Thursday, December 14, 2017

Indian Supreme Court ensures access to Parsi (Zoroastrian) temple(s) for Parsi lady married to a Hindu; Some early history of Parsis

Last updated on 15th Dec. 2017

Great initiative (SC put pressure on the Parsi trust which resulted in Parsi trust changing its earlier stand) and decision by the Indian Supreme Court to help a Parsi (Zoroastrian faith) lady married to a Hindu, get access to Parsi temple(s) in Gujarat, especially the Tower of Silence where Parsis do rituals for departed (deceased) relatives. Note that the lady is considered to be a non-Parsi even though she has not renounced her Parsi religion, by the Parsi religious authorities on account of her marrying a person from a different faith.

Parsi trust to Supreme Court: Will allow women marrying outside religion enter temples, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/parsi-trust-to-supreme-court-will-allow-women-marrying-outside-religion-to-enter-temples-4982382/, 14th Dec. 2017
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The article: Parsi woman allowed to perform last rites, SC informed, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parsi-woman-allowed-to-perform-last-rites-sc-informed/article21665528.ece, 14th Dec. 2017 seems to provide more accurate information about the matter than the previous news article mentioned above.

This article states the Parsi temple authorities in deference to the Supreme Court decided to allow the lady to perform rites in the Parsi temple. So it is a resoulution of that particular woman's problem as a special case.

But the general case has yet to be decided upon. This sentence from the article captures the general case status: "The court said the larger questions of law regarding the religious identity of a Parsi woman and her right to marry outside her religion, among other issues, would remain open and be dealt with in the next hearing scheduled for the third week of January next year."

I understand that to mean that the Indian Supreme Court will lay down the law (via its judgement in this case) about whether a Parsi woman marrying a non-Parsi (and not giving up her Parsi religion/religious identity), can be viewed as having become a non-Parsi simply because of marriage to non-Parsi. I think what the Supreme Court decides is what will matter and the Parsi temple authorities across India will have to follow the Supreme Court decision.

Note that Parsis (Zoroastrians) are a community from Iran (Persia) who were fleeing the Arab Islamic conquest of Iran and given refuge in Gujarat state of India many centuries ago by Hindu rulers of Gujarat then.

Here's some info. about Parsis from their wiki page, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi :

Parsi (or Parsee) is one of two Zoroastrian communities (the other being Iranis) majorly located in India and few in Pakistan. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, Parsis migrated from Greater Iran to Sindh and Gujarat, where they were given refuge, between the 8th and 10th century CE to avoid persecution following the Arab conquest of Persia.

At the time of the Muslim conquest of Persia, the dominant religion of the region (which was ruled by the Sasanian Empire) was Zoroastrianism. Iranians rebelled against Muslim conquerors for almost 200 years. During this time many Iranians who are now called Parsi chose to preserve their religious identity by fleeing from Iran to India.

The word پارسیان, pronounced "Parsian", i.e., "Parsi" in the Persian language, literally means Persian. Persian is the official language of modern Iran, which was formerly known as Persia, and the Persian language's endonym is Farsi, an arabization of the word Parsi.

The long presence of the Parsis in the Gujarat and Sindh areas of India distinguishes them from the smaller Zoroastrian Indian community of Iranis, who are much more recent arrivals, mostly descended from Zoroastrians fleeing the repression of the Qajar dynasty and the general social and political tumult of late 19th- and early 20th-century Iran.
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The Qissa-i Sanjan is a tale of the journey of the Parsis to India from Iran. It says they fled for reasons of religious freedom and they were allowed to settle in India thanks to the goodwill of a local Hindu prince. However, the Parsi community had to abide by three rules: they had to speak the local language, follow local marriage customs, and not carry any weapons. After showing the many similarities between their faith and local beliefs, the early community was granted a plot of land on which to build a fire temple.
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Over the centuries since the first Zoroastrians arrived in India, the Parsis have integrated themselves into Indian society while simultaneously maintaining or developing their own distinct customs and traditions (and thus ethnic identity). This in turn has given the Parsi community a rather peculiar standing: they are Indians in terms of national affiliation, language and history, but not typically Indian in terms of consanguinity or ethnicity, cultural, behavioural and religious practices.

--- end extracts from wiki ----

Ravi: Mumbai/Bombay has a lot of Parsis. I have had many Parsi friends and have thoroughly enjoyed their company. My elder sister did some part of her schooling in a famous Parsi run school in Dadar area of Bombay (we were living in Dadar then) - J.B. Vaccha school, https://www.jbvachha.com/index.php.

The world famous Tata group of companies is founded by the Tata family who are Parsis. One of my uncles worked in Tata Textiles in Mumbai. I was offered a job in the now world famous Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) software company in Mumbai in the late 1980s but I did not take it up due to some reasons. Note that TCS is Asia's largest software services company and has recently been the sponsor of the New York City marathon (called TCS New York City marathon, https://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/).

I think the Parsis who were fleeing Islamic conquest of Iran/Persia, being given refuge by Hindu kings in Gujarat (between 8th and 10th century according to the wiki) and being allowed to practise their religion is a great example of Hindu India's history of tolerance of various religious beliefs. The Parsis, in turn, by their integration with India's multi-religious and multi-ethnic fabric and later leadership in industry (Jamsedji Tata, 1839 - 1904, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamsetji_Tata, founded the Tata group and was an Indian pioneer industrialist) as well as participation in many other walks of Indian life including the Indian armed forces, have contributed to India's progress in a significant way.

Coming back to my past Parsi friends (I am out of touch with almost all of them now that I live in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh), I am of the view that Parsi ladies who marry outside their religion (Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc.) and who would like to retain their Parsi religious identity must be allowed to do so, and the Parsi religious authorities in India should then allow them to worship/participate in religious rites in Parsi temples as per Parsi traditions. If they choose to give up their Parsi religious identity then I think it is fine if they are barred from worshiping in Parsi temples.

BTW in the 1980s there was a case of two software developers from my first software company - Datamatics, Bombay - one South Indian Hindu man and one Parsi woman (who had joined Datamatics at the same time as me and was a part of the same programmer trainees batch) going steady. I believe they later got married and settled down in the USA. So I would very much like my old Parsi software developer lady colleague who seems to have married a Hindu, if she retains her Parsi religious identity, to be allowed to worship in Parsi temples in India and Parsi temples in the USA.

[I think I should also mention another case in the same software company in the same period of a Parsi man software developer going steady with a Chinese origin Indian (yes, there are some Chinese origin Indians in Mumbai) lady software developer, who later seem to have got married and settled down in Australia. I think that even if the lady wanted to change her religious identity to Parsi, it would not have been easily allowed by the Parsi religious authorities. And I don't know what her original religious identity was - Confuciansim? Buddhism? Nice people - all four of them, with three of them being friends of mine at that time.]

[I thank wikipedia and thehindu.com, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts (very small extract from thehindu.com) from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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