A Parsi (meaning Persian) is a member of the close-knit Zoroastrian community in or from the Indian subcontinent, and is a descendant of people who, in the 8th century, emigrated to the west - coast of India from Persia to escape religious persecution after the Islamic conquest. It may be noted that followers of the Zoroastrian faith - irrespective of whether they are from India or elsewhere - are not necessarily Parsis. The modern legal definition of "Parsi" explicitly includes only persons who are descended from the original Persian immigrants. Although such a definition may initially appear elitist, it has legal and traditional reasons and ramifications.
Though Parsis account for less than 1 per cent of India, they are a highly educated community and control more than 15 per cent of the market value on the main stock exchange. A cause of worry is that population of Parsis in India is on a decline. Reasons attributed to this decline are a low birth rate and strict rules about admitting people to the fold.
Beliefs : Zoroastrian religion believes in the eternal fight between good and evil. It says when you do well, you help the forces of good in their fight, and vice versa. Parsees worship fire as a symbol of god. Non believers are never allowed into their temples. A Parsee who marries outside the faith is no longer a Parsee. They believe in the purity of the elements; they will nor bury or cremate their dead (because it pollutes the earth and air respectively). Instead they leave the bodies on towers of silence where they are picked clean by vultures.
Founder : Zarathushtra, or Zoroaster (around 1500 BCE)
Time of Origin (in India) : Around the 8th century AD
Place of Origin : (in India)
Population : The number of Parsis worldwide is estimated to be less than 100,000. In India population of Parsis is estimated to be about 75,000. There are said to be approximately 5,000 Parsis elsewhere on the subcontinent.
Regional Spread : The number of Parsis worldwide is estimated to be less than 100,000. In India population of Parsis is estimated to be about 75,000. There are said to be approximately 5,000 Parsis elsewhere on the subcontinent.
Worship Rituals : Zoroastrianism does not believe in idol-worship. Parsis worship Ahura Mazda and his Holy Forces, the Ameshaspands and Yazatas, and these include the elements created by God such as the Holy Fire, Wind, Water, Earth, etc. Parsis also worship the Holy Fravashi of Zarathushtra and all the forefathers of the Aryan faith, starting with Gayomard. But they do not use form for worshipping the Fravashis. Pictures of Prophets are tolerated now by most Zarathustris, and these can be seen in most Agiaris. But idols are not tolerated as they are considered to be wrong representation of the Fravashi, which is formless.
Religious Texts : Avesta is the sacred text of Zoroastrianism, written in a language known as Avestan. The classic formulations of Zoroastrian teachings are contained in the Pahlavi literature, written between the 4th and 10th centuries CE.
Language : English, Gujarati
Sacred Symbols : There are three major symbols in the Zoroastrian tradition. Fire is sacred in Zoroastrian belief and is present in all ritual and is perpetually burning in the temple as a symbolic representation of God. Zoroastrians wear two symbolic garments -
Food Habits : Parsi food is a blend of Gujarati and Persian cuisine. Some famous Parsi dishes are Patro ni Machhi (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf), Chicken Dhansak (chicken in lentil gravy), Sali Murghi (spicy chicken) and the Beda (egg) dishes. Other popular dishes include Dhansak (spicy lentil gravy), Vasanu (sweet dish) and Jinga nu Pathio (shrimp in spicy curry).
Marriage Preference : Parsis marry within their community as Zoroastrians actively discourage inter-faith marriage. One study supports the Parsi contention that they have maintained their Persian roots by avoiding intermarriage with local populations. Parsi tradition also sanctions marriage between first cousins.