Mrs. Ava Khullar, Vice President, Delhi Parsi Anjuman, Anand Foundation

Mrs. Ava Khullar, Vice President, Delhi Parsi Anjuman

I met her after Mrs. Bagli gave me her number and told me that she would be happy to help me. She is the Vice President of Delhi Paris Anjuman and has worked with Mrs Bagli for years.
I began my interview with her with a very basic question and general introduction. I asked her to brief me about her religious believes and ideas.

“ We are as old as Vedas and our culture was established near to the bronze age. We are a monotheistic religion that is we believe in only one god unlike Hindus where there are several deities. According to us, there is only one god and power which is AHURA MAZDA also known as the righteous one and he is the one who gives us the power to fight against all the evils. Path of righteous includes : GOOD THOUGHTS, WORDS AND DEEDS. Iran is our pilgrimage centre as it beholds the most holy and sacred building for Zoroastrians. Even when we were in the phase of conquering new territories our rulers never raped or looted or in fact, disrespected people of any community.
They even allowed people of that territory to retain their religion and practice their rituals. But after Muslims emerged as a strong group and they started to conquer territories they started to force their religion on locals. It became really hard then to retain out religion and many Zoroastrians converted into Muslims fearing the harsh punishments of emperors.
“Persepolis or Parsa, also known as Takht-e-Jamshid in Iran was burnt by Alexander in rage of furry but even now that place retains its glory… imagine how magnificent that building would be. We have always been a very simple yet peaceful set of group. Even the Cyrus the great has a very simple grave which has a very simple yet beautiful engraving on it. So, you see humility of a man who was indeed a great ruler?”

“To escape from the conversion to Islam few Parsi’s escaped their hometowns and fled to India and for many years stayed in Gujrat as agriculturist. It was only when British came and found it really convenient to work with Parsi’s, our standard of living rose. We moved to Bombay and ever since have been an elite society.”

Why do you worship fire ? like why fire temple is so famous ?

“You see, we believe in worshipping elements of nature more than anything eels. And fire mostly because it’s the dominant element of nature which also symbolizes the warmth of sun which sustains life on earth. Since then it has been an emblem of Zoroastrians.”

What changes do you feel has come since you moved to Delhi ?

“ We have adopted to lifestyles of locals, we started wearing saree’s (laughs) and almost gave up on our traditional dress. We have become more liberal when it comes to marriages. Like in Bombay Anjuman won’t allow or accept me if I am married outside a Paris family but here I am the vice president of Anjuman even though my husband is a Hindu. Here, in Delhi we are more liberal when it comes to our customs”. Another example that Mrs. Khullar gave me was that in Bombay there is this custom known a Jnaiyu where when a child enters puberty a NAVJOT ceremony is held where child is capable of wearing traditional Parsi clothes and the holy string/thread known as kushti, after that he becomes what we call A PARSI in its true sense this is an act of choice. So in Bombay unless both the parents are Paris this ceremony is not allowed where as in Delhi we do it”.

There is still a conflict whether this should be allowed in Mumbai too or not. Delhi is a progressive state as compared to Mumbai when it comes to all these things.

Are people from other religion allowed to convert into Paris ?

“ NO. reason being when we shifted to coasts of India we promised the raja of that time that we would stay as a humble and a peaceful community and won’t ever deliberately try to convert people to our community and hence he allowed us to retain our religion. So, you see we kept that promise”. 

But isn’t it effecting your demographic number?

“ Yes it is. We are only 750 Parsi’s in Delhi left. The other reason for this fall in population number is also because we never force our girls or for that matter any children to get married at a certain age. Like my daughter married herself at the age of 38. So, for us marriage is not a big deal as it is in other communities.”

I found this to be a sharp contrast between Parsi’s and other communities. For families marriage has always been a big deal but for them, even if their number is falling.. it’s not a big deal for them. If one of their child doesn’t get married a whole lineage is lost. So this ideology is decreasing the number of Parsis I India and Zoroastrians worldwide.

What are the other differences you see between your community and other communities ?

“ We don’t really believe in making magnificent buildings and towers for prayers. Rather, we believe in contributing this money to build places like Hospitals, schools, colleges (TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES) being the one. For us, humanity matters more and contribution toward making India a better place to live matters more.”

How has been your experience working in DPA ?

“It was an amazing journey. We part together, welcome each other with open hearts and believe in staying together and helping people. It has always been a bliss to be a member of such a beautiful institution.”