“Dad, everyone’s wearing a mask!” exclaimed the son of Adi Sidhwa, a Zoroastrian priest, about the COVID mask requirement. “Is it different than yours?”
The boy wasn’t referring to his father’s COVID mask but the long, white, cloth one – padan -- that Sidhwa, 46, from eastern Bergen County, wears when he presides at the service in the Pomona, New York, temple. A Zoroastrian priest, also referred to as mobed, has always worn a mask when performing prayers in front of the sacred flame used in most Zoroastrian ceremonies.
Most elementary-school boys spend their free time playing videogames or hanging out with friends. Zerkxis Bhandara’s childhood was a bit different. He started training to become a Zoroastrian priest when he was 9.
Mr. Bhandara, whose family traces its lineage to a 12th-century Indian cleric, was born into the role. But the 25-year-old graduate student from Irvine, Calif., pushed back on his early religious obligations. “Oh gosh, I was a bad student,” he recalls. There were classes. Homework. “Like every 9-year-old, I would rather do any other thing.”
The Zoroastrian tradition traces its history to the Prophet Zarathushtra, who lived 3,000 years ago in ancient Iran. Zoroastrian teachings are often summarized as “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.” After evolving separately for centuries in Iran and India, the two streams of the Zoroastrian tradition have come back together in America. In Boston, the community is small but vital: the 150 families affiliated with the Zoroastrian Association of Greater Boston marked their 35th anniversary in 2019. Looking forward, local Zoroastrians hope to develop the Zarathushti Center of Boston as...