If an epitaph, yes an epitaph, were to be written about Dadar Mancherji Joshi Parsee Colony's R N Rustomframna Agiary, it would read :
Consecrated in April 1929
Desecrated in February 2003
How else to explain the complete denigration of the Holy Adaran Fire which has, for the last 74 years, nurtured and protected the Parsee Zoroastrian community of Dadar.
Status of an Adaran Fire
Of the three grades of Fire Temples prevailing today, the Atash Adaran belongs to the middle grade; the first being Atash Behram and the last, Atash Dadgah. The Atash Adaran is consecrated and enthroned after taking 4 kinds of fires from the following groups:
a) the Athornan (priest class),
b) the Ratheshtar (warrior class),
c) the Vastriyosh (peasant class) and
d) the Hutoksh (artisan class).
These fires are first purified through an elaborate procedure and then consecrated by means of extensive and exalted Pav Mahal rituals, the Yasna and the Vendidad. Not only are these fires purified and consecrated but the Gumbaz (sanctum sanctorum) as well as the entire building housing the Holy Fire is purified and consecrated.
A very important and integral part of any Atash Adaran or Atash Behram is the Atash Dadgah. The Pazend word 'Dadgah' comes from the Avesta Daitiyo Gatu (lit. 'lawful place'-in which the Dadgah is kept). This Dadgah is kept in the Urvisgah (Yazashne Gah), where one finds Pavis (furrows in the ground), where all inner liturgical ceremonies are performed. The Atash Adaran is a LIVING, THROBBING, PULSATING AND CONSCIOUS ENTITY, with a spiritual body whose head is the fire/embers burning on the censer (Afarganyu) and whose feet rest on the stone/marble pedestal (Khuan). THE ATASH DADGAH IS THE VERY FOUNDATION/CONSCIENCE OF ANY ATASH ADARAN OR ATASH BEHRAM. There can NEVER be an Atash Adaran or Atash Behram without an Atash Dadgah!
An Atash Adaran has six magnetic circuits (Kash) operating in and around the Atash Adaran building. The most basic circuit is at the base of the pedestal of the Atash Adaran. The last sixth circuit operates inside the compound wall of the Atash Adaran. Thus, it is very important to realise that AN ATASH ADARAN/ATASH BEHRAM IS NOT JUST THE HOLY FIRE ONE SEES BURNING IN AN AFARGANYU BUT COMPRISES THE WHOLE BUILDING. It is a composite entity. In fact, the wood we see burning inside the Afarganyu is NOT the Fire we worship. In reality, we worship the LATENT AND ACTIVE FIRE ENERGIES OF NATURE present in this physical consecrated Fire and which pervade the whole building which houses the Holy Fire.
It is against this background that that one has to view this so- called "restoration" (sic!) of Dadar's Rustomframna Agiary. A year ago, this Agiary had five Trustees. Three belong to the Jussawalla family, who founded the Agiary. The other three were Phiroze J Tarapore, Jamshed Dastur and the late Farokh Cama. After Mr Cama resigned, two more Trustees were inducted viz. Dinshaw K Tamboly and Mithoo J Jesia. The 'restoration' work was entrusted to one Jimmy Mistry, a Mechanical Engineer, who owns a firm of Architects and Interior Designers, Della Tecnica.
According to the Chambers Dictionary, the word 'restore' indicates "repair, reinstating or making good". Every single Dadar Parsee Colonite will vouch for the fact that there was absolutely no need for any repair work to be done to any part of the Agiary structure. Yet, the beautification mania (compare with the beautification (sic!) of Doongerwadi) has so gripped certain Trustees of Atash Adarans and Atash Behrams that all caution was thrown to the winds and the 'restoration' work began in the last week of January 2003. The Atash Adaran, as in the past, was shifted from the sanctum sanctorum, to a small room where it is always shifted. However, this time the very foundations of the Padshah Saheb were attacked! What is narrated below is what has been seen, heard and experienced.
The building was virtually overtaken by no less than 60-70 Juddin workers. The flooring and wall tiling of the sanctum sanctorum was demolished as also the wall tiling of the entire Agiary. The floor of the sanctum sanctorum now sports swanky Italian Marble and the wall has smooth ceramic tiles. What followed was nothing short of SACRILEGE. The Khuan which forms the allegorical feet of the Atash Padshah was REPLACED by a marble one. The tube lights were replaced with halogen-like lamps which are so bright that their light permeates into the sanctum sanctorum with impunity! Three loud speakers have been permanently installed in the hall. The walls were painted by the Juddin workers who were within a proximity of not more than 6 feet from the place where the Holy Fire was temporarily shifted. To add to this mess, the Atash Dadgah was shifted around like a piece of furniture to facilitate the workers. AT ONE POINT OF TIME IT WAS ALSO PLACED IN THE BATHROOM (MORI)! While repairing the roof, dust and dirt was merrily falling DIRECTLY ON THE ATASH DADGAH and not a Trustee or Mobed was even aware that such a thing was happening.
Some of the Trustees started going to town in the non-Zoroastrian Press viz. Midday, Afternoon Despatch & Courier and Bombay Times about the so-called renovation. In his interview to Bombay Times, Jimmy Mistry is said to have obtained "sponsorship of Corporate clients" for 'restoration' (sic). Do we really require non- Zoroastrian sponsorship for renovation of our holy Atash Adaran and Atash Behrams? An extremely dangerous statement has been made by Mr Mistry viz. "I will be more than happy to help out any Fire Temple Trust that approaches us".
The ruddy trouble with the Trustees of our Fire Temples today is that they are blissfully unaware of the status of a consecrated Atash Adaran or Atash Behram. Mr Rusi Jussawalla, the Managing Trustee of the Rustomframna Agiary, has stated in an interview to Afternoon Despatch & Courier (March 13): "Wood is the element used and the holy fire burns all the time. Even if the embers burn its fine". Such Trustees wrongly think that Parsees are worshippers of the visible fire. If such were the case, we would be nothing but idol worshippers. All emphasis is laid on the architectural splendour, beauty and overall look of the building but no thought is given to the spiritual forces which make the Atash Adaran or Atash Behram what it is viz. a VIBRANT LIVING FORCE IN CONSTANT COMMUNION WITH DADAAR AHURA MAZDA HIMSELF.
What unimagineable anguish the Atash Padshah must be undergoing to see His spiritual prowess and glory systematically destroyed, and all in the name of so-called physical renovation which was never required in the first place. No amount of ritual purification can restore the Atash Padshah to His original glory. Desecration of any spiritual institution invites Nature's wrath in no uncertain terms. It has been labelled as Margarzan Gunaah (a Sin for which there is no atonement). As the Bard would have asked: " Gained everything but lost the Soul?"
All humdeens are humbly requested to help this Holy Fire it its hour of need by reciting as many Atash Niyaishs as possible in His presence.
- Ervad Adi F. Doctor.
Mrs. Pervin Mistry writes:
Thanks for posting this article written by Adi Doctor. Having lived at Dadar most of my life, I am especially touched by this information. It makes me excruciatingly sad! It hurts! It's as if someone has destroyed my home and an elder to whom I was so connected! I was in Bombay not too long ago and I commented that our Dadar Agiary is always so well maintained! Indeed there was NO need to "beautify" the Agiary! Where did all the money for the marbles, tiles, speakers, etc. come from? Could it be from the WZO? Would it not have been more useful to spend the money on poor Parsis than in desecrating our Agiary, even if it be through spiritual ignorance? What have we come to? Do some really think that spirituality depends on ambience and glossy looks? Do people go to the Agiary to pray or to look at the marbles, lighting, dress of others, etc.?
The hammering noise that occured when the tiles were torn down must have created such an adverse effect to whatever prayers were being recited! And we complain of noise from loudspeakers (attached to Masjids)? Even that noise is someone's prayers but this unnecessary dissonance within the very precincts is inexcusable! And to think that the Dadgah was shifted to a "mori"! All Coloniwasis should insist that the Trustees should themselves spend those many nights sleeping in the Agiary "mori"! Let's see if they'd consent! And, if they have so much "respect" and "reverence" for our Atash, should they be permitted to remain as "Trustees"? Enough! It is up to the community to take up these issues and deal with the trustees who are so religiously uneducated and uncaring. They should be removed! Ignorance is no excuse because once a "kash" is destroyed, the reaction is inevitable and the community suffers along with those directly responsible.
Hats off to Adi for taking up this cudgel for our Dadgah. We definitely do not require non-Zarthushti sponsorship for renovation of our Agiaries. Remember, WZO happily accepts donations from juddins for our religious ghambars, etc. and so, why do I smell a connection here between those responsible for this desecration and the WZO? Would any of our ancestors have stooped to such depths of ignominy?
Yazdan panah baad!
Dear TZML members,
In light of Adi Doctor's article posted last week by Hanoz Mistry, pertaining to the Rustom Framna Agiary in Dadar, perhaps what is reproduced hereunder is in line with that article!
"Yazdi & Charlotte Kharas" wrote:
The following editorial appeared in the September 1997 issue of "Ushta", a publication of Zoroastrian Studies, Mumbai:
For devout Parsis a Fire Temple is not simply a question of mortar and stones, but its ritual features represent the way Zoroastrianism views the world. Today, this has been brought into question by the thoughtless changes incorporated in the structure of the Fire Temples during the renovation of these buildings.
