Head Parsi Priest Ervad Cawas D. Bagli
Head Priest of the Delhi Parsi Dar-e-Meher. Born in 1965, Mr. Cawas became a priest at the young age of nineteen in the year 1984. He followed in his father’s footsteps who was also the priest at Delhi’s fire temple. From a very young age he has studied the Zoroastrian philosophy. Living in India he also sees many similarities and parallels between the Parsi faith and Hinduism.
I met Ervad Cawas D Bagli on April 2, 2019 in the Delhi Parsi Anjuman premises. This was located in a quiet corner on the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. This is my conversation with him.
What is one core principle that unites all the followers of your faith (either the faith as a whole or this particular sect of the faith)?
Mr Cawas spoke about the one core principle being, the one Almighty or God that unites all the people
of a particular faith, although people may worship him in different forms the Almighty is still the
same. To explain this he said that if we were to arrange all the religions in a semicircle and draw a line
extending outwards they would intersect at a single point - the single Almighty. He then explained one
of the core principles of the Parsi faith being - ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds’.
How did you decide to begin your study on the Zoroastrian religion? And Why ?
Mr Cawas explained that he decided to become a priest when he realised he wanted to follow
the footsteps of his father. His father had moved to Delhi in 1952 and became a Priest in the Delhi Fire Temple. Mr Cawas is currently a priest in the same fire temple. Born in 1965, Mr Cawas became a priest at the young age of nineteen in the year 1984. He narrated that as a young boy he was always fascinated by his father’s work. He
would follow him around and ask him questions about his robes and inquire of his father when he
would be allowed to carry out a ceremony on his own. This inborn curiosity, faith and passion led him to
decide to become a priest. His study of the religion began thereafter
What was your first experience (experience of a union with God)?
Mr Cawas was born in the compound of the fire temple situated in Delhi to a priest as a father. Due
to this, he explained that his connection with God was in his early childhood years. He said that as he
matured and grew from a boy of nineteen years his connection with God changed every step of the
way. As he aged, his connection with God only grew stronger to a point where he can now feel his
presence beside him almost all the time. He told me that many a time during the night prayers at the
fire temple he can feel a presence standing beside him, or a hand on his back to signify the Almighty
supporting him. Mr Cawas also believes that all forms of nature are forms of the Almighty and spoke
about how he experiences the Almighty's presence in different beings at the various National Parks he
visits on his wildlife photography trips.
What objects are employed during religious ceremonies or otherwise and what is the significance of each?
Mr Cawas beautifully explained to me that in the Parsi rituals and ceremonies, they honour the
elements. The fire is honoured through the Havan Kund. Parsi Rituals involve Frankincense that is
burnt in the ceremony. Sandalwood and sandalwood dust are also present. Flowers and fruits are
placed on a banana leaf in a similar manner to the Hindus. He explained to me that when the Parsis
migrated to India they adopted several things from the culture and the Hindu Religion like the
wearing of Sarees and even showed us the exquisite rangolis that decorated the compound of the fire
temple. He told us about Navroze (The Irani New Year) which was an important festival that was
celebrated on the 21st of March.
What is the purpose of life?
Mr Cawas told me that the purpose of life according to him is good thoughts, good words and good
deeds. He believes that all the power lies within the mind and to explain this he told us that he is a
cancer survivor. He went through six rounds of chemotherapy and came out stronger only because he
learnt how to master his mind and allow it to rule over his heart and emotions rather than the other
way around. He said that in that period he realised that he fought every day because he had faith, he
had faith in his survival but most importantly, he had faith in the Almighty and his wishes.
What is your view on death and what comes after it?
Mr Cawas reiterated the importance of deeds having a reflection on one’s life. He said that before one dies we must make sure that our runway to take off is as clean and devoid of sin as possible to allow the flight to take off. He said that we must do our good deeds in such a manner that once we are gone, these deeds do not cause us harm or danger. He also told me that although he has been through cancer, he does not blame the Almighty for his troubles but understands that these situations are the only repayment of some misdeed or wrong he has committed. The dead in the Parsi religion is neither cremated nor buried, they are considered unclean and polluted by daeva due to which they are placed atop the tower of silence and exposed to the sun and the scavenger birds.
What are some essential daily activities of practitioners of your religion?
Mr Cawas told me about the rituals he has to perform as a head priest of the fire temple. He explained
that he has to be in the fire temple by 6:15 every morning to perform a 7 o’clock ceremony in the fire
temple which is followed by an afternoon ceremony at 1 o’clock, an evening ceremony at 4 o’clock, a
ceremony at sunset and a night ceremony at 12:30 at night. In these ceremonies, the bell is rung
when the sandalwood and the frankincense are provided to the eternal flame that burns in the fire
He then told us that for a normal person who follows the Parsi faith, one can clean the altar in the
mornings and perform ceremonies at night before they sleep. The Parsis do not worship idols but
rather pray to the departed souls from their families.
Do you think younger people are less religious? Can you comment on why this is so?
Mr Cawas explained his point of view and told us that religiosity is largely a phase in life. He explained
that as a child when we have spare time we go to the temple with our parents when they want us to
go; however, as we grow older and the workload increases, we stop going to the temple, until we
realise the value of going to the temple and find the time to do so. He said that the desire to visit a
temple or belief in the Almighty must come from within and cannot be forced upon anyone. We
must present before them the pros and cons and allow people to decide for themselves. He told us
about his wife, who is not from a priestly family and never was a strict practitioner of religion. But,
after being married to a priest she made her own decision to participate in religious ceremonies and
Why is there evil in the world?
Mr Cawas explained, that in the same manner that it is good in the world, there is evil and bad. He
explained the importance of evil - without which we would never value the good things in life. It is the
bad consequences that help us identify our wrongdoings and rectify them. They bring us back to the
right path and is God’s way of steering us away from being misled. Evil allows the scales to be
perfectly balanced between the good and bad that exists in the universe.