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The Parsi Community of India

Updated on February 1, 2014

Parsi Family

A traditional Parsi Family of India
A traditional Parsi Family of India | Source

Parsi Community and Some Famous Parsis of India

The Parsi Community of India is a micro-minority community of India. According to 2001 Census of India report, the population of Parsis in India was just 69600. It was about 112000 in 1951, the first Census after independence of India. Although the community always remained a micro minority, the Parsis have done a great job in building modern India.

Parsis have a great history, and they are followers of a great and ancient religion. They are very peaceful people. Here is an introduction to the community and some of the great Parsis, who contributed a lot in nation building.

Origin of Parsis

The meaning of the word Parsi, also spelled as Parsee is Persian. Parsis in India are descendents of the Iranian Zoroastrian community which migrated to India between 8th and 10th Century. At that time Iran was invaded by Arab Muslims. Iranians, who mostly were followers of Zoroastrianism, attempted to free Iran from Arab Invaders, but were not able to do so. Arab forced Iranians to convert to Islam or pay higher taxes known as Jijhya. Many Zoroastrians rejected both the options and migrated to India by land and sea routes. They settled in Gujarat, a west coast state of India, and made it their homeland for many centuries.

In recent few centuries, another group of Zoroastrians migrated to India, but this group is known as Irani. Although the meaning of Parasi and Irani is almost same and both the groups are followers of Zoroastrianism, Iranis are not known as Parsis and Parsis are not known as Iranis.

Parsis have a legal status of a Minority community according to the constitution of India.

The Culture and Religion of Parsis in India

Parsis have a distinct culture from that of other Indians. But as the Parsis migrated to India from Iran before 1000 years, their culture is very distinct from other Iranians. As Parsees settled in Gujarat, a western state of India, they speak Gujarati language at their homes. As they migrated to Mumbai and settled their for last few centuries, they speak many other languages in public, like Hindi, Marathi etc. and occasionally English in business field.

They mostly marry within their own community, like other Indian communities do. The traditional marriages are marriages arranged by parents, but in this modern era, many young Parsis are preferring choose their life partners on their own and later consulting with their parents.

Parsis are followers of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion of Iran. They worship fire in their temple, which is known as Fire Temple or Agyari.Their sacred text is Avesta, which is a collection of primary texts of their religion. The language of Avesta is known as Avestan.

According to their religious rules, Parsis do not smoke, and do not keep their heads uncovered. There are specific food restrictions and rules. They do not bury or cremate the dead one. The dead body is left in Tower of Silence where it is eaten by vultures.

Some Surnames of Parsis

According to a survey, there are about 2500 surnames in Parsi community of India. Most of the surname the Parsis got after settling in India, so the surnames are of Indian origin, or more specifically, Gujarati origin. The surnames were adopted from Trade & Professions, Places, Positions & Titles, Father or Grand Father's name etc. Some surnames in Parsi community are of European or Irani origin.

Some of the most famous surnames in Parsi community are: Tata, Wadia, Khambata, Gandhi, Kapdia, Balsara, Godrej, Bhabha, Vakil, Doctor, Daruwala, Mehta, Mistry, Aga, Dinshaw, Sethna, Shoaff, Bharucha etc.

Parsi Contribution in Nation Building & Some Famous Parsis

Although Parsis always remained a micro minority community in India, it has contributed a lot in building modern India. Their contribution is in various fields, including Freedom Movement of India, Industrialization of India, Science, Defense, Education, Charity, Movies, politics etc.

Some of the famous Parsis of India include Dadabhai Naoroji, who was the pioneer of Freedom of India movement and one of the founders of Indian national Congress; Bhikaji Cama, firebrand propagandist of Indian freedom movement, who successful brought the issue on international scene; Pherozeshah Mehta, another pioneer of freedom movement and early president of Indian National Congress, Jamsetji Tata, the pioneer of industrialization of India; J.R.D. Tata, an Industrialist and the first aviator of India; Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Nuclear Scientist of India, Homi Sethna, Chemical Engineer, who developed India's first nuclear device; Sam Manekshaw, One of the two Field Marshals of Indian Army and the architect of India's great victory over Pakistan in Indo-Pak war of 1971, Ardeshir Tarapore, Recipient of Param Vir Chakra, India's highest gallantry award...... and many more.

Future of Parsis

As the number of Parsis is continuously declining, and as they do not allow conversions to their religion, the future of this community is in danger. To save themselves from extinction, Parsis must take some steps.

Comments on The Parsi Community of India

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  • Guckenberger profile image

    Alexander James Guckenberger 2 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

    The community is smaller than I thought! :o

  • Asp52 profile image

    Andrew Stewart 5 years ago from England

    Thank you for another insightful and enjoyable hub.

  • midget38 profile image

    Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

    Fascinating and informative! I wonder about the difference between the ancient and modern Parsi...have some of the customs changed? I am sure they would have and these would certainly be interesting to know. Thanks for sharing!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

    Always enjoy reading your posts on the history and background of your country. Very interesting.

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

    Thank you drbj for your comment. The population of Parsis is decreasing because of low birth rate and the closed doors for conversions of others to their religion. This matters when a community is already a micro-minority community.

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

    Thanks Eric for the comment.......

  • ChristyWrites profile image

    Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Great to learn more about your community here. I have a friend who uses the nickname Parsi and now I understand he is referring to his background. Aha! I vote up and am sharing as well.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Very interesting information on a community that has been at the forefront in big businesses in India. It is sad their numbers are decreasing due to a higher death rate than birth rate and a declining fertility rate. It would be a pity if they become extinct in the future.

    Voted up and interesting.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

    Thank you, Jainismus, for this excellent, detailed explanation of the Parsis, their origin and their culture. Why is their population declining?

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

    Thank you Bill for reading and appreciating this Hub.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Most excellent writing and very informative, thank you.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Excellent information my friend. I greatly enjoyed learning about this community.