The Freddie Mercury connection

Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of rock band Queen, was given the name Farrokh Bulsara, sometimes reflected as Faridoon Bulsara, at birth and