When a Fire Temple is built the land and the building is viewed from a religious perspective and even the building materials required, are chosen in consonance with a rich, oral tradition.
However, over the last decade there has been an increase in the number of Fire Temples which have been renovated and redecorated without giving credence to the importance of natural materials used by our forebears. Whilst renovation of Fire Temples is a step in the right direction, the repairs carried out seem to be without reference or concern to the religious aspect or the preservation of these heritage buildings.
One of the common casualties of this so-called renovation is the uprooting of the old Deccan basalt stone flooring and its replacement with synthetic man-made tiles generally used in the bathrooms and kitchens of modern homes. How indeed can our religious precincts be subjected to these forms of unaesthetic changes? Recent renovations have included the use of ceramic and spartex tiles on the inner walls of the sanctum leaving the worshippers with an unreal surrealistic feeling of modernity, whilst praying in one of the most ancient languages namely Avestan, before the Holy of Holies.
The use of this basalt rock from the Deccan trap is not only central to Parsi Fire Temple architecture, but its natural hardness is seen as being ritually impenetrable to the forces of pollution; moreover the three rows of indented furrows grooved into the stone flooring secures and isolates the fire vase from external ritual pollution. Unfortunately, these too are obliterated or at best, reduced during repairs. What must be considered is that the stone itself with all the prayers and rituals performed over it acquires an aura of ritual sacredness and therefore it follows that it should not be removed, especially from a religious point of view. The contention of some trustees of these Fire Temples is that it is easier to keep these "bathroom tiles" clean. But should one ignore the sanctity of an age-old tradition of using natural building material like hard stone, under the guise of an alleged convenience? Moreover, the stone-flagged flooring which has served the Fire Temple for 200 years is now being replaced by tiles which are unlikely to last for more than 20 years. Today, the trustees and often the priests in their quest for change, have had the flooring uprooted, the 150 year old brass rods which reflect the radiance of the fire, removed, valuable ritual implements sold off and have had the exquisitely dressed Porbunder stone pillars and carvings painted over. What we have in its place is poor quality urban interior re-designing which at best reflects the insensitivity of a community to its not so distant past. Some of these Fire Temples are nearly 200 years old and their architecture represents a part of the living tradition of the Parsis of India.
As primarily religious structures, the guiding motif of these Fire Temples is of functional simplicity and a spareness of decoration, allowing the worshippers to focus their attention towards the sacred Fire enthroned in the sanctum sanctorum. Historically, the combination of large stone cubits and the use of wood was represented in all the great Achaemenian monuments. The characteristic features of the outer façade of many of the Fire Temples in Mumbai have been taken from the decorative motifs of the Achaemenian city palaces and the necropolis of Naqsh-e-Rustom, in Iran.
So the winged bulls, the columned porticoes, the crenellated balconies and the wooden cavetto doors have been incorporated into Parsi Fire Temple architecture with a view of re-creating a Zoroastrian visual history of imperial Iran.
Similarly, the inner arrangements of rooms, surrounded by ambulatory corridors and furrowed ritual floorings, brass grilled windows, all correspond in pattern and spirit to a form of sacred geometry, and its careless effacement is the willful desecration of Parsi Heritage.
We will do well to remember that the preservation of heritage is the hallmark of a nation and a community, that has come to terms with its history and are proud of it and our acts must reflect the need to preserve our past and not destroy it.
In this issue we continue with our Shah Nameh series and we have some useful tips for the Navjote ceremony. For those of you who always wanted to know the origins of the Dresden portrait of Zarathushtra, we are carrying information on the historical German painter, Eduard J. F. Bendemann who painted it.
Maybe, somebody could give this editorial to the trustees, before they hasten to "renovate" another Fire Temple!!
Hanoz Mistry wrote:
This has reference to Your diatribe against Adi Doctor for his article titled 'Desecration of an Adaran'.
Journalistic ethics seem to have been shown the door long ago by you. You subject your readers to a long tirade against Adi Doctor's article without even bothering to print the said article. Is this not unfair? Is this not downright hypocrisy for a newspaper which claims to present views of both sides?
You have alleged that his article is personally motivated. Nothing could be further from the truth. The article shows his devotion to the Atash Padshah whose grace he has experienced since years. That is why he was prompted to speak up when he personally saw that things were going out of hand. The community is suffering from lack of religious knowledge and he has only sought to enlighten them based on his knowledge and experience. Of course, you will have none of that for obvious reasons.
Kudos to Mr Doctor for having had the moral courage to speak up and doing his duty to his community and religion.
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