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Parsis

Parsis. Zoroastrians who (in the 8th cent. CE), in unknown numbers, decided to leave their Iranian homeland in the face of ever greater Muslim oppression and seek a new land of religious freedom. The story of that migration is contained in the text the Qissa (or Tale) of Sanjan (see S. H. Hodivala, Studies in Parsi History, 1920). The Qissa was written in 1600 by a Parsi priest on the basis of oral tradition.

The generally accepted date of the Parsi settlement on the western coast of India is 937 CE. Little is known of their history for the next 700 years. With the arrival of the European trading powers in the 17th cent., especially the British, they prospered as middle men in trade. As a result they grew also in political importance; e.g. they were at the heart of the Indian National Congress from its inception in 1885 until the radical takeover in 1907.

The transformation of the community from a tiny obscure group into a major force in Indian life has inevitably had its effect on their religion. Although daily prayers are still said at home, many of the important moments of worship are now located in a place set apart for that purpose. Large baugs, public places, were set up for splendid functions for initiations, weddings, and public religious feasts (gahambars). There was, in short, a considerable degree of institutionalization of community religion.

There were also significant developments in faith. At the end of the 19th cent., many Parsis, like a number of Westernized Hindus, sought to legitimate traditional practices in terms of Theosophy and the occult interpretations that the Western-originated movement propounded. When Theosophy became more closely associated with Hinduism and the Independence movement, then a Zoroastrian occult movement grew, Ilm-i Kshnoom (Path of Knowledge). Instead of turning to the Tibetan Masters invoked by Theosophists, Khshnoomists follow the teaching of Behramshah Shroff who claimed to have been given his esoteric message by a secret race of Zoroastrian masters in Iran. This movement shares the Theosophical ideals of vegetarianism and teetotalism, the doctrine of rebirth, the belief in the occult power of prayers recited in the sacred language, and in a personal aura. Thus in the 19th cent. Parsi doctrine became polarized between the Liberal Protestants and the Orthodox who have inclined more towards the occult. There are now c.60,000 Parsis in India. Numbers in Karachi have dropped from c.5,000 in the 1950s to 2,000 in the 1990s.

An unknown number, but a substantial proportion, of the Parsi population has migrated, first to Britain (initially in the 19th cent., but more particularly from the 1960s, c.3,000), then America and Canada, also from the 1960s (c.7,000), and from the 1980s to Australia (c.1,000).

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"Parsis." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Parsis." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/parsis

Parsis

Parsis or Parsees (both: pär´sēz, pärsēz´), religious community of India, practicing Zoroastrianism. The Parsis (numbering about 75,000) are concentrated in Maharashtra and Gujarat states, especially in Mumbai. Their ancestors migrated from Iran in the 8th cent. to avoid Muslim persecution. They use the ancient Pahlavi scriptures and are faithful to much of the Zoroastrian dogma. The Parsis deny the frequent assertion that they worship fire; rather they reverence fire (along with other aspects of nature) as manifestations of the divinity of Ahura Mazdah. To avoid contaminating fire, earth, or water, the Parsis dispose of their dead by exposing the bodies in "towers of silence" (circular structures some 20 ft/6 m high surrounding a stone courtyard) where vultures devour them. The community is closely unified, and schools established by the wealthier members make the Parsis one of the best-educated groups of India. Their economic importance is far greater than their small numbers would indicate. The huge Tata industrial empire bears the name of one of India's most famous Parsi families.

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"Parsis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Parsis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/parsis