Parsi-zoroastrian seminary continues its 100-year-old practice of training priests
MUMBAI: What started as a religious training course for Zoroastrian students in a bungalow at Parel in 1919 today continues to impart education to youths looking to become priests at its 100-year-old seminary at Five Gardens, Dadar.
The Dadar Athornan Institute hosted its centennial celebrations last week as it continues to impart religious education at a time when the Zoroastrian community is trying to stop the rapid decline in the number of priests.
It is also the only institute in the world which trains the priestly class in the Parsi community.
Since 2017, the Jiyo Parsi and Jiyo Mobed workshops have been conducted through which members of the priestly class are counselled and trained so that they take can take up larger roles in the community.
“The institute came up around the time when the Parsi population in villages in Gujarat was very high and most of the priests were settled there,” said Ramiyar Karanjia, principal of the institute.
“It became important to have a place to educate the children from the priest community,” he said.
Karanjia adds that though the average number of students in the madrasa has been around 30, there was a time in the early 80s when special arrangements were made and 40 students were accommodated there.
“There was another Athornan institute at Andheri,
which became non-functional so students from there had to be accommodated here,” he said.
Karanjia recollects a time when around 90 students were being schooled at both the institutes, however, he believes the numbers have now gone down because families have fewer children and would not like to send them away.
Apart from learning about scriptures, the students at this institute attend a regular school and have a detailed timetable for homework, tuitions, and play, all of which is provided to them free of cost.
“I believe we are learning a lot more here as compared to our peers back home because it is a disciplined priestly life that we live here, which is expected of us later,” said Shyamak Sanjan, a Class 7 student of Dadar Parsee Youths Assembly High School who attends the madrasa.
Student in a session at the Dadar Athornan Institute.