Fellow Traditional Mazdayasni Zarathushtris,
Here is an excellent article by Homi Ranina, a famous Parsi advocate in Bombay, against the practise of mixed marriages which is slowly but surely destroying the fibre of our ancient community. Kudos to fellow Parsi Vispi Homi Bulsara for making this article first available on the internet.
(Mr. Ranina is an Advocate of the Supreme Court and a leading tax expert of India. He is a Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat and several other Trusts.)
The sudden spurt in the rate of mixed marriages among Parsis, notably Parsi girls marrying outside the community, has been a cause for concern to all sections of our community except a small vociferous minority which suffers from FALSE NOTIONS of being MODERN, LIBERAL and BROAD-MINDED.
Before dealing with the arguments advanced by the liberal minority in favour of mixed marriages. I would like to discuss the reasons given by persons who have married outside the community, which are broadly summarised as follows:-
Dealing with the first point of housing shortage. the most important aspect which needs to be stressed is that this is a problem affecting every section of society in every part of India and, more so. in the metropolitan cities like Bombay. In other words, it is a general problem faced by every Indian citizen, specially those belonging to the poor and lower middle classes who cannot afford to pay for the cost of housing which has skyrocketted in recent years.
If this important fact is taken into account, the question which arises in the mind of any rational person is, how do members of other communities who run into millions, solve this problem? Do such communities have organisations like the Bombay Parsi Punchayet and other Parsi charities which construct houses for them? In fact, there are charitable trusts belonging to other communities, like Khojas, Bohras, Christians, etc., which are far, far wealthier than the Bombay Parsi Punchayet in terms of resources. How many houses or flats or apartments have they constructed in a city like Bombay for the benefit of their community members?
Every Parsi needs to answer these questions as honestly as he can. Every Parsi also needs to consider the fact that the Bombay Parsi Punchayet has already constructed over 300 flats in the last decade and will construct atleast 800 flats in the next five years, making a total of 1,100. That 1,100 flats are being provided in the prime areas of Bombay by just one Organisation, only shows how much is being done for so few, and yet the Bombay Parsi Punchayet faces carping, unjustified and sometimes defamatory criticism from some members of the community who have not even bothered to know the correct facts, but who believe in criticising for the sake of criticism.
Apart from the aforesaid fact, it is also publicly known that almost 45% of all flats are allotted to engaged couples waiting to get married or to couples who are already married, having one or no child and where the wife is still in the child-bearing age. In fact, it has been the observation of the Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet that, having allotted large number of flats to this category of applicants, there has been no appreciable increase in their number because even when young couples marry and settle down in the flats allotted by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet. they rarely have more than two children. This is sought to be justified on the ground that Parsis desire a higher standard of living and, therefore, voluntarily restrict their number. Further, most young mothers are working and, therefore, find it difficult to raise more children. The point which emerges is that lack of housing is not the cause for the decline in the population of Parsis, but the real reason is the attitude of the community members, namely, to enjoy a higher standard of living and, therefore, a conscious decision to restrict the number of children. In fact, this is the most important point which was missed at the Fifth World Zoroastrian Congress which discussed this burning issue. Unless the attitude of Parsi couples changes, the population of the community is not going to increase, irrespective of the number of houses constructed.
The other important question is, does the lack of housing encourage mixed marriages, notably among Parsi girls? In other words, do they marry outside the community because a prospective Parsi groom is not able to provide a house, but a non-Parsi groom is able to do so? The facts clearly reveal that when Parsi women have chosen to marry outside the community, a sizeable majority of them live with their in-laws in houses which are more cramped than an average Parsi home. In fact, when a Parsi girl marries a non-Parsi, she marries not only the man, but she marries the entire family. She is expected to not only serve her husband, but also her father-in-law and mother-in-law and perform household chores. The children are brought up not as in a Parsi Zoroastrian household, but in a totally alien culture. In fact, several such Parsi women realise their folly only when it is too late.
The fact which needs to be stressed is that Parsi girls who marry outside the community, do not do so just for the sake of better accommodation. Hence, it is a total fallacy to state that lack of accommodation is one of the causes of mixed marriages.
Inadequate Education of Parsi Boys
The second fallacy in the argument of most Parsis who marry outside the community is regarding the educational qualifications of Parsi boys. I have been awarding prizes through the auspices of the Zoroastrian Student Teacher Association, which also on its own awards prizes to students who get high marks right from the S.S.C., I.C.S.E., H.S.C. levels upto the graduation stage. We have enough documentary evidence to show that Parsi boys do as well in their studies as Parsi girls. In fact, some of the Parsi boys have done outstandingly well. It is, therefore, totally incorrect to say that Parsi boys do not educate themselves as well as Parsi girls do.
