Professor Almut Hintze FBA, Professor of Zoroastrianism and Co-Chair SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, London, along with her colleagues Ms. Celine Redard, Mr. Benedikt Thomas and Mr. Kerman Daruwalla, presently at Navsari were keen to visit some villages in South Gujarat Navsari to see for themselves and understand the harsh conditions in which many of our Zarathushti brothers and sisters live and the work the WZO Trusts are doing to bring them into the mainstream of society.
Two members of Team WZO Trusts at Navsari accompanied Professor Almut Hintze and her colleagues on a day trip to a few villages on January 30, 2019. We are pleased to attach some photographs taken during their visit.
WZO Trusts express their gratitude and are very grateful to Professor Almut Hintze and her colleagues for their interest and having taken the time and trouble to visit some of the villages for firsthand knowledge.
WZO Trusts have since 1991 impacted the lives of 489 families in 198 villages, having facilitated their transition from abject poverty and back into the mainstream of society.
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A true Indian always celebrates India’s Republic Day. Every patriotic person respects and enjoy republic day. So were the Parsi Zorastrians at Ahmedabad on last Saturday – 26th January.
Since 2015, the trustees of the Dhanjishaw and Manijeh Gamir Charitable Trust at Ahmedabad [known by DMGCT] celebrated India’s Republic Day as usual – 5th time. Such a celebration is arranged every year since 2015. Almost 325 community members attended the event which was started sharp as usual at 10.30 morning.
The flag hoisting was in the hands of Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jamsurarwalla from Pune. The event ceremony started sharp at 10.30 morning. Mr. Harvez Bharucha, connected to NCC escorted Maj.Gen.[Retd.] Jambusarwalla who hoisted our national flag with our National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, was sung by all participants at the event. The ceremony was followed by two patriotic songs sung by Mrs.Armin Dutia and Mrs. Perin Davar both Ahmedabad residents. Mr. Ariez Munshi, before flag hoisting, introduced the Chief guest, Maj. Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jambusarwalla, how well he had served the army for almost 40 years from day one of his joining till official retirement. Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jambursarwalla in his speech highlighted how well he was inducted in the Army, different places and posts he served. He highlighted that one time all different services, be it Army, Navy, Air force, the Parsis were in many numbers which gradually has been declining. People use to keep in mind that the job attachment in any of the services is indeed very tough, no return as also life style remain different than what in business, other pomp services today observed by many educated one. He urged young Parsi Zorastrians to join any of the services of they like and live with pride that they are doing something for the country. The vote of thanks were offered by one of the trustee, Mr.Aspy Unwalla who thanks the Chief Guest for visiting Ahmedabad for the event, Parsi Zarthostis of Ahmedabad for participating the event, Ahmeabad Parsi Panchayat for allowing to use the Sanitorium hall [Lalkaka Hall] and the Lunch served by Mek Caterers, Mr. Malcum Bastawala.
The event started sharp at 10.30 morning with a welcome speech by Mr.Aspy Bharucha, Trustee, who welcomed all at the event, as also the Chief Guest. He briefed the occasion which was cherished by Mrs. Manijeh Gamir, one of the testator of the Trust and in her life time as a trustee narrated in her speech delivered very first event in 2015, as to how she as a Teacher at the School in her old days use to arrange such celebrations. Mr. Aspy Bharucha in brief introduced late Dhanjishaw and Manijeh Gamr of their simple life style leaving behind legacy for the welfare of the Parsi Zorastrians of Ahmedabad.
This was the 5th event started since 2015. All these years, the Trust is able to find a right dignified Parsi Zarthosti having served any of the Service wings. Earlier to this event, the Flag Hoisting was arranged in the hands of Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Mr. Navroz Chinoy now settled at Ahmedabad, and in line thereof, 2nd was in the hands of Brig. [Retd.] Mr.Jehangir Anklesaria [Ahmedabad] 3rd was in the hands of Mr.Areez Khambatta, Ex-Commondar of Home Guards and Chief Operating Officer of Civil Defence, Ahmedabad, and 4th last year it was in the hands of Col. [Retd.] Kaizad Bhaya from Pune.
The event was followed by Games which was participated by all ages both individually and in group. The games were organized by Mrs. Jeniffer Kapadia, and Mr. Ariez Bokdawala both from Ahmedabad. As usual, the event was full of Joy, Fun, Enjoyment and Food without which any Parsi event will not end. The lunch was served by Mr.Malcum Bastawala of Mek Caterers of Udwada.
From the quirky motifs hidden in the sari to its genesis, Ashdeen Lilaowala breaks down the nuances of a traditional Parsi Gara
The timeless elegance of a traditional Parsi Gara is undeniable. Embroidered to life with photorealistic precision, the Gara sari is a unique member in the exhaustive variety of crafts found in the country. Predominantly worn by the Parsi community during weddings and special occasions, the exquisite Gara sari deserves not to be stashed away just for those big days. Vogue spoke to Ashdeen Lilaowala—one of the few creative minds carrying the legacy of the Gara forward—about the history of the embroidery, its evolution and the lesser known facts.
