Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917) is today best known as an economic thinker and an early leader in the Indian nationalist movement. Between the 1860s and 1890s, however, he was also recognized as a scholar of Zoroastrianism, sharing his ideas on Parsi religious reform and ‘authentic’ Zoroastrian belief and practice. Aside from corresponding with some of the leading European Orientalists of his day, Naoroji authored papers on Parsi religious belief and religious reform that were widely distributed and cited in Europe and North America. Over time, he began to function as an interlocutor between European Orientalists and the Parsis in India, disseminating European scholarship amongst his co-religionists while also facilitating scholars’ patronage of the wealthy Parsi community. Naoroji’s correspondence with the Oxford philologist Lawrence H. Mills, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic at work. These activities point to the oftentimes complex and collaborative relationships that existed between non-Europeans and European Orientalists, illustrating the degree to which European scholars could be dependent on the intellectual, financial, and logistical assistance of their objects of study.
Dinyar Patel is a scholar of Modern Indian history and the Indian nationalist movement at the Department of History, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.
This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed.
Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest extant religions in the world, originating in Persia (present-day Iran) during the second millennium BCE. Historical records indicate that migrants from Persia brought Zoroastrianism to India, but there is debate over the timing of these migrations. Here we present novel genome-wide autosomal, Y-chromosome and mitochondrial data from Iranian and Indian Zoroastrians and neighbouring modern-day Indian and Iranian populations to conduct the first genome-wide genetic analysis in these groups. Using powerful haplotype-based techniques, we show that Zoroastrians in Iran and India show increased genetic homogeneity relative to other sampled groups in their respective countries, consistent with their current practices of endogamy. Despite this, we show that Indian Zoroastrians (Parsis) intermixed with local groups sometime after their arrival in India, dating this mixture to 690-1390 CE and providing strong evidence that the migrating group was largely comprised of Zoroastrian males. By exploiting the rich information in DNA from ancient human remains, we also highlight admixture in the ancestors of Iranian Zoroastrians dated to 570 BCE-746 CE, older than admixture seen in any other sampled Iranian group, consistent with a long-standing isolation of Zoroastrians from outside groups. Finally, we report genomic regions showing signatures of positive selection in present-day Zoroastrians that might correlate to the prevalence of particular diseases amongst these communities.
Kanga, Suna & Subina Aurora Khaneja. 2017. The Parsis of Singapore: History, culture, cuisine. Epigram Books.
When Suna first moved to Singapore, there were barely forty Parsis; today there are well-over 350 Parsis in the country. During her four decade-long stay in Singapore, she was often asked, “Who are the Parsis?” This sparked the idea for a book to highlight the distinctive culture and cuisine of a notable but diminishing Indian community that settled in Singapore in the 1800s. The Parsis of Singapore: Heritage, Culture, Cuisine documents the history and heritage of this unique community.
Threads of Continuity Focuses on the philosophy and cultur of the ancient Zoroastrian faith from its origins i Central Asia, tracing a geographical and chronological continum till the present. This philosophy became a part of the lived heritage of the Zoroastrian community — both in India and Iran.
Of dpecial interest are the cross-cultural influences of the comunity in India. To highlight these, Gujarat and the Deccan will be examined in detail for the first time.
A part of this compendium also studies the contribution of the community to the making of modern India. The programme envisaged, attempts to explain the Zoroastrian philodophy of a sacred thread linking all creation.
This volume, presented to John R. Hinnells on his 75th Birthday, focuses on the interface between material and spiritual wealth, a theme that runs across many religions and cultures and that incorporates a major strand of John R. Hinnells’s particular fascination with the Zoroastrians of ancient and modern times, and his more general interest in the positive and life-affirming aspects of religious traditions across many domains. The volume includes seventeen studies by leading scholars exploring ideas of and attitudes to material wealth and its use for promoting spiritual benefits in Zoroastrian, Mithraic, Christian, Buddhist and Islamic traditions.
Mehrotra, Sri Ram & Dinyar Patel (eds.). 2016. Dadabhai Naoroji. Oxford University Press.
Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), popularly known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India, was a Parsi intellectual, educator, and early Indian political thinker. The first Indian to publicly demand ‘Swaraj’ for India from the Congress platform in 1906, he was thrice president of the Indian National Congress and the first Indian to be elected to the British House of Commons. This volume brings together for the first time a substantial collection of private papers, including handwritten notes and personal letters, of Dadabhai Naoroji from the National Archives of India. Divided into twenty-two sections, the volume chronicles Naoroji’s interactions with political leaders, scholars, friends, and acquaintances from A.O. Hume, one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, to the well-known historian R.C. Dutt to Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the famous Indian political leader whom Naoroji mentored. The volume includes a detailed Introduction which sets the context for Dadabhai Naoroji’s life and work.
Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest living religions, which can be traced back at least to the sixth century BC. In its thousand-year history, Zoroastrianism has experienced profound and sometimes radical changes, however its ethical characteristic nature has less changed. The contribution of Zoroastrianism to the religious history of humanity is fundamental: from the ethical dualism to the conception of the history of salvation, and the eschatology, the resurrection of the body and the individual judgment etc. Based on a deep understanding of the sources of today’s scholarship on Zoroastrainism, of which the author is one of the most important and well-known characters, the book traces the history of Zoroastrisnism from the begining up to modern time. Furthermore the book presents a comprehensive account of Zoroastrian thought and rituals as well an uptodate discussion on the condition of contemporary Zoroastrianism, in particular among the Pārsis.
Pious Citizens trace ideas of “true” and “rational” religion in Western India and Iran between the years 1830 and 1940. Her story begins in the city of Bombay, where in the early 19th century traditional networks of Parsi authority were disrupted by the rise of merchant capital in the metropole and emigration away from older centers of communal hierarchy. This forms the backdrop for the beginning of the Zoroastrian reform movement, in which religious and social reform were linked.
From early history, textiles have woven together the tapestry of humanity. The Parsi Zoroastrians, now a tiny minority of under 65,000 individuals in India, have saved, in their cupboards and trunks, this proof of our world’s multicutural history. Cpmplex roots and routes lie behind what we call “Parsi Embroidery” today. The tradition grew from Achaemenian Iran, travelled through the Silk Route into China and then came back with Indian and European influences, to its originators, the Parsi Zoroastrians of India.
Shernaz Cama is asociate professor at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, India.
This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma. Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India’s independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intra-group litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law. Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.
This book is based upon previously unexamined primary sources from archives rediscovered over the past decade: the Bombay High Court (Mumbai) and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (London) as well as takes case law seriously, while most work on South Asian legal history focuses on legislatio. It presents one of the first studies in South Asian legal history by a scholar trained both in law and in history.