Parsi History

bq. In the seventh century, Arab armies invaded Persia. Some Zoroastrians were converted to Islam and some preferred to migrate to India, which they did from the early eighth century. They too came to western India where they already had trading contacts, and established large settlements to the north of Mumbai, such as the one at Sanjan. Their descendants founded a community later known as Parsi, reflecting the land of their origin and their language. Some settled in rural areas but close to centres of trade; others were more active in the trading circuits of the time. [from Early India by Romila Thapar]

Now an archaeological dig at Sanjan is providing more information about the first Parsi settlement in India.

bq. The find at Sanjan’s Varoli riverside dig includes six whole skeletons and a few partial ones, coins, pieces of pottery, glass and beads. After being analysed by paleo-anthropologist S.R. Walimbe of Pune’s Deccan College, the skeletons? which were found lying with their hands crossed and legs tied together?will be sent to Oxford University for carbon dating and DNA testing to find out if they are of Parsis.

bq. Knowledge of Parsi history is only from the quasi-historical document, the ‘Kissei-Sanjan’ and from oral tradition. “We know of Parsis living in Sanjan from the 7th century (under the patronage of the Hindu ruler Jadi Rana) to the late 14th century when the place was invaded by a general of Mahmud Tughlak,” said historian Homi Dhalla, who is the president of the WZCG.

bq. “But there has been little evidence to indicate when and how they had come and the events they lived through. We are excited because these finds may provide the proof we need.” Confirming this, Ms Gokhale said that five of the 32 Indian and Persian coins date back to the seventh and eighth centuries. She has also found allusions to a fire altar?the temple where a flame is kept burning as a symbol of the cycle of life and eternal recurrence?on the sole Sassanian coin, which is from the 7th century.

bq. “A one-foot turquoise-blue ceramic vase and a small china celadon dish have been pieced together. Blue pottery was manufactured at Siraf in Iran and at Basra in Iraq in the 7th and 8th centuries and was in use in many Asian countries until the 11th century, when the preference for blue was possibly replaced by the pale green of celadon pottery. But the remains unearthed at Sanjan reveal a continuity in the usage of blue pottery as well as celadon?which probably means that there was a flourishing trade between Iran, Iraq and South Gujarat,” he added. [“Times of India”:]