The Parsis are members of one of the two Zorastrian communities found throughout the areas of South Asia. The Parsis are ethnically distinct from the Iranis even though both the communities are descendants of Persian Zorastrians who in turn are decendants of greater Iran. The word 'Parsi' in the Persian language means 'Persian'. However the term 'Parsi' in the Sanskrit language means 'one who gives alms'. They are a well defined community. But the exact date of their migration is not known. It is believed that the migration might have taken place somewhere in the 10th century.
Parsis at the very outset settled in Diu and soon moved to South Gujarat where they established themselves as a small agricultural community and remained there for around 800 years. The Parsis have a long presence in Gujarat and Sindh areas of India. They are chiefly residents of Bombay but there are a few minorities in Bangalore too. Parsi community is also found in a sizeable amount in Pune and Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai too. The density of Parsis are highest in Mumbai. Until as late as the 17th century, the word 'Parsi' was not attested in the Indian Zorastrian texts. This term is not essentially an indicator of their Persian or Iranian roots, but an indicator of their ethnic identity.
The Parsi community is very well educated. They have a very high literacy rate (97.9%)according to 2001 census which is the highest for any Indian community. This community has chiefly contributed towards the history and development of India though they are very small in number.
The main components and elements of Zorastrianism and the Parsi community is the concept of purity, initiation,daily prayers,temple worships,marriage,funerals and general worship. Fire is considered to represent the presence of God and there are two different types of fire for the different temples. The first type of temple is Atash Behram-which is prepared for an entire year before it can be installed and than cared for to the highest possible degree. The second type of fire temple is Dar-i Mihr. In case of death, the bodies are taken to Towers of Silence.
The Parsis celebrate their New Year in August which is known as 'Navorz'. They also have their own traditional dress distinct for their community though in modern times,these are worn in traditional festivals and occasions. The Parsi male wear a long muslin shirt or sudra and girdle or kusti, loose cotton trousers and also sometimes an angrakha or loose coat without any belt over the shirt. A distinct turban is also worn. Shoes and boots are also worn. The Parsi women generally wear a saree.
This community is a miniscule part of India but their strong influence could not be overlooked. They are a well-knit community whose contributions towards India is significantly felt.
Composed by Asmita Sarmah. B.Posted: 22/10/2014
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