Parsis ring in the new year


August 20, 2007

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By Derineh Cooper

Putting aside contentious issues like identity and the community’s dwindling numbers, Parsis prepare to celebrate the New Year.

As this year comes to an end, my ruminations and research led to enlightenment through an article on the Parsi DNA (not the newspaper I write for, but the real thing – double helix and all) that I read on the Internet.

For the past few years I have seen my generally genial community at each others throats over the question of who is not a Parsi. If my mother is a Parsi but my father is not, I am not. If my father is one but my mother isn’t, I have the privilege of acceptance. If both my parents are born Parsis, I am a true son of the community. Why this difference?

Scholars sought to answer it with scriptures, some said ‘preservation of the pure bloodline emanating from the Persian kings!’ Sociologists blamed patriarchal society for the discrimination. Everyone had an opinion to expound.

History has it that 1,300 years ago, 120 Parsis escaped religious persecution and sailed in two boats to India from Persia. Legends say 120 men landed on the coast of Gujarat and were accepted in the land of Jadiv Rana.

No women? How did we rise to become almost one lakh strong and spread across the globe? Intermarriages? Heaven forbid the thought and God help any that suggest it!

Informing ourselves about our lineage may heal the wounds which fester in the soul of our community. Even genealogical tests to determine purity of lineage have brought mixed results. However, some knowledge of our genealogy could help bring us together in Yezdgerdi 1377.