Another very important aspect needs to be considered. Do Parsi girls who marry outside the community, marry boys who are superior to them in education? If any person is prepared to go into this important aspect, he or she will find that in 90% of cases of mixed marriages. the couple got married as a result of their working in the same Organisation. In other words, they were brought together as a result of woking under the same roof and the non-Parsi was more or less of the same status in the Organisation, with the same level of education as the Parsi spouse.
The important point, therefore, is that Parsi girls marry non-Parsi boys who are as average or as well educated as an average Parsi boy. The non-Parsi boy is in NO WAY SUPERIOR to an average Parsi boy. It is not as if Parsi girls marry non-Parsi millionaires or persons who are geniuses or who have high educational attainments. In fact, there are several cases where Parsi girls have married non-Parsi boys who are even less educated than them and much less educated than an average Parsi boy. It is, therefore, not correct to even remotely attribute mixed marriages to the inadequate education of Parsi boys.
Love is blind
One of the primary causes of mixed marriages is the attitude of the Parsi spouse, to whom love for a person is more important than love either for the religion or even their own parents. In fact, in a vast majority of mixed marriages, the Parsi spouse married against the wishes of his or her parents. There have also been several cases of Parsis even giving up their religion just to marry a non-Parsi boy or girl. This only shows the callousness and indifference of some of our Parsis towards their religion and community.
Such persons try to justify marriage to a non-Parsi on the false belief that "marriages are made in heaven". I would like to ask such Parsis who believe- that it is a matter of destiny, as to why their forefathers during the past one thousand years, when they settled in India, RARELY married OUTSIDE the community. If it were a question of destiny, SURELY THEY ALSO would have married outside the community in such large numbers as the present generation of Parsis have during the last two decades.
The crux of the matter is that Parsis who marry outside the community are just too SELF-CENTRED to bother about the effect of their marriage on the community or the religion or even on their own children who will be brought up in an alien culture and have a totally different upbringing from what a Parsi child normally has. It is this CALLOUS, IRRESPONSIBLE and INDIFFERENT ATTITUDE which is really the prime cause for MIXED MARRIAGES.
The LIBERAL point of view
Some of the over zealous liberals of our community are not only in favour of mixed marriages, but go to the extent of actively advocating mixed marriages as a solution to the problem of declining numbers. In other words, it is their point of view that Parsis should marry outside the community so that the rate of birth will increase.
The ABSURDITY of this point of view is clear when one considers the fact that in a mixed marriage, the non-Parsi spouse has an equal right to demand that the children should be brought up in his or her religion. Hence, if a Parsi marries outside the community, there is a 50% chance that the children would be brought up in the religion of the non-Parsi spouse. In fact, nobody can deny that an average Hindu, Muslim or Christian is far more devoted to his or her religion than an average Parsi is. In fact, the Muslims and Christians can be termed as fanatically religious, and a Muslim will not marry unless the prospective spouse is prepared to embrace Islam before marriage. There are also illustrations of several illustrious Parsis who CONVERTED to Christianity merely because they wanted to marry a Christian.
How can, therefore, mixed marriages increase the number of Zoroastrians? In fact, WITH MORE AND MORE MIXED MARRIAGES, THERE IS A GREATER DECLINE in the numbers, because not only in at least 50% of the cases, the children would be brought up as non-Zoroastrians, but even the Parsi spouse may be converted to the other religion. Indeed, it would be embarassing to the community if the names of all the Parsis who have converted themselves just to marry a non-Zoroastrian are listed out. The fact remains that, perhaps, there is no community which is as fickle minded as the Parsis of today and some of them have no hesitation in THROWING THEIR RELIGION TO THE WINDS at the drop of a hat!
