What is the necessity for after death rituals? (26-1-14)

1. A human being is made of physical, astral and spiritual constituents.  Till a person is alive, these constituents need each other and work with each other. At the time of death, the three sets of constituents separate. The physical ones start to decompose and have to be properly disposed, the astral ones take time to get back into the elements, and the immortal spiritual constituents return to their respective stations.

2. Rituals are meant to help the soul, which is one of the spiritual constituents. The first three day rituals are meant to help the soul reach its station in the spiritual world by the dawn of the fourth day (Chahrom). The later after death rituals console and support the soul at whatever station it has reached and encourages it in its journey towards Garothman “the highest heaven”, by calling upon the soul’s Fravashi to help, guide and comfort the soul  Thus these rituals have an important role to play for the soul. 

3. The after death rituals in no way alter the balance of actions which a soul has performed in its life, nor does it change it place at the respective station. This depends only on the deeds performed by the soul, while in the material world.

5. For the living, the rituals serve as a soothing balm, helping them to cope with the pain of separation from their dear departed ones. It also gives them the consolation that they are fulfilling their duties and obligations towards the departed ones.

How do after death prayers help and comfort the soul? (13-1-13)

1. After death prayers help the soul of the departed in two ways.

2. Firstly they comfort the soul that some good deed is performed on their behalf, since having rituals performed is a deed of charity for the universe.

3. Secondly, after death prayers makes the soul feel happy that it is remembered, and thus helps the soul bear the burden of the consequences of their actions done in the physical world.

4. However, the prayers done on behalf of souls of the departed ones, do not add merit to the soul or change their place in the other world. The soul is judged in the spiritual world and its place in the spiritual world is determined only on the basis of the actions done by it in the physical world.

 Why do Zoroastrians have to maintain certain rules at a funeral?

1. Funerals involve prayers and congregations for a departed person, often in the presence of the dead body. According to the Zoroastrian religion, a dead body is a decomposing matter and hence stringent rules have to be observed to ensure its seclusion for the safety of the living as well as the environment. A body, after a few hours after death, is in a state of decomposition, and is the worst form of Naso, that is, physical and spiritual contagion. It is detrimental to ritual purity and the physical and spiritual well being of the living.

2. When Zoroastrians go to pay their last respects to the departed ones at the Doongerwadi, they have to maintain certain safeguards to ensure that Naso does not reach the living from the dead. The practices of Sachkār (final washing and dressing of the body) and Sagdid (sight of the dog) are largely meant to ensure that safeguard.

3. Walking in pairs (and not in threes) directly behind the corpse at the Paidast is also meant as a safeguard from the druj ī nasu “the fiend of putrefaction.” Since the druj ī nasu stikes in the middle, it is most harmful at the centre, and so the paivand (connection) of the handkerchief in the centre, takes on the brunt of the damage and ensures less harm to those who follow the corpse.

4. Another safeguard is assured by the short bāj of Sarosh that Zoroastrians ought to commence before starting the funeral procession and complete after the body is deposited in the Dakhma. However, nowadays, unfortunately, most people, instead of reciting the prayer at the commencement of the procession, recite it after the corpse is consigned to the Dakhma.

5. Doing the Kasti on going to and before leaving the Doongerwadi affords considerable safeguard and protection to the living.

Why can’t non-Parsis attend Parsi funerals? (15-7-12)

1. Zoroastrian rituals for the dead are extensively performed for the appropriate disposal of the body as well as for the benefit of the soul. Restrictions are imposed on non-Parsis for valid reasons.

2. In Zoroastrianism, the physical and invisible putrefaction arising out of a dead body, referred to as  Nasu in Avesta, is the worst form of putrefaction for the living. Hence it has to be dealt with great care and sensitivity, especially for the sake of the living.

3. During the first few hours after death, as time passes, the putrefaction starts increasing and hence special steps are taken to control its spread.

4. Special prayers, called Sachkār are performed, which contain and stop the spread of this Nasu. This is for the benefit of human beings around and also the other living creations.

