Zoroastrianism was the major religion in Persia until the Muslims invasion. The Arabs gave people two options: convert or die. A small group of people who were unwilling to convert fled Persia and eventually landed in Diu sometime in the 10thcentury. There is a dargah in Kashmir in Zarathushtra’s name so it is possible that he travelled to Kashmir. This may have drawn the Parsees to India. After some months they set out for Sanjan in Gujerat. The refugees were mostly men with only a few women among them. They were a tall, fair, handsome people. The women wore pyjamas and a long knee length kameez. They petitioned King Jadu or Jadav for shelter. There is a wonderful story about this encounter: King Jadav ordered a vessel of milk for the Parsees. Three magi, wise men or dasturs stepped forward. The first magi took a ring from his finger and put it in the vessel – gold (zara) signifies purity and the Parsees promised to never pollute the country. The second magi added a spoonful of sugar: As sugar dissolves in a glass of milk and sweetens it so will we amalgamate with your people and enrich your country. Finally, the third magi came forward: Our women will wear sarees and put a tikka on their forehead like Indian women. King Jadav was moved by their sincerity. He gave them land and shelter. More important, he gave them freedom of religion and conscience. He asked them to learn Gujarati, the local language and forbade them to carry arms. The Parsees put up a sthamb in Sanjan to celebrate this historic meeting. It's interesting that the last blessing given by the dasturji to the newly wed couple after the religious ceremony while throwing rice is in Sanskrit.
The extraordinary thing about the Parsees is that though they account for a fraction of 1% of the Indian population, they have produced great leaders in business, education, commerce, media, shipping, banking etc. Their contribution to what Pandit Nehru called ‘the new temples of India’ is phenomenal and far out of proportion to their negligible numbers. Their generosity and philanthropy is legendary. This miniscule community has produced the likes of Dadabhai Naoroji, Phirozshah Mehta, the Tatas, Godrej, and Anu Aga of Thermax, Lady Cama who tore up a sari and turned it into the Indian flag, Avabai Petit and so on. In music there is Zubin Mehta. It is not only that they have prospered as a community. The country has prospered with them. The key question then is: ‘What is it about Zoroastrianism that nurtures such outstanding leadership qualities?’ Like the Jews, they have a history of persecution. This invariably brings out epic qualities in people. The Parsees were forced to work very hard when they came to India and adapt themselves to a new lifestyle. Going back to Persia if things did not work out was not an option. There is some evidence that what brought this small group of refugees to India was not just religion but also commerce. They were merchants looking for new opportunities. In any case, the Gujaratis are a business minded community and this would have been a factor. The Parsees prospered under the British rule in India and became influential brokers for the government. The intense desire to survive as a community and hold on to their religion is also a factor. Zarathushtra’s doctrine of truth, purity, personal responsibility and free will is a strong foundation for character and essential for the making of a great personality. His insistence that we must not pollute the earth, air, water, fire and treat them with reverence is also important because it instils a responsible attitude towards the environment. Since numbers are few, Zarathushtra’s teachings have retained their original force and spawned a community of givers and achievers.Every member of the community wears a nine piece 'sadra' of white muslin. The Parsees are a peaceful community. There is absolutely no history of violence or riots of any kind with other religious groups in India. This goes back to the image of Zarathushtra with one finger raised signifying the one spirit that fills the entire universe.They are proud that their community has honoured the promise given by their forefathers to Jadav Raja.