India: Interfaith Marriages Challenge Parsi Families

Khushroo Anita, a 35-year-old Parsi, often dates women outside his faith when he travels for work. His parents hope he will marry a Parsi woman, so he keeps these relationships secret at home. Image by Rosalie Murphy. India, 2014.

Anita and Mehta, both men, are young members of India’s Parsi community. The ethnic group numbers just 60,000 nationwide, three-fourths of them in Mumbai, and diminishing fast. Their Zoroastrian faith forbids converts, so many ascribe the population decline—at least in part—to increasingly common marriages between Parsis and people of other faiths.

“In 2008, one in every four [Parsi marriages] was a mixed marriage. Now, one of every three is a mixed marriage,” said Mehta, a banker and Parsi youth leader. “When people say Parsis are dwindling, it’s not necessarily that we’re dying out, but when you intermarry, you dilute that sense of Parsi identity.”

The specter of their shrinking population hangs heavy over Parsis of all ages. They face pressure from their families and community leaders to marry other Parsis, because marriage implies children who can inherit religious and cultural customs.

Anita, the 35-year-old businessman searching for a spouse, has dated women of other faiths, but called the relationships “clandestine.” His family badly wants him to marry a Parsi. He hopes to as well, but not out of religious or cultural devotion—it’s just easier.

Click Here for the full story by Rosalie Murphy at Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

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