A Befitting Ode
Parvez Damania and Ratan Luth bring to you, at Tao Art Gallery, veteran photographer Shantanu Das, as he captures timeless moments of the Parsi community across time in his frozen frames…
The former is an avid art collector, curator and an entrepreneur Parvez Damania along with Ratan Luth of Fravashi Schools, an educationist, social activist and a fervent parsi food lover, present Parsis – A Timeless Legacy, a photography exhibition by an award-winning photographer Shantanu Das, to be hosted by the prestigious Tao Art Gallery from November 29 to December 4, 2019.
To be a ‘Parsi’ is to be a descendant of the first migration of Zoroastrians from Persia (Iran), who were granted residence, protection, and safe refuge in India over a millennium ago. To be a Parsi is also to belong to one of India’s most rapidly diminishing ethnic communities. And to be a Parsi is to hold the very precious responsibility of perpetuating the flame of arguably the world’s oldest monotheistic religion.
On the Wane:
With the appeal of migration, the impacts of inter-marriage, and the lure of Western ways, there are now few Parsis left in India. A 2016 statistics showed that their numbers are down to a critical 61,000, and diminishing by the day; another 40,000 are scattered across the world with an even greater struggle to hang on to their distinctive identity. “I have always been fascinated by the Parsi community and I am proud I belong to the same. We thought of this exhibition to enlighten people about the life and presence of the Parsi community, who may be small in number, but have made a tremendous contribution to India. Few artists have dedicated time to documenting Parsi people, and fewer have had the permission to document what are often very private and personal traditions. We wanted to take this opportunity to share the unique Parsi culture, rituals and traditions with a wider population,” expressed Parvez Damania. Added Ratan Luth, “This exhibition is an effort to document and preserve the culture, rituals and traditions of an ethnic community that is rapidly diminishing in number. It is important that the Parsi legacy is remembered and maintained for the current generation and generations to come, to ensure it is not lost forever with the passing of time.”
This distinctive exhibition will showcase approximately fifty works by Shantanu Das, an exceptional photojournalist who has won numerous national and international awards, including the Nat Geo Travel Award. Shantanu Das, who was allowed to cross sacrosanct boundaries, has captivatingly showcased the private and personal traditions of the Parsis, bringing out their culture, rituals, and ceremonies in vivid images of a vibrantly alive people at work, in prayer and over celebration.
Shantanu has documented the current exhibits over a period of five to six years and has shot not only in Mumbai but also in Surat, Udvada, and Kolkata among other cities. He says, “The Parsis are delightful people. This is my second exhibition dedicated to them. Over the years I have shot and interacted with them, I’ve come to realize that they are a very kind and helpful lot, devoid of any sort of ill feelings for anyone.”
Celebrities and dignitaries from different walks of life are said to attend the opening ceremony of ‘Parsis – A Timeless Legacy’ to express their solidarity and love for the quaint community and its exuberant people. An interesting facet of the exhibition is that the opening ceremony will have all the Parsi men and women, including many of the celebrity guests, will proudly walk-in, in their traditional attire, the men in duglis and phetas, the women wearing heirloom-like embroidered garas. A classic Kodak Moment!
Each frame brings fond memories to Damania and Luth, but the one that has inspired them the most has been that of two Parsi priests and a Parsi boy on a Jawa motorcycle with a side car. They find it particularly fascinating as the Jawa motorcycle is a rarity, and even more with a side car, thus defining the eternal love of Parsis towards vehicles.
While some things change, others stay the same. Despite the passage of time, Parsis have maintained their own unique cultural identity. Yours is to come and experience this special, intimate insight into India’s distinctive and distinguished Parsi community… with their strong noses and idiosyncratic ways and penchant for dhanshak, patranimachhi and akuri among other things… a vibrant community that is both progressive and also deeply traditional, with a social exuberance matched only by their piousness; pursuing their religion’s three central tenets – Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.
‘Parsis – A Timeless Legacy’ Opening and preview on November 29th 2019, 5.30 to 8.30 pm, Tao Art Gallery, The View, 165 Dr.Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai – 400018
On view until December 4th 2019, 11am to 7pm. Open all day.