Parsis: A diminishing race

A Houston-based research student has written a paper discussing the causes for, and a solution to, the dwindling numbers of the Parsi community around the world

By Priyal Dave | Afternoon DC

“To all those who feel that the community is growing, especially the older generation, my answer would be a massive ‘No’!” says research student Dinyar Patel, who while working on his PhD on Dadabhoy Naoroji with the department of History at Harvard, has managed to write a paper on Parsi Demographics titled, ‘Rescuing our community from a demographic crisis’.

If Patel’s research on Parsi demographics is to be believed, which he clearly admits is not the final or official word on the dwindling population of the community but a rational perspective, then it is true that the community, even in a city like Mumbai, are living in a self regurgitated myth which needs to be immediately rectified if the present Parsi population has to be restored and subsequently increased.

Though Mumbai tops the list of cities in India, with a population of 45,000-50,000 Parsis, it is only sad that the attitude of the Parsis in the city, according to Patel still lacks concern about survival of the community.

“It is not that Parsis are not educated, they are in fact, highly educated, but simultaneously it is also true that they are not ready to face the facts in the right way. Many still account the poor fertility rate of the community to biological factors, a hypothesis which has yet to be scientifically proven. Similarly, people say the population is declining because Parsis are marrying non-Parsis, which is not the case. The primary reason behind the decreasing numbers of my community is late marriages or in certain cases no marriages at all. Also the limited size of the family works against our growth in numbers. And all of this is because of our attitude, nothing else,” says the Houston resident.

Surprisingly, according to Patel, thought the national capital Delhi has only 500-700 Parsis, the stigma of becoming a non-Parsi, post marriage is very minimal, unlike Mumbai, where non-Parsis feel out of place.

Patel does agree that the rigidity of the religion has added to the problem, as Parsi women who marry outside the community are no longer a part of it, nor are their children.

Patel, who believes strongly in his community and its values, does not blink once while acknowledging that his community continues to live in myths that are doing more harm than good. 

Though he lived with the same myths, some six months ago, he says that studying Parsi demographics across the world has helped him identify the real problems causing the falling population, which he feels the community must also acknowledge and rectify.

  • Mr. Dinyar Patel,

    Are you out of your mind, you should have known better. We are sleeping please don’t disturb us. Importantly, also we are on a verge of reaching our final destination “Freshokerite” as a community and by hook or crook we will take all with us. The ones who resist will be deflocked or casted out and will be shown the door (leaving a few with deep big full pockets who can give us flats and monthly dole). We feel we are doing a great thing not just for the community but the entire the world, they will have so much to study and research about us how we achieved what the arabs could not 1400 years ago.

    KHSHNAOTHRE AHURAHE MAZDAO

  • Mr. Dinyar Patel,

    Are you out of your mind, you should have known better. We are sleeping please don’t disturb us. Importantly, also we are on a verge of reaching our final destination “Freshokerite” as a community and by hook or crook we will take all with us. The ones who resist will be deflocked or casted out and will be shown the door (leaving a few with deep big full pockets who can give us flats and monthly dole). We feel we are doing a great thing not just for the community but the entire the world, they will have so much to study and research about us how we achieved what the arabs could not 1400 years ago.

    KHSHNAOTHRE AHURAHE MAZDAO

  • Cyrus B. Toorkey

    The article correctly states that Parsis are a ‘race’. And as such one cannot convert into a race, one has to be born into it! So marrying outside the community or even accepting the children of inter-married Parsis will NOT increase the numbers of the race. That, whether you like it or not is just a simple biological fact.

  • Cyrus B. Toorkey

    The article correctly states that Parsis are a ‘race’. And as such one cannot convert into a race, one has to be born into it! So marrying outside the community or even accepting the children of inter-married Parsis will NOT increase the numbers of the race. That, whether you like it or not is just a simple biological fact.

  • Firoze Hirjikaka

    Dinyar Patel is right to be concerned about the rapid decrease in the Parsi population in Mumbai and around the world. It is indeed a tragedy indeed, but the real tragedy is that it is we Parsis ourselves who are actively abetting the decline. And I am not just talking about late marriages and small families, as mentioned by Patel. You would think at a time of crisis like the present, most Parsis – particularly the ones in positions of power and privilege – would be expending their efforts to find a solution. But what do we find instead? Fulminating debates on non-issues like who can or cannot be considered a Parsi; and a determined bid to exclude even those who are born into the faith.

