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Religions: Zoroastrianism & Judaism

Religions in India

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It is about 6000 years old and finds its origin in Persia. The religion was founded by Spenta Zarathustra or Zoroaster, who is considered as the Prophet of the Zoroastrians and the religion is practiced based on the responsibility of every man and woman to choose between good and evil, and to respect God's creations.

The Zoroastrians or Parsis, came to India in the 10th century A.D on the Gujarat coast and by the 17th century, most of them had settled in Bombay. Today, there are approximately 90,000 Parsis in India and are concentrated largely in Maharashtra and Gujarat. There are three principle sects among the Parsis. They are Shahenshai, Kadmi and Fasli. The only difference between these three sects is the calendar they adhere to.

The Parsi place of worship is called the fire temple. Five daily prayers, usually hymns uttered by Prophet Zarathustra are recited in the temple, before a fire, which symbolizes the realm of truth, righteousness and order.

Judaism

Synagouge, Kochi

Jews are a religious minority in India. Trade contacts between the Mediterranean region and the west coast had led to the presence of small Jewish settlements in India as early as the first millennium B.C. In Kerala, a community of Jews has remained associated with the cities of Cranganore and Kochi. Their origin is traced to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Another community of Jews, called the Bani Israel, had lived along the Konkan Coast, in and around Bombay, Pune, and Ahmadabad. A third group of Jews known as Baghdadi Jews immigrated to India, at the end of the eighteenth century, following the trade contacts established by the British Empire. They have settled in Pune and Calcutta, where many of them participated in the economic leadership of these growing cities.

Though they have flourished in India for many years without any indigenous anti-Semitism, today only around 6,000 remain in India. This was due to their migration to Israel and other countries like Australia, America and Europe.