Origin Stories Retold by our DNA!

Qissa-e-Sanjan, or the Story of Sanjan, records the epic tale of Parsi migration. It describes how a section of Zoroastrians left Iran to escape the Islamic conquest, and found India’s shores at Sanjan in Gujarat. Instead of a welcome they were presented with a full glass of milk, which symbolically suggested that there was no space for the newcomers. The priest then added a spoonful of sugar without spilling the milk, a promise that the Parsis would assimilate with the local community. Like sugar in milk, the Parsis found a new home. A recent study conducted by scientists from several countries including India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, has actually retraced this tale. DNA samples were collected from Indian and Pakistani Parsis, as well as the remains of Parsis from the 15-16th century. The study found that both the Indian and Pakistani Parsi were more closely related to Iranians rather than their neighbours, Gujaratis and Sindhis. Interestingly, they are more closely related to the Iranians from several centuries ago than they are to modern day Iranians. This goes on to prove that the population fled Iran before the conquest, an evidence they carry today in their genes. After analysing specific sequences, the study concluded that there was first a male migration from Iran. Following which, there was an assimilation of women from South Asian. However, there is evidence of high level of interbreeding too as it is considered important to preserve their religion and culture. Today, the Indian government is taking steps to preserve the Parsi population which is slowly dwindling. Like sugar in milk they have added their distinct sweetness to the Indian community and become a part of it. They have still retained their distinct sweetness, even in their DNA! It is a rarity when science, history and stories have come together to explain the interesting origin of a people.

Published on Reach Matters

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