The curious case of vanishing Parsis

The curious case of vanishing Parsis

From 500 to a few

The Parsi community is on the verge of extinction in the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad.

A greatly civilised clan, which has made valuable contributions to the socio-economic growth of the twin cities, has seen such a sharp drop in its population that demographic experts fear the culturally rich heritage of the community would be wiped out if the decline is not arrested.

There were more than 150 Parsi families in Hubli-Dharwad, comprising 500 people in Hubli alone, at the time of Independence. But from then on, it has been a gradual downhill climb in their numbers.

By 1985, there were only 20 families left in the two cities. And in 2000, it shrunk to 10 families with just 28 members, a shocking 94.4 per cent decline, compared to their population in the early 1950s.

But more shocking is the fact that only five families live in Hubli-Dharwad today, consisting of mostly aged people.

No inter-caste marriages

One of the reasons for the drastic decline in the Parsi population is that youngsters prefer bachelorhood to marriage because of their “not-so-strong” economic conditions and their penchant for financial independence (self-respect preventing them from depending on their parents for support).

Another reason is the Parsi couple going for a compact family, with not more than two children. This apart, a ban on intercaste marriage has proved to be a bane. Those who dare to go for intercaste marriages are treated as outcastes.

“This is the reason why a majority of the Parsi youths remain unmarried, leading to a drastic decline in the population,” says Hoshang Dalal, the chief priest of Dar-e-Merior, a Parsi temple in Hubli.

“If the decline continues at this rate, probably no one will remain to celebrate the centenary of Dar-e-Merior, which celebrated its platinum jubilee three years ago,” he says.

Dalal underlines the need for a change in the mindset of the youngsters of his community. “They must give a serious thought to the alarming decline in our population. They should think of having more children, and that’s the only way to stabilise our population growth,” he says.

Significant contribution

Parsis migrated from the Persian region when suppression of other religions by Muslim rulers reached its peak. They landed in Gujarat, and from there moved to other cities, including Hubli, in the early 19th Century. A majority of the Parsis worked for Bharat Cotton Mill in Hubli, and some others served as guards in the Railways.

Parsis have made a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the twin cities in their own way. It was Doshibayi Nadirsha Belgaumwala who donated four acres of prime land and constructed the Hubli Co-operative Hospital in the heart of the city.

The only Parsi temple (Dar-e-Merior), also called Holy Dadga, was built by Doshibayi’s wife. The Wadiya family started a veterinary hospital on PB Road in the city way back in 1940. But it’s unfortunate that the community, which gave the nation great personalities like Dadabhai Naoroji, Jamshedji Tata, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, and Major General Manekshaw, is gradually vanishing from the twin cities.