Udvada: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the country was trying to outpace others to emerge as the fastest growing economy amidst adversarial global conditions, but needs more business leaders from the Parsi community to achieve the tall objective.
"You mentioned about India trying to grow faster than any other country in the world. The global situation is adverse, India is trying to do that and for that, we need a lot more of you (Parsis)," he said.
Mr Jaitley was speaking at the maiden 'Iranshah Udvada Utsav', a global congregation of the minority Parsi community, at this tiny coastal hamlet in Valsad district of southern Gujarat where the Zoroastrians first landed around the 8th century to escape persecution from Muslims in Iran.
Touching succinctly on the issue of the entrepreneurial community's dwindling numbers, Mr Jaitley said the Parsis were vital in the quest for higher growth for the business leaders they would produce.
"How you do that...I think it is for you to consider and discuss," he said.
The minister said what sets apart the Parsi community from the rest was their desire to achieve excellence in an ethical manner.
Tata Group patriarch Ratan Tata was felicitated at the event as an 'Icon of Success' and received a thunderous applause from over 3,000 Parsis present at the event from across the world.
Dressed in the traditional red skull cap and white robes which one associates with the Zoroastrian religion, an emotional Mr Tata said he was overwhelmed by the honour accorded to him by his community.
"The Parsi community has a tradition of success, leadership and contribution to the society. I look forward to the community continuing to be a contributor to the development of the country," Tata said.
He said even though the community was small in numbers, it made a difference to the world around it and its achievements made him proud of being a Zoroastrian. As per the statistics, there are around 70,000 Parsis across the globe currently.
On the occasion, Mr Jaitley said the community has legitimately staked claim to positions of excellence in diverse fields ranging from medicine to law and also armed forces.
Mr Tata described former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee as his "ethical guru".
Most of the Parsi business houses, starting with the Tatas to the Petits, Wadias and the Godrejs have been very active on the philanthropic front and have worked towards emancipation.
They have played key roles in building the Mumbai of today from the British era.
Following the Muslim conquest of most of Iran in the 7th century, the Zoroastrians were marginalised and by about the 10th century, their areas were converted into Islam.
One group of Zoroastrians fled from Greater Khorasan to the Indian West coast to save their three millenia-old faith and upon landing, they founded the settlement of Sanjan, which is about 30 kms south of Udvada.
The nondescript Udvada hamlet, wherein 6,000 Parsis live, has shot to fame for the renowned Zoroastrian 'Atash Behram', which is the holiest and the oldest Parsi temple or agiary in the country.
Set up in 1742 and the keeper of the sacred flame since then, Udvada has been hosting the country's first ever three-day global Parsi festival that began on December 25.
Udvada has been the 'throne' of the Iranshah the king, and the sacred fire and is also believed to have been burning ever since it was lit during the 8th-9th centuries on the nearby Sanjan beach.
The Parsi belief has it that their unending faith and the nine priestly clans kept alive the Iranshah's 1,300-year-old flame in its chequered sojourn in Udvada.
These families are the descendants of the three Sanjan priests who initially protected it in the early years when Gujarat was being invaded by Mughals in the late 1290s. The clashes with local Navsari priests prompted these nine Sanjan families to run away to Udvada.