How to dispose old religious items – part 2

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Roj Spendarmad Mah Sherevar, 1379 Yz.

Old prayer books or other religious literature should be collected and kept separately. When a sufficient quantity has been collected, they should be opened out and placed in a wide metal bin and then lit up using a match stick. A stick can be used to push around the heap till the fire has reduced all the pages to ashes. After cooling, the ashes should be mixed with the ash kept in the tray of the house Afarganyu. A similar method can be employed to destroy old photographs, religious symbols or pictures. When an excess amount of ash is collected the same should be packed in a paper bag (never plastic or any other non-bio-degradable substance) and taken to the local Agiary and the priest should be requested to dispose of the ash along with the ash which is removed from the Afarganyas used in the Agiary.

A question arises as to how the Ash which is formed in the Afarganyu of the Atash Padshah Himself is disposed? In Behram Baug we follow the old method sanctioned by our forefathers and specially recommended by our Ustad Saheb. We have had a dry well dug about 8×8 feet and about 15 feet deep. The bottom is not cemented but is just the earth. A boundary has been built around as in a normal well and the top is covered with a metal mesh, which allows the sunlight to fall inside. The ash collected from the Padshah Saheb as well as other excessive ash is placed in this well on a regular basis. The sunlight and rain slowly compact this ash into the ground over the years. Ustad Saheb had told his close followers that this same method was followed by our forefathers in ancient Iran. Some doubting Thomases laughed at his words. A few years later the noted archaeologist and numismatist Dr. Jamshed Unwalla made a tour of several ruins of ancient Atash Behrams and Agiaries in Iran. When he came back he recounted that most of these ruins had deep wells near them which were filled with ash, thereby proving what Ustad Saheb had said many years ago.

It may interest my readers to know that the Modi Atash Behram in Surat has three such wells. As per the information given by an old Boywalla Saheb I was in contact with, over its life of nearly 200 years (the Atash Behram was consecrated in 1823) two wells have been completely filled up and now sealed while the third is being used. This was the foresight our ancestors had! In the case of another Atash Behram, the ash would be taken in a Parsi bullock cart to the nearby seashore at a time when the coast would be deserted and the ash merged with the sea waters. However, that process has now been stopped and the well procedure is now being followed at this and other Atash Behrams.

With respect to metal Karasyas and vases which were consecrated in the name of deceased relatives and which are now not being used in the Muktad ceremonies, there are two options. The first option is to donate them to some Agiary or other religious institution where they can be used. The second option is to have them melted, sell the metal at scrap price and use the proceeds for some ceremonies in the name of the deceased or towards religious charity. However, karasyas and vases should never be sold whole, because it is now common knowledge that unscrupulous metal dealers scrub these old vessels, have them polished or plated and sell them off as new. The vessel should be either broken down in front of your eyes or it should be sold after completely mangling or twisting it such that it cannot be mended and sold off as new.

Flowers used in ceremonies, garlands hung on the photo frames of departed ones and other such religious vibration filled items such as rice used in welcoming guests into the house should never be thrown in the garbage. In Agiaries, these can easily be thrown in the garden to become compost. In houses, they should not be mixed with other compostable items but should be allowed to dry for three days (to remove the traces of the vibrations) and then composted in the society garden or household flower pots.

An often ignored item full of religious vibrations which is invariably thrown in the garbage bin is the peels of fruits received from the Agiary after ceremonies or Jashans, and left over dry Daran or other eatables. These should not be thrown or mixed with normal garbage. There are different methods to deal with them. The first is to pack up the peels and other remainders and feed them to either goats or cattle available in many Agiaries and Atash Behrams or those found standing near Hindu temples. The second option is to dry the peels over a few days in the sunlight in a secluded area and then compost them in the manner described earlier. The third option is to desecrate the peels and then dispose them. How is this to be done?

It is unfortunate that many Parsis have totally forgotten the concept of ‘Chokhu’ and ‘Ajithu’, i.e. pure and impure. In earlier days, the elders always instructed youngsters to eat consecrated items like fruit and sweets in a ‘chokha’ way – i.e. the fruit would be cut into small pieces and then the piece would be kept in the mouth without the fingers touching the inside of the mouth. A banana or an apple would never be held whole and then progressively eaten one bite after another, since the part going into the mouth would come out covered with saliva and hence was immediately ‘ajithu’. Today we have forgotten these important practices and it pains me when I go out to do Jashans and people merrily walk around with fruits in their hand or use one spoon to take Malido from the box and then put the spoon back in the same box after haven taken it in their mouth! Even a common sense of hygiene would teach that this is incorrect and potentially unsafe. It is important to note that any consecrated fruit LOSES its religious potency if eaten in an impure manner. An interesting observation was made on my trip to Iran where the custom is to cut the fruit into small pieces first and then put it in the Jashan or other prayers. In this method, the problem of peels is avoided and it is easier to eat the fruit in a pure manner.

