him as a “bright and gifted child”. "It takes about five years to learn these prayers. Dinshaw completed it in three." said Ramiyar Karanjia, principal of the institute that enrolls children of Parsi priests at the age of six.
His parents are now waiting for him to grow up to perform the big rituals. “He has achieved a great feat, but he will understand the seriousness of his achievement only when he grows older,” said Maharokh Magol, 42, his mother.