Tell us about the origins of Gara
Gara embroidery came into our design lexicon at a time when the Parsis from India would travel to China for trade. They carried opium and cotton with them from India, which was bartered for tea in China. Tea as a commodity was gaining a lot of popularity in Europe and the British wanted to sell more tea in Europe. The Parsis quickly became rich trading with the British.
When they came back on their ships, they also brought back ceramics and various other antiques that were available in China. Legend says that one of the traders brought back a new kind of artistic embroidery, which was very realistic in its depiction of flora and fauna and was targeted to the European market. Eventually, it was commissioned as a five-and-a-half-metre sari for the traders from India. Earlier, the pieces that came in were fully embroidered, corner to corner, but then slowly the women started travelling to China too, and they edited them to have borders, blank spaces for tucking in, etc. The Parsi community had newly settled in Bombay, become quite rich, and now wanted a certain new look—and they adopted the Gara saris as their signature.
One of the famous designs was ‘Cheena Cheeni’, which depicts a Chinese man and a Chinese woman against a landscape of pagodas, bridges, plantations and people doing daily chores in China, carrying lanterns and other knick knacks—but these were things so exotic and unseen in India, that the design became a prized possession. They also brought back narrow borders that are called as ‘Kor’, and clothes for the children—the tunics were called ‘Jhablas’ and pants were called ‘Ghicha’. These were some of the different products that were coming via the trade.
Can you tell us a little more about other popular Gara designs?
We have quirky names for motifs. Apart from ‘Cheena Cheeni’, there is a polka-dotted motif is called ‘kaanda papeta’, which stands for onion potato. Polka dots were so common at one point, that they were jestingly compared to onions and potatoes for how readily available they were. Then there is a spin wheel motif, which the Parsis call a ‘Karoliya’, or a spider. We have a ‘Marga Margi’, which is a rooster and a hen and there’s a ‘Chakla Chakli’ too, which is a male and female sparrow.
During a research exercise, we found that there is a kind of rock formation on the sari that usually comes with a peacock perched on it—the motif is called ‘The Divine Fungus’. But when you tell a Parsi woman that there’s fungus on your sari, they (naturally!) don’t take it well. And we have seen borders with exquisitely embroidered bats as well. Indians are not fond of bats, and for Parsis, bats are equivalent to death—I’ve actually had customers tell me they’re not wearing the pieces again once I confirmed the embroidery denotes a bat, and not a butterfly, as they originally thought. We also have a sari in our recent collection called ‘Morning Glory’—it has a sun and a huge spread of birds, flora and fauna, so it is like a whole narrative about the sun being the element that manifests this abundance of flora.
How long does it take to make a Gara sari?
Depending on the density of the work, it can take anything from three weeks to two months. And when I say two months, I mean six to eight people working on one sari together.
What is the base fabric of the sari?
Even though the sari is covered in silk thread embroidery all over, it has a nice flow to it and can be draped well. The original fabric was called ‘Sali Ghaj’, which has very thin lines running through it.
Garas went out of fashion in the ’30s and were only revived in the ’80s. In Mumbai, they started using this thick fabric—Shamu satin and thick Crepe d Chine back then. Presently, we largely use crepe, but not georgette or chiffon—because the silk thread is hand-embroidered and these fabrics can’t take the weight of the embroidery.
The scholar, Anton Zykov, worked for the Russian Embassy between 2011 and 2013, but in November 2017, he started working on a unique three-year project of recording and analysing the Parsi dialect (Parsi Gujarati or simply Parsi in India and Zoroastrian Dari or Gavruni in Iran).
THIS RUSSIAN scholar’s ‘Parsi connect’ dates back a decade, when he chose Zoroastrianism as his thesis subject as an MPhil student at Oxford. The scholar, Anton Zykov, worked for the Russian Embassy between 2011 and 2013, but in November 2017, he started working on a unique three-year project of recording and analysing the Parsi dialect (Parsi Gujarati or simply Parsi in India and Zoroastrian Dari or Gavruni in Iran).Advertising
“The focus is on contemporary spoken Parsi (also known as Parsi Gujarati). I am looking forward to document the language as it is spoken. So I try to record the conversations which Parsis have with each other in Parsi Gujarati. It’s just an attempt to give an objective picture of the language,” said Zykov.
The scholar works by collecting video and audio samples of the Parsi speech from various places, among Parsis of various ages, professional and socio-economic background. These samples are processed, annotated and analyzed to understand syntax, lexicon, morphology and semantics used among the different varieties of the Parsi speech.
Many in the community have become his friends and collaborators on the project, like the family of Rohin and Frazin Kanga from Navsari, who hosted him for three months while he was based there gathering language material, he said. Recalling some interesting interactions with the community, he said, “Once I was making a recording at a dar-e-mehr (Fire temple) in Navsari. When I was changing my camera’s battery, the person whom I was recording asked me if I was married. I said “no” and asked the reason for his curiosity. He told me that he heard from someone that I was married to a Parsi girl. So there are some Parsis who suspect a hidden agenda in my research,” said Zykov.
