Tag Archives: Parsis

Reverence for Water Among the Zoroastrians

The Yasna ceremony of consecration. Parzor Archives

Cama, Shernaz. 2019. Ava: A living tradition of reverence for water among the Zoroastrians. In Sara Keller (ed.), Knowledge and the Indian Ocean. Intangible networks of Western India and beyond, 65–85. Cham: Springer Verlag.

Asia, particularly India, needs water conservation today in every form, to support an ever-growing population and its thirst for water, may it be for drinking, for agricultural purpose or other types of development and improvement in standards of living. The area surrounding Gujarat has always supported valuable contributions, across land and ocean in varied fields. It has also supported across history, positive migrations both for trade and for shelter. The Zoroastrian refugees brought their cultural and religious concern for water to the western coast of India, contributing to a multicultural ethos, which took the best from every part and absorbed it into a new living culture. The tanka system, an offshoot of the Iranian karez contributed in the past, and continues to contribute today. Such multicultural sharing of oral traditions of an ancient society can therefore bring new perspectives and hopefully participate to the ecological understanding and the careful use of water resources in the future, not only in Gujarat but across India.

Beyond Hindu–Muslim unity

Patel, Dinyar. 2018. Beyond Hindu–Muslim unity: Gandhi, the Parsis and the Prince of Wales Riots of 1921. The Indian Economic and Social History Review 55(2). 221–247.

Between 17 and 20 November 1921, Bombay was convulsed by the Prince of Wales Riots, which coincided with the arrival of the future King Edward VIII in the city. The riots constituted an extremely important moment in the Non-Cooperation Movement, the political transformation of  Bombay and the development of M.K. Gandhi’s political thought. Additionally, the riots upturned  familiar notions of communalism: angry at repeated violations of a hartal Gandhi declared  for the day of the Prince’s arrival, Muslim and Hindu supporters of the Non-Cooperation and  Khilafat movements joined together to attack supposedly loyalist minorities, especially Parsis. Herein lay the riots’ broader significance. During the Non-Cooperation Movement, Gandhi had been keen to recruit the active support of the Parsi community. He was well aware of their financial and political clout and their leadership roles in liberal nationalist circles. Most Parsis, however, expressed strong reservations about Gandhi’s tactics, believing that a mass political movement under the banner of ‘Hindu–Muslim unity’ would be injurious to smaller minority communities. The riots, therefore, confirmed Parsis’ worst fears about Gandhi’s politics and their majoritarian implications. Gandhi, for his part, worked tirelessly to repair his relation- ships with the Parsis and reassure them of the Congress’ commitments towards minority rights. He reconsidered how smaller communities fit into India’s communal dynamics. By December 1921, Gandhi even unfurled a new slogan that was used towards the end of the Non-Cooperation  Movement: ‘Hindu–Muslim–Sikh–Parsi–Christian–Jew unity’.

Dadabhai Naoroji and Orientalist scholarship on Zoroastrianism

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)
NPG x128698, Dadabhai Naoroji

Patel, Dinyar. 2017. Our own religion in ancient Persia: Dadabhai Naoroji and Orientalist scholarship on Zoroastrianism. Global Intellectual History. 1–18.

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.

The genetic legacy of Zoroastrianism in Iran and India

Lopez, Saioa, Mark G Thomas, Lucy van Dorp, Naser Ansari-Pour, Sarah Stewart, Abigail L Jones, Erik Jelinek, Lounes Chikhi, Tudor Parfitt, Neil Bradman, Michael E Weale & Garrett Hellenthal. 2017. The genetic legacy of Zoroastrianism in Iran and India: Insights into population structure, gene flow and selection. bioRXiv.

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.

Source: The genetic legacy of Zoroastrianism in Iran and India: Insights into population structure, gene flow and selection. | bioRxiv

The Parsis of Singapore

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.

Source: The Parsis of Singapore – Epigram Books

A Compendium of Zoroastrian Life & Culture

Cama, Shernaz (ed.). 2016. Threads of continuity: Zoroastrian life & culture. New Delhi: Parzor Foundation.
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.
 Table of Contents:

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This World and the Next in Religious Belief and Practice

Hintze, Almut & Alan Williams (eds.). 2017. Holy wealth: Accounting for this world and the next in religious belief and oractice. Festschrift for John R. Hinnells (Iranica 24). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
 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.
Table of Contents (PDF):

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The Hidden Face of Surat

the-hidden-suratThe Hidden Face of Surat: Exploring the History of a Cosmopolitan Centre, 1540-1750

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Distinguished Professor and Irving & Jean Stone Chair in Social Sciences, UCLA

The Second JESHO Lecture on Asian History, organised by Brill Academic Publishers and Institute of Iranian Studies (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

03.11.2016, 18:00
Aula at the Campus (court 1.11), University of Vienna
Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Wien

The great port of Surat in western India dominated accounts of Indian Ocean trade between the late sixteenth and mid eighteenth century. Consolidated first by an Ottoman notable, it became the Mughal Empire’s western window into the worlds of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. In this lecture, I explore Surat’s other, less visible, aspect: namely as an intellectual centre, that brought together diverse and sometimes competing traditions. In turn, we shall see how this vibrant intellectual life was tied up both to certain structures of politics, and to commercial exchange at various scales.

Programm (PDF)

Sanjay Subrahmanyam is Professor and Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences at UCLA. He taught at Paris from 1995 to 2002 as Directeur d’études in the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, holding a position on the economic and social history of early modern India and the Indian Ocean world. In 2002, Subrahmanyam was appointed as the first holder of the newly created Chair in Indian History and Culture at the University of Oxford, a position he held for two years before moving to a chair in UCLA. From July 2005 to June 2011, he served as founding Director of UCLA’s Center for India and South Asia. In 2013, Sanjay Subrahmanyam was elected to a Chair in Early Modern Global History at the Collège de France in Paris. He is the author of The Career and Legend of Vasco de Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Three Ways to be Alien: Travails and Encounters in Modern Eurasia (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2011; Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012).

Convenor
Paolo Sartori, Institute of Iranian Studies, Editor–in-Chief of JESHO
Hollandstrasse 11−13, 1020 Vienna
T: +43 1 51581-6516
paolo.sartori@oeaw.ac.at

Dadabhai Naoroji’s correspondence

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.

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Zoroastrianism: History, Themes and Current Trends

Panaino 2016Panaino, Antonio. 2016. Zoroastrismo: storia, temi, attualità. Brescia: Morcelliana.
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.
Table of Contents (see the ToC here as PDF):
  • Lo Zoroastrismo nel suo sviluppo storico
  • Il pensiero zoroastriano e Ia sua espressione rituale
  • Lo Zoroastrismo dalIa caduta dell’Impero Sasanide alla sua condizione contemporanea
  • Bibliografia critica e Sitografia
  • Apparato iconogrfico
  • Luoghi da visitare
  • Breve raccolta antologica di fonti
Antonio Panaino is professor of ancient Iranian philology and hitory of religion at the University of Bologna.