The Parsi community is set for a showdown with liberals taking on the orthodox, demanding that non-Parsis who have married into the community — and their children — be allowed to convert to the faith.
With a population of 69,000 according to the 2001 census, the community is the country’s fastest dwindling minority group. This is mostly because children of Parsis married to non-Parsis are not allowed to practise Zoroastrianism. Groups like the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians (AIMZ) and Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ) are out to change that.
“Injustice is meted out to inter-married Parsi couples,” said Kersi Wadia, co-founder of ARZ. “But the scriptures do not say anything like this. They say the religion is universal.”
The associations have organised a talk on the true essence of Zoroastrianism by Chicago-based Zoroastrian high priest Dasturji Dr Kersey Antia at YB Chavan Auditorium on Saturday. Antia had performed the navjote (initiation ceremony) of an American, Joseph Peterson, who converted to Zoroastrianism after reading the religious scriptures in the 1980s.
“The idea is to enlighten people on what the gathas (religious texts) are about,” said AIMZ vice chairman Smita Crishna. “It will highlight the teachings of Zarathustra.”
The associations maintain they are not out to hurt anybody’s sentiments or personal interpretations of the religion. But they are concerned that ostracising women who marry non-Parsis and their children will contribute to the community’s failing strength.
“All we are saying is let them follow the religion,” said Wadia. “If we throw one person out of a fire temple, we throw an entire generation out. In 30 to 40 years, we will reach a point of no return.”
ARZ is taking other steps to ensure inter-married Parsis can practise Zoroastrianism freely. “We don’t want to flout any rules. We are in the process of setting up a separate temple for them,” said Wadia. “It is likely to come up in Goregaon in the next two years."