Profile Source: The World Missions Atlas Project
Introduction / History
The Parsee people, which literally means inhabitant, are of the Indo-Iranian affinity block. Alternate names for this group are Fasli, Kadini, Shahenshahi, Shahinshahi, Zardast, Zarrushti, and Zarushti.
Where are they Located?
They are found in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
What are Their Lives Like?
Sindhi is the primary of three spoken languages; the other two being Eastern Punjabi and Dari-Parsi, mostly the language spoken among them in Afghanistan.
This people group traces its origin to the Persian Kings of the Old Testament including King Darius, Cyrus, and Xerxes who aided in the rebuilding of the Temple. In the Old Testament, Cyrus is noted as the only Gentile who was called "anointed". The magi who came to worship at Jesus' birth are also believed to have been Parsee. Because of their ancient heritage, which is dated at before 3000 BC, they are very proud and cling to their identity of royal heritage. They are know as the Zoroastrian Iranians who refused to adopt Islam during the Arab conquest.
Parsee communities are tightly knit closed groups that view themselves as superior to all other religious groups and races. Parsee women who marry outside their people group are no longer considered Parsee. One must be born Parsee and must participate in the blood covenant ritual to truly be Parsee. This ritual takes place just before children reach puberty. The child is bathed and then offered bull's urine, considered to be the blood of their god, by the temple priest and thus establishes a covenant allowing their soul to be one with god. Then the child is given a white shirt and a band of the covenant that is tied around the waist. These articles are never to be removed and are to be worn the rest of their lives as a reminder of the covenant. The Parsee people hold to a code of conduct which is summarized as, "good thought, good word, good deeds."
What are Their Beliefs?
Their primary religion is Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism has fire as its supreme deity of worship believing it to be the son of god. All religious rituals and rites of passage are performed with burning fire present, and it is often lit by sandalwood and oil. Fires burn continuously in homes, and the temple fire is forbidden to burn out. Fire worship may include one falling prostrate before the flames.
They do hold to the belief in a Wise Creator god and wisdom is the most valued character trait by Zoroastrians. Guardian angels, who are treated more like a magical genie to disperse wishes, are also primary to religious beliefs -- conscience is the most important of such angels. Resurrection and salvation are part of their religious terminology, though they differ in meaning from Christian definitions.
Ancestor worship is an emphasized aspect of worship. Pictures of deceased loved ones hang in homes and are prayed and bowed to. August marks a time dedicated to ancestor worship during which forgiveness is sought and the spirits are asked to join the people. Demons manifest themselves in the likeness of lost family members.
The Parsee people celebrate six seasonal festivals known as Gahambars. Each festival lasts five days and is a time of worship dedicated to Ahura Mazda. After worship, there are assemblies of feasting, fellowship, and acts of goodwill. Upon a baby's birth, mother and child are confined with a lamp to ward off demons. Children are often given three names, the first is a personal name, the second is the father's name, and the third is the family name.
Parsees respect other faith systems and gods. The Bible is treated honorably as a religious text and Christ is also seen in a positive light and as a Messiah, though multiple idols may be worshiped. There are few if any known believers among the Parsee in Afghanistan.