“Today, our Parsi children know more about Hindu gods and kings than historical personalities of their own religion,” said Hoshaang Gotla, 29, who works with an education firm. To stop this “growing ignorance” about Zoroastrianism among children, Gotla and other like-minded Parsis have initiated a series of community programmes.
Run by a group called the Xtremely Young Zoroastrians (XYZ), events will be organised every alternate Sunday and, through fun activities, Parsi children will be taught about Zoroastrianism, community literature, folklore, contemporary iconic personalities and even Parsi cuisine and language.
“Through skits and plays, children will learn about Zoroastrianism’s creator Ahura Mazda, his message and our prayers. They will also be introduced to our great epic poem Shahnameh, and stories of famous kings such as Tahmuras, Jamshid, Homai and Rustom,” said Gotla.
“The events will also improve their decision-making abilities, team work and management.”
For the content of the programme, XYZ has on board nine senior and influential Parsis from diverse fields such as law, health and philanthropy. For religious knowledge, Parsi high priest Khurshed Dastoor has helped, while actor Boman Irani will motivate children to test their limits. Diana Marfatia, an educationist and one of the advisors, said the initiative could prove to be a landmark in the community’s contemporary history. “While the blame is on us seniors for not having passed many legacies to our children, this is an organised effort for revival,” she said, adding the team worked for a year to design the curriculum.
Gotla said more than 400 children between five and 15 years of age have already enrolled for the programme, which has a fee of Rs1,000 per year. Sessions will be held at seven centres in the city — Colaba, Tardeo, Parel, Dadar, Andheri, Santacruz, and Byculla.
A Colaba-based parent, who did not wish to be named, said he promptly enrolled his 13-year-old daughter as the experience would instil in her a sense of pride about being a Parsi, at the same time improve her people skills.
At the inaugural two-hour session at Birla Matoshree Hall, Marine Lines, on Sunday, more than 300 children, along with parents and senior members of the community, sat through a series of video presentations, which briefed them about the history of Zoroastrianism and celebrated the Parsis who have made it big.
The names included business icons such as the Wadia family, and those in the entertainment world such as musician Zubin Mehta and actor Perizaad Zorabian.