5. Like any other prayers, the Sachkār prayers too have certain limitations. Their power is vitiated if rules of ritual purity are not observed.

6. The touch of any Zoroastrian and the sight of a non-Zoroastrian vitiates the power of the Sachkār prayers and hence our non-Zoroastrian brethren are not allowed to see the corpse after the Sachkār.

7. A dog’s sight has special inherent powers to fight unseen spiritual evils, including Nasu. Hence a dog is brought several times to see the corpse. This ritual is called Sagdid “sight of dog.”

Why can only Khandias and Nasesalars touch dead bodies after a certain point of time? (7-4-13)

1. As per Zoroastrian customs and practices, after the Sachkar ritual, only the Khandiā and Nasesālār are allowed to touch the corpse, and that too after the ritual precaution of taking the Bāj of Sarosh and holding a paiwand (ritual connection).

2. The word Khandhiā means those who give “shoulder” to the corpse. The term Nasesālār means “one who has command over Nasā (the fiend of putrefaction).”  These nomenclatures are used for Zoroastrians who professionally attend to the corpse of Zoroastrians after Sachkār till it is confined to the Towers of Silence. In the past, Khandhiās dealt with dead bodies but did not enter the Dakhmas, whereas Nasesālārs went into the Dakhma after due ritual precautions. Nowadays, there is a very thin line of demarcation between their duties, and the two terms are loosely used.

3. The system of professional Khandiās and Nasesālārs is prevalent only in places where there is a higher frequency of death. In places where the frequency of death is low, any Zoroastrian layperson can perform these duties after taking due ritual precautions before and after touching the corpse.

4. The system of Khandhiās and Nasesālārs has been in practice since the Avestan times. It was born out of the necessity to maintain the health and ritual purity among the living. The practice highlights Zoroastrian religion’s deep insight about death and its concern for the living.

5. In the past, when the Nasesālārs, temporarily or permanently, wanted to relinquish service, they were given ritual purification through a Bareshnum. Nowadays they are administered multiple Nahāns. Presently, the rules for ritual seclusion of the Khandiās and Nasesālārs are not as rigid as they were in the past.

6. Zoroastrians should be grateful to Khandhiās and Nasesālārs as they are the upholders and custodians of the Dokhmenashini system.

What decorum should be maintained when death rituals are performed? (9-3-14)

1. When Zoroastrians go to pay their last respects to the deceased, they are honouring and remembering the deceased as well as giving solace and consolation to the surviving relatives.

2. In case of Paidast, Zoroastrians should first do the kasti, then go into the Bangli, pay their last respect near the body of the deceased, thereafter do Farazyat prayers either in the Bangli or in the pavilion, and then offer some prayers in honor of the deceased.

3. While following the procession behind the funeral bier one should first take the Bāj of Sarosh, follow the procession, then pay the last respect where the last sezdo is done, return to the vantage point, wait for instructions to leave the Bāj of Sarosh, do the Namaskars of mountain and Dakhma from the small booklet, take a few drops of taro provided by the attendant, wash the hands and feet with water, do the kasti and pay homage to the Sagdi fire, preferably with the offering of a piece of some sandalwood. If one is not participating in the Pāydast (funeral procession), one can meet the relatives after the Geh-sārnā, do the kasti outside the Bangli and then leave the Dungerwadi.

4. In case of an Uthamna or Sarosh no Kardo, one should do the kasti after the change of the geh, offer sandalwood for the Uthamna or Sarosh no Kardo, thereafter do Farazyat prayers either in the Bangli or in the pavilion, and then offer some prayers in honor of the deceased. In case of Uthamna, when the attendant comes to offer rose water with a tray of flowers, one should pledge to do at least some small good in memory of the deceased. This could be as simple as saying an Ashem Vohu on behalf of the deceased.

4. One should always strive to observe decorum in the bangli/pavilion, by avoiding needless talking, if one is not praying. In this way one can honour the sentiments of the living and respect the memory of the deceased.

Why has Geh-sārnā to be done in daytime only? (7-8-16)

1. Geh-sārnā is the last ritual performed over the corpse of a Zoroastrian after which it is to be exposed in the Dakhma. In this ritual, the seven chapters of the Ahunavaiti Gatha are recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad. It can be performed only in the Havan, Rapithwin or Uziran Geh.

2. After Geh-sārnā, the corpse is to be immediately placed in the Dakhma. The corpse can be exposed in the dakhma only during day time, as the presence of the light of the sun is essential when the body is being laid in the dakhma. This process is referred to as Khurshed Nagirashni, which means, “under the gaze of the sun.” It is an essential component of the Dokhmenashini mode of disposal of the deceased.

3. This is the reason why Geh-sārnā has to be done during day time so that the corpse can be laid to rest in the presence of the light of the sun.

What is the proper way to attend the Pāy-dast? (10-11-19 to 24 -11-19)

1. After a Zoroastrian passes away, the first major after-death-ritual is the Pāydast, which includes the Geh-sārnā and the procession to the Dakhma, by walking in pairs after the dead body. When the Geh-sārnā finishes and the Sezdo (paying respects by bowing down) is done, the corpse is prepared to be taken to the Dakhma. Its face is covered with the white shroud in which the body is covered, and it is taken out of the Bangli.

2. At this point of time, non-Zoroastrians sitting in the pavilion come and stand outside the Bangli, at least three paces away from the portico, waiting for the corpse-bearers to bring the corpse out. Then, from a distance, they pay their last homage to the body which is completely covered, including the face, in white cloth.

3. The Zoroastrian mourners, after doing the Sezdo collect outside the Bangli and stand in pairs holding paiwand (ritual connection) behind the two priests who have performed the Geh-sārnā ritual. The priests are connected with a pichori and the mourners are connected with a white handkerchief. Then the priests followed by mourners walk behind the corpse, which is carried by 4 or 6 Khandhiās or Nase-sālārs (corpse bearers). Those who do not wish to follow the corpse upto the Dakhma, do the Kasti at the Bangli and leave.

4. Either before starting to walk, or while walking, the priests and the mourners have to take the Bāj of Sarosh till astavaitish ashahe. This Bāj is completed, by praying from nemaschā yā ārmaitish izāchā, after the corpse is laid down in the Dakhma.

5. When the procession reaches the assembly area outside the Dakhma, the dead body is kept on one of the rectangular stone platforms there. The Nase-sālārs uncover the face of the deceased. The attendants, still maintaining the paiwand, come close to the corpse and perform the final sējdō, keeping a distance of about two to three steps. At this point, the final Sagdīd takes place. Then, the Nase-sālārs cover the face, lift the bier and carry it into the Dakhma.

6. The mourners who are waiting, after getting a signal from the Nase-sālārs at the Dakhma, leave the paiwand of the handkerchief and complete the Bāj of Sarosh. They then recite the Namaskār of mountains and Namaskār of Dakhmas.

7. The Bāj of Sarosh gives ritual protection from the Nasu to those following the corpse. Nowadays, though priests take the Bāj meticulously, most Zoroastrians who go for the Pāy-dast and follow the corpse, do not take the bāj, mainly out of ignorance. Most people, though, erroneously recite the full Bāj after the procession is over, since they are given booklets at this point of time.

8. The BĀJ OF SAROSH, to be taken by the mourners when they participate in the Pāy-dast procession is as follows. It has to be taken at the beginning when the procession is about to start. It could also be recited while walking in the procession towards the Dakhma:

Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdāo Ashem vohu 1.Yathā ahu vairyo 5. Ashem vohu 3. Fravarāne Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish vidaevo Ahura-tkaesho (Recite the appropriate short Geh) Sraoshahe ashyehe, takhmahe, tanu mānthrahe, darshi-draosh, āhuiryehe, khshnaothra yasnāicha, vahmāicha, khshnaothrāicha, frasastayaecha, yathā ahu vairyo zaotā frā me mrute, athā ratush ashāt chit hacha frā ashava vidhvāo mraotu.  Ahunem vairim tanum pāiti, Ahunem vairim tanum pāiti, Ahunem vairim tanum pāiti.  Yathā ahu vairyo 1. Recite Kem-nā Mazdā  till Astavaitish ashahe.

