HYDERABAD: Did you know that Cherma’s, where we used to shop (and even now do) before the entry of malls and multiplexes has been founded by the Parsi community? Their religion Zoroastrianism is arguably the world’s first monotheistic faith, and is one of the oldest religions still in existence. Parsis migrated to the Indian subcontinent from Persia (now Iran), after the Muslim conquest of Persia between the 8th and 10th century AD.
Reportedly, the Chenoys were the first lot of Parsis who came to Secunderabad around 1803. “When the Hyderabad Contingency was transferred from the old Cantonment of Jalna to Bolaram in 1800, the Chenoy family came along with them and were the recognised army shroffs or bankers of the said contingent. Many in the Chenoy family earned different titles such as “Khan Bahadur”, “Khan Saheb” and “Nawab”,” says CA Jehangir Bisney, trustee of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad (PZASH).
Parsis are known for their philanthropy and charity activities. Located at MG Road, Secunderabad, PZASH is the largest Parsi Trust of the twin cities. “Apart from providing subsidised housing to the community members, PZASH has various other schemes such as education encouragement, poverty amelioration, child incentive, etc. It also provides medical equipment for emergency use,” adds Jehangir.The other prominent institutions are Zoroastrian Club, BRJC Parsi High School at Park Lane, Secunderabad, Zoroastrian Stree Mandal and Parsi Dharamshala near Paradise, Secunderabad. There are various other private trusts that provide housing and other aid to the deserving families.
There are nearly 1,000 Parsis in the twin cities. A substantial number of them reside in the three colonies within the precincts of the three Fire Temples. Two Fire Temples are in Secunderabad and one is in Hyderabad. Most of the Parsis are members of PZASH. The fee is a nominal `1 per month. Capt Kayarmin Pestonji of Cherma’s and Manek Daruvala of T.I.M.E. are some of the prominent Parsi businesspersons in the city. “The Anjuman will be celebrating the centenary celebrations of its Fire Temple in July 2020,” informs Jehangir.
The Parsi community celebrates its new year on the first day of its calendar. On March 21 every year, the community observes Navroze, a traditional Persian / Iranian festival celebrating the onset of spring. A few days after the Parsi New Year, the community celebrates the birthday of its Prophet Zarathustra called Khordad Saal. The prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra in ancient Persian) is regarded as the founder of Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster taught followers to worship a single god called Ahura Mazda.
Parsis love eggs, potatoes and meat. Almost all the vegetable dishes made from okra, tomatoes or potatoes will have eggs on top. Meat dishes will have potatoes in the form of ‘salli’ (matchstick-fried potatoes). Dishes like the dhansak have lentils which are adopted from typical Indian preparations and given a meaty twist. Fish dishes use local seafood like prawns and pomfret, and the use of banana leaf (patra ni macchi) in their preparation shows the skillful adoption of local ingredients and making it their own. Lagan Nu Custard is a dessert which is the Parsi version of the French Creme Brulee and has derived its name from being served at weddings.
Community weddings take place every year and more frequently in the cooler months of November, December and January. Most of the community weddings take place at the picturesque Parsi Dharamsala complex located at Paradise, Secunderabad. The complex has a large hall/pavilion. The weddings always take place after sunset and are performed by the community priests.
Parsis in the twin cities
A few businesses
Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad