Geh sarna prayers at Doongerwadi for those deceased due to Covid-19


Fortified with an "all-clear” by two high priests, three trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) have agreed to permit the geh sarna prayers to be recited at Doongerwadi for Covid positive Parsi corpses that by law have to be cremated.

BPP trustee Noshir Dadrawala who initiated the WhatsApp discussion on the trustees’ group, noted today: Dear colleagues, (an elderly gentleman) critical with covid.
He and the entire family are keen to have two priests pray at Doongerwadi. Priests from Doongerwadi are ready to pray.
In case he passes away, please let us allow the geh sarna to be performed by two priests facing the dakhma and rest of the ceremonies at Mehla Patel Agiary.

BPP trustee Kersi Randeria replied: The high priests including Dastur Dr Firoze Kotwal (who is considered to be the final authority) have said this can be allowed. I am ok with the suggestion.

Xerxes Dastur: Let’s all discuss this as last time we said no. This decision should be left to the Vada Dasturjis and they should all confirm... this decision should be in their domain.

Dadrawala: Let's not buy time. This man may expire anytime. Kotwal was first to propose. Khurshed Dastoor has given his approval in writing. TAKE A STAND. This is our domain. Decide you want to be bold or be a coward.

Dastur: I did, last time remember the whole thing went for a toss. I would like to build consensus on this and proceed. Also am a little concerned that last time we said no.

Dadrawala: Yes in Dr Aspi Golwala’s time the Board said no to Roxana Darshan Shah (nee Nazir).Thereafter it has been yes now for three decades.

Armaity Tirandaz: Nosh do we have any written letters from our Vada Dasturs stating that this is only for those who expired due to Covid and wanted dakhmenishini, but perforce cremated. If so then I am ok for the geh sarna...on a temporary relief basis.

Dadrawala: Yes in writing from Khurshed and Kotwal.

Parsiana has sent WhatsApp messages to Dastur and Mehta eliciting their views.

In their emails the high priests have opined:

Kotwal: In this case there is no corpse (nasa) and so no ritual like the sachkar or sagdid are required or needed and the prayer is merely recited near the dakhma, its rightful place. I reiterate that it is not recited as part of a funeral ceremony, but as a prayer for the solace, comfort and satisfaction of the living and the dead.

Dastoor: I am in total agreement with your genuine and practical views with regard to the geh sarna prayers to be performed at the Doongerwadi facing the dakhmas by two mobeds but only for those who have succumbed to Covid-19 and have been forced to be cremated.

Adhering to the scholarly and religious advice of Kotwal is the way forward in the face of the current crisis and will also bring respite to the families of those who may unfortunately succumb to this virus.

Saying this, I would like to emphasize that this arrangement has to be temporary in nature and ONLY for those who are the unfortunate victims of Covid-19. It must be remembered that this practice must cease to exist as soon as the situation is in control.

(Extracts have been edited for stylistic purposes and length - editors)

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