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Parsi Community in India and What makes them Distinct from Others

10 Interesting facts about the Parsi Community in India

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A Parsi Community wedding ritual
A Parsi Community wedding ritual. Wikimedia
  • Parsi’s came from Faras, Persia, more than a thousand years ago
  • The reason of decreasing population is due to migration, declining fertility rate and late marriage
  • The religion Zoroastrianism was founded 3,500 years ago in ancient Iran by Prophet Zoroaster

New Delhi, August 19, 2017: The Parsi’s are an immigrant community, they are of Zoroastrian faith. Parsi Community came from Faras, Persia, more than a thousand years ago and are now located in Mumbai, India. They are mostly settled in old Mumbai but in recent times, they have settled in major cities and towns in India. Some of them are also found in countries like United States, Canada, England, and Pakistan.

In 1901 the Parsi population in India was around 93,952; in 1976 it was around 82,000   and in 2014 it fell down to 60,000. Since then the population has been decreasing. The reason of decreasing population is due to migration, declining fertility rate and late marriage.

ALSO READ: The decreasing number of Parsis in India and their concerns

Some of the holy Parsi festivals are Nowroz (New Year’s Day), Frawardigan (commemorating the dead souls), Pateti (the day of confession and repentance). Some of the famous Parsi people in India are Scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Businessman JRD Tata, India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Former Chairman Tata Sons Ratan Naval Tata, Bollywood Actor Boman Irani, among others. Parsi community makes up a very crucial community of India despite their presence in small numbers.  Here are 10 interesting facts about them:

  • The native language of Parsi’s is Avestan but they also speak Gujarati or English. The religion Zoroastrianism was founded 3,500 years ago in ancient Iran by Prophet Zoroaster. There is a collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism known as the Avesta. Some of their religious literature is in Pahlavi (it’s an Aramaic-based writing system used in Persia from the 2nd Century BC to the advent of Islam in 7th Century AD).
  • Birth of a Parsi child is followed by a ritual bath, a cleansing prayer, sacred items are given to him/her. The main priest conducts prayers and formally invites him/her in the community and religion.
  • Parsi’s don’t usually bury or cremate dead bodies; they leave the body so vultures can feast on it. They do this as they don’t believe in polluting air or land. It is done at a place called Dakhmas or ‘Tower of silence’. They began using electronic crematorium after there was a decline in the number of vultures after 1990.
  • The Parsi’s had to face a struggle period of 200 years when they rebelled against the Arab invaders in Iran (their home country earlier). It was called the period of silence. In order to retain their regional and cultural identity, they ran from Iran as the Arab conquered it and took refuge in Gujrat, India from 8th to 10th Century AD. Some of them later migrated to parts of Mumbai.
  • Qissa- i Sanjan is the account of the early years of Parsi settlement in India.

Also Read: Parsi community lauded for role in nation-building

  • The Parsi Community believes in the existence of one invisible God. Atash Behram (victorious fire) which is located in the fire temple is of prime importance to them. There are total 9 Atash Behram in the world, out of which 8 are located in the western India and one is located in central Iran. The Udvada Atash Behram is the oldest Zoroastrian temple and the continuously burning fire temple in the world.
  • Male-Female Ratio of Parsi Community is different than others; they have more females and lesser males. As per 2001 Census, 1050 females per 1000 males which are more than India’s average of 933 females.
  • To solve the problem of declining Parsi community in India, Jiyo Parsi Scheme was launched on 24 September 2013. It was a government supported the initiative.
  • Some say that by 2020 the Parsi population will decrease to 23,000 and this can take away from them the tag ‘community’ and can label them as tribals instead.
  • The Parsi Community has the highest literacy rate in India among any Indian communities which is 97.9% as per 2001 census.

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Bollywood Films That Focus on Patriotism and Nationalism

From patriotism to nationalism, all that bollywood has focused on

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Bollywood patriotism
During the 1940s, the freedom struggle reached its peak and, as an alternate way to build up on patriotism and promote the freedom movement, films were used as a medium to promote these fervour. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI

When the bollywood film industry started in India, the best and the safest theme to draw audience was to make mythological films or films with a religious story to tell. Dada Saheb Phalke, the founder of the film industry in India, made his first film, “Raja Harishchandra”. The first Indian talkie film, “Alam Ara”, also dealt with a religious theme.

While the religious/mythological films held sway as it had a captive audience that was familiar with the stories told on screen, the narrative soon shifted to family socials. That again was a subject everybody identified with in the joint family era.

