One of the biggest worries of the Parsi community has now been spelt out in numbers. In 2010, 38% of Parsi marriages registered in the city were interfaith marriages, a figure that has shot up by seven percentage points in just one year.
According to a report by community magazine Parsiana, this is the second highest number of interfaith marriages recorded in Mumbai in the past 21 years. In 2008, which was a leap year, 44% Parsi marriages were with spouses outside the community.
Parsiana has been publishing records of Parsi marriages obtained from the Bombay high court and the Registrar of Marriages at Bandra and Fort since 1989. In 2010, 81 out of 213 marriages were interfaith.
“Despite efforts made through matrimonial websites, speed dating, youth picnics and get-togethers, the trend of interfaith marriages in getting stronger, as Parsis have limited options within a diminishing community,” said Jehangir Patel, editor of Parsiana.
Patel explained that 2008 saw a fall in Parsis marrying within the community because several Parsis consider it inauspicious to wed in a leap year.
The 2001 census counted 69,600 Parsis in India, of which Mumbai had around 40,000. "Today the youth is surrounded by non-Parsis, so they are likely to choose partners from outside," said Mehli Colah, chief executive officer, Bombay Parsi Punchayet, the community’s apex body. "We have to impress upon young children the importance of marrying within the community."
Arnawaz Sanjana, 27, who married a Parsi two weeks ago, agrees. "I was imbibed with religious values from the beginning and never wanted to marry outside the community."
While most Parsis are concerned about the dilution of racial purity caused by interfaith marriages, Patel believes it is time for the community to grow more accepting towards non-Parsi spouses. “We should look beyond race and accept new members socially, in our fire temples and funeral services.”