As per most scholars today, Zoroastrianism dates back to 1200-1700 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest religions. Zoroastrians fled Persia after its Arab invasion and landed on India’s west coast, where most of them reside today. My long-term body of work, covers the rapid demographic decline of Zoroastrians in India. The subjects of my story are singles, childless couples and interfaith marriages whose children’s ‘navjote’ (initiation into the faith) ceremony have not been performed. These topics are often discussed and debated as reasons for the decline of the community in India.
The Parsee community is said to have the highest percentage of bachelors and spinsters compared to any faith of the world. It must be noted that having University education, financial stability are the main criteria, eligible men and women consider when choosing one’s spouse. Unlike some other faiths, Zoroastrians do not allow conversion, traditionalists maintain that when Zoroastrian pilgrims landed in India they promised the Hindu ruler, who gave them refuge, never to convert their neighbours. This promise, though not documented has become a part of the culture. Since then, one is a Zoroastrian only by birth. Among Parsees, lineage passes through fathers, and not mothers. Women who marry outside the faith are no longer permitted to attend their temple. Additionally, their offsprings are not initiated into the faith. Whereas, most Parsee men who have married outside have initiated their offsprings into the faith.