The Protocol Of Death

Daisy P. Navdar is a teacher by profession and a firm believer in the efficacy of our Manthravani. She is focused on ensuring that the deep significance of our prayers is realized by our youth. She credits her learnings and insights, shared in her articles, to all Zoroastrian priests and scholars whose efforts have contributed towards providing light and wisdom for all Zarthostis.

The passing away of a loved one or even an acquaintance is indeed a tough situation to face. This is not an attempt to debate for or against the efficacy of the Dokhmenashini system. However, should we choose to have the last rites at the Doongerwadi, then there is protocol to follow. In recent years, it has been my observation that the community has largely deviated from the sanctified norms of the last rites and has adopted an ‘anything goes’ strategy. This is an effort to gently remind you of the science behind the system which we have adopted and urge you to do the right thing for the dearly departed.

Taking into consideration the feelings of the immediate family, some of these may seem a little heartless. However, this is all in the best interest of the departed soul. We must look at this objectively and understand why we must follow the correct rituals. We could think of this as a flight that the departed have to board. You cannot alter the timing, you need to arrive well in time and must carry proper identification. This is mandatory to go to the next level of the journey… in this case – the journey of the soul.

So here are some due processes and prayers that will benefit the departed soul and help them to cross over to the other side:

  • Upon death, the body must be consigned to the Doongerwadi at the earliest (preferably within a few hours). If death itself did not wait for the loved ones, then why should the dead body? Visit your loved ones while they are alive, cherish their presence, don’t make them wait once they have transcended their physical form.
  • From the time that a person is declared dead, till the time that the paidast starts, some member of the family or a priest must recite continuous prayers, which must fall on the ears of the departed. This is the most vital contribution that you can make towards any departed soul and you will receive manifold blessings for having shown them the path. Now here you will question, can the dead hear? The logical answer is ‘No’, but the manthras ward off the attacks of decay and daruji upto such time as the body is consigned to the dokhma. Even just the continuous recitation of the Sarosh Baaj is very well received by the departed soul, and it also smites the darker forces that attack the body. The simplest of Ashem Vohu will also help the soul tremendously.
  • When you attend a paidast, ritually cleanse your hands, legs and face, do your kusti before you pay your last respects. Spend your time praying for the departed soul, they need it the most.
  • If you are not going up to the Sagri (Fire Temple) after the paidast, then perform your kusti once more before you leave the premises of the Doongerwadi. In olden days, it was mandatory to perform the kusti outside the doors of your home if you had just returned from the Doongerwadi. These rituals of purification help us integrate once more the balance of our own vibrations and restore them to normal.
  • It is mandatory for the family members to stay within the Doongerwadi premises for a period of 4 days. A divo is lit in the space where the body lay and the family must make a concerted effort to spend the 4 days sending all their prayers to the departed soul.
  • It is only after the early morning uthamna and chahram (fourth day) prayers, that the family should return home.

I hope that these guidelines are taken in the spirit of doing what is best for the departed soul. The needs of the soul must be placed above every other need. We need the prayers of our family and friends the most when we are no more. Let’s do right by our departed loved ones.

Daisy P. Navdar
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