Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Parsi in Navsari

History of Parsi

Parsi sometimes spelled Parsee, is a member of the close-knit Zoroastrian community based primarily in India. Most Parsis outside of India identify India as their home country. Parsis are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to the Indian subcontinent over 1,000 years ago.

Although the Parsis of India originally emigrated from Persia, they no longer have social or familial ties to Persians, and do not share language or recent history with them. Over the centuries since the first Zoroastrians arrived in India, the Parsis have integrated themselves into Indian society while simultaneously maintaining their own distinct customs and traditions (and thus ethnic identity). This in turn has given the Parsi community a rather peculiar standing - they are Indians in terms of national affiliation, language and history, but not typically Indian (constituting only 0.006% of the total population) in terms of consanguinity or cultural, behavioural and religious practices.

Genealogical DNA tests to determine purity of lineage have brought mixed results. One study supports the Parsi contention (Nanavutty, 1970:13) that they have maintained their Persian roots by avoiding intermarriage with local populations. In that 2002 study of the Y-chromosome (patrilineal) DNA of the Parsis of Pakistan, it was determined that Parsis are genetically closer to Iranians than to their neighbours (Qamar et al., 2002:1119). However, a 2004 study in which Parsi mitochondrial DNA (matrilineal) was compared with that of the Iranians and Gujaratis determined that Parsis are genetically closer to Gujaratis than to Iranians. Taking the 2002 study into account, the authors of the 2004 study suggested "a male-mediated migration of the ancestors of the present-day Parsi population, where they admixed with local females leading ultimately to the loss of mtDNA of Iranian origin" (Quintana-Murci et al., 2004:840).

The Rivayat epistles suggest that at some point between the 15th and 17th centuries non-Zoroastrians were accepted into the fold. (See also History of the Parsis)


Parsi Navjote ceremony (rites of admission into the Zoroastrian faith)

The definition of who is (and who is not) a Parsi is a matter of great contention within the Zoroastrian community in India. Generally accepted to be a Parsi is a person who is a) directly descended from the original Persian refugees; and b) has been formally admitted into the Zoroastrian religion. In this sense, Parsi is an ethno-religious designator.

Some members of the community additionally contend that a child must have a Parsi father to be eligible for introduction into the faith, but this assertion is considered by most to be a violation of the Zoroastrian tenets of gender equality, and may be a remnant of an old legal (see below) definition of Parsi. Nonetheless, many Parsi Zoroastrian priests will not perform the Navjote ceremony - i.e. the rites of admission into the religion - for children from mixed marriages.

The Qissa has little to say about the events that followed the establishment of Sanjan, and restricts itself to a brief note on the establishment of the "Fire of Victory" (Middle Persian: Atash Bahram) at Sanjan and its subsequent move to Navsari. According to Dhalla, the next several centuries were "full of hardships" (sic) before Zoroastrianism "gained a real foothold in India and secured for its adherents some means of livelihood in this new country of their adoption"

Credits: wikipedia.org

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