It means well, but fails to do justice to its subject. A new exhibition at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies is an ambitious but flawed attempt to understand Zoroastrianism, which claims to be the world’s first monotheistic faith and the state religion of the first global superpower, ancient Persia. Both claims are shrouded in antiquity, but deeply embedded in the psyche of India’s tiniest and most successful minority, the Parsis.
Sometimes called ‘the Jews of the East’, the Parsis too have a history of a very creative diaspora. Having migrated from Persia to Gujarat during the 8th to 10th centuries AD, one of their founding myths in India was that they were refugees from Muslim persecution after the Arab conquest of Zoroastrian Persia. But historical evidence shows that their migrations were motivated as much by trade as by religious dissent.