A GROUP of 25 young Zoroastrians from across the world are touring India and visiting holy places to reconnect with their roots. Their journey has a great value for the diminishing Zoroastrian community, which is making desperate efforts to promote its rich culture among the youth — an attempt to survive possible extinction of the community.
The 25 youngsters from the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, UAE and Pakistan are on a trip called ‘Return to Roots’. They wish to understand their religion, their customs and their origins. “We follow similar customs and traditions. We have the same prayers but we hardly know what it means. Most of the customs have been handed down through generations and the meanings have been lost. This trip has helped us reconnect with our origin,” said 22-year-old Cyrus Karanjia, a final-year media student from Karachi.
The programme — Return to Roots (RTR) — was started by four young Zoroastrians from India and the US in 2014. “The need arose when two cousins, one from Mumbai and the other from the US, realised they didn’t know much about the culture they shared,” said Arzan Sam Wadia, the programme director for RTR.
RTR arranges a 12-day trip for Zoroastrians to India every year where the participants get a close look at all facets of the community. “The trip includes a visit to Delhi, Mumbai, Udvada, Navsari and Surat. They are taken to Fire temples, dungerwadis. Participants are told about the Iranshah Udvada temple and how the holy fire was created,” said Wadia. According to Wadia, this year’s batch is the largest ever.
Throughout the 12 days, participants bond and share cultural practices. For instance, while Zoroastrians in the country still debate on gender equality and inter-community marriages, those in North America are more inclusive. “Back home, the community is more liberal and accepting of inter-faith marriages compared to India,” said Aubtin Yazdgardian, 29, from Vancouver.
Yazdgardian believes that programmes like the RTR will help the community emerge out of near-extinction. “The youth has become more questioning of their customs and traditions. They need reasons. A trip like this helps put matters in perspective,” he said.
The 25 participants also attended the Iranshah Udvada Utsav, a biennial festival held last week that celebrates the culture of the community. Union Textiles and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said the RTR programme would help spread the message of the community across the world. “The participants must write about their experience and share it with the world,” said Irani. firstname.lastname@example.org