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What is Parsis

A Parsi or Parsee is a member of the larger of the two Zoroastrian communities in South Asia, a member of the other being an Irani. According to tradition, the present-day Parsis descend from a group of Zoroastrians of Iran who immigrated to India during the 10th century AD,[1] to avoid persecution by Muslim invaders who were in the process of conquering Iran. At the time of the Arab invasion of Iran, the dominant religion of the region was Zoroastrianism.

The Iranians rebelled against the Arab invaders for almost 200 years; in Iran this period is now known as the "Two Centuries of Silence" or "Period of Silence". After many failed attempts to free the country from Arab domination, the Iranians were forced to either pay heavy taxes (Jizya) or to convert to Islam, the latter being the ultimate goal of the new rulers and thus the easier way. During this time many Iranians who are now called Parsi rejected both options and instead chose to take refuge by fleeing from Iran to India. Their long presence in the region distinguishes the Parsis from the Iranis, who are more recent arrivals, and who represent the smaller of the two Indian-Zoroastrian communities. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Parsi, also spelled Parsee, [are] member[s] of a group of followers in India of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. The Parsis, whose name means 'Persians,' are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims. They live chiefly in Bombay and in a few towns and villages mostly to the north of Bombay, but also at Karachi (Pakistan) and Bangalore (Karnataka, India).

Although they are not, strictly speaking, a caste, since they are not Hindus, they form a well-defined community. The exact date of the Parsi migration is unknown."[14] The term "Parsi" is not attested in Indian Zoroastrian texts until the 17th century. Until that time, such texts consistently use either Zarthoshti, "Zoroastrian" or Vehdin, "[of] good nature" or "[of] the good religion." The 12th century Sixteen Shlokas, a Sanskrit text in praise of the Parsis and apparently written by a Hindu (Parsi legend; cf.

Paymaster 1954, p. 8 incorrectly attributes the text to a Zoroastrian priest), is the earliest attested use of the term as an identifier for the Indian Zoroastrians. The first reference to the Parsis in a European language is from 1322, when a French monk, Jordanus, briefly refers to their presence in Thana and Broach. Subsequently, the term appears in the journals of many European travelers, first French and Portuguese, later English, all of whom use a Europeanized version of an apparently local language term. For instance, Portuguese physician Garcia d'Orta, who in 1563 observed that "there are merchants [...] in the kingdom of Cambai [...] known as Esparcis. We Portuguese call them Jews, but they are not so. They are Gentios." In an early 20th century legal ruling (see self-perceptions, below) Justices Davar and Beaman asserted (1909:540) that 'Parsi' was also a term used in Iran to refer to Zoroastrians.

(Stausberg 2002, p. I.373) Boyce (2002, p. 105) notes that in much the same way as the word "Hindu" was used by the Iranians to refer to anyone from the Indian subcontinent, the term 'Parsi' was used by the Indians to refer to anyone from Greater Iran, irrespective of whether they were actually ethnic Persians or not. In any case, the term 'Parsi' itself is "not necessarily an indication of their Iranian or 'Persian' origin, but rather as indicator – manifest as several properties – of ethnic identity" (Stausberg 2002, p. I. 373). Moreover, (if heredity were the only factor in a determination of ethnicity) the Parsis – per Qissa – would count as Parthians. (Boyce 2002, p. 105) The term 'Parseeism' (or 'Parsiism') is attributed to Anquetil-Duperron, who in the 1750s, when the word 'Zoroastrianism' had yet to be coined, made the first detailed report of the Parsis and of Zoroastrianism, therein mistakenly assuming that the Parsis were the only remaining followers of the religion.

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