Kiss seals a union in an ancient faith

By Linda Morris

November 29, 2005

THE bride wore a delicate sari made of white Indian silk, the groom the ceremonial dress of the dagli or overcoat, also in white.

As per the rites of their ancient religion, one of Australia’s smallest, a white sheet, a curtain of separation, hung between them as they sat while two priests passed twine around them seven times in a gesture that indicated unbroken unity.

When the curtain fell, however, the couple dispensed with tradition, sealing their marriage with a kiss before showering each other with rice, the symbol of plenty and prosperity.

The newly married couple, Zubin Appoo and Rakhshandeh Hira, are Parsis, the ethnic group that practises Zoroastrianism, the pre-Christian faith founded in what is now Iran by the Bronze Age prophet Zarathustra.

Zoroastrianism spread to India when followers fled Arab invaders in the seventh century and is one of the oldest monotheistic religions.

These days it is in numerical decline, not least because some followers are finding love outside the faith. Traditional Zoroastrians believe that religion and ethnicity are inseparable and that one must be born and married in the faith.

There are fewer than 1800 adherents in Australia, so the marriage of Zubin and Rakhshandeh in the Annangrove prayer hall at the weekend was a much celebrated event.

The mother of the bride, Hutokshi Hira, said she had been weepy at least three times in the lead-up to her only daughter’s marriage and although broad-minded was ultimately happy she had found a partner with the same faith.

Zubin’s father, Pervez Appoo, said: “We are Australian and we thought if [the match] happened, good, if it didn’t, c’est la vie, but it’s better this way because it makes life easier, then cultural differences are minimised. In our culture marriages are partnerships of families.”

Sydney’s Zoroastrian community consists of about 350 families that frequently organise trips to Melbourne and other capital cities for their young people so they can mix together.

Zubin and Rakhshandeh were thrown together when the groom’s parents gave a birthday party for a cousin who came to Australia to complete post-graduate study.

British-born Zubin did not have many Zoroastrian friends, and most at the party were strangers to him, including Rakhshandeh.

“What stood out was how friendly she was, how pretty she was – and, most importantly, she brought me chocolates,” he said. “No one else brought me anything.”

They were friends before they started dating three years ago.

The religion, which is credited with having fundamentally influenced Western religious belief, holds to a tangible, active force for evil, a judgement of souls after death and afterlives.

Rakhshandeh said: “The religion is based on a very simple tenet: good thoughts, good words, good deeds.

“Its simplicity is what makes it beautiful. It is not overly restrictive or domineering. It is a culture, not just a religion.”

Sydney Morning Herald Sydney,New South Wales,Australia