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Parsis celebrate a century

- Prayer, play & feast mark 100 years of fire temple

The Zoroastrian community of the city recently marked the end of the centenary year of the fire temple on Metcalfe Street with prayers, a play and great food.

On Wednesday morning, the temple — the only functional place of worship for Zoroastrians in the city — bore a festive look. Inside, community members and organisers were busy giving final touches to floral arrangements and preparing for a special prayer service.

The Late Ervad Dhunjeebhoy Byramjee Mehta’s Zoroastrian Anjuman Atas Adaran was established on October 28, 1912. The centenary celebrations had begun on October 4, 2011. It ended with a two-day celebration on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Yazdi Karanjia Group from Surat performed a natak (play) — Ghar, Ghungroo Ne Ghotalo — for members of the Zoroastrian community and their friends at GD Birla Sabhagar.

“We are a 15-member Parsi troupe hailing from the same family. This is not our first visit to Calcutta. But this occasion was special to us,” said troupe member Firozi Karanjia as she waited for the special prayers to start on Wednesday.

Firozi was one of the few young faces that attended the morning service from 9am.

“It is a working day and Parsis are very dedicated professionals. The young are all at work and may turn up only in the evening,” said Zenobia Dalal, a former teacher at Pratt Memorial School. “Besides, we are a dwindling community, with mostly senior citizens left in the city.”

Temple manager Ketty Kapadia said only 150 members had turned up for the morning service that included an inaugural song in Gujarati by women welcoming the head priest, Dasturji Ervad Dr Firoz Kotwal, from Mumbai.

In between the jashan (prayers) at the fire temple and maachi, another special service at noon, the community elders socialised over a meal of traditional delicacies — bharuchi akuri with ravo, chicken liver, fruits and malido.

The women had dressed up in their festive best and moved about the community hall in pretty chiffon and crepe saris with the trademark Parsi border. Some wore Western outfits too. Almost all the women wore pearls. “We Parsis just love pearls,” said Yasmin J. Kapadia, an administrator with Akshar, an inclusive school.

“It’s too hot to wear a full Gara embroidered sari. Such finery has been reserved for the evening feast,” said Khush Medora, a social worker who had worn her grandmother’s net sadra (a sacred vest). A few men had donned the traditional dagli. The headgear was also traditional — black, white and maroon fetas.

An elaborate meal was arranged in the evening for the community at the OMT hall on Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Around 300 attended the dinner that included a traditional spread of chicken pillao, masala dal, mutton boti aloo and gravy fish sauce. The caterer, Mumbai-based Ketayun Bomi Khambata, had come down to Calcutta for the first time on the occasion.

“Though dhansak is usually a Parsi staple on Sundays, we never have it for our auspicious occasions. During festivities, the meat is always added to rice and not to dal, as it is done in dhansak,” Khush explained.