After praying till here, the mourners keep walking behind the course, do the last sezda, return and go back to the vantage point, which is generally next to the Sagdi. After the sezdo is done and the Nase-sālārs deposit the body in the Dakhma, they signal by clapping, indicating that the body has been laid down in the Dakhma. After this, the Bāj of Sarosh has to be concluded as follows:

Nemaschā yā ārmaitish izāchā (3 times) Yathā ahu vairyo 2. Yasnemcha vahmemcha aojascha zavarecha āfrinami, Sraoshahe ashyehe, takhmahe tanu mānthrahe, darshi-draosh ahuiryehe.  Ashem vohu 1.

Hazanghrem  baeshazanām baevare baeshazanām, Hazanghrem  baeshazanām baevare baeshazanām, Hazanghrem  baeshazanām baevare baeshazanām.  Ashem vohu 1.

Jasa me avanghe Mazda!  Jasa me avanghe Mazda!  Jasa me avanghe Mazda!  Amahe hutāshtahe huraodhahe, verethra-ghnahe Ahura-dhātahe, vanaintyāoscha uparatāto, thwāshahe khvadhātahe, zravānahe akaranahe, zravānahe daregho-khadhātahe.  Ashem vohu 1.

9. After this, a few drops of taro, is given, which is applied by the mourners to the face and hands, and allowed to dry for a few seconds. Then the mourners wash their hands and face, do the full Kasti, pay homage to the Dadgah fire at the Sagdi and return from the Doongerwadi.

In the Pāydast, why should mourners walk in pairs holding a handkerchief? (27-7-14)

1. At the time of Pāydast, that is the procession that follows the Geh-sārnā, the corpse is completely seized by the druj-i-nasu “evil of putrefaction.” Since it is in close proximity of humans, safeguards through prayers and practices are maintained to keep the harm to the humans to minimum.

2. The druj-i-nasu emanating from a corpse attacks people at the centre. Hence when following a corpse or handling it, if circumstances demand, one is enjoined to always be connected with another person by a piece of cloth (paewand). Thus the centre of the two persons is the cloth and individuals are relatively un- harmed by the druj-i-nasu.

3. It is specifically for this very reason, that the face of the mourners has to be turned away when the corpse is shifted from the stones to the funeral bier during the Geh-sārnā. When the body is moved, the druj-i-nasu which was dormant around the still corpse gets disturbed, circulates around in the air and may possibly enter the body of the living humans through the breath. Hence the priests and the congregation turn their faces away to avoid the druj-i-nasu directly going in the breath.

What can one pray when one is attending the Pāy-dast or Uthamna? (JJ 12-07-2015)

1. When people go to pay their last respects to the departed, while attending the Geh-sārnā, Pāy-dast, afternoon Uthamna and night Uthamna, they can do prayers and avoid needless talks and conversations. One should do the Kasti before entering the Bangli.

2. If a priest is not available to do the ‘bhoi āgal nu bhantar’ near the corpse, any Behdin can sit and do prayers over there. One can recite any prayers except the Avan Ardvisur Nyash and the Satum no kardo.

3. While attending the Pāy-dast or the afternoon Uthamna, one can do one’s own Farajyat bandagi (Sarosh Bāj, relevant big geh, Khorshed Nyash, Meher Nyash, Doa vispa humata, Doa nam setayashne and Chār dishāno namaskār) if it is not already done. Then one can say the same prayers for the deceased, the only difference being that ahmai raeshcha and kerfeh mozd should be dropped and jasa me avanghe to be prayed in a truncated form (dropping the line rāmano khāstrahe…..spentahe mainyom). After that, one can recite one or more of the shorter Yashts like the Hormazd Yasht, Haptan Yasht, Ardibahesht Yasht or Sarosh Yasht Hadokht, followed by the Doā nām Setāyashne. Patet ravān-ni can also be recited, especially during the Uthamnā.

