Everything You Need to Know About the Parsi Community in India

India is indubitably known as a melting pot of cultures. The largest democracy in the world is home to one of the most decorated communities - the Parsis. To many, the term ‘Parsi’ is synonymous with 'rich and elite.' However, there remains some truth to this stereotype. Granted that they are small in numbers, their contributions towards India's development are unparalleled despite their tragic ancestral past.

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THE SOMBRE HISTORY OF PARSIS


Parsis originate from Persia, modern-day Iran. Continuous political turmoil and draconian acts of religious persecution forced this community to flee their war-ridden country. Huddled in ships, the travellers set out east, with no certainty on their destination, and miraculously landed in the Indian state of Gujarat.


Qissa-i Sanjan, an account of early Parsi settlers' history, recorded that the then-leader of Gujarat welcomed these refugees with open arms, provided that they abide by three simple conditions: they speak the local tongue, their women don saris, and that they refrain from harbouring any weapons. These persecuted Parsis agreed to the conditions and, not long after, founded a small settlement known as Sanjan along the western coast of the Indian subcontinent.

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Parsi girls posing in India by simpleinsomnia (Source: Creative Commons)

Even though Parsis were immigrants to India, they gained a competitive edge over the native people of India. Their secret weapon? The majority of them were English-educated. This caught the attention of the British, and they looked to the Parsis to handle trade with the Chinese merchants. Apart from English, Parsis were also fluent in their native language, Avestan, and their adopted language, Gujarati.


Stemming from Gujarat, the Parsi community can be found in several distinct places across the country. Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, and Bangalore are some cities to name where a considerable size of the Parsi population resides, with the largest cluster found in the southern tip of Mumbai. Besides India, a substantial number of Parsis are also located in Pakistan.