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(Parsee), a member of one of the religious communities of India. Parsis number more than 100,000 (1973). They live chiefly in Bombay and are descendants of the Zoroastrians who fled Iran during the seventh to tenth centuries, after the conquest of Iran by the Arabs, and who settled primarily in Gujarat. Their religion is Zoroastrianism. The Parsis worship fire in their temples. They do not bury their dead but allow them to be torn to pieces by vultures in “towers of silence,” in order not to defile the elements sacred to them: fire, water, air, and earth.
Material prosperity is considered the reward of religious virtue, and therefore the majority of Parsis have long occupied themselves with moneylending, trade, banking, and entrepreneurial activity. The Tatas, a family of the largest monopolists in India, are Parsis. The Parsis speak Gujarati, while their canonical literature is written in Avestan and Pahlavi. The Parsi community is predominantly endogamous, although the young people have begun to deviate from the ancient marriage regulations. The priests exert a great influence not only upon the religious but also upon the secular life of the Parsis.