Arun Jaitley, the Minister of Finance and Information & Broadcasting inaugurated the months long cultural spectacle The Everlasting Flame International Programme here today .Speaking on the occasion Sh Arun Jaitley said Parsis mark a distinct thread in the tapestry of multicultural heritage in India and are a one rare community to be measured not by their number but their impact. Referring to Parsi’s ability to excel in any field , the Minister said Every Parsi is an institution in him/herself and no two Parsis are same. Over generations Parsis not only stayed having adapted to the Indian context, preserved their culture, identity, endured their core belief, lived with dignity but also became role model for others.
Earlier welcoming the guests Dr. Najma Heptulla ,the Minister of Minority Affairs said The Government of India is committed to the multi-cultural heritage of this ancient land and young country. Zoroastrianism and Rig Vedic Hinduism are sister cultures that share linguistic and cultural commonalities. The most important however is the Eternal flame- Agni or Atashthat burns in all our hearts. The battle of light and darkness in the mind and heart of every human; was first understood by Prophet Asho Zarathushtra in the Bronze Age.It is great to see that the Parsi community, which has excelled in all walks of life, has consistently worked for the betterment of the society.The achievements of the Parsi community are disproportionate to their size. They have done more for India than India has done for them and never sought any favours from the Government of the day. They have set new benchmarks by being selfless in the service of the nation and the society. The immense success and extraordinary leadership displayed by the Parsis is an inspiration to us all as we strive towards excellence. The fire they brought with them has fueled their great feats and efforts in nation building. This everlasting flame will continue to be eternal and our guiding light in the years to come.
She further said that the Parsis of India have also been great mediators. Dadabhai Naoroji, Gandhiji’s “Dada” or elder brother, could bridge both worlds. In 1867, his ‘drain of wealth’ theory showed how Britain was economically draining India. Yet, he was loved by the English people, who elected him as the first Indian to the British Parliament. Today, we have Lord Karan Bilimoria, who though in the British Parliament, is helping develop industry and commerce in Bihar and other parts of India. You, young Zoroastrians in the audience, have within you the makings of global citizens. However, do not forget your roots, and that India needs you, just as much as you need the affection of the people of this country.Lord Karan Bilimoria, said that the two minsters present have spoken so high of Parsis and day today un prompt comments from other Indians echo the same perception. He said that distinction of the community lie in being confident but not aggressive and being ambitious but humble.It can be said that Parsis are Humbitioius (humble+ ambitious), he added.In context to Parsi’s excellence Lord Bilimoria said in per capita income too Parsi community excell in the world but it would not have been possible without what this country has done for the community. Invoking a quote he said that If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together and we (Parsi and India) will go far.The function began with presenting bouquet of flowers to the dignitaries on dais and lighting the ceremonial lamp. The event progressed with Dastur Khurshed, the Vada Dasturji(High Priest) of Udvada invoking Parsi prayer first in Avestan followed by Sanskrit and English translations.A prayer song by Ghazal singer Penaz Masani captivated distinguished audience. A Special Covers commemorating the event was also issued by Delhi Circle, Department of Post.
Besides Shri Arun Jaitley and Dr. Najma Heptulla,Shri Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (MoS) for Culture and Tourism(IC) and Civil Aviation; Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi,MoS Minority Affairs ; H.E. Dr. Ali Jannati, Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance of Islamic Republic of Iran; Lord Karan Bilimoria,CBE,DL Lord of Chelsa;Baroness Tessa Blackstone,Chairperson ,The British Library Trust; Baroness Valerie Ann Amos,Director,SOAS,University of London, Secretary ,Ministry of Minority Affairs and Secretary ,Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Chief Post Master General ,Delhi were also present on the dais.
The Everlasting Flame International Programme will present three exhibitions, titled “The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination” at the National Museum, “Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrian Life and Culture” at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and “Painted Encounters: Parsi Traders and the Community” at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) along with many cultural and educational programme.
Key national and international partners in the project include SOAS, University of London, British Library, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ancient India and Iran Trust, UK, The State Hermitage Museum, Russia, National Museum of Iran, Tehran, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, Tata Central Archives, Pune, Bombay Parsi Punchayet (Alpaiwala Museum), Mumbai and a large number of private lenders across the world, particularly members of the Parsi communities, who have made important contributions.
The exhibition takes the visitor on a journey from the earliest days of Zoroastrianism to its emergence as the foremost religion of imperial Iran. From the shores of Iran to the west coast of India, the maritime journey of Zoroastrians is followed to their settlement in India where they came to be known as the Parsis., The exhibition examines their growth as an immigrant community under British rule in India and the later expansions. The narrative is divided into 10 sections :– The Ancient World, Sacred Texts, The Silk Road, Central Asia and China, The Judeo-Christian World, Imperial and Post-Imperial Iran, Post Arab Conquest,, Journey and Early Settlement in India, Parsi Salon and Fire Temple.The exhibition also draws on the rich collection of National Museum, in order to enhance the narrative and to make a connection with the Indian heritage of Zoroastrianism.It is jointly curated by Sarah Stewart (SOAS), Firoza Punthakey Mistree (Zoroastrian Studies, Mumbai), Ursula Sims-Williams (British Library), Almut Hintze (SOAS), Pheroza Godrej (Independent author and curator), and Shernaz Cama (Unesco Parzor). Colin Morris Associates, an internationally recognised design practice, headed by Mr. Colin Morris, is responsible for the exhibition design and has been assisted by SOKU Designs in New Delhi.The Exhibition is accompanied by the original Catalogue together with a Supplement that contains detailed entries for all the objects collected especially for the Delhi exhibition.
Interesting facts on this Exhibition
a. This is the first exhibition on this theme ever held at National Museum.
b. This is the first time that British Library, UK is lending to India
c. This is the first time that the National Museum of Iran, Tehran is lending objects to India.
d. This is the first collaboration between Ministry of Minority Affairs and Ministry of Culture.
e. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions of the world. Ancient Avestan (the language of Zoroastrians) and Sanskrit belong to the same group of languages..
f. The oldest object in the exhibition attributed to early Zoroastrianism is the cuneiform tablet from the historic Royal Library of Ninevah(Mesopotamia) where the names of gods inscribed on the tablet include an early form of the principle Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda. The object belongs to the British Museum.