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The Mahatma’s Parsi connect

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60918062AHMEDABAD: The nation remembered its Mahatma – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – on his 148th birth anniversary on Monday.
Gandhi had great respect for people of all communities and religions, including the Zarthushtis – Parsis. Interestingly, Gandhi took a lot of inspiration from various Parsi leaders and also learnt his initial lessons of nonviolence and humanity from some of them.

In an article addressing the Parsis in a 1921 edition of Young India, Gandhi attributed learning some of his lessons of Ahmisa i.e. non-violence from Dadabhai Naoroji.

“It was he (Dadabhai) who, when I wanted to give battle to a political agent as far back as 1892, restrained my youthful ardour and taught me the first practical lesson of Ahimsa in public life,” wrote MK Gandhi.

Gandhi also acknowledged the influence and contributions of Rustomjee Ghorkhodoo, a Parsi merchant whom he met in Durban. He also made an indirect reference to Jeji Petit whose virtues of humility and humanity inspired him.

A number of prominent Parsi figures including Dadabhai Naoroji, Madam Bhikhaji Cama, Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy and Jeji Petit, had direct or indirect contributions to Indian freedom movement, said noted historian, Makarand Mehta.

In his publication, `Navjivan’, Gandhi addressed the Parsis as `Dear Friends, and acknowledged the inspiration he took from Dadabhai Naoro ji. “Apart from your being fellow-countrymen, I am bound to you by many sacred ties. Dadabhai was the first patriot to inspire me. He was my guide and helper when I did not know any other leader.”

Members of Parsi community in fact, draw several similarities between the ideologies of Gandhi and Da dabhai Naoroji and in fact, the Parsi culture in itself.

“The virtues of charity and selflessness by putting the other man first is part of the core Parsi ideology. In fact, one of the Parsi prayers, also speaks about the virtue of righteousness being true happiness. These qualities are core to Gandhi’s ideologies as well,” said Jahangir Anklesaria, president, Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat.

Published on Times of India