Thus an easy way in which to dispose of fruit peels would be to lightly bite into them and hence make them impure. Then the peel can be disposed in the normal way. However, this method is not desirable and should be used only as a last resort. It is better to use the two other methods explained earlier.

This discussion shows that there is great depth of knowledge and an intricate science on which our religious laws of purity are based. Religion is not merely good thoughts, words and deeds [read]. Rather religion comprises not only ethical and moral teachings but also a scientific code of practice which was carefully preserved over the centuries and handed down generation to generation. In our haste to become modern and adopt western civilization, we are slowly but surely forgetting these religious precepts, with a result that the next generation has no idea of what a true Zoroastrian way of life is. This is the main reason why Parsis are so eager to remove their Sudreh and Kusti in the name of fashion – even in religious functions like weddings and Navjotes. What our ancestors died for and suffered tremendous persecution is now an irritant and uncomfortable accessory! May we regain our senses and bring ourselves back to the true Zoroastrian way of life.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. n  January 20, 2010

    Hello and thank you for the valuable information. I would like to ask if there’s a particular way of disposing off the used and burnt out wicks of oil lamps? Would it fall into the same category as ash, where it is collected in a paper bag and later given to an Agiary or would burying it in the earth be recommended? I do hope this is considered a religious item though.

  2. Burjor P. Randeria  January 21, 2010

    Ervad Marazban,

    My sincere gratitude for your detailed explanation and procedure on how a Jarthosti must dispose off old and unused religious artefacts and other consecrated objects.

    I am particularly grateful to you for your last paragraph, wherein you very rightly mention that in the name of fashion, inconvenience and our haste to ape western culture, Jarthostis today conveniently forget wearing the Sudreh and Kusti, the same thing for which our ancestors died for and also suffered tremendous persecution.

    Congratulations to you and please bring out more enlightening information to educate us all.

  3. GUDI PESTANJEE  January 28, 2010

    Thank you sir,
    Its my first day and first reading,you made
    me to go back to early life when grnny use to teach us these and scolod us later for not following the same
    I feel i have comeback to my family after long long time
    Many a thing that i was ignorant of have learnd from
    here. old wases and a krasias consecrated are kept @ native home
    with due care of not being touch by judeens can those be preserved and passd on to gen next?

  4. homai kasad  September 15, 2010

    thank you once again for enlightening us on the above matterswill try to follow these ways.

  5. Arnavaz C  July 7, 2011

    Thank you so much for your valued information I have been always contemplating what to do with old kastis and one prayer books… is burning really ok are we not contaminating the fire which stands at the highest level in our religion

  6. Adi Dubbash  February 26, 2013

    Respected Ervad Marazbanji,


    I am told that flowers are considered to be dead matter. If it is so then why are they utilized in the first place? Not only in weddings & navjotes but also during rituals they come into play. Photo frames of deceased family members and friends are garlanded as well as pictures of
    Vakshure Vakshuran Paighambar Saheb Asho Zarathustra Spitama & other divine entities.

    Many of us use incense sticks during prayers at home. Are these Zarathushtrian practices?

    I would also like to know, how an old broken photo frame and the glass within it should be disposed off. Just dispose it off as bhangar or is there a method to it too?

    Thank you for your thought provoking articles.

    Adi Dubbash

  7. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  February 26, 2013

    @Adi Dubbash:
    Flowers are definitely not dead matter. How would they give off fragrance otherwise? The use of specific flowers is mandated in our ceremonies like the use of flowers in the Afringan and Farokshi rituals. Flowers are to be chosen on the general practice of Jirum, as explained in my article on alternatives to Sandalwood. Flowers are universally used as a symbol of auspicious times and as benedictions. There is nothing wrong in this practice. How would we do the Muktad then, if flowers were not allowed? What is more important is that the right type of flowers are used and that they are disposed off in a respectful and religiously correct way as described in the article.

    The use of incense sticks is secondary. The first preference is for a lighted Atash, then a Divo. Use of incense sticks which contain cow-dung is not allowed. Masala sticks made from the left over pulp of sandalwood or other fragrant substances is allowed. These are an easier alternative to doing the Loban ceremony in the evening and in the morning in every ZOroastrian home.

    In case of old frames, the glass has no religious value and can be disposed safely and in a bio-degradable manner. The wood frame too does not have any religious object and can be added to the compost pile, if it is made of real wood.

    Keep reading Frashogard and asking intelligent questions. Thanks.