The Russian scholar aspires to complete the project by publishing a grammar book and dictionary of the Parsi language and successfully archiving it with Endangered Languages Archive of SOAS University of London, which has funded the project.Advertising
“I wish to draw the community’s attention to its rich linguistic heritage like the munajats (Parsi popular devotional songs), kahavaten (proverbs) and even galliyan (cuss words) are a source of unique Parsi linguistic treasure. All this will be lost if linguistic shift towards English keeps on increasing among the Parsis and Parsi Gujarati continues to have a low social prestige. I hope my work can be used among the Parsi diaspora to learn Parsi Gujarati and maintain their identity and tradition,” he added.
Written by Abha Goradia |Mumbai |Published: January 14, 2019
The ZXX study was created as a tribute to Zarthusti women and as a way to celebrate their lives. Our aim was to interview Zarthusti women about their lives in order to gain insight and contribute to the gap in literature surrounding this topic. We also wanted to create an insider participatory action project. Most scholarly literature about the Zarthusti community is written by outsiders but this project is community based and community driven. ZXX refers to Zarthusti women, as the genetic symbol for females is XX.
It is the brainchild of Dr Farah Shroff, who started the first version of this study, ZXX 1.0, as a series of interviews with Zarthusti women which were transcribed and audio recorded. ZXX 2.0 is a video recorded oral herstory project. Inspired by the love of her family and community, this project is dedicated to the wonderfully warm, eccentric and inspiring Zarthusti community.
While Zarathustrianism is considered the world’s first monotheistic religion, not much is known about the individual members of the religion or the community as most scholarly work has been of a theological nature. Many people are surprised to learn that living members of the community exist at all. Furthermore, many studies conducted about Zarathustrianism have been undertaken by scholars outside the community. This study is unique in that the majority of the researchers and authors are Zoroastrian women. Two of the researchers were also participants in the study.
In the study, Zarthusti women ranging in age were video interviewed by Dr. Farah Shroff. Topics such as childhood, school life, and religious identity were explored through the interviews. We hope you enjoy watching the videos and reading our study!
I am an 8th grader at a middle school in the USA. I have been very fortunate to experience the wonders of traveling to other countries, and meeting other children around the world. Each time I come back home, I find that other people also love to explore and learn about exotic destinations, but not everyone is able to experience them firsthand.
I thought about other ways to help children learn more about the world, while having fun at the same time. Based on this idea, I created Travel Explore Discover.
The 5th edition of the Zoroastrian Return To Roots Program began in Mumbai, India today on December 19, 2018.
22 Zarathushti youth from USA, Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand and India gathered in Mumbai at the Cusrow Baug Pavilion to kick off the program.
Aban Marker-Kabraji, Co-Chair of RTR Program welcomed the RTR Fellows and briefed them about the history of the program and the ethos and principles on which the program is based. She emphasized the diversity of the program and thanked the institutional and individual donors who have put their faith in this program. Arzan Sam Wadia, Program Director of RTR briefed everyone about the upcoming daily program details over the next 15 days.
The group were given a brief history of the Cusrow Baug, Mumbai’s premier Zoroastrian housing colony by Hoshang Jal, the Secretary of Cusrow Baug Pavilion.
Homi Gandhi, President of FEZANA spoke of FEZANA’s commitment as a MoU partner in supporting RTR as an institutional partner.
The participants then made their way to the legendary Britannia for a scrumptious Parsi meal and a personal meeting with its equally legendary owner Boman Kohinoor.
Later in the afternoon, RTR Fellows were welcomed at Madison World, India’s premier advertising and marketing agency headed by the dynamic father-daughter duo of Sam Balsara and Lara Balsara. Here the Fellows got a masterclass in entrepreneurship, media, advertising and a detailed deep-dive in the story behind the hugely successful ad campaign for Jiyo Parsi.
Over the next two weeks Fellows will travel to Pune, Nargol, Sanjan, Udvada, Navsari and Surat before returning to Mumbai for the return leg.
As is customary, all the pre-planning leading up to this day and the daily logistics of the trip is run by RTR Alumni who come back year on year, to continue the program. Zubin Gheesta and Sheherazad Pavri from Mumbai, Kayras Irani from Auckland, Tanya Hoshi from Toronto and Cyrus Karanjia from Karachi are the alumni who will be assisting with the running of the program
Trail Blazers India, as RTR’s logistics partners since inception were represented by Hutokshi Marker, CEO and Kurush Charna, CTO who will travel with the group for the entire duration.
Attached is the December 2018 issue of Manashni. Hope you enjoy reading it. Thank you to all our contributors and as always to Farhad Khurshed and Nadish Naoroji for their time and effort to get this issue put together. The AZA Managing Committee wishes the Community Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Blessed 2019.Best Wishes.
Honorary Secretary – AZA – 2018 -2019 On behalf of the AZA Managing Committee
Calling All Designers!
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We are gearing up for the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2019!
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Thousands of representatives from Governments, NGOs and Women’s Organizations worldwide
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Your artwork should incorporate the CSW63 Priority Theme: Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
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Deadline For Submissions: 14 January, 2019