You can listed to the conversation here (direct link)[audio:SecretCuisinesandSacredRitualsLIVE_2015-01-21.mp3]
Parsis of India – Cuisine, Traditions & Celebrations
Article by Velasi Venkatachalam
They fled Persia in the 7th century to avoid persecution and landed in Sanjan, a port city in the south of Gujarat.
The oral history tells of the time when they arrived at the court of King Jadav Rana to seek refuge in his kingdom. He placed a brimming bowl of milk symbolic of how full the kingdom was. The wise leader, the dastoor (a priest) , gently added sugar to the bowl of milk, sweetening it without spilling a drop.
The pleased king and his welcome came with agreements which include wearing the local attire and speaking the local language, conducting weddings at night and not prosletysing to the other subjects.
It is also known that another wave of Zoroastrians came to India later who spoke Farsi instead of Gujarati and are called the Iranis. The language of their prayers continue to be Avestan.
After hundreds years, their customs still have an air of mystique.
Many Indians, especially in Mumbai and south Gujarat, while familiar with the word “Agyari” or the Fire Temple and Towers of Silence, are unfamiliar with their intricate rituals and celebrations. The Irani cafes, as the Parsi food establishments are called, have kept the cuisine alive but are dwindling in number.
They wear sarees they call garas. They are recognized for not just the distinct style of wearing it but also texture, the intricate embroidery. These once were famously custom made in China and now are much sought outside the community.
Since very little is known of their rituals both culinary and otherwise, this show is an exploration through the eyes of two generations of Parsi women carrying the stories and traditions of generations past and creating way to hand it to the future.
Perzen Patel is the Bawi Bride. Bawi/Bawa for male, is an affectionate coloquialism for the Parsis of India.
She is a trained chef and hospitality professional who made it her mission as a bride to revive, celebrate and promote Parsi cuisine. Hence the moniker, Bawi Bride (www.bawibride.com)
Her parents, Shernaz and Sarosh Petigera have created a beautiful users manual online and repository of rituals, meaning of being a Zoroastrian, the culture and celebrations at www.ahuramazda.com
Shernaz recounts her memories of a child of an Irani Zorastrian father and a Parsi mother. A childhood woven with Persian sounds and Gujarati words… grandparents who followed the teachings of this ancient philosophy, each side with its own lens.
Perzen recounts her own wedding and her success as a Parsi caterer and hugely successful feasts called the “bhonu”.
There is nostalgia mingled with pride and excitement when she says, “Jamwa Chaloji”, a familiar invitation to eat.