The Parsi community in India is facing challenges because of its declining population.(HT Photo)
The Parsi community in India is facing challenges because of its declining population.(HT Photo)

As their population declines, Parsi-Zoroastrians struggle to manage religious properties

As fire temples face closure, one concern is what to do with the holy fire
By Manoj Nair | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2019 10:44 PM IST

Early this month, a senior Zoroastrian priest suggested that a dilapidated fire temple in Mumbai’s Fort area, which does not get many devotees, be closed down and its consecrated fire transferred to another shrine.

The priest, Khurshed Dastur, who heads the Atash Behram at Udvada, Gujarat – the community’s holiest shrine, is the Zoroastrian representative in the National Minorities Commission. He is one of the senior priests heading the seven Atash Behrams - the highest-grade fire temples – and his comments created a furore.

Dastur, who spoke to this journalist, said that he stood by his remarks. “Previously, there was a major population of Parsis in Fort and the area had five to six fire temples. There are hardly any Parsis living in the area now, and except for the two to three temples on the main road, the others have no footfall except during the boi ceremonies [prayers],” he said.

According to Dastur, the younger generation does not want to be priests because the salaries are low. “The [Fort agiary] building is dilapidated and instead of spending 30 lakh to 40 lakh every year to repair it, the trust should sell it off and use the money for mobeds [priests].”

Many Parsis were angry with Dastur’s suggestions. One individual, who vented his anger on a social messaging forum, even said that the priest should be ‘impeached’.

Others supported the priest’s views. A social media user pointed out that two more fire temples in Fort lie deserted during most of the day, barring the time when a priest comes for the daily prayers.

India’s Parsi-Zoroastrian population has been falling every decade since 1941. Between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, their numbers fell from 69,000 to 57,000. A study by demographer Ava Khullar listed several reasons, including low fertility, or the number of children born to every woman; migration; late marriages and exclusion of kids born to women married to non-Parsis, for the decline. Even in 1971, the birth rate among Parsis was 10.6 per 1,000 compared to 41.2 for the general Indian population. The country’s birth rate was 21.8 according to the 2011 census.

As their population declines, Zoroastrians are struggling to maintain their religious properties. A few years ago, this newspaper reported on how community associations in small towns like Khambhat in Gujarat, that once had thriving Parsi localities, were struggling to protect religious shrines and cemeteries from encroachers. According to the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans (FPZA) of India, in more than 50 of the 80 towns in the country where Parsis once lived, the anjumans, or associations are defunct.

In Mumbai, where the majority of India’s Parsi-Zoroastrians live, their population has declined, too. Jehangir Patel, editor of Parsiana, a community magazine, said that most of the city’s 50-odd fire temples were built in the 19th Century when Mumbai’s Parsi population was around 70,000. The number is estimated to be between 35,000 and 38,000 now.

“My reports from various people show that footfalls everywhere [fire temples] seem to be less. The population is declining and ageing, and travelling [to the temples] has become difficult because of all the work on the roads,” said Patel. “Footfalls are declining even at popular agiaries. I remember the agiary on Lamington Road where, on some days, there used to be a queue to get in.”

As fire temples face closure, one concern is what to do with the holy fire – which is the focus of worship. The fires are created in special ceremonies and cannot be extinguished. One solution has been to shift the fires to a shrine that still has visitors. When a fire temple in Bharuch in south Gujarat was planned to shut, there were talks of shifting its 700-year-old fire to a new shrine in Navi Mumbai where more than 400 Parsi-Zoroastrians now live.

Dastur said that this is the only solution. “Everywhere, holy fires should be shifted to areas where there is more population. Make use of that property to earn revenue rather than letting it fall apart,” said Dastur. “It makes sense. You cannot play with religious sentiments. Sometimes you have to use the head and not the heart.”

Parsi is an ethnic term for those who fled to India from Persia a millennium ago while Zoroastrian refers to the religion which has other followers like Iranis who migrated to India in the early twentieth century.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
 (HT FILE)
(HT FILE)

Schools in Mumbai to remain shut for now

By Ankita Bhatkhande, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:22 AM IST
Schools in Mumbai will remain closed for physical classes until further orders, said the BMC in an order issued on Friday
Close
 (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

28,500 from Maharashtra to get Covid vaccine on Day 1

By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:17 AM IST
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to launch the vaccination through an online programme, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will inaugurate the state’s vaccination drive from a Covid-19 centre in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), immediately after Modi’s function.
Close
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maharashtra state CM Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated of the first coach for Mumbai Metro built under the 'Make in India' program, and three Metro lines, on September 7, 2019. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maharashtra state CM Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated of the first coach for Mumbai Metro built under the 'Make in India' program, and three Metro lines, on September 7, 2019. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

First rake for Metro-2A, 7 unveiled, to reach Mumbai by January-end

PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:01 AM IST
The first rake for Metro-2A (Dahisar-DN Nagar) and Metro-7 (Dahisar E-Andheri E) was unveiled at the Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) manufacturing unit in Bengaluru on Friday
Close
The Sena has started working on its campaign for the February 2022 Mumbai civic polls. (Hindustan Times)
The Sena has started working on its campaign for the February 2022 Mumbai civic polls. (Hindustan Times)

