SANJAN: On Wednesday, a few hundred Parsis descended in Sanjan, a tiny town in south Gujarat, about 150-kms from Mumbai, to commemorate the arrival of their ancestors here about 1,300 years ago.
Article by Nauzer Bharucha | Times Of India
Following religious persecution in Iran, the Parsis first landed in Diu sometime in the 8th century AD where they stayed for 19 years before setting sail for Sanjan where they made their base for the next more than six centuries.
In 1920, a memorial column was opened in Sanjan to commemorate this arrival.
Every year in mid-November, a thanksgiving ceremony is held in Sanjan for the couple of thousand courageous men, women and children who left Iran for India about a century after the fall of the Sassanian empire in 651 AD.
Senior advocate Firoze B. Andhyarujina, who addressed the gathering on Wednesday, said Hindustan (India) was the only place, which the ancient Zoroastrian sages decided, would be safe for the community to preserve their faith after the downfall of the Persian empire.
“It was no accident that they came to India. It was pre planned,” he said.
Soon after their arrival in Sanjan, where they were granted asylum by the Hindu King Jadi Rana, the Parsis consecrated the Iranshah fire, which remained in Sanjan for 669 years. Today, the exalted fire has been enthroned in the nearby village of Udwada.
“India has always protected and nurtured the Parsis. For that the community is always grateful,” said Andhyarujina.
“The 1st Sanjan Day was organized on 1/11/1981 by the then president and the committee members of the Sanjan Memorial column local committee,” said Pareecheher Daviervala, whose family was largely instrumental for organizing the Sanjan Day.
“To everyone’s surprise, more than 3,500 Parsis came to attend the celebrations,” she told TOI.
In the year 2,000, a time capsule containing Parsi cultural items and artefacts was buried next to the column.
Tributes were also paid to the local Hindu King Jadi Rana, who gave the refugees shelter and permitted them the freedom to practice their religion without interference.
The Zoroastrian religion went through its most turbulent phase of its history after the assassination of Yazdgard Sheriar III, the last Persian king of Iran.
As invaders from the Arabian peninsula overran Iran determined to remove the last vestige of the indigenous religion—Persians were slaughtered in large numbers, their sacred books burnt, their fire temples desecrated.
It was with the intention of preserving their religion and ethnic identity that a few thousand Parsis led by the priest Dastur Naryosang Dhaval decided to emigrate to India.
They sailed to India in sometime in the late 8th century AD, making their first landfall at Diu in Saurashtra.
The Kisseh-i-Sanjan—an account of the arrival of Parsis, written four centuries ago by a Navsari priest Bahman Kaikobad—records that the refugees remained in Diu for 19 years.
After that they set out again and reached Sanjan after a harrowing journey by sea.