Therefore, the argument of the liberals that mixed marriages will increase the number of Zoroastrians, is so hollow and far-fetched that it is surprising that such persons who claim to be intelligent would even advance such an argument. The effect of mixed marriages would be totally contrary and the rate of decline would accelerate. In fact, this has already been proved, as the decline has started only in the last three decades, whereas during the early part of this century, the Parsi population had reached the highest figure in its history. The decline in recent years is entirely due to mixed marriages, together with migration to foreign lands which, in turn, has increased the incidence of mixed marriages. In this context. it would be relevant to point out that the Parsis of today have survived only because their forefathers took a conscious decision to marry within the community to preserve their identity. While it is true that the Hindu King who gave us shelter, made this as one of the conditions for allowing us to settle in Sanjan, the fact is that much after him, the Parsis continued this practice as staunchly as before to preserve their identity. If they had discontinued this practice when they spread to different parts of Gujarat and the neighbouring areas, none of us would have remained as Parsi Zoroastrians today. In other words, if mixed marriages had become fashionable as they are today, say even in the 17th century, by now we would all have been assimilated in the vast ocean of the Indian population.
In fact, this is exactly what happened to Zoroastrians who settled down at the time of the Muslim persecution during the 7th to the 9th century in China, Turkey and what is now part of Russia. None of them exist today. If our forefathers who came from the Province of Khorasan and other parts of Southern Iran had followed the practice of mixed marriages, we would not have survived for even 300 years after we landed in India.
In other words, it is the very system and practice of marrying within the community which is the cause for our existence as an ethnic group. How can the LIBERALS be so SHORT-SIGHTED to attack this very system which goes to the very root of our survival?
Are mixed marriages genetically necessary?
Some of the intellectuals of our community and those who have excelled in their own secular fields have, unfortunately, been MISGUIDING the young members of our community by advocating mixed marriages. A few have taken the extreme stand that mixed marriages are necessary in order to inject new and healthy blood so that the community would survive.
There is no doubt that such misguided advice from respected members of our community has utterly CONFUSED the younger generation and has thwarted the attempts of the Parsi Punchayet. Bombay. and other well-meaning social organisations at bringing their own people together and encouraging Parsis to marry within themselves.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to convince the young and the impressionable that such advice, if followed, would totally destroy the identity of the Parsi community within the next couple of generations and that it is wrong to suggest that marriages within the community lead to degeneration.
A small item was published in one of the daily newspapers of Bombay. where again mixed marriages were advocated by distorting the theory of Dr. J. V. Undevia, who was merely trying to highlight the effects of consanguineous marriages over a long period of time. His theory has nothing to do with marrying within one's community, because it is confined to the ill-effects of marrying one's own close relatives.
It is futile for anybody to argue that marrying within one's community leads to degeneration, because such marriages have been prevalent ALL OVER THE WORLD from time immemorial.
In fact, marriages amongst smaller groups has been the practice followed by all human beings for generations. Marriage among ethnic groups in every part of the world has been the normal rule from the time the first homo-sapien walked on this earth which, according to Dr. Mary Leakey, an eminent anthropologist, was 3.75 million years ago.
The total world population eight thousand years ago has been estimated at no more than 60,000 in the aggregate. In fact, right from the beginning of existence upto the end of the nineteenth century, human beings have lived in CLOSE-KNIT groups. These groups married WITHIN THEMSELVES for centuries. This was obvious because there was no system of mass transportation as it exists today.
It is only for the first time in the history of mankind that human beings of the twentieth century have the benefits of mass transportation. Until the turn of this century, human beings lived in small clusters of villages or towns and there was no possibility of inter-action between persons of different towns and villages, primarily on account of lack of transport and communication. Mixed marriages have become prevalent ONLY IN THIS CENTURY on account of the advent of urbanisation and rapid strides in transport and communication technology.
If marriages among people of the same ethnic group causes degeneration. then the whole of mankind living today is degenerated, because all of us are the product of intense in-breeding among ethnic groups right through the centuries from the time the first homo-sapien walked on the earth 3.75 million years ago.
In fact, in the other religious communities of India, notably among the Hindus, there are several hundreds of castes and sub-castes. Persons belonging to each sub-caste have married within themselves for centuries. This is being practised even at present in the villages of India, where persons belonging to one sub-caste or tribe will only marry a person of the same sub-caste or tribe.
If inter-marriages result in degeneration. then every Indian is degenerated because he or she is the product of intense in-breeding for centuries among infinitesimally small groups of people. much smaller than the population of 65,000 to 70,000 Parsis living in Bombay today.
Therefore, it is utterly FALLACIOUS to think that in-breeding leads to degeneration. In the process of evolution, every living organism has multiplied from a very narrow base of units. Another illustration is that of the Japanese people. This ethnic group who, according to recorded history. were no more than 5,000 in 300 B.C. have married within themselves and are considered to be one of the most intelligent races of the world. If inter-marriages lead to degeneration, the Japanese as a race would never have attained the pre-eminence in every field of human endeavour as they have attained today.
The same is true of the Parsis in India. There is no ethnic community in the world where so few have contributed so much. Nobody can deny that between the 7th century and the 20th century during which Parsis married members of their own community. barring a few exceptions, the community produced some of the finest sons of India who have excelled in every single field of human endeavour.
Physically, members of the Parsi community have been extremely healthy and they have been known for their longevity. Assuming that degeneration has now set in, this has only happened during the last three or four decades from the time that mixed marriages have become fashionable among the elite and the so-called broadminded and liberal Parsis.
History has recorded the fact that during the period Zarathushtrians were persecuted in ancient Iran, groups of them went towards China and a large group even settled in the Punjab. These groups are now unheard of because they have been totally obliterated as a result of mixed marriages in the countries of their adoption.
The one and only group which has survived over the centuries is that which left the Strait of Hormuzd and landed at Diu and, thereafter, settled in Sanjan. This group SURVIVED ONLY BECAUSE OF MARRIAGE WITHIN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY. If this practice of inter-marriages should be discarded, the fate of the 1,1O,000 Parsis who are presently in India would be no different in the very near future from that of their ancestors who went to China or who settled in the Punjab.
Assuming for a moment that Parsi men marry non-Parsi women, would that really result in the number of Parsis increasing in the world? A little reflection on this point would show that marriage by Parsi men with non-Parsi women does not necessarily mean that their children would be brought up as Parsis.
In a majority of cases where Parsi men have married outside the community, their children have not been initiated into the Zarathushtrian faith, but have been allowed to be brought up in the faith of the non-Parsi mothers.
Therefore, in the light of this experience, it is difficult to accept that if more Parsi men marry non-Parsi women. there would be an increase in the number of Parsis in the world. Even if it is presumed that roughly half the number of offsprings of such marriages are initiated into the Zarathushtrian religion, it would still mean a substantial loss to the community and instead of there being more Parsis, the number of Parsis would decline further.
It would now be necessary to consider whether marriages within the community, or in-breeding as some people choose to call it, lead to degeneration. At the outset, it has to be pointed out that the new science of genetics, which has developed recently, has emphasised that the same laws as are applicable to animals, birds, insects and plants, apply to human beings. Scientists have discovered a chemical compound known as Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) which is an essential part of all living matter and a basic component in the chromosome of the cell nucleus. DNA is the substance which contains the genetic code and transmits the hereditary pattern from one generation to another. It is important to note that DNA is common to all living matter, whether it is plant, animal, bird, insect or a human being. In other words, the same rules of genetics and heredity which apply to plants, animals, birds and insects, also apply to human beings.
In fact, this theory of genetics developed on the basis of breeding experiments, was first enunciated by GregorJohann Mendel. The theory of genetics which he propounded has been found to be applicable also to human beings, after several years of studies made by scientists.
The Fishbein's Medical Encyclopaedia states at Page 763 (Volume II):-
"On the basis of BREEDING EXPERIMENTS with peas in a monastery garden, Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) an Austrian botanist, formulated Mendel's Law relating to inheritance of many characteristics in plants and animals. The validity of his theory has been ABUNDANTLY CONFIRMED by many subsequent studies ON HUMAN BEINGS". (Emphasis supplied)
This Encyclopaedia categorically states that the same laws of genetics which apply to plants, animals, birds and insects, apply with equal force to human beings. Therefore, if cross-breeding of plants, animals, birds and insects leads to degeneration of the offsprings, a different result cannot be expected when there are mixed marriages among human beings.
Anthropologists insist that the only way to have a superior pedigree of an animal. be it a dog or a horse, is to breed the animals of a particular specie having regard to the pedigree and the traits of heredity. Nobody would ever suggest mating a champion Dobermann Pinscher with a champion Alsatian. though both are dogs, both are German and both are champions. If anybody is foolish enough to cross-breed, the offspring would neither turn out to be a Dobermann Pinscher nor an Alsatian, but would turn out to be a degenerated specimen.
In the Western countries, millions of dollars are spent in having foals sired by champion horses. The services of a Stallion would be provided at fancy prices to mares who have also been successful at the races. Surely, nobody would be foolish enough to do so if, as a result of such "in-breeding", a degenerated specimen of a horse is to be born.
In fact, among champion horses there is tremendous amount of in-breeding, but the offspring still has the same characteristics of the champion. This conclusively explodes the theory that in-breeding leads to degeneration. In fact, the only way to ensure that no degeneration takes place, is to avoid not only cross-breeding of one animal with another, but even among the same specie of animal, to ensure that the pedigree of that animal is of the requisite standard.