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya involved in planning strategy for the 2022 Mumbai civic elections

By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:26 AM IST
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is preparing for a high-decibel campaign for the February 2022 Mumbai civic polls, on the lines of the recent Hyderabad civic elections, the ruling Shiv Sena has quietly begun work on ground
Close
The highest package received by a student of the 2020 PGDM batch was <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>51 lakh. (Bloomberg)
The highest package received by a student of the 2020 PGDM batch was 51 lakh. (Bloomberg)

SP Jain’s highest salary package drops by 14% in online placements

By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:54 AM IST
The highest annual salary package offered to a post-graduate diploma in management (PGDM) student from the current batch at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJMR) stood at 44 lakh per annum this year, a 13
Close
Handcuffs - Handcuff
Handcuffs - Handcuff

Mumbai man arrested for stabbing brother-in-law to death

By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:50 AM IST
A 19-year-old man was arrested by the Shahu Nagar police for allegedly stabbing his brother-in-law to death on Thursday night at Matunga Labour Camp
Close
A health worker taking a sample from a chicken to test for brid flu at a farm house. (HT Photo)
A health worker taking a sample from a chicken to test for brid flu at a farm house. (HT Photo)

Bird flu in poultry spreads in 11 more villages in seven districts of Maharashtra, confirms ICAR-NIHSAD

By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:48 AM IST
The ICAR-National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, a nodal body for testing bird flu cases, has confirmed avian influenza or bird flu in poultry chickens at 11 places, covering seven districts of Maharashtra on Friday
Close
Citizens cast their votes in the gram panchayat election at Anjurdiva village in Bhiwandi on Friday. (Praful Gangurde)
Citizens cast their votes in the gram panchayat election at Anjurdiva village in Bhiwandi on Friday. (Praful Gangurde)

Maharashtra: 79% voting turnout for elections of 12,711 village panchayats

By Surendra P Gangan & Sajana Nambiar, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:12 AM IST
Termed as a litmus test for the ruling parties as well as the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a year after the changed political equations in the state, polls for more than half of the state’s village panchayats were held on Friday
Close
Sharad Pawar and Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)
Sharad Pawar and Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)

Maharashtra: Won’t ask Dhananjay Munde to resign for now, says NCP chief

By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:15 AM IST
Maharashtra social justice minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Dhananjay Munde will not have to resign from his post over allegations of rape for now, party chief Sharad Pawar said on Friday, adding he would be allowed to continue until the police investigation is completed
Close
Mahabaleshwar. (Hindustan Times)
Mahabaleshwar. (Hindustan Times)

Maharashtra government to redo Mahabaleshwar market, beautify Venna lake

By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:10 AM IST
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday approved the masterplan of the tourism development in Mahabaleshwar, the state’s popular tourist destination in Satara district
Close
Day and night also turned pleasant on Friday as temperatures dropped significantly in the city providing relief from week-long heat conditions. (HT Photo)
Day and night also turned pleasant on Friday as temperatures dropped significantly in the city providing relief from week-long heat conditions. (HT Photo)

AQI at 190, Mumbai breathes cleanest air this year

By Priyanka Sahoo, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:08 AM IST
The city breathed its cleanest air this year on Friday as westerly winds blowing from the north-west of India cleared up pollutants dispersed in the air
Close
Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)
Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)

Dhananjay Munde suffers setback as his upward surge halted by controversy

By Shailesh Gaikwad, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:02 AM IST
Dhananjay Munde’s rise in state politics has been impressive since 2014
Close
Image for representation.(AFP)
Image for representation.(AFP)

CoWIN server slows down in Maharashtra, health dept faces trouble

By Rupsa Chakraborty | Edited by Sparshita Saxena, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:59 PM IST
  • Due to technical glitches, the server slowed down. The health department faced trouble informing details of the vaccination to registered beneficiaries.
Close
For representation. (HT FILE)
For representation. (HT FILE)

Mumbai businessman arrested for 31-crore GST fraud

By Vijay Kumar Yadav, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:52 PM IST
The Maharashtra Goods and Services Tax (GST) department on Friday arrested a Vile Parle-based businessman for allegedly causing revenue loss of 31 crore to the state government by violating GST rules by fraudulently claiming input tax credit.
Close
The redevelopment work of CSMT is estimated to cost <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1,642 crore. (HT FILE)
The redevelopment work of CSMT is estimated to cost 1,642 crore. (HT FILE)

Mumbai’s CSMT redevelopment: 10 firms show interest; work likely to start in December 2021

By Aroosa Ahmed, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:50 PM IST
The Indian Railways Stations Development Corporation (ISRDC), which will be undertaking the redevelopment work of CSMT at cost of 1,642 crore, had called for request for qualification (RFQ) in August 2020. The redevelopment work of the terminus is likely to start from December 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2025.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP