Parsi Personal Law in India: An Overview

One of the smallest religion-based community in the world are the Parsis, who practise Zoroastrianism. They are typically seen as progressive and enlightened. They left Persia and immigrated to India in the eighteenth century AD. It appears that the Parsis did not import any legal systems from Persia. They gradually began incorporating Hindu Laws and practises, which eventually formed the Parsi community's personal law in India. Later, Legislature enacted laws governing personal matters of succession, marriage, divorce. This article is an attempt to discuss various personal laws applicable to Parsis.

What is Parsi Personal Law?

In order to create draft codes of Parsi Personal Law, a Parsi Law Association was established in 1855. In 1860, it submitted draft codes on inheritance, succession, and matrimonial matters to the Legislative Council of India. Due to these developments, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and the Parsi Intestate Succession Act were passed into law in 1865.

Both of the 1865 laws were later revised and re-enacted, the first by the 1936 Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and the second by chapter III of Part V of the 1925 Indian Succession Act. Numerous Parsi associations and prominent Parsi people expressed their displeasure with the 1936 Act's contents and called for changes to the law. The 1988 amendment to the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act brought it most of the way up to parity with the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.

Parsi Customary Law

Those Parsis who lived in mofussil areas during British administration were subject to their "customary law," while those who lived in presidency areas were subject to English law. The majority of Parsis follow the following traditions:

  • They follow their own distinctive wedding rituals and conduct their wedding ceremony after sunset in accordance with their sacred scripture, "Avesta." Priests carry out the "Hathevaro" (right hand-fastening) of the bride and groom during religious wedding rites. The marriage is completed as people shout prayers from their own religious texts.

  • The practise of proposing a son, or "Palak," for adoption is common among Parsis. The "Palak" adoption does not involve giving the adoptive father's complete social, religious, and legal rights to the child. It does not provide the adopted son any rights; rather, it obliges him to perform the adoptive father's funeral rites.

  • Since the drafting of law during British times in 1865, Parsis have followed diverse customs in succession-related matters. When a person dies without a successor, their property falls to the Parsi Panchayat (Parsi Anjuman) which helps the Parsis financially when they are in need.


The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 states that a Parsi marriage is essentially a contractual marriage, albeit the sacramental component is still there. Therefore, in order for a Parsi marriage to be legally binding, the "Ashirvad" ceremony must be conducted by a priest in the presence of two Parsis witnesses. If there is any degree of consanguinity between the contracting parties—that is, if they are related to one another and have common ancestry—marriage is not valid. When a priest officiates a marriage without two Parsi witnesses present, the union is not recognised by Parsi law. If the husband is younger than 21 and the wife is younger than 18, the marriage will not be recognized. The priest performing the marriage ceremony must certify it as soon as it is solemnised under this Act.


The 1988 amendments brought the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 nearly up to par with the Special Marriage Act. Section 32 of the Parsi Marriage & Divorce Act lists ten grounds for divorce that either spouse may raise. By amending the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 in 1988, legislature made divorce generally available to Parsis on all grounds.

The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 did not initially recognise divorce by consent of both parties for Parsi Zoroastrians. Section 32-B (added by 1988 amendment), now allows for divorce by mutual consent between spouses whose bed and breakfast partnership has been irreparably damaged beyond all hope of a profitable salvaging.


The Parsi Intestate Succession Act was passed in 1865. The Indian Succession Act, 1925 took Parsi succession in its purview and repealed the former. The Indian Succession Act of 1925 was approved for Parsis by the British Indian Legislature. The new succession law nevertheless indicates the significant influence of Hindu and Muslim laws on the Parsi inheritance system, despite the fact that it has been significantly revised and is now fundamentally different from the old customary regulations. When the Indian Succession Act of 1925 was passed, the Parsi Intestate Succession Act was directly placed into Chapter III of the Act. Act. The Indian Succession Act, 1925 established testamentary rights and broadly covered the Parsi instate succession from Sections 50 to 56 in order to protect the succession rights of the Parsi Community.


The secular provisions on maintenance are applicable to parsis as well, as contained under- (i) Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, (ii) Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and (iii) Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

Apart from these, Permanent alimony and maintenance as well as maintenance pendente lite are both covered by Sections 39 and 40 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936.


The Parsi legal discourse has pretty long that started during the British period. By the middle of 19th century, the British government had made certain attempts to regularize the Parsi law in India. However, in the case of civil laws, all the British laws were applicable to Parsis. But Parsi communities preferred to maintain their distinct identity in terms of marriage and bigamy. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intra-group litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law.


Q1. What is “Ashirvad” under Parsi Law?

Ans. Blessings are what "Ashirvad" truly implies. A prayer or heavenly command to the parties to uphold their marriage commitments in faith

Q2. What is the Navjote ceremony?

Ans. Sedreh-Pushi is another name for the Navjote. The "Kusti Ritual" is initially performed during this initiation ritual, where children between the ages of seven and twelve get their sudreh and kusti.

Q3. What is Parsi Navroz?

Ans. The Parsi New Year, generally referred to as Navroz, is being observed by the Parsi community in India. The Parsis people of India observe the new year's starting in August whereas the rest of the world celebrates the day in March.

Q4. Why do Parsis worship fire?

Ans. The Parsis worship fire because it symbolises Ahura Mazda, their greatest deity.

Updated on: 21-Feb-2023


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