The Parsi community is one of the most peace loving and god fearing communities. Pateti which falls on today is the first day of the first month of the Zoroastrian year. And it is a time for celebration with close friends and family for Parsis.
Though small numbers camouflage their presence, the Parsi community in Bangalore continues to play a vital role in the field of education, business and sports. The Parsis have gracefully absorbed traditions from Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and continue to contribute to the growth and development of society.
Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Spitama Zarathustra. The religion asserts that there is one god, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), other gods being manifestations of his qualities. It is estimated that there are 1, 30,000 Zoroastrians in the world; majority of them, about 1, 00,000 live in India. They have retained their distinct identity and have contributed richly to India’s progress in all sectors of development.
In the early 20th century retired bankers, accountants and businessmen moved from west coast and established them selves in Bangalore, as in those days, Bangalore was considered a retirement paradise. The early settlers to Bangalore built the fire temple on Queen’s Road in 1926 with the help of Dinshaw Cawasji, a contractor from Mumbai and called it the ‘Baidhanmai and Cawasji Dadabhai Dar-E-Meher’, which caters to the small group of Parsis, about 700 -800 of them residing in the city.
An eternal fire burns in the inner sanctum fed by sandal wood, as the symbol of the life cycle and eternal recurrence. The temple has carvings of bulls on its many pillars. Only the priests are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum where the eternal fire burns. “We are fire worshippers, as we believe it is a source of energy, and life. Our Fire temples or Agiarys has the holy fire burning all the time. Only sandal wood is added to it and we worship all elements of nature,” Says Jeroo, who believes that Parsis are a god-fearing lot.
She further adds,” Our Holy Book is known as the Kordeh Avesta along with the Vendidad; it lists prayers and prescribes tenets to be followed. And our New Year Jamshed-e-Navroze is celebrated on March 21 every year. It is a time for celebration and we offer special prayers at the fire temple on that day. And then there’s Pateti, where we celebrate New Year of the Zoroastrian calendar. On this day, we promise to live with good thoughts, use good words and perform the right actions,”
Food plays a very important role as a significant part of all Parsi festivals. Parsi food is a delicious blend of West Indian and Indian cuisine. Parsis being non-vegetarian, fish, mutton, chicken, nuts, spices and fruits are bought a day before and a variety of dishes are prepared on Pateti. “Ten days prior to Pateti, we offer prayers to the dead and on the New Year; we leave behind the past and look towards the future with hope. Pateti is a time for celebration with close friends and family,” says Zarine Dogra, who runs Daddy’s Deli in Indiranagar.
“For breakfast on the day of Pateti two special dishes are served. One is the "Ravo" made with Suji, milk and sugar and the other is fried vermicelli cooked in curd and sprinkled with raisins and lot of almond slivers. After breakfast all the family members go to the Fire Temple or Agiary as it is called. In the temple a Jashan – a thanks giving prayer is performed by the priest and each one of us offer sandalwood to the Holy Fire,” she adds.
After festivities at home, Parsis in the city head for the Parsi Club in Jehangir Kothari Hall, where they are greeted with cultural and theatre performances. “There will be a whole lot of singing and dancing by the little ones in the community. Also they show plays in Parsi, which is quite a regular now. This year however they have invited me as the Chief Guest and are honoring me for my achievements in the field of sports,” Says Rehan Poncha, Olympian Swimmer.
He further adds, “Though the community in Bangalore is quite small compared to Mumbai, we are a well-knit community. They are always there to support you and recognize your achievements. I’m very humbled that they have chosen me this year. What I’m particularly looking forward to is the amazing Parsi lunch,that will be served there”
The Bangalore Parsi Zoroastrian Association (BPZA) and the Bangalore Zoroastrian Anjuman (BZA) hold regular meetings to discus the issues concerning the community.”There are approximately 250 – 300 families residing in the city now. And there is also a floating population of young Parsis who have made the city their temporary abode. Also since the older people don’t have much to do in the city, there is one cultural event happening every month, so that way we stay connected,” says Zarine.