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DNA proves Parsis link to Iran

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dc-CoverResearchers find 48 per cent India-specific lineage.

They have just proved the correctness of a popular myth — ‘Like Sugar in Milk, about Parsis. The Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) scientists, along with researchers from Estonia and the UK, have established that Parsis are genetically closest to the Neolithic Iranians, followed by present-day Middle Eastern populations, rather than those in South Asia.

The research paper titled, Like Sugar in Milk: Reconstructing the Genetic History of the Parsi Population, has been published online by BioRxvi. The research results are in concord with the historically-recorded migration of the Parsi populations to South Asia in the 7th century. It has also been proved genetically that the Parsis assimilated into the Indian subcontinent’s population and socio-cultural environment “like sugar in milk”.

“In a wider context our results suggest a major demographic transition in West Asia due to Islamic conquest,” said resear-chers. CCMB’s senior principal scientists Kumaraswamy Thangaraj of Evolution-ary and Medical Genetics had worked extensively on reconstructing the genetic history of the Parsi population. Previous studies on Parsis were dependent on low-resolution markers.

CCMB analysed the Indian and Pakistani Parsi population using high resolution autosomal and uniparental markers. Around 108 mitochondrial DNA markers among 21 ancient Parsi DNA samples excavated from Sanjan in Gujarat were analysed. Sanjan is the original settlement of Parsis in India. It is estimated that the admixture of the Parsis with the Indian population occurred 1200 years ago. “Enriched homozygosity reflected isolation and inbreeding experienced by the Parsis,” revealed the scientists.

Parsis in India also share the highest number of haplotypes with present-day Iranians. Researchers observed 48 per cent of South Asian-specific mitochondrial lineages found in the ancient samples, may have resulted from the assimilation of local females during the initial settlement. A small group of Zoroastrians came to Gujarat when the Sassanian dynasty was threatened by Islamic conquest. There are several myths that narrate their first arrival.

According to the most popular myth mentioned in in the ‘Qissa-e-Sanjaan’ an Indian ruler called Jadi Rana sent a glass full of milk to the Parsi group that had sought asylum, indicating that his kingdom was full of locals. The Zoroastrian group had put sugar into the milk to indicate an assimilation of their people into local society. Researchers concluded that new substantial data has emerged and a more comprehensive insight into the population structure of Parsis and their genetic links to Iranians and South Asians has been established.

Published on Deccan Chronicle