During the 1940s, the freedom struggle reached its peak and, as an alternate way to build up on patriotism and promote the freedom movement, films were used as a medium to promote these fervour.

The censoring of bollywood films was rather strict, and the patriotically fired up filmmakers had to take recourse to surrogate promotion of patriotism. Patriotism was the flavour, all pervading and all over India. And, we had some great films promoting patriotism.

This mood lived on till, say, the end of the 1950s. It waned gradually all over except on the streets of the cities. Every August 14 and January 25 — on the eve of Independence Day and Republic Day, respectively — patriotism blurted out of microphones on the streets of every city and town.

Bollywood patriotism
Swades is a well known film for its theme based on patriotism. Wikimedia Commons

As the films gave up on patriotism, so did the street celebrators. Patriotism took a break from films and, hence, also from public life. This was till it was revived momentarily following the 1965 war with Pakistan, and the ensuing Indian victory that revived patriotism in films, but only briefly.

Since the wars of 1948 and 1962, India had, for the first time, outcomes that were emphatically in the nation’s favour. Taking cue from the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’, coined by the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Manoj Kumar scripted a perfect film, “Upkar”.

Dara Singh, the wrestler-actor, and some others were also inspired to follow patriotism as the theme. But, patriotism in India and, hence, in Hindi films, seems to be a seasonal trend.

After the 1962 India-China war, the feeling was that of delusion. India was humiliated and the limited patriotism that followed was that of self-pity. So, what we had in the aftermath was the depiction of how a badly ill-equipped India lost in the war in the film “Haqeeqat” and the song “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon” rendered live by Lata Mangeshkar. None of the two were inspiring for the masses.

Today, people even feel that the song should not be played anymore because it has a depressing narrative about a losing nation.

“Haqeeqat” failed despite entertainment exemptions from various state governments. Its music lived, not the film. Another attempt by the director with “Hindustan Ki Kasam” also did not work.

Patriotism resurfaced one again post the Kargil operation. Producer-director J.P. Dutta, who has this bend towards war films (his brother was an Air Force pilot who died in action), directed “LOC: Kargil”, immediately after India regained the peak.

The film was screened for the leading financiers and diamond merchants of Mumbai along with other trade leaders a few days before its theatrical release. It was unanimously declared a boring dud. May be, their observations were on the merit of the film, but they failed to read the national mood. The film emerged as a hit.

As mentioned earlier, patriotism is a seasonal trend in India. Because, after its first run, when “LOC” was released in cinemas as a gap filler (when a cinema hall has no new film listed, an old hit is repeated as a gap filler), it could not even recover the theatre rental. Dutta followed up with some more patriotic films, but to no avail.

Over a period of time, a lot many patriotic films have been made like “Jeevan Sangram”, “Saat Hindustani”, “Shaheed”, “Vijeta”, “Border”, “LOC: Kargil”, “Swades”, and “Mangal Pandey”.

Bollywood patriotism
Mission Mangal is an event-based film that revolves around patriotism and nationalism. Wikimedia Commons

People were not quite aroused and remained indifferent to most of these films. The one hit was “Shaheed” after which the man behind this film, Manoj Kumar, established himself as the best filmmaker of patriotic films as he followed it up with movies like “Upkar”, “Purab Aur Paschim” and “Kranti”, after which his expertise stopped working.

Things have changed. Patriotism has now broadened its scope and is described as nationalism. And, this seems to be in tune with the people’s state of mind. We have had a line-up of films in recent years that promote nationalism and many of them met with a favourable response. There are films that are event based. These are: “A Wednesday!”, “Airlift”, “Uri: The Surgical Strike”, ” Mission Mangal”, “Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran”, “Raazi”, “Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi”, “The Ghazi Attack” and, this year’s biggest hit so far, “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior”.

In fact, one of last year’s biggest hits also happens to be one such film, “Uri: The Surgical Strike”. Another way to inspire nationalism is through films that make the nation proud. These are films like “Dangal”, “Gold”, “Dhoni: The Untold Story”, “D Day”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Padmaavat”, “Mary Kom”, “Kesari”, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, “Ek Tha Tiger”, “Super 30” with many more in the offing.

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As they say, reel life is a reflection of real life. Post-Independence, all kinds of films were made, and romance and family socials with music worked well till early 1960s. During the mid ’70s, the trend was of anti-establishment films. This was followed by a period of uncertainty when nobody knew what will work. Only making romantic musicals was considered safe.

But the decade that just got over has rekindled the spirit of nationalism. It is all about how the nation is made to feel. (IANS)