Parsis are a tiny community in India, whose ancestors came to our country due to religious persecution in Persia (Iran), their original home country. Although a small community, they have made an outstanding contribution to our nation in various walks of life, e.g .business, law, armed forces, etc and the whole of India is proud of them.
I will narrate two incidents about them in which I was concerned :
(1) A case came before a bench of myself and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra in the Supreme Court. The facts were that the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) had banned 2 Parsi priests from performing religious ceremonies in the Doongerwadi ( Tower of Silence) and the agiaries ( fire temples) in Mumbai. The charge against them was that they performed ' irreligious' ceremonies, e.g. ,after death prayers for Parsis who were cremated (instead of their bodies being fed to vultures in the Tower of Silence), performing navjote ceremonies for children of Parsi women married to non-Parsis, performing marriage where one of the couple is a non-Parsi, etc.
The Bombay High Court had quashed the banning order, against which an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court. Senior Parsi advocates of the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court appeared for both sides in the case.
When the case was called out I told the lawyers of both sides that it does not look nice that Parsis, who are such an outstanding community in our country, are litigating in Courts. I then suggested that the parties resolve their dispute by mediation, and I explained the mediation process to them ( because most lawyers in India do not properly understand the process). They agreed, and we then appointed Mr. Sriram Panchu, Senior advocate in the Supreme Court and Madras High Court, and perhaps the top mediator in India, as the mediator.
I understand that the mediation excercise is stii going on, though now the mediator is Justice Kapadia, former Chief Justice of India.
(2) When I was a lawyer in Allahabad High Court ( that is, before I became a Judge of that High Court in 1991), I was sitting in my office one day when a Parsi priest in his white priestly attire came to meet me. There is a small Parsi community in Allahabad, and they had built a fire temple for performing their religious ceremonies, and had appointed this Parsi priest to look after the temple.
The Parsi priest had a legal problem, which I resolved. He then asked me for my fee. I told him that he is a priest, and I do not take fees from priests, whom I regard as sadhus. However, I told him that I had a request. When he asked me what that request was, I said that I had never seen a fire temple in my life, and would be glad if he could show me his fire temple. At first he was silent when I said this, but finally he asked me to come to the temple in the evening.
In the evening when I reached the compound in which the fire temple was situated, he received me with great respect at the gate, and took me to his residential quarters behind the fire temple. There he offered me cold drinks and snacks. Thereafter when I asked him about the fire temple, he politely said that I should not mind, but non-Parsis were not allowed to enter a fire temple. I apologized to him, and said that I did not know the Parsi customs, otherwise I would not have made my request.
I am told that in Iran there are still some Parsis ( though a tiny minority, which is sometimes persecuted), and some fire temples. I am told that non -Parsis can enter these temples and see them from inside. It seems many Parsis in India are more conservative than those living in their original homeland !