How Parsis came to Hyderabad?
When Parsis made a mass exodus from their native land Faras, they moved to different settlements in areas of Gujarat and Bombay. But the question is how some of these Parsis came to make Hyderabad also their home? Well, it was Sir Salar Jung, the prime minister of the Nizam’s army who wanted a battery of men who could read and write English and Persian really well as English was used to communicate with the British while Persian was the official state language. Hence, the he invited many of these Parsis to make Hyderabad their home. Many Parsis like Rustamji Chenoy, Pestonji Meherji among others held respectable positions in the administration department of Hyderabad. Now, after two centuries the Parsis are a warm and close-knit community known for their foundations, club, temples and school.
Parsi food is an amalgamation of Iranian and Gujarati culinary items. The Parsi platter has varieties enough to make even a calorie-conscious person fly into a sinful food guilt trip. Now, since the fab restaurant SodaBottleOpenerWala serving authentic Parsi food opened at Jubilee Hills this summer people have been queuing to the restaurant for sampling the gastronomic delights. “But even then for a taste of authentic Dhansak, Salli Marghi and custard for lunch in a cozy Parsi home is the best thing to do. You take rest, talk, drink your glass of chilled mango drink and relish the platter,” says Zubin Vakil, fashion designer, who lives in Secunderabad.
There are 1,161 Parsis in Hyderabad. Many feel that the number of Parsis is declining in the city. Some of them are leaving or have left the city for better opportunities. For example Dinaz Parbatwala who had her business of fitness equipment. She finds Hyderabad a city with peaceful environment and availability of amenities. She lived in the city for 27 years at Banjara Hills MLA Colony along with her family. But almost a year ago she shifted base to a place as far as Durgapur in Bengal. She says why she left the city, “Hyderabad is close to my heart. But my husband got better opportunities in Durgapur and we shifted over there. I find in this place people have more warmth for you. I had an inner calling to move on, so I moved. There are other Parsis also in Hyderabad who moved to countries like Canada or Australia for better opportunities.”
So, can this be considered as exodus from the people of the community? “I won’t call it exodus. The number of Parsis in Hyderabad is approx 1200 and those who move out are part of the floating population. Their moving out and coming back does not count much,” says Jehangir Bisney who has been living in the city for the past three decades. He is a chartered accountant and senior treasurer of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman, Secunderabad. Another reason why it can’t be called an exodus as Enobia Daruwala of Secunderabad says, “When a Parsi woman marries outside the community the children are usually not brought up the Parsi way. This is a slight factor in the overall community population data.”
The Fire Temple at Tilak Road turned 111 this September. This number is unique and is considered auspicious in biblical studies. But this number is just another unique number for Parsi community. “It does not have a religious significance,” says Russi Doctor secretary of the temple. It is one of the oldest structures in the city as it was erected in the year 1904. “It was awarded the HUDA Heritage Building award in 2001. To mark the occasion of its 111th year, Parsis in the city had a prayer which was followed by ‘Humbandagi’ a homage to the founder of the temple Bai Maneckbai Nusserwanji Chenoy,” informs Beyniaz Edulji a food connoisseur and history enthusiast. The Holy Fire in the temple is called ‘Padshah Saheb’. Reminisces Dinaz, “On Parsi New Year – Navroz I’d go to the temple and stand in front of the Holy Fire absorbing the eternal energy. The inside of the hall is very serene and quiet with high ceiling. The fire burns round the clock.”
Parsi New Year
Come August and it’s celebration time for the Parsis. Navroz is celebrated in this month across the country. At the Fire Temple in Hyderabad special thanksgiving prayers are held known as Jashan. The people of the community offer sandalwood to the Holy Fire. Says Jehangir Bisney, “Zoroastrian is the oldest religion in the world. Purity being the main principle of the religion. But we have two Navroz festivals in one year. Our months comprise only 30 days. We add extra five days to make it 365. March 21 is celebrated as the onset of Spring according to Persian calender. A Navroz table is set on this day, dry fruits are the special food items on this day.” The New Year in August is also called Navroz, but the date changes as the Parsi calender changes to Leap Year. “For breakfast a sweet dish of sev or sevvaiyan are served. During daytime people usually visit each other’s houses. In the evning they visit Zoroastrian Club.Dinner is a grand affair comprising mostly non-veg dishes.”