Ahmedabad Parsis Bring in New Year


August 20, 2011

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The Parsi community in the city is gearing up to celebrate their New Year- Navroze on Friday. The 1800 plus Parsis population living in the city plans to celebrate the day with great vigour and enthusiasm. Navroze, derived from Nava Varash, falls on Hormuzd (first day) of Fravardin month (first month) of Parsi calendar.

By  DNA & Devika Chaturvedi

Before Navroze, Parsis hold 10 days of prayers where they worship Prophet Zarathusthra and remember their near and dear ones who are no more.

Prophet Zarathusthra spread the Zoroastrian religion.

The 10th day of the prayer is called Pateti, which was celebrated on Thursday, after which the new calendar begins and Navroze is celebrated.

Parsis prepare for this day by cleaning and decorating their homes with floral torans and rangolis.

Trustee of Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat, Navroz Kanga said, “Navroze provides an opportunity for Parsis to get together with family and friends. On this day, we pray and arrange a get-together with a variety of delicacies.”

He further said that biryani, chicken dishes, sevaiya (sweet vermicelli) are also made.

Another interesting ritual observed by Parsis include decorating a small thali (plate), which is called sesa in Parsi.

The thali is decorated with all auspicious items like paro (small pyramid), a gulab dani (a long neck container with rose water), a kumkum dani (small container with kumkum), few grains of rice, a betel nut leaf, dry dates and shelled almonds.

This thali is then placed in front of the prayer room in the house.
On this day, Parsis visit Agiyari and offer sandalwood to the deity.
Parsis believe that burning sandalwood on this day helps develop positive thinking and good thoughts.

Looking at Parsis, through a lens
Today is the Parsi New Year which will be celebrated by Parsis across the world. Today, is also the World Photography Day, a day for all photography enthusiasts. Interestingly, Shrikant Rakhe, an ardent photographer from the city has used this occasion to present a book of photographs on Parsis, one of the smallest yet thriving communities of the world.

They say photography is the art of documenting living history and Rakhe through his book of photographs wants to bring to light the life and times of Parsis.

His penchant for the community started last year when he had enough time to read about them and understand them closely. Rakhe says, “The work on this project started some two years ago but I always wanted to document their way of living. They say that it’s a dying community but I believe no community can ever die.”

According to historical figures available, only four Parsi families inhabited Ahmedabad in 1824 which increased to 42 by 1848. The number stood at 446 by 1872. The first board of Parsi Panchayat in Ahmedabad was held in 1863. About 1,400 Parsis live in the city today.

He has documented almost 20 Parsi families in Ahmedabad till now. “The community is mostly concentrated in Gujarat followed by Mumbai and then a much scattered existence over the rest of the country.”When you talk to him, he meticulously points out peculiar traits of the community. “Both Hindus and Parsis worship fire. The community also has the ability to laugh at themselves. I dare not watch Cyrus Broacha’s ‘The Week That Wasn’t’ in the morning,” he says, laughing.

Rakhe was searching for a start to his book and that’s when he went to Vadodara to meet Homai Vyarawala, the famous photo-journalist. He clicked her when she was just talking, quite oblivious of the camera.

“This is the first photograph in my book. Quite incidentally, she won the Padma Vibhushan the next day,” he said. Rakhe plans to put the youngest Parsi at the end of his book as a metaphor for their existence.