Zoroastrianism in India
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|Whole India, but mostly Gujarat, Maharashtra.|
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Zoroastrianism in India shares thousands of years of history with the culture and people of India. The religion Zoroastrianism established itself in the regions that covered by the term Greater India and later spread to Middle Eastern nations. After the Islamic conquest of Greater Persia, Zoroastrianism declined in some areas but continued to flourish in India.
Due to persecution of Zoroastrians in other countries and events in the history of India, today the largest population of Zoroastrians resides in India, where Zoroastrians have played a notable role in the Indian economy, entertainment, the armed forces, and the Indian freedom movement during British Raj. The Zoroastrian groups are regarded as either Parsi or Irani depending on the time of migration to India.
The religion originated in Greater India. Zoroaster came from an area where a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system was prevalent. Zoroastrianism was notably influenced by Brahminical traditions. The beginnings of Zoroastrianism can be dated back to about 1200 BCE - 600 BCE. After its foundation, the religion spread to all of Greater Persia, turning the region into one of the most powerful empires of that time. For a time, the Sassanid Empire included Gujarat, which was historically, and is presently, a state of India.
When Islam became the predominant ideology of areas including such present-day countries as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman, the Muslim invasion of Persia, launched by the Rashidun Caliphate in 633 AD, became a huge event in the history of the region. During eighteen years of heavy attacks, buildings and books were destroyed and the population either converted to Islam or faced death. Due to this persecution, Zoroastrians became refugees in India. One of the conditions of their refugee status was that they would not partake in missionary activities or marry outside their community. During this period, Zoroastrian traders faced execution outside India, including in China where many were killed during the Guangzhou massacre. Today, there are no Zoroastrians in China.
Some sources suggest that the creation of the Shia sect, the second largest sect of Islam, was heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism; it was created with the purpose of converting the Persian population to Islam. Because of the difference between Shia and orthodox Islam, Sunni Muslims and other sects of Islam found Shia Muslims to be infidel. The Shia sect has also been persecuted by other Muslims; thus, their greatest numbers reside in Iran. India has the second largest Shia population. Immigration of Shia Muslims historically took place during the 11th – 16th century, as they faced persecution in Sunni-dominated areas of the Middle East. The immigration of Zoroastrians to India continued, and by 1477 they had lost all contact with Persia. Not until three hundred years had passed would they come into contact. There is no historical evidence that Zoroastrians were ever persecuted in India.
Based on data from 1981, the Indian census counted 71,630 Zoroastrians in India. The latter figure is based on revised reports of Zoroastrians in the diaspora, and on the results of the Indian census of 2001, which counted over 69,000 Zoroastrians[clarification needed]. Independent estimates are that there are at least 100,000 Zoroastrians in India.
the Zoroastrian community in India remains one of the most recognized groups, playing a part in various commercial sectors such as industry, movies, and politics. Many non-Indian Zoroastrians have spent time in the country, including Sadegh Hedayat and Freddie Mercury.
Zoroastrians are known by different names in India.
The word "Parsi" in the Persian language literally means "Persian". Persian is the official language of modern Iran, which is also known as Persia. The language (Parsi) is commonly referred to as Farsi, because, after the Arab invasion of Persia, because of the absence of the "P / G / Zh / Ch" sounds in the Arabic language, Parsi became Farsi. Similarly, Babak Khorramdin's first name, originally Papak (Papa + Kuchak = Papak), "Young Father", became Babak.
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 more recent arrivals.
Although the term 'Irani' is first attested during the Mughal era, most Iranis are immigrants who arrived on the subcontinent during the 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, when Iran was ruled by the Qajars and when religious persecution of non-Muslims was rampant. The descendants of the immigrants of those times remain culturally and linguistically closer to the Zoroastrians of Iran, in particular to the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman. Consequently, the Dari dialect of the Zoroastrians of those provinces may be heard among the Iranis.
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- Roshel Dalal. The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin books. p. 405-406.
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- Subodh Kapoor. Indian Encyclopaedia, Volume 1. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. p. 5515.
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- "Faith & philosophy of Zoroastrianism", p. 41, by Meena Iyer
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- Biotech firm tries to unravel secret behind Parsi-Zoroastrian longevity 5 July 2008