The Parsees in and around Bombay hold by Zoroaster as their prophet and by the ancient religious usages, but their doctrine has reached the stage of a pure monotheism.
The Parsees still preserve in western India the pure tradition of the ritual of incense as followed by their race from probably the most ancient times.
The rent was Sikhs 6,596 Jews 685 Parsees 245 Others 28 reduced permanently in 1898 to Rs.2,00,000 a year, but the share of the profits taken by government was increased from 20 to 30%.
This era was at one period universally adopted in Persia, and it still continues to be followed by the Parsees of India.
In some provinces of India the Parsees begin the year with September, in others they begin it with October.
The Parsees, though influential and wealthy, are a very small community, numbering only 94,000, of whom all but 7000 are found in Bombay.
The total number of persons belonging to all the other religions - Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, Christians, Jews, Aryas and Brahmoswas only 268,930, or less than o.
PARSEES, or Parsis, the followers in India of Zoroaster (Zarathustra), being the descendants of the ancient Persians who emigrated to India on the conquest of their country by the Arabs in the 8th century.
In 1901 the total number of Parsees in all India was 94,000, of whom all but 7000 were found in the Bombay presidency and the adjoining state of Baroda, the rest being widely scattered as traders in the large towns.
Among Parsees the men are well formed, active, handsome and intelligent.
The women are delicate in frame, with small hands and feet, fair complexions, beautiful black eyes, finely arched eyebrows, and a profusion of long black hair, which they dress to perfection, and ornament with pearls and gems. The Parsees are much more liberal in their treatment of women than any other Asiatic race; they allow them to appear freely in public, and leave them the entire management of household affairs.
The characteristic costume of the Parsees (now frequently abandoned) is loose and flowing, very picturesque in appearance, and admirably adapted to the climate in which he lives.
The head is covered with a turban, or a cap of a fashion peculiar to the Parsees; it is made of stiff material, something like the European hat, without any rim, and has an angle from the top of the forehead backwards.
The funeral ceremonies of the Parsees are solemn and imposing.
The Parsees of India are divided into two sects, the Shenshahis and the Kadmis.
The Parsees compute time from the fall of Yazdegerd.
On the day of Yazdegerd, or New Year's Day, the Parsees emulate the western world in rejoicing and social intercourse.
There are only two distinct classes among the Parsees - the priests (dasturs, or high priests; mobeds, or the middle order; and herbads, or the lowest order) and the people (behadin, behdin, or "followers of the best religion").
The secular affairs of the Parsees are managed by an elective committee, or panchayat, composed of six dasturs and twelve mobeds, making a council of eighteen.
Recently a serious difference arose among the Parsees of Bombay on the question of proselytism.
But it was decided by the High Court, after prolonged argument, that, though the creed of Zoroaster theoretically admitted proselytes, their admission was not consistent with the practice of the Parsees in India.
A beggar among the Parsees is unknown, and would be a scandal to the society.
The sagacity, activity and commercial enterprise of the Parsees are proverbial in the East, and their credit as merchants is almost unlimited.
The Parsees have shown themselves most desirous of receiving the benefits of an English education; and their eagerness to embrace the science and literature of the West has been conspicuous in the wide spread of female education, and in the activity shown in studying their sacred writings in critical texts.
Two Parsees have also been the only natives of India elected to the House of Commons.
See Menant, Les Parsis (Paris, 1898); Dosabhai Framji Karaka, History of the Parsees (London, 1884); Seervai and Patel, Gujarat Parsees from the Earliest Times (Bombay, 1898).
The actual proportion of the total population of India (294 millions) included under the name of "Hindus" has been computed in the census report for 1901 at something like 70% (206 millions); the remaining 30% being made up partly of the followers of foreign creeds, such as Mahommedans, Parsees, Christians and Jews, partly of the votaries of indigenous forms of belief which have at various times separated from the main stock, and developed into independent systems, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism; and partly of isolated hill and jungle tribes, such as the Santals, Bhils (Bhilla) and Kols, whose crude animistic tendencies have hitherto kept them, either wholly or for the most part, outside the pale of the Brahmanical community.
These Parsees have preserved but a small part of the sacred writings; but to-day they still number their years by the era which begins on the 16th of June A.D.
This inslation, though still regarded as canonical by the Parsees, shows, very imperfect knowledge of the original language.
ZEND - AVESTA, the original document of the religion of Zoroaster, still used by the Parsees as their bible and prayer-book.
The name " Zend-Avesta " has been current in Europe since the time of Anquetil Duperron (c. 1771), but the Parsees themselves call it simply Avesta, Zend (i.e.
Buddhists, Hindus, Mussulmans, Parsees, Armenians and Jews all own lands and pagodas, temples, mosques, churches and synagogues.
Out of the large sections of its population, Hindu, Mahommedan, Parsee, Jain and Christian, the Parsees are one of the smallest and yet the most influential.
The result was that the population of Bombay increased rapidly; a special quarter was set apart for the banya, or capitalist, class of Hindus; while Parsees and Armenians flocked to a city where they were secure of freedom alike for their trade and their religion.
The Yasna, the principal liturgical book of the Parsees, in 72 chapters (hait-i, ha), contains the texts that are read by the priests at the solemn yasna (Izeshne) ceremony, or the general sacrifice in honour of all the deities.
The Vendidad, the priestly code of the Parsees, contains in 22 chapters (fargard) a kind of dualistic account of the creation (chap. 1), the legend of Yima and the golden age (chap. 2), and in the bulk of the remaining chapters the precepts of religion with regard to the cultivation of the earth, the care of useful animals, the protection of the sacred elements, such as earth, fire and water, the keeping of a man's body from defilement, together with the requisite measures of precaution, elaborate ceremonies of purification, atonements, ecclesiastical expiations, and so forth.
In its present form, however, the Avesta is only a fragmentary remnant of the old priestly literature of Zoroastrianism, a fact confessed by the learned tradition of the Parsees themselves, according to which the number of Yashts was originally thirty.
The number twenty-one points, indeed, to an artificial arrangement of the material; for twenty-one is a sacred number, and the most sacred prayer of the Parsees, the so-called Ahuno Vairyo (Honovar) contains twenty-one words; and it is also true that in the enumeration of the nasks we miss the names of the books we know, like the Yasna and the Yashts.
But, even granting that a certain obscurity still hangs undispelled over the problem of the old Avesta, with its twenty-one nasks, we may well believe the Parsees themselves, when they affirm that their sacred literature has passed through successive stages of decay, the last of which is represented by the present Avesta.
The rest of the Avesta, in spite of the opposite opinion of orthodox Parsees, does not even claim to come from Zoroaster.