The cremation of fifty-five-year-old Maneksha Bhesania, who passed away in Kolkatta on 4th October, 2017, has created a stir within the community since it was done against the wishes of his family members. Maneksha’s aging mother and other family members opted for the last rites to be performed at the Dokhma in Beliaghata, but due to the inability of arranging pallbearers within 24 hours (the stipulated time for completion of last rites in accordance with Zoroastrian customs), he was cremated at Keoratala. Owing to the furore triggered due to the incident, the Calcutta Zoroastrian Community’s Religious and Charity Fund (CZCRCF) issued a statement pleading helplessness for the non-availability of pall bearers. “There was a death in the community recently where the family desired the traditional Dakhma form of disposal. This could not be arranged as we had insufficient pall bearers. The family desired tradition to be maintained, were denied it and had to settle for cremation, which we deeply and sincerely regret. There were subsequent occasions when we were fortunate to have volunteers, but it is not an unlikely scenario that we will not have sufficient pall bearers. To the extent possible, we shall see that the wishes of the deceased’s family members are fulfilled. But, where it becomes impossible, everyone will have to please understand,” the notice stated. Currently, the number of Zoroastrians in Kolkatta has dwindled to less than five hundred.
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