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SHOULD WE HAVE HERITAGE WALKS AT THE DOONGERWADI?

A fresh issue at hand is whether heritage walks at the Doongerwadi are in the interest of our community?

Apparently over the past few years, a heritage walk is being conducted at the Doongerwadi where non-parsi individuals after paying a fee are taken all around the property including to the altar at the top of the Doongerwadi where Parsis pay last respects to their dearly departed. A full guide is given to them as to what happens when a Parsi dies and how Parsis dispose off their dead.

At the moment, these walks are conducted by Ervad Ramiyar Karanjia.

The question posed by many is that today these guided tours are being taken out by Ervad Karanjia with around 15-20 people, however what if the tour is operated by an SOTC travels or Thomas Cook travels with over 50-60 people visiting the property for a parade. Some feel the Doongerwadi will become a popular tourist destination because of its flora fauna and suspense around the property.

Another issue raised by many orthodox Parsis of Mumbai is that after the demise of a member of the family, it is tradition for families of the deceased to stay at the Doongerwadi for 3 days offering prayers to the dearly departed. Imagine the plight of the families praying in the Bunglees for their departed when groups of non-parsis come for a guided tour clicking photographs.

Many are of the view that this needs to be stopped with immediate effect. The orthodox feel that these wlaks not only hurt religious sentiments but can also become a risk when non-parsis are allowed to freely roam the sacred property, including attempting to enter or try to enter our sacred dokhmas.

Last week, many individuals raised their concerns with the BPP trustees about these walks. However, we have been informed that Trustees Kersi Randeria, Noshir Dadrewala and Yazdi Desai said that there is nothing wrong is such a walk and have admitted giving Ervad Karanjia permission to conduct these walks. The orthodox appalled by the apathetic view taken by the Trustees raised their voice on social media platforms objecting to the BPP’s decision. Unfortunately the community newspapers (Parsi Times & Jam-e Jamshed) both owned by Kersi Randeria, were both silent over the weekend on this burning issue.

To put salt on the orthodox wounds, we have been informed that on 10 December (a day before the scheduled heritage walk), Chairman Yazdi Desai personally went to the Malabar Hill Police Station and lodged a complaint that Parsi miscreants would possibly try to stop the heritage walk conducted by Ervad Karanjia and if any Parsi objects to this walk – they should be detained and/or arrested.

Many found it deplorable that a ‘proclaimed orthodox’ and a chairman of the community acted with such disregard to his own fellow community members by ordering them to be detained/arrested rather than stopping a walk for non Parsi on our sacred property. We have been told that the walk was eventually conducted with police escort through the lower bunglees and then finally to the pavilion area where Ervad Karanjia spoke.

After the talk, one of the protestors present questioned Ervad Karanjia if all the young women present at the walk were clean (not in their period), to which Ervad Karanjia responded, which has been tape recorded – that there is no bar for women in their period from visiting the Doongerwadi. This outraged many present at the venue, however due to calm intervention from others, the situation was brought under control and the tourists were requested to leave the holy premises. Trustee Viraf Mehta was present during the entire walk and played mediator between the orthodox and Ervad Karanjia. We have been told that Armaity Tirandaz, Zarir Bhatena and Viraf Mehta have not voted in favour of these heritage walks.

The sacred lands of the Doongerwadi has for long been in the eyes of many. It is one of the largest green lungs of Mumbai and has been preserved and protected for all these years by its sensible leaders. Having these walks is upsetting a very large population of our tiny community and we would expect our current set of leaders to set aside their personal egos and do what is right for the community and not for curious tourists. It is always in our community’s interest to keep our sacred doongerwadi free from all controversies!

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