PARSIS: THE ZOROASTRIANS OF INDIA
October 25 - December 20, 2012
The result of a thirty-five year labor of love, Sooni Taraporevala’s Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India is the first visual documentation of India’s Parsi community, followers of the world’s first prophet, Zarathustra. Taraporevala offers a rare insider’s view of how the Parsis, a people whose ancestors sailed from Iran to India in 936 AD to escape persecution, survive today as a religious and ethnic minority of India—and exist in small communities in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Unesco recently celebrated 3,000 years of Zoroastrianism, once the religion of Cyrus the Great’s mighty Persian Empire. The world’s oldest monotheistic religion greatly influenced other major religions and civilizations, and its followers once numbered in the millions. Today Parsi Zoroastrians are said to be on the verge of extinction: of an Indian population of more than one billion, Parsis number a mere 76,000. Yet the community has produced many well-known leaders and artists, including the world-renowned conductor, Zubin Mehta; the late rock legend Freddy Mercury; and the international award-winning author, Rohinton Mistry. Part of the Indian fabric for over 1,000 years, Parsis have gained a reputation as a highly educated and urban people who are quite private about their religious practices, which include leaving their dead in specially designed open air towers for vultures to devour, a last act of charity on earth.
Taraporevala’s photographs offer a vivid window into Parsi life in all its vibrancy and diversity. Her lens takes us from public celebrations to private rituals, from fire-temples to living rooms, from the streets of Bombay to the villages of Gujarat. An intimate insider’s view, Parsis is a stunning chronicle that brings to life a community of intense contradictions and endurance.