India is a country of many castes, creeds and religions. From as early as Alexander’s army to the Mughal invaders, the British, Portuguese, French and Dutch colonialist, people have come here in search of the abundance of India. Here is a story of how some people came to India many centuries ago in search of a peaceful life.
What is Zoroastrianism?
Before the 8th century AD the dominant religion in Persia was Zoroastrianism. It was the first religion to believe in only 1 all-powerful God and was practiced in what is modern-day Iran. When Islam began to grow in popularity, Arab tribes started invading land around Saudi Arabia and converting the people who lived on the lands they conquered.
They finally reached Persia and began to force the people there to convert to Islam. The Zoroastrian people were not equipped to fight because they practiced a form of religion that was peaceful but neither did they want to give up their religion. So to avoid religious persecution they began to board ships and fled to India.
When they arrived in Gujarat local rulers offered them asylum and allowed them to settle in their kingdoms.
As the story goes, when the spiritual leaders were taken before King Jadi Rana of Gujarat to ask if they could settle on his land, the king asked them to explain their customs and beliefs. After recognising that they would not be a threat to his kingdom he presented the leaders with a full glass of milk. He said that his kingdom was like a cup about to overflow and therefore had no room for immigrants. One of the leaders then put a pinch of sugar into the cup and told the king that his people would not make the kingdom overflow but enrich the community.
Jadi Rana was very pleased with this response and granted them permission to stay if they promised to adopt the local language and clothes, and never bear arms against the king. Since there was no name for this religion or group of people when they arrived on the shores of India they were given the name Parsi, which literally means Persian.
Parsi New Year
The Parsis came to India so they could maintain their culture and way of life. This meant that they also brought along the Shenshai calendar. According to this calendar the new year falls sometime in August and is known as Pateti or Parsi New Year.
Pateti is actually new-year’s eve and a day on which people are required to think about all the good and bad things that have happened in their lives during that year. They then reaffirm a promise to live their lives through the tenets of Zoroastrianism- right thoughts, right words, and right action.
Over the years Pateti has become a single-day celebration that is celebrated on new-year’s day itself. Parsis visit the Agiari (fire temple) and offer prayers. They burn sandalwood in their houses and decorate their houses with rangoli.
Pateti is a time for feasting in Parsi households since people visit friends and family and are usually greeted with something to eat. Breakfast usually begins with ravo (suji prepared with milk and sugar) or sev (vermicelli cooked in a sugar syrup and served with raisins and almonds). For lunch there is usually rice pulao, sali boti (a mutton gravy) and pathra-ni-machchi (fish prepared in banana leaves). And then there’s always some sutarfeni or jalebi to finish the meal.
- The Parsi community has been in India for over 1000 years. But there is also a community here that is very similar called the Iranis. Can you find out how they are similar and how they are different?
- How may Parsis are alive today and why are their numbers dwindling?
- What is a fire temple?
- List out 10 famous Parsis
To read more interesting festivals for kids, visit: http://mocomi.com/learn/culture/festivals/