    The harsh reality is that a majority of Parsis, particularly those living in Bombay, have failed in their fundamental duty as followers of Zarathustra; a philosopher and saint who preached tolerance above all things. And yet, the so-called leaders of the community – exemplified by the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) and the grandiosely-named World Association of Parsi Irani Zarathustis (WAPIZ) – are expending their energies in expelling Parsi women who have married into another religion; and denying entry into the faith by those who are genuinely interested in Zoroastrianism and are probably far better informed about the religion than these self-styled judges.

    Who gave some Parsi priests and self-styled “experts” that authority anyway? It is certainly not a mandate passed down by the Prophet. The true scholars of the Zarathusti religion (not necessarily Parsis) have repeatedly shown that the Gathas – recognised as the one authentic record of Zarathustra’s teachings – pay no importance to issues like conversion and proselytizing; indeed they are barely mentioned.

  • Kappal_tero_Deekra

    Duh! No! Really? This whole study just tells us what we already know; that thanks to the BPP and their like, the whole community is coming to an end. Again, allow conversion INTO the religion. At the very least allow the children and spouses of Parsees to convert. It is that simple. Very soon there will be no community to save. Again, if you want to see the future, go to Karachi today. That is what awaits us.

  • Kappal_tero_Deekra

    Duh! No! Really? This whole study just tells us what we already know; that thanks to the BPP and their like, the whole community is coming to an end. Again, allow conversion INTO the religion. At the very least allow the children and spouses of Parsees to convert. It is that simple. Very soon there will be no community to save. Again, if you want to see the future, go to Karachi today. That is what awaits us.

  • Meheryar Rivetna

    Parsi is NOT a race. Parsi is an ethnic group. There are only three race classifications if you want to talk science (anthropology): Caucasoid, Mongloid and Negroid. Race classifications are based on physical characteristics, not religion or ethnicity! Parsis fall under the Caucasoid group. Accepting converts has nothing to do with increasing numbers. It has to do with people exercising their God-given free will and make a choice which religion they wish to follow. It has to do with allowing the spread of the wonderful teachings that Zarathustra left for all humanity. There are no “God’s plans” or “God’s wishes” why one is born in a certain faith. Where are those plans? Who has them? How does anyone know “God’s plans? Is anyone here on God’s planning committee? Come forward, we would love to meet you!

  • Meheryar Rivetna

    Parsi is NOT a race. Parsi is an ethnic group. There are only three race classifications if you want to talk science (anthropology): Caucasoid, Mongloid and Negroid. Race classifications are based on physical characteristics, not religion or ethnicity! Parsis fall under the Caucasoid group. Accepting converts has nothing to do with increasing numbers. It has to do with people exercising their God-given free will and make a choice which religion they wish to follow. It has to do with allowing the spread of the wonderful teachings that Zarathustra left for all humanity. There are no “God’s plans” or “God’s wishes” why one is born in a certain faith. Where are those plans? Who has them? How does anyone know “God’s plans? Is anyone here on God’s planning committee? Come forward, we would love to meet you!

  • Meheryar Rivetna

    Firoze, you are right. There is nothing in the Gathas that proscribes conversion. The Gathas are replete with messages of spreading the faith far and wide. If you read Ervad Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla’s book “History of Zoroastrianism”, he presents evidence of missionaries being sent to proselytrize.

    Here are some Gatha stanzas:

    Ha 46.19: Zarathustra tells his disciples: Whoso will help me with his sincere heart in my Prophetic Mission enthusiastically, his honor and fame will be enhanced after death and deserving reward will be granted to him in the world beyond.

    Ha 31.3: ….Speak thou with the tongue of the mouth, O Ahura Mazda! for the enlightenment of me and my disciples, so that I cause all men to put faith in the religion.

    Ha 32.15: Ahura Mazda says: I will grant the happiness of heaven to those who help in spreading the religion and I will keep far away from the abode of heaven those who neither listen to the commandments of the religion nor accept them.

    Make note: “All men”; “spreading the religion”; “Prophetic Mission”. These are translations by Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga. The same can be found in Ha 49.9; Ha 49.5; Ha 46.16; Ha 46,13; and all across the Gathas.

    People are mired in “traditions” that have no religious basis and violate every tenet of our faith. They believe in following a corrupt version of Zoaroastrianism and regale in practices that go dead against what our prophet taught us. It is not the “liberal” in the community dragging the faith down, it is the orthodox completely devoid of knowledge and an agenda who perpetuates the corruption of the faith further towards its demise.

