Roj Sherevar Mah Khordad, 1380 Yz.
Thanks to spiritually ignorant Trustees and the glare of modernity, the work of Dastur Mulla Kaus and Feroze was undone, when, in order to make the Kebla “more aesthetic and modern”, the sacred Padshah Saheb was shifted for the first time in 1916. As the Mobed Sahebs lifted the Afarganyu from the Khuan, the cotton thread holding the Taaveez under the Khuan broke and seven coins, made of copper and inscribed in a script which has yet to be understood or deciphered were found. Not content with this, the Trustees had the specially made Khuan of Mulla Feroze broken to be replaced by another “better” stone Khuan. The low door of the Padshah Saheb’s entrance was broken to make it into a full height door. Not stopping there, the Trustees opened the roof of the Kebla hall and replaced several of the Mangalore roof tiles with glass tiles “so that Behdins could read the prayer books”. Finally to add insult to injury, the sacred copper Afarganyu was taken out and replaced with a German silver Afarganyu, which exists till today. The most powerful copper Afarganyu, which had served as the seat of the Padshah Saheb for over 125 years was placed in the Kebla hall where it stands till today – a mute and sad reminder of the legacy of Dastur Mulla Kaus. Ignorant Parsis today drop currency notes and coins into this Afarganyu, thereby completing its desecration.
Whenever I visit the Dadyseth Atash Behram, my eyes become moist as I see this magnificent Afarganyu relegated to the side of the Kebla Hall. Dear readers, in our ignorance and our haste to look modern and neat, we are destroying bit by bit the very essentials of our religion. Is it any wonder that Parsis flock to shrines of other faiths? When we ourselves go about murdering the sanctity of our Padshah Sahebs, how can we expect them to respond to our pleas for help? There is this current madness and mania about “doing up” Agiaries and Atash Behrams. Are the rooms of our Atash Behrams and Agiaries the lobbies of 5-star hotels that they should be done up in marble cladding and inlay work? Trustees, priests, contractors and architects are all united in unholy matrimony to desecrate, destroy and murder the sanctity of our spiritual institutions. Those of us who oppose these steps are called the lunatic fringe! But after reading all this, dear readers, you decide – who is the lunatic and who is the sane person?
For hundreds of years, our Agiary and Atash Behram buildings were constructed of stone and rough mortar. The insides were coated with fresh lime (chuna) which not only had cooling properties but also functioned as a pest repellent. Every year, the helpers of the Agiary would take a specially made broom, dip it in the lime slurry and apply a fresh coat to the walls which would become dark by the deposit of carbon from the smoke of the fires. Inside the Kebla, I remember old priests telling me that they would take a bucket of lime slurry up to the top of the wall and then gently pour it down so that the walls would become new again. What was wrong with this approach? By using synthetic chemicals in everything – paint, cement, tiles, marble – we desecrate the pure environment of the Padshah. Ustad Saheb explained that the walls of the Kebla of the Padshah should always be roughly hewn, so that the Staota produced by the prayers of the Mobed Saheb and the vibrations given off by the Padshah Saheb could catch on and remain within the Kebla. But in our attempt to look chic and modern, we now have marble slabs which have two great deficiencies – they are smooth and marble is porous – hence unsuited for use in a religious institution. Those who take up the position of Trustees of religious institutions take on a great spiritual responsibility and acts like these will weigh very heavily on their souls.
Combined with this unholy mess is the total absence of any ritual care to be taken for the Atash Padshah. Trustees of Fire Temples (and some priests too) think that the Padshah is a piece of furniture, to be shifted from this room to that, without any care for the spiritual sanctity of the Sacred Fire. This lack of concern is manifested when priests and trustees call the Sacred Fire ‘Atash’ (“aapre Atash ne khasade leshu”) (we shall shift the Fire), rather than address it as Padshah – King. Can someone we call and revere as a spiritual monarch be shifted here and there? Once a Padshah is consecrated and installed in its Kebla, He should NEVER be shifted, unless there is an absolute emergency (the roof starts leaking, entry of non-Parsis, building become unsafe etc.) The Padshah cannot be shifted for ordinary things like whitewashing or changing the interiors! Shifting the Padshah from His consecrated throne (Khuan) is akin to deposing an earthly king, or staging a coup against the government.
The collected aura of thousand of Atash Nyaesh prayers, gathered over the years in the Afarganyu of the Padshah and the walls of the Kebla is broken and utterly destroyed by such mindless acts. Priests who aid in this unholy venture are placing a great spiritual load on their souls.
We are lucky to have individuals like Mr. Bomi Mistry and his group of Parsi volunteers, who move from Agiary to Agiary, cleaning the interiors, painting, tiling, repairing roofs and beams – all done by Parsis. When we have such dedicated individuals, what is the need to get non-Parsi workers into the Agiaries and Atash Behrams? Why should we shift the Atash Padshah from place to place – very often merely to the room next to the one where non-Parsis are working?
Let us continue with our account of the life of Dastur Mulla Kaus. After the establishment of the Dadyseth Atash Behram in 1783, Dastur Mulla Kaus began to live a simple life of prayer and piety. Seth Dadibhai had constructed a two storey mansion right opposite to the Atash Behram (it still stands today, a massive structure of stone and wood) and that is where Dastur Mulla Kaus and his son Mulla Feroze began to reside. Over the years they provided spiritual guidance and direction to many priests and Behdins alike. As Dastur of the Atash Behram, Mulla Kaus laid down strict instructions for those who came to worship the Holy Fire. A number of small washrooms were constructed at the side of the Atash Behram, where Behdins would take a bath. Only after this were they allowed to enter the Atash Behram premises.
In 1786, Mulla Feroze published his first work titled “Dine Kherade Manjume” detailing his travels (along with his father) to Iran and his years spent there. In 1794, Dastur Mulla Kaus voluntarily gave up his post as Kadmi Dastur and left Mumbai and proceeded to Hyderabad. Over there, he was introduced to the Nizam by a wealthy Parsi landlord called Seth Nosherwanji Raja. Impressed by the spiritual stature of Dastur Mulla Kaus, the Nizam accorded him an important position in his court. Dastur Mulla Kaus spent the rest of his life in Hyderabad, and passed away on 26th February, 1802 at the age of 69. Unfortunately at that time there was no Dakhma in Hyderabad and therefore, after necessary rituals and prayers, the body of Dastur Mulla Kaus was buried there. Thus ended the life of one of the most unknown but illustrious spiritual leaders of our community.
We shall continue with the life of Dastur Mulla Feroze in the next post.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram