The illustrious lives of Dastur Mulla Kaus and Mulla Feroze – part 3

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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



  1. Ruby  October 21, 2010

    A real eye opener. and yes, my eyes did turn moist, reading about the magnificent Afarganyu.

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

  2. Delnavaz  October 22, 2010

    I had no idea that the Afarganyu in the Kebla hall was the original Afarganyu of Dadyseth Atash Behram. I often hear comments that one feels that they are in paradise in the recently renovated Andheri Agiary. From this comment it is obvious that all that matters to these individuals is the asthetic beauty of the Agiary. The core meaning of the Agiary is lost. Most of us have no clue about our religion. What is worse is that today we have many Parsee who are arrogant, they rubbish our ancient rituals as old fashioned & crazy.


  3. kfkeravala  October 23, 2010

    What needs to be studied also is the Sacred Architecture of all our Paak Makans. What is very strange is that the Paak Dadiseth AtashBehram Padshah Saheb stands on a Pedestal which is cemented in the ground. All our Paak Padshah Sahebes in India have a moveable stone pedestal (Khuan, pathar no idhoro).Not sure but Paak Manekji Seth Agiary also has a fixed stone Pedestal. Why has this been done by our Mobed Sahebs? There must be some reason to it. Each furrow (pavi) on the ground, the gumbaj (dome),the Chatra(Metallic Umbrella over the Padshah Saheb) all have some deep mystical significance.There was a Zoroastrian Science of Temple building, which is lost to us and the remnants of this Holy Science are there in many of our centuries old Paak Makans.

  4. PARSI_PORYO  October 28, 2010

    So was the cooper Afarganyu the main Atash Behram?
    Isn’t the Holy Fire of Atash Behram not always joint with its Afarganyu forever, without which it is not Atash behram?
    Can any one separate it? I always thought the Afarganyu and the Holy fire stand tall always together, both are considered to be of a particular place forever. Say when you talk about Dadyshet Atash Behram both the Afarganyu & the Holy fire over it would be considered Atash Behram.. is that not so!

    Lucky me I did not dare to pour in coins like others in the cooper Afarganyu, I wish I knew its history back then when I was there, Yes it should have been inside.

    Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram Thanks for the knowledge, I hope you will explain me whatever I have asked.

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  6. Merzush Mistry  June 30, 2011

    I am sure that there are many more of such great examples we can look upon and try to follow them. Its really sad that today our religion faces danger from no external enemy but from its own followers who are ignorant and to top it are arrogant and feel they know all. When will all of us realise that Atash Behram is not a place to chatchat and socialise but an opportunity for us, miniscule souls, to stand in front of the Great Padshad Sahab and seek his blessings.
    Half knowledge is dangerous and in our case, its killing.
    There is so much to know and learn. Please Ervad Sahab, keep enlightening us all.