Zoroastrianism needs to adapt its archaic laws
As the child of a female Zoroastrian I cannot follow the religion, even if I wanted to. Yet if it does not survive, the traditions of my Parsi ethnicity go with it
As the child of a female Zoroastrian, I was not permitted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and undertake the Navjote; whether I am even allowed to call myself Parsi is debatable, although as it is an ethnicity, it is hard to know what else to term myself. And, as a non-Zoroastrian, I am not allowed into the fire temples.
The faith is inextricably linked to the Parsi and Irani communities – you don’t find Zoroastrians of any other ethnicity. Although historical evidence suggests that many left ancient Persia for economic reasons, my late maternal grandfather gave me the traditional Parsi version of events. He stated that the Zoroastrians’ exclusivity dates back to the seventh century, when Arab Muslims invaded ancient Persia and gave them the choice of converting to Islam or fleeing the country. Many chose the latter, and sailed to India in a fleet of ships. On arrival, the king of the Gujarat sent out a (possibly apocryphal) cup of milk filled to the brim, to signify that the country was overflowing with residents and couldn’t accept any more.
Why, as an atheist, should I feel sadness at the decline of a faith that was never mine to begin with? Perhaps for the same reason that many people who don’t believe in God have a soft spot for the religion of their ethnicity: nostalgia for my childhood, family ties, the memory of my beloved grandfather praying quietly in his sedreh and kushti. But I think it is more than that: Zoroastrianism and being a Parsi are intertwined, so much so that the terms are often used interchangeably. If the religion dies, all the traditions of the ethnicity will go with it.