Speculations around the suspension of Ervad Merwan Nalladaru, a priest from Banaji Atash Behram, a Parsi worship place in Charni Road, has instilled fear in members of the Parsi community that there will be fewer people to perform rituals in religious worship places like agiaries or fire temples.
Since last year, the community has been trying to stop the rapid decline in the number of Zoroastrian priests through Jiyo Parsi and Jiyo Mobed Workshop. As part of the workshop, members of the priestly community were counselled and trained, so that they take can up a larger role in the affairs of the community. Nalladaru was given a suspension notice last month on the ground that he was over-feeding the holy bull, called as Holy Varasyaji, and has been asked to step down by the end of this month.
B H Antia, a trustee of the agiary, in a letter written on March 4, in a Parsi publication, called the allegations levelled by the community against the trustees ‘factually incorrect’. Ramiyar Karanjiya, priest and principal of Dadar Athornan Institute, a religious school, said young people no longer want to practice priesthood as a full-time profession. “The remuneration is poor and there is no social life. The total number of priests in the city is hardly 250 or 300 maximum. There is already the dwindling numbers of our community, the priest numbers are rubbing salt to the wounds,” said Karanjiya.
Jiyo Parsi, initiated a decade ago, is a scheme backed by the government of India to arrest the population decline in Parsi community.