Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Gandhi: Parsi Link to Indian Politics

In the true notion of democracy, the most powerful name in India, the epicenter of Indian politics is a Parsi name. Below is quoted text from an op-ed.

The name Gandhi comes not from the Mahatma but from Indira’s husband Feroze Gandhi, who was Parsi. The Parsi variation of the word Gandhi, which means grocer or merchant in Gujarati, is normally spelled Ghandy. That’s because Parsis, like some Gujarati communities, find it difficult to sound the soft ‘dh’ (as in ‘Dharna’) and use the harder ‘d’ (as in ‘Diet’) instead. But by a happy coincidence Feroze used the conventional spelling and the most powerful name in Indian politics was given extension.

Her marriage to a Parsi offended nobody, but because of it Indira Gandhi was denied entry into the temple of Jagannath in the state of Orissa. Jagannath means ‘Lord of All’ and the temple is to Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s three primary gods. Perhaps uniquely in India, the Jagannath temple’s priests have kept a ‘Hindus-only’ policy, which is counterintuitive if they think of him as Lord of All. But this bigotry comes from the days when only caste Hindus were allowed into temples, and the lower castes and untouchables kept out. The constitution and the Supreme Court have decapitated caste hierarchy in India, but some people are nothing without their prejudice.

 

Indians were appalled when news of Indira being denied entry appeared, but the temple’s policy is still in place.

To return to Feroze Gandhi, like Hindus, Parsis do not proselytise either. Though the community accepts as Parsi the children of Parsi males and non-Parsi women, they do so grudgingly. It is actually unclear what religion the Nehru-Gandhi family belongs to or believes in. But like I said, Indians do not care where on the spectrum of Hinduism you lie. For us it is good enough that the Gandhi family is an extension of Nehru’s Brahmin lineage.

Neither of Indira’s sons married a Hindu. Rajiv married Sonia, and his brother Sanjay married Maneka, who is Sikh.

The fact that the Gandhis look and behave like we think Brahmins should — fair, handsome and soft-spoken — helps them. As does the fact that they have followed Hindu custom. Their names, Rajiv, Sanjay, Priyanka, Rahul and Varun, are Hindu, though Varun is really Feroze Varun and named after his grandfather.

Read the entire Op-Ed titled “How religious do politicians need to be?” by Aakar Patel in The News Pakistan.