Stunning Portraits of the Dwindling Parsi Community – Kurush Umrigar

There are many reasons behind the dropping numbers. Parsis, unlike other communities, don’t put such a great emphasis on marriage. Many Parsis remain bachelors and spinsters till they die. If they do marry, a lot of them decide to marry late—in their 30s and even 40s, when conceiving children becomes difficult. Additionally, their duality is well known. Outwardly, they are incredibly westernised and modern. Internally, they wrestle with many demons, the most vicious of which is a mania for blood purity—inter-caste marriages are heavily frowned upon. Moreover, it lays bare the community’s skewed gender rules, as a woman who marries outside is no longer considered a Parsi, and neither are her children. The same does not apply if the man is Parsi—his kids may still be initiated into the Zoroastrian faith.

Meanwhile, the community’s contribution towards the development of India is immeasurable. From industry to the arts and philanthropy to economics, the legacy of the Parsis may very well outlive the community at this rate—the birth to death ratio stands somewhere around 1:3.

When I spoke to Umrigar about his project, he told me that he feels as though he is racing against time to document and photograph old Parsis. “You never know how much longer they’re going to be around,” he says. At the end, he hopes to turn this project into a coffee table book.

Umrigar is currently photographing faces all over India and hopes to take this project international. He is always looking for interesting faces to photograph. If you think you can help, scroll down the bottom of the article for details.

I. Amy Kolah | 100-years-old

She died earlier this year. She worked at Tata, where she headed the Department of Commercial Art

Image © Kurush M. Umrigar


II. Khorshed Bharucha | 86-years-old

A die-hard cricket fan, she still follows every match and is up-to-date with all cricket news

Image © Kurush M. Umrigar


III. Mr. Wadia | 94-years-old

A former Parsi taxi driver in Mumbai, he drove a taxi for nearly 40 years until he retired

Image © Kurush M. Umrigar


IV. Zubin Mehta | 80-years-old

World-renowned conductor

Image © Kurush M. Umrigar

Words: Neville Bhandara

[You can follow him on Instagram. Additionally, you can email him at or even call him on +919920099519 if you’d like to help him continue his project.]

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