As a Parsi, I have often been asked questions such as, what is my race, where do I come from (originate), what is my religion; and other such questions in a similar vein.
Through this article, I will try to put in a nutshell some of the answers to these questions.
Do let me know through your comments if this article addresses the questions satisfactorily or does it excite more questions from you. 🙂
Meaning of the word “Parsi”
Parsis came from Iran, or Persia as it was called earlier. Our forefathers came from a place in Persia called “Pars”. Thus the conjugation of the word “Parsis”.
The term Pārsi, which in the Persian language is a demonym meaning “inhabitant of Pārs” and hence “ethnic Persian”.
To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa. The English word Persepolis is derived from the Greek “Πέρσης πόλις”, “Pérsēs pólis”, meaning “Persian city”. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as تخت جمشید Takht-e Jamshid (“The Throne of Jamshid”), and چهل منار Chehel minar (“The Forty Columns/Minarets”).
Persepolis (Old-Persian word: Pārśa), also spelled Perspolis, was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC). Persepolis is situated 70 km northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran.
The term Persian translates to “from Persis” which is a region north of the Persian Gulf located in Pars, Iran. It was from this region that Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid empire, united all other Iranian empires (such as the Medes), and expanded the Persian cultural and social influences by incorporating the Babylonian empire, and the Lydian empire. Although not the first Iranian empire, the Achaemenid empire is the first Persian empire well recognized by Greek and Persian historians for its massive cultural, military and social influences going as far as Athens, Egypt and Libya.
Parsa Province (Persian: استان پارس Ostān-e Pārs/Fārs pronounced [ˈfɒː(ɾ)s]), originally spelled Pārsā (Persian: پارسا), is one of the 31 provinces and known as the Cultural Capital of Iran. It is in the south of the country and its centre is Shiraz.
Fars or Pars is the original homeland of the Persian people. The native name of the Persian language is Fârsi or Pârsi. Persia and Persian both derive from the Hellenized form Πέρσις Persis of the root word Pârs. The Old Persian word was Pârsâ.
Who is Zoroaster/Zarathustra?
Zoroaster (/ˌzɒroʊˈæstər/ or /ˈzɒroʊˌæstər/, from Greek Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs), also known as Zarathustra (/ˌzɑrəˈθuːstrə/; Avestan: Zaraθuštra; Persian: زرتشت Zartosht, زردشت Zardosht), was the founder of Zoroastrianism.
Zoroaster is the prophet of all Zoroastrians, whose God is “Ahura Mazda”.
Origin Of The Sacred Fire
Chak Chak (Persian: چك چك – “Drip-Drip”, also Romanized as Chek Chek; also known as Chāhak-e Ardakān and Pir-e Sabz (Persian: پیر سبز) “The Green Pir”) is a village in Rabatat Rural District, Kharanaq District, Ardakan County, Yazd Province, Iran.
Chak Chak The village consists of a pir perched beneath a towering cliff face in the desert of central Iran. It is the most sacred of the mountain shrines of Zoroastrianism. Located near the city of Ardakan in Yazd Province, Chak Chak serves as a pilgrimage point for pious Zoroastrians. Each year from June 14–18 many thousands of Zoroastrians from Iran, India and other countries flock to the fire temple at Pir-e Sabz. Tradition has it that pilgrims are to stop the moment they see the sight of the temple and continue their journey on foot the rest of the way.
In Zoroastrian belief, Chak Chak is where Nikbanou, second daughter of the last pre-Islamic Persian ruler, Yazdegerd III of the Sassanid Empire, was cornered by the invading Arab army in 640 CE. Fearing capture Nikbanou prayed to Ahura Mazda to protect her from her enemies. In response to Nikbanou’s pleadings, the mountain miraculously opened up and sheltered her from the invaders.
Notable features of Chak Chak include the ever-dripping spring located at the mountain. Legend has it that these drops are tears of grief that the mountain sheds in remembrance of Nikbanou. Growing beside the holy spring is an immense and ancient tree said to be Nikbanou’s cane. Legend also has it that a petrified colourful cloth from Nikbanou was also visible in the rocks, although pilgrims have since removed it.
The actual temple of Chak Chak is a man-made grotto sheltered by two large bronze doors. The shrine enclosure is floored with marble and its walls are darkened by fires kept eternally burning in the sanctuary. In the cliffs below the shrine are several roofed pavilions constructed to accommodate pilgrims.
It is believed that the sacred fire of the Zoroastrian religion originated in this shrine. See video below.
Parsis in India
The Parsis may be a very small community in terms of numbers, and it would have been quite easy to become invisible in this vast Indian landscape, but their accomplishments and sense of philanthropy has made the Parsis stand out. Here’s a look at how the Parsis landed in India, and managed to flourish while creating a deep respect and adoration in the hearts of Indians. Gangadharan Menon has interacted with several of his Parsi friends and travelled to their historically important sites to recreate their history in words and photographs. By the end of the 7th century, the mighty Sassanian Empire had been vanquished by Arab invaders. Many people of the Zoroastrian faith were consequently killed. Those who survived fled to the mountains of Iran. They were hounded out from there too, and after a brief respite in the town of Hormuz, they set sail for the friendly shores of India.
The ship that carried them was soon enveloped in a massive storm. The ship was rocked but not their faith. They prayed till the storm passed. And suddenly they discovered that they were washed ashore on the welcome shores of Nargol in Gujarat.
Legend has it that their leader, a Dastur, or a Parsi Priest, led his people to the durbar of the King of Sanjan named Jadhav Rana. When the Dastur requested permission for his people to settle down in Sanjan, the king asked for an empty vessel and some milk. Then, in full view of all those present, poured the milk into the vessel till it was full to the brim. And gave it to the Dastur, as if to mean that there is no place in the kingdom to accommodate Dastur’s people. The Dastur took the vessel of milk in his hand, sprinkled sugar into it, gave it back to the king, and smiled. The vessel didn’t spill over but had become sweeter! The king was so impressed with this brilliant metaphor that he gave them permission to settle down in Sanjan. And thus began a new chapter in the Parsi Zoroastrian story.
It must be noted that many migrants from Iran came to India after this first wave. Out of which the majority are the Parsis’ own brethren, also known today as the Irani Zoroastrians.