By Dr. Shernaz Baji Avari
The 10th World Zoroastrian Congress flags off to a glorious start at Mumbai today at the sprawling recently renovated National Sports Club of India at Worli which has a seating capacity of 5,000 guests.
This Congress covers all relevant issues pertaining to the community, its theme being “Zoroastrians in the 21st Century – Nurturing Growth and Affirming our Identity”. Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla, Chairman of Serum Institute of India Ltd. at Pune is the principal sponsor and chairman of the organizing committee of the Congress. Mr. Nadir Godrej is the vice-chairman and Godrej group are the event sponsors.
This Congress showcases the community’s substantial contribution to the city and the nation in every field of endeavour which includes arts and culture, law, science and engineering, medicine, defence of the nation and more. It’s not only a forum to discuss the community’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities internally but also to ensure that the focus of the country is on community issues. Prominent Parsis and Irani Zoroastrians from all over the globe will exchange their views at this forum with their valuable contributions and will also discuss the future of the Zoroastrian community which is declining at present. The inauguration of this great event today will be done by none other than the Hon. President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. The Guests of Honour for the ceremony are the Governor of Maharashtra, Shri A.K. Sankaranaraynan and the chief minister of Mumbai Shri Prithviraj Chauhan.
The Congress during its span of 4 days will be addressed by eminent speakers and scholars from India and all over the Globe. The morning session will comprise of keynote speakers and panelists addressing topics in tune with the Congress theme. The afternoon sessions will be dedicated to break-out sessions with experts speaking on topics as diverse as socio-religiuos issues, lessons from history, youth affairs, arts, theatre, legal aspects of the community, the co-relations between rituals and religion and a dedicated Iranian section. The socio-religious issues that will be discussed includes declining demography and how to arrest the decline with the “Jiyo Parsi” scheme.
An exhibition titled “Across Oceans and Flowing Silks – from Canton to Bombay 18th to 20th centuries” will be held at the National Gallery of Modern Art. This exhibition will cover the story of Parsi trade with China, the ships they built, various commodities they traded in such as textiles, Chinese chests, furniture, jewellery, coins, bank notes, letters, porcelain, portraits which they brought back from canton, Shanghai, Hongkong, Macao and other places in China. An exhibition of Parsi heritage has been conceptualized by Pheroza Godrej and Firoza Panthakey Mistree to showcase Parsi Irani Textiles and costumes like Gara sarees, tanchoi sarees, jablas, coatees, caps, ijars (loose pantaloons) Kors (hand embroidered borders) and Chinese Artefacts.
The Parsi-Irani Zoroastrian community has always excelled in every field of endeavour. There have been a host of industrialists, businessman, professionals and others who have been honoured by the nation, state, community or their peers. But there are those who have dedicated their lives to human welfare and social issues by giving selfless service to the cause they believe in. More often their work has gone unrecognized despite their immense contribution to society. At this 10th World Zoroastrian Congress, they will be honoured as ‘Unsung Heroes’ for the quiet work done by them with stories of sacrifice and commitment to the cause they cherish.
At the Congress venue, the organizing committee is offering stalls to the various entrepreneurs, so that they can market their brand/product/projects for the delegates attending the conference or they can advertise their products in the special congress souvenir. At the stalls, sale of any material or products is not allowed except with the express permission of the organizing committee of the World Zoroastrian congress.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum) will display the magnificent cylinder of Cyrus the great, one of the most famous surviving icons of the ancient world which embodies the first declaration of human rights. The said exhibition is open for public which offers a unique glimpse of Persian History. There will be enchanting entertainment programmes every day starting from 7 p.m. onwards like Mallika Sarabhai’s dramatic sequel of the Parsis landing in India, dance extravaganza from the troupe of Shiamak Davar, a tribute to Parsi theatre by veterans and the finale at Mahalaxmi Race Course grounds (courtesy RWITC Committee) which will be a mind blowing musical fantasy with the likes of Boman Irani, Cyrus Broacha and others performing during the closing ceremony.
On 1st January 2014, as a legacy of the Congress, there will be an opening ceremony of the Alpaiwalla Museum at Khareghat Colony which has been refurbished to bring it back to its former glory.
We wish this memorable Congress a grand success.