Monday, 7 January 2019

Samarth Bharat Parva - 10

Great Civilization - Inclusive in Nature

In our long history we allow so many communities for settle down in Bharat. We also supported to grow them. One of them is parsi community.

According to Story of Sanjan, a 16th century lore on the life of the early Zoroastrian settlers in India, when the refugees first arrived on the shores of Sanjan, they were presented with a full glass of milk by the local ruler Jadi Rana. It was a metaphor conveying the message that there was no space for the newcomers. It was then that the Zoroastrians responded by adding a spoonful of sugar to the milk, demonstrating that they would be 'like sugar in a full cup of milk, adding sweetness but not causing it to overflow'.

They were allowed to live and follow their religion after agreeing to a few of Jadi Rana's conditions: they would explain their religion to him, they would learn the local language, the women would wear sarees and they would conduct weddings after sunset. This "selective assimilation", as termed by Harvard Pluralism Project, is what led to the distinctiveness of Parsis from their Zoroastrian counterparts who stayed back in Iran.

These remaining Zoroastrians started arriving on the familiar shores of Western India during the 19th century, and are today known as Iranis. To reiterate, they too are Zoroastrians like the Parsis, but are culturally, socially and linguistically distinctive from them.

The qissa of Zoroastrians demonstrate mainly two things: The Indian subcontinent always opened its doors to people from the world and religions survive only when they adapt to the demands of the epoch. Religion, much like any cultural practice, must always be open to change, if it has to survive. However, that does not mean you have to give up your own culture and identity. The 'selective assimilation' of the Parsis exhibited integration into a host country while holding on to the distinctiveness.

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that both distinct groups of Zoroastrians who arrived at two different moments in history of India were never turned back. Today, the community, though very small and living amid the fear of dwindling numbers, has a special place. This is the community that gave us freedom fighters like Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaiji Cama, a visionary like Jamsetji Tata, nuclear physicist like Homi J Bhabha, and advocates like Fali Nariman. In fact, despite representing less than 0.6% of the Indian population, Parsis have helmed all three defence wings of the Indian Armed Forces. Let alone India's first cotton mill, first steel plant and first institute for fundamental research in science, we even have Parsi Theatre to thank for the musical routines of Bollywood!


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