The Parsi Controversies:
Two sides of the coin

There is every reason to respect a community that contributes to society. However, blind belief in the whole community’s abilities and unquestioning attitude towards it makes absolutely no sense.

The Parsis have managed to be seen as the good guys irrespective of anything. The fact that they choose to lead exceedingly ghettoised lives does not seem to concern anyone.

Today’s papers say that they have demanded an apology from actor Arjun Rampal, who is married to Mehr Jessia, a former model, for certain statements he made in an interview about walking into a fire temple pretending to be a Parsi. Rampal clarified that he had walked into the garden of a fire temple when he was eight.

That is not enough. The Parsi Panchayat is livid. They are reacting…Non-Parsis are not allowed inside fire temples. If he was eight, why is he bragging about it now? Yes, they think it is bragging.

Even worse is this:

Everybody in Mumbai knows that non-Parsis are not allowed to enter the fire temple, said Firoza Mistree, a researcher of Zoroastrian studies. Mistree says that the actor should apologise and identify the temple so that it can be purified.

This incident must have occurred at least three decades ago. How many devotees must have prayed there and been born or died in the course of this happening. What purification ritual is possible?

While it is true that a religion must be respected, how do people ascertain who is a Parsi and who is not? There are many people marrying across religions and I do know of the Parsis in such marriages who want their children to be aware of their side of the culture as well.

That too has created problems.

Khushroo Madon, a Zoroastrian priest, has been banned from praying at the Towers of Silence and fire temples for conducting Navjotes (initiation ceremonies) for children from mixed marriages and offering after-death prayers for cremated Parsis. He has been doing it for ten years and said:

“I will continue to offer these services. I am not bothered by the ban. I do not practice at the Towers of Silence or at fire temples. I do not want anything from there. Those who call me for prayers usually decide the place.”

Increasingly, people are opting for cremation. And as I already mentioned, people do wish their children to become Parsi, at least to some extent, since Zoroastrianism forbids conversion to its faith. The report mentions that 40 per cent marry outside.

The priest’s actions do go against the basic tenets, but for those who are using his services outside how legitimate do they think it is? Is this merely a feel-good thing for them? Does he charge more money? Is there a confidentiality clause involved wherein he would not reveal the identity of those who approach them? If so, then what are these believers seeking if they wish to be hidden? Just one more ceremonial religious identity?

These are questions that those indulging in it must ask. Just as the real Parsis must know that no religion is blemish-free and scandals beset even the pure ones. They do know about some priests and their activities at the Tower of Silence, don’t they?

Now, we have a whole bunch of people questioning the newspaper report where the priest himself has been quoted. Will anyone raise a voice and refer to it as ‘backward’ and ‘intolerant’ as they do with other religions? No. Will anyone from outside dare to tell these community leaders it is time to reinterpret their scriptures? No.

Muslims, Hindus, Jains, all have restrictions on outsiders being participants. And their faith is always put to test, which it should be when it goes beyond reasonable limits. The same standards must apply to Parsis.

After all, when they came to India they said they would be like sugar in milk.

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Image of Khushroo Madon from Mumbai Mirror


  1. Ferzana, it is sad, you are siding with Arjun and the priest and talking like an outsider because you yourself are intermarried. It is also obvious you do not believe in the deep purificatory powers of our ancient prayers. It is sad to see your callous attitude for the religious feeling of the community in which you were born.

  2. Don't know about the religion but I know there was a Kushroo baag in Colaba owned by Parsis. They sounded interesting. It is always nice to learn something about others.

  3. Time for farzana to go back to the spin cycle..

    Hashmi's U-turn: No discrimination for being Muslim

    MUMBAI: In a U-turn, actor Emraan Hashmi, who had alleged that he was denied a flat by a housing society because he was Muslim, today claimed there was no discrimination against him and the controversy arose because of a "miscommunication".

    "The dispute between me and the members of Nibbana housing society has been resolved. The society had not discriminated against me. There had been a miscommunication," Hashmi, who had sparked a furore with his allegation of religious profiling, told reporters after a hearing on his complaint at the State Minorities Commission.

    Hashmi's lawyer Majeed Memon said that a broker Jagjit Arora had told the actor that the society had refused to sell the flat as Hashmi was a Muslim.

    "The secretary of the society today told Emraan that they had not discriminated against the actor and that if anyone in the building wants to sell their flat then Emraan can buy it," Memon said.

    Secretary J P Chatri told the Commission that "they would not refuse the actor on religious grounds as there are several other Muslims residing in the building," the lawyer said.

  4. Deen Parast:

    It isn't a simple question of siding with anyone...two sides of the coin made it amply clear as well as certain questions addressed about the role of 'outside' priests.

    PS: I was not born in the Zoroastrian faith. That ought to have no bearing on what I say, except that rituals - any ritual - bother me.


    Cusrow Baug is indeed a lovely Parsi Colony and I have a few friends living there. There are several others, like Rustom Baug, Dadar Parsi Colony...they are an interesting people and I do have academic interest in all religions. Btw, their food is awesome. There is Paradise right on Colaba and Jimmy Boy's. I prefer the old smaller eateries, though. Like Britannia.


    Hello again! No spin cycle needed. I had predicted that there would be some sort of arrangement because the case was so highlighted. You think those society blokes who claim to be secular would admit it? Read the fist report that appeared where it clearly states that most residents are Hindus, that the buyer did take the token payment (in the next report he had said his son wanted the house and refused to sell), then the broker who said it was true.

    Emraan had made a huge noise about how the flat issue was beyond his own and was ethical. Go after him. But you won't. I have questioned Muslims who mess things up, too, including Mr. Bandukwala in Gujarat.

    If you feel like a spin, ask Ms. Azmi and she'll tell Dr. Farooq Abdulla to take you for a mobike ride like he took her. They are just your kind of Mossies.

    I am just happy that you are always happy to see me...

  5. Why all rituals FV? Why some are quite lovely as a matter of fact, dancing around an open flame, celebrating the arrival of spring or a moon dance are beautiful rituals - would you agree? would you?

  6. Moonbat:

    I should have clarified 'all religious rituals', though some of them too might be beautiful if it is beauty one is looking for. I do like the ritual of writing and singing in the shower and out of it...


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