5. At the time of Pāy-dast, people walk in pairs (and not in threes) connected by a handkerchief directly behind the corpse. While starting the Pāy-dast procession one should recite the short Bāj of Sarosh Yazad till astavaitish ashahe and complete it after the body is laid to rest in the Dakhma. After that the Namaskārs of mountain and Dakhma have to be recited.

5. While attending the night Uthamna, one can recite Sarosh Bāj, Ushahin Geh, Sarosh Yasht Hadokht and Mah bokhtar Nyash followed by the Doā nām Setāyashne. Patet ravān-ni can also be recited,

6. One should not pray the Satum no Kardo for the deceased for the first three days and nights after death till the dawn of the fourth day (Chahrom).

Why are rose petals and rose water taken around after the Uthamna? (12-10-14)

1. After the Uthamna ritual, rose petals are taken around in a metallic tray by an attendant, who sprinkles rose water on the hands of mourners. The latter touch the rose petals, take some rose water in their hands and apply it to their face. This act is a part of the Uthamna ritual.

2. While touching the rose petals and applying the rose water, mourners are expected to give a pledge in memory of the deceased. They may either pledge to do some charity in cash or kind in memory of the deceased, have some rituals performed or themselves perform a ritual or say a prayer in memory of the deceased person.

3. If the mourner is not able to pledge anything, he/she may pray just one Ashem Vohu there and then, in memory of the deceased.

4. In the past, the charities pledged thus, were even announced in public. The Parsee Community in India has collected lakhs of rupees in such act of public charity in memory (Guj. naiyat) of the deceased after the Uthamna.

5. The charity thus done benefits the soul of the deceased, and the soul receives the benefit of this charity at the time of his individual judgement on the dawn of the fourth day after death (Chahrom ni bāmdād).

6. Since the day of the Uthamna is the last day of the soul in this material world, one pays a last visit to the soul of the deceased and gifts it the benefit of whatever charity that is possible by oneself. This act of charity augments the good deeds of the soul.

Please explain Sarosh-no-Kardo or Sarosh-nu-Patru. (23-9-18)

1. Sarosh-no-Kardo or Sarosh-nu-Patru is an after death ritual which is performed on the first, second and third days following death, at the beginning of the Aiwisruthrem gāh, after sun-set. It could be performed either at the Doongerwadi, Agyari/Atash Behram or in any other ritually clean place.

2. This ritual cannot be performed at the Bangli in the presence of the dead body, when the body is lying in the Bangli. Hence, if Paydast is on the second day, the Sarosh-nu-Patru will not be performed on the first day. In cases when the body is not in the Bangli and yet not disposed, for instance, if it is in the morgue or has yet not arrived from abroad, then the Sarosh-nu-Patru can be performed.

3. For this ritual, two priests perform a specialised Āfrinagān ritual in honour of Sarosh Yazad. They sit on the mat face to face on either side of the Afringan (Pātra or Pātru for holding the fire, hence the name of the ritual) and first recite the Sarosh Bāj, then the Aiwisruthrem Gah followed by Sarosh Yasht Vadi, its Nirang and the Doa Nam Setayashne.

4. The Zoti, that is, the senior priest, has a metallic tray (khumcho) before him, which contains a metallic container (karasyo) of clean water and a few flowers, eight of which are arranged in a particular order. The other priest sits on the opposite side. The Zoti begins the Afringan with the recitation of the Dibache (lit. introduction), in the Pazand language, wherein he invokes Sarosh Yazad, the name of the deceased is mentioned over here. After the Dibache is finished, both priests recite the Afringan aloud in which the seventh Kardeh (section) of Srosh Yasht Vadi is prayed. The ritual ends with both priests reciting the Pazand prayer Patet ravān-ni.

Why is Sarosh nu Patru not done when the dead body is still there? (23-11-14)

1. The Zoroastrian tradition prohibits Sarosh nu Patru (Sarosh no Kardo) to be performed near the dead body. So if the dead body is in the Bangli, Sarosh nu Patru cannot be performed in the Bangli

2. However if the dead body is at another place, for instance it is still in the hospital or it has not yet arrived from out station than the Sarosh nu Patru can be performed.

3. Zoroastrians are generally keen to have 3 Sarosh nu Patru performed, and that is possible only if the funeral is held on the day of death. Having the funeral as soon as possible after death is also in consonance with teachings of the Zoroastrian religion.

What and where is the Chinwad Pul (bridge)? (2-10-16)

1. The Chinwad Pul (Bridge) or “the Bridge of Separation” is an allegorical bridge. It actually indicates the connecting space which links the material world to the spiritual world. Allegorically, it starts on the earth from the summit of the Alburz mountains located at the centre point of the world, from which souls cross over to the other world on the fourth day after death, to begin their afterlife journey.

2. The Chinwad bridge is described as a beam which is broad on one side, and sharp/narrow on the other. The souls of the righteous cross the bridge without difficulty from the broad, side, but for the souls of the wicked, the beam rolls over to its sharp side and from there they plunge to hell below.

3. The Judgement of the soul takes place before the Chinwad bridge. Thereafter the soul’s collective actions (Kerdār or Daenā) appears before it. If the soul is righteous during its life, then the Daenā comes in the form of a beautiful lady and escorts the righteous souls across the bridge to heaven. However for the souls of the evil ones, the Daenā it comes in the form of an ugly hag and drags the unwilling soul down into the dark hell.

4. On the other side of the bridge, the righteous souls first encounter Bahman Ameshāspand, who rises from his golden throne and welcomes it. After this, the soul proceeds to its station in heaven.

Why are there different rules for disposal of the dead in different religions? (28-10-12)

1. Different religions have different world views about the soul, its descent, its ascension and its ultimate attainment. On account of which there are different perceptions of life and death.

2. Different religions also have different teachings of what is pure and what is impure. Whereas the strongest Zoroastrian perception of impurity is dead, decomposing, putrefying and decaying matter, the Zoroastrians most highly regard fire as a creation

3. According to Zoroastrian texts, druj-i-Nasu, the fiend of putrefaction, attacks a corpse hours after demise.  The nobler a soul, the greater the attack of evil on it after death, and hence higher the putrefaction.

4. Since people of other religions live with different world views, their view of death and their expectations about the after-life are different.

5. The understanding of the responsibility of the soul in this world, the soul going to the other world and the accompaniment of the soul by various divine beings to the nether-world also differs in religions.

6. On account of varied world-views, different religions have varied practices for disposal of dead and different  explanations of the state of the soul after death, whether they come back to this earth taking a mortal body or not.

7. All religions, however, universally believe that souls are immortal, that good souls are happy after death, evil souls are miserable, and in the end all souls attain a very high status, which is referred to by different names such as Nirvana, Mokhsha, Salvation or Garothman.

How is a Dakhma constructed and consecrated? (JJ 7 & 14 -5-17)

1. The Dakhma is a religious institution which is almost as important as a fire temple. Whereas the fire temple produces, augments and transmits positive energies in the world, the Dakhma controls and contains the negative energies and saves the world from it.

2. Whenever Zoroastrians settled at a new place in India, they would have a Dakhma built and consecrated as soon as there were 8 to 10 families. There were about 120 Dakhmas in India in 1906.

2. When the Dakhma is to be constructed, an elevated ground away from habitation is selected. A well is dug about 300 paces from the site to provide water for the rituals and for subsequent use. The ground is cleaned with taro by letting cows graze there for some time. Then water is sprinkled and the ground is surrounded by a cloth curtain, and Bāj-dharna rituals and a Jashan is performed.