  • Meheryar Rivetna

    Firoze, you are right. There is nothing in the Gathas that proscribes conversion. The Gathas are replete with messages of spreading the faith far and wide. If you read Ervad Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla’s book “History of Zoroastrianism”, he presents evidence of missionaries being sent to proselytrize.

    Here are some Gatha stanzas:

    Ha 46.19: Zarathustra tells his disciples: Whoso will help me with his sincere heart in my Prophetic Mission enthusiastically, his honor and fame will be enhanced after death and deserving reward will be granted to him in the world beyond.

    Ha 31.3: ….Speak thou with the tongue of the mouth, O Ahura Mazda! for the enlightenment of me and my disciples, so that I cause all men to put faith in the religion.

    Ha 32.15: Ahura Mazda says: I will grant the happiness of heaven to those who help in spreading the religion and I will keep far away from the abode of heaven those who neither listen to the commandments of the religion nor accept them.

    Make note: “All men”; “spreading the religion”; “Prophetic Mission”. These are translations by Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga. The same can be found in Ha 49.9; Ha 49.5; Ha 46.16; Ha 46,13; and all across the Gathas.

    People are mired in “traditions” that have no religious basis and violate every tenet of our faith. They believe in following a corrupt version of Zoaroastrianism and regale in practices that go dead against what our prophet taught us. It is not the “liberal” in the community dragging the faith down, it is the orthodox completely devoid of knowledge and an agenda who perpetuates the corruption of the faith further towards its demise.

  • Adi

    How would Holy Zarthustra have followeres if He did not allow people to convert to Zoroastrianism.

    We have to  spread the word, and convert those really interested with a Navjote and then only will our population grow.

    Every major religion does this.

    If we keep dwindeling, future generations will not have any clout and will loose whatever prestige that has been built. In time the few followers will also give up.

    Get rid of short-sighted leaders that we have now.

  • Adi

    How would Holy Zarthustra have followeres if He did not allow people to convert to Zoroastrianism.

    We have to  spread the word, and convert those really interested with a Navjote and then only will our population grow.

    Every major religion does this.

    If we keep dwindeling, future generations will not have any clout and will loose whatever prestige that has been built. In time the few followers will also give up.

    Get rid of short-sighted leaders that we have now.

  • Dinyar Gai

    Well done MR. What a great response! Congratulations for such a forthright reply!

  • Dinyar Gai

    Well done MR. What a great response! Congratulations for such a forthright reply!

  • Barak Aga

    The falling “Parsi Population” is a problem of the “Parsis”, it has nothing to do with Zoroastrianism.
    The number of Zoroastrians is on a slow, but steady rise.
    The author states “Patel does agree that the rigidity of the religion”
    What is rigid about the religion? If certain priests behave like the “hawker mafia”, deciding who can, and who cannot “peddle Zoroastrianism”, propagation of the religion is bound to suffer.
    Frankly, the self-appointed High Priests look more like windbags. They are unable to follow up their “fatwas” with actions. Inumerable Zoroastrian women married to non-Zoroastrian men visit Fire Temples in Mumbai.

  • Barak Aga

    “Parsi” is not a race. After contorting the Zoroastrianism, they seek to contort anthropology.
    There are only 3 races : 1) Mongoloid, 2) Caucosoid and 3) Negroid.
    If “Parsi” is a race, what are the origins of this “Parsi” race? What physical characteristics does a member of the “Parsi” race possess?

  • Barak Aga

    “Parsi” is not a race. After contorting the Zoroastrianism, they seek to contort anthropology.
    There are only 3 races : 1) Mongoloid, 2) Caucosoid and 3) Negroid.
    If “Parsi” is a race, what are the origins of this “Parsi” race? What physical characteristics does a member of the “Parsi” race possess?

  • Barak Aga

    “Parsi” is not a race. After contorting the Zoroastrianism, they seek to contort anthropology.
    There are only 3 races : 1) Mongoloid, 2) Caucosoid and 3) Negroid.
    If “Parsi” is a race, what are the origins of this “Parsi” race? What physical characteristics does a member of the “Parsi” race possess?

  • Barak Aga

    “Parsi” is not a race. After contorting the Zoroastrianism, they seek to contort anthropology.
    There are only 3 races : 1) Mongoloid, 2) Caucosoid and 3) Negroid.
    If “Parsi” is a race, what are the origins of this “Parsi” race? What physical characteristics does a member of the “Parsi” race possess?