Festival on Parsi Culture – Delhi, 2016

In March next year, Delhi will be hosting, for the first time ever, a celebration of Parsi culture, with three exhibitions, one of them travelling from UK and a host of other events.The festival is being organized by Ministry of Minority Affairs at a total budget of Rs 13.4 crore. It is expected to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 19 next year and will go on till May 29. The exhibition – Everlasting Flames – which has antiquities loaned from 15 museums across the world including Syria and Iran will be coming from UK.

It traces the 3,000 years of Zoroastrian History through artefacts, silverware from imperial periods of Iranian Zoroastrian history, textiles, coins and manuscripts. This exhibition was first organized by SOAS (School of Oriental and Asian Studies) in UK in November-December 2013.

One of the main attractions is Gathas of Zarathustra, 17 hymns composed by Zarathustra, founder of Zoroastrianism, which will be presented in a series of large calligraphic panels accompanied with voice recordings of the text. The hymns of the Gathas, written in Old Avestan, belongs to the old Iranian language group.

“They have never loaned manuscripts to India. So it needed a bit of convincing and we went back forth bringing everyone on board,” Prof Shernaz Cama, of Parzor project of UNESCO, one of the key partners of the festival said. Cama says it is first time ever that Parsi culture is being celebrated at such a scale.

With a huge insurance premium for the exhibits, the Everlasting Flame, alone is costing nearly Rs 10 crore to the government. Apart from the exhibition at National Museum, ‘No Parsi is an Island’ an exhibition which was held in Mumbai’s NGMA in 2014 will also travel to Delhi. The exhibition shows Parsi trade with China and the rest of the world.

A third exhibition is being planned in IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts) ‘Threads of Continuity’. For which Google Culture is a partner. This will be a multi-media exhibition where Parsi life and stories will be told through various media. “For example, the Chinvat Bridge, a concept in of the road leading to heaven and hell in Zoroastrianism will be installed with help of multimedia tools to give the visitors an experience of the concept,” said Prof Cama.

Prof Cama says that apart from the academic exhibitions, all things Parsi will be available. “We are arranging for a Parsi food festival, Parsi humour, Parsi theatre and Parsi dances,” she said.

The festival and the exhibitions are important, says Feroza Godrej, who curated the Mumbai Exhibition ‘No Parsi is an Island’. “The Parsi community is shrinking, before we die and become museum pieces, we need to educate the world about this civilization,” Godrej said.

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