3. A senior priest recites the Bāj of Sarosh and digs the ground with a pick-axe reciting 21 Yatha ahu Vairyos. This is called the “Kodali Marvani Kriya.” Thereafter labourers dig the foundation which would be about 8 feet deep, which takes about two weeks.

4. After this, the “Tāno purvāni kriyā” is done in which 101 very fine cotton threads are thrice taken around 301 nails with particular weight specifications, the heaviest nail weighing about 20 Kilograms. The total weight of all the nails comes to 100 Kilograms. The Tānā ceremony takes about three hours to complete. It is meant to control the nasā (physical and spiritual contagion) emanating from the corpse.

6. Thousands of devout Zoroastrians gather to witness the Tānā ceremony. Visitors throw gold, silver and copper coins, currency notes and even ornaments in the pit as their contribution towards the building of the Dakhma. It is considered meritorious to witness the construction of a Dakhma. The place is kept open for viewing for about two weeks, to enable people to come and witness the Tānā.

7. The construction of the Dakhma starts over the nails and threads. First the circular structure is built and then the pāvis are made inside with the central pit (bhandār). The ratio of the structure to the bhandār is about 3:1.

8. After the construction is complete, a day is fixed for the consecration of the Dakhma. The consecration process goes on for four days, during which several Bāj-dharna, Yazashne and Vandidad rituals are performed. On the fourth day, a Jashan is performed before the assembled gathering and Tandarosti is recited for the person sponsoring the construction of the Dakhma. Now the Dakhma is ready for use, in which, preferably the first body to be laid should be of a child or a pious man.

Are Dakhmas in Iran same as in India? (21 & 28-5-17)

1. The Zoroastrian religious texts state that the mode of disposal of death should have the following four criteria:

(a). The mortal remains of a departed person be taken to an elevated place. (b). It should be as much away from habitation as possible. (c). The corpse should be exposed to carrions (corpse eating birds) like vultures, kites and crows. (d). The corpse should be exposed to the rays of the Sun (khurshed nagirashni)

2. Since ancient times, even before prophet Zarathushtra, the Mazdayasnis used this system of disposal of the dead. Later prophet Zarathushtra too accepted this system and fortified it further. Throughout the Shahnameh there are references of kings desiring to be exposed in the Dakhmas, and the Iranian kings giving the benefit of Dokhmenashini even to their adversaries.

3. Since ancient times, Zoroastrians have been vehemently against any other system or mode of disposal of the dead like burning, burying or keeping in water, as each of the other modes not only use up a lot of natural resources, but also pollute one or the other element of nature.

4. The Dakhmas of ancient Iran were not like the Dakhmas that we know of now. In pre-Zoroastrian times, though the above mentioned four criteria were observed, but there was no surrounding wall. Gradually a surrounding wall was built.

5. The earliest Dakhmas were very elementary stone structures with a platform inside and a pit in the centre.  In Iran, the place of the Dakhma was shifted after every few decades.

6. The Dakhmas prepared with elaborate rituals, were developed in India when it was realised that it would not be possible to regularly shift the position of Dakhmas.

7. The Dokhmenashini system is the most ecological and nature friendly way of disposing the corpse. Dokhmenashini is essential even from a spiritual point of view, as the spiritual constituents of the body need to be re-united with their cosmic sources like air and sunlight.

Why is Dokhmenashini the best method of disposal of dead for Zoroastrians?

1. Dokhmenashini is the process of exposing the corpse of a Parsi Zoroastrian in a ritually prepared open, circular funerary house called Dakhma, exposed to the rays of the sun (Khurshed-nagirashni). For Zoroastrians it is the best mode of disposal of the dead. It not only ensures the speedy and ecological disposal of the physical constituents of the body, it also enables the early release of the semi-spiritual constituents of a human being, and prompt deliverance of the spiritual constituents.

2. Dokhmenashini is based on 4 principles: i. Disposal of corpse away from human habitation, ii. Disposal on an elevated place, iii. The corpse exposed to the rays of the sun, and iv. The corpse exposed to birds of prey.

3. The last of the above four principles has considerably weakened in the last about two decades, but the other three principles on which Dokhmenashini is based are working well, and hence Dokhmenashini is still quite effective.

4. Dokhmenashini is not just a method of disposal of the dead body of a Zoroastrian, it is also an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion. The speedy release of the soul from the earthly bonds largely depends on it.

5. Dokhmenashini is an economical as well as ecological method. It does not use any resource from the ecosystem and also safeguards the environment.

6. Dokhmenashini, even in its weakened form, is still the best among all the methods of disposal of the dead available to Zoroastrians today, from the points of view of the living, the dead, as well as the environment.

Why is it necessary for Zoroastrians to use the Dakhma, and are averse to cremation? (23-7-17)

1. The mode of disposal of death prescribed by each religion is based on the world view of that religion. It is not just a way for disposing the body, it is also a way of following the teachings prescribed by the religion.

2. For Zoroastrians, Dohkmenashini is the prescribed way to dispose the body as it is based on the following teachings of the religion –    a. Causing the least possible harm to the natural elements of earth, water and air; b. Letting the body merge back into the most basic form of the elements of nature as soon as possible; c. Not polluting fire in any way by nasa (human dead matter), as fire is regarded as sacred and has a very special place in the Zoroastrian religion.  d. Ensuring the timely release of the soul and other non-physical human constituents.

3. Disposing the body in the religious and best possible manner, is just one aspect of the practice of Dokhmenashini. This system is also meant to help in the speedy evolution of the soul. Zoroastrianism explains that the Kehrpa (astral body), the Ushtan (animating life-force) and the Tevishi (desire body), the semi–spiritual constituents of a human, also need to go back to their respective sources.

4. Dokhmenashini is the only way which ensures that the semi–spiritual constituents are re-united with their cosmic sources like air and sunlight, ensuring the speedy evolution of the soul. By opting for other modes of disposal, either voluntarily or by necessity, slows down the speed of the evolution of a Zoroastrian’s soul.

5. It is generally believed that in cremation the body immediately gets disposed within a couple of hours by burning, but this is not true. What is actually meant by the disposal of the body is the ultimate merging of the physical elements of the body into the original natural elements. When a body is burnt a large part of the body is just transformed into thousands of small suspended particles which are either caught in the scrubber or chimney or scattered into the air. These particular elements consisting of flesh, muscles, bones, fat etc. which take a very long time to merge back into the natural elements. In burial too, an interred body takes several years to disintegrate.

6. Thus Dokhmenashini, even in its present, marginally weakened form, where it takes a few weeks for the body to disintegrate, is still the fastest and best system for the disposal of the dead, and the most beneficial to the spiritual constituents of a human being.

What function does the ‘Sagdi’ fulfil at the Doongerwadi? (31-7-16)

1. The ‘Sagdi’ is a building on the premises of the Doongerwadi in which an unconsecrated Dadgah fire is kept.

2. Whenever a dead body was taken to the Doongerwadi premises, embers from the hearth fire were also taken, as there were no other buildings at the Mumbai Doongerwadi till about 100 years back.  So, in the past, when somebody passed away, family members used to take embers from hearth fire from their home in a ‘sigri/sagdi’ (stove).

3. About 100 years ago, a permanent fire was established within the Doongerwadi premises. The building was named Sagdi as previously the fire was brought to the Doongerwadi in a Sagdi.

4. There is a misconception that one may ‘desecrate’ the Sagri fire if one goes to pay homage to it immediately after attending a Pāydast (funeral). This is not so, as the fire is not consecrated. In fact Zoroastrians are supposed to go there after the funeral and offer fuel and prayers to it.

5. In Iran next to the necropolis (place where last remains are kept) at Naksh-i-Rustam is a structure called Kaba-i-Zardusht, which most probably fulfilled the function of a Sagdi.