The fact that the offspring of a male donkey and a mare would produce a mule is incontrovertible, but even among horses, a race-horse would never be mated with an ordinary horse because. if that is done, the offspring would be unfit to be used as a race-horse.
Therefore, it is an accepted fact that in-breeding preserves the hereditary characteristics and that crossbreeding leads to degeneration of the species of the animal, bird or insect. The incontrovertible truth is that in-breeding does not result in degeneration, but assures continuity of pedigree and the traits of heredity.
That cross-mating leads to extinction of a sub-species, would be confirmed by experts engaged by the World Wildlife Fund whose primary job is to prevent certain sub-species of animals and birds from becoming extinct. There could be no better illustration on this score than that of the White Tigers which number only about 20 and are confined to certain areas in India. All of them are in captivity with the primary object of preserving this rare sub-species of tigers. The fact that cross-breeding leads to degeneration has been confirmed in experiments conducted by Dr.Barbara McClintock, an American geneticist, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1983.
In-breeding is the one and only method of ensuring the sustenance of a species of animal or insect. Cross-breeding not only leads to degeneration, but may also lead to extinction. That in-breeding is the very essence of the Laws of Nature for protecting the specific traits of each species of plants, animals, birds or insects, has been proved beyond doubt. This Law of Nature applies with equal force to human beings.
It is the duty of every true Zarathushtrian to obey the Divine Laws and to ensure that none of them are violated. consciously or otherwise. In this context, it would be appropriate to refer to a Stanza from the Ushtavaiti Gatha (as translated by Prof. Irach Taraporewala). in which our Prophet Zarathushtra said:-
The degeneration of the community, if at all there is, could be arrested by following the footsteps of our great forefathers who rarely broke communal ties in wedlock. We have to be grateful to them for having prevented our community from becoming extinct.
As the number of Parsis decline, the greater is our responsibility to ensure that mixed marriages are avoided. If we do not follow the examples of our forefathers, our community will gradually disseminate in the vast ocean of humanity and all the sacrifices made by them to preserve our lofty religion and ancient heritage, will be set at naught.
While the declining numbers is a cause of concern, the one and only solution to this problem is for Parsis to have a change in attitude and to bring up their children as true Zarathushtrians, so that when they grow up, they marry within the community. The need for religious education is, therefore, paramount, both for the children and the present generation of parents.
Parsis must take a conscious decision to have as many children as they can. The standard of living of our forefathers was never as high as it is today, given the fact that only the head of the family used to work at that time. Yet they had several children, even when they had to go through the most trying financial difficulties. While the modem-day Parsi is more materialistic than before, it has to be realised that children are the invaluable gifts of God, far more precious than all t.he wealth in the world!
The key to the survival of the community is entirely in the hands of the present generation of Parsis. IF WE DECIDE TO MARRY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY and if each couple has at least two children, there will be a perceptible INCREASE in our numbers in the coming years.
After all, if just about a thousand people who came to India in the 10th century could multiply into more than 100,000, the present population of Parsis could multiply into a million people.
Apart from merely increasing in numbers, we need to motivate ourselves to ensure that the present generation of Zarathushtrians becomes more dedicated and religiously better informed, so that we are Zarathushtrians not only by birth but also by conviction.
- Homi P. Ranina.
Quote by Will and Ariel Durant
What the World's GREATEST HISTORIANS have to say ---
``The rise, success, decline and fall of a civilization depend upon the inherent quality of the race. The degeneration of a civilization is what the word itself indicates - a falling away from the genus, stock or race. Peoples degenerate only in consequence of the various mixtures of blood which they undergo. Only those who are themselves the product of such enfeebling mixtures talk of the equality of races, or think that `all men are brothers'. All strong characters and peoples are race conscious, and are instinctively averse to marriage outside their own racial group.''
- The Lessons of History (page 26)
by Will and Ariel Durant.
Nobel Prize winners
Well written, Mr. Ranina. The arguments you have given against mixed marriage are simply superb. You indeed speak the truth, when you say that mixed marriages must be avoided in our community, for the very existance of our great community, and with it our glorious Mazdayasni Zarathushtri religion, is at stake.
* Hormazd Dadari, ahriman marochinidari - Ardibehest Yasht Nirang.
* Dadar Hormazd is the Creator, the evil one the destroyer
* Fellow Mazdayasni Zarathushtris, please dont destroy your religion.
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