A tribute to the Parsi community

Rohit Vadhwana Monday 12th August 2019 10:44 EDT

The inauguration ceremony of World Zoroastrian Organisation was held in London on 10 August at their new building in Feltham. The building, with facility for prayer, community events and library, is made open to community. The World Zoroastrian Organisation was established in 1980 and has worked for the welfare of the community living all over the world, as it is the central organisation for global Zoroastrians.

Zarathustra, born in 628 BCE is the founder of Zoroastrianism which was perhaps the first religion to propagate monotheism, one god, in the form of Ahura Mazda. Main holy book of the religion is Avesta which was originally written in Avestan or Pahlavi script and three pillars of the religion is summed up in the phrase, ‘good thoughts, good words, good deeds’. Zoroastrians worship fire and keep it burning in temples.

The community, also known as Parsi in India, has origin in Iran from where they migrated to India during 8th to 10th century. As the story goes, a group of Parsis arrived at Sanjan Port, Gujarat and sent a messenger to the local king requesting permission to live in his kingdom. The local king sent a bowl full of milk which meant that the kingdom was full and there was no more space to accommodate them. The leader is said to have added sugar in the bowl of milk and sent it back to the king, conveying that they would mix with local population like sugar in the milk. The king is believed to have happily permitted them to live in his kingdom.

However, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, in his scholarly speech at the event, discredited the story saying that Parsis had been in trade relations with Indians even before the said migration and they had established settlements in coastal towns of Gujarat. Truly, connection between Iran and India is ancient and this story is more of popular belief than having historic authenticity. But there exists other popular stories too about migration of Parsis to India and that is about their speaking of Gujarati language, wearing of traditional Gujarati attires and many other aspects.

This community has lowest population in India, 0.006%, but has made perhaps highest contribution in every field. As per 2001 census, Parsis numbered less than 70,000 which further reduced to about 57,000 in 2011 census. The reducing number of Parsis in India is mainly attributed to migration to the western world, including UK and USA, and also childlessness in the community. There were only 7 child birth per 1000 persons in Parsis in India and aged population is more than young.

Arguably, the first freedom fighter Dadabhai Naoroji, first space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, first physicist Homi Bhabha, first industrialist Jamshedji Tata – all were Parsis. Their contribution in other fields is also noteworthy.

(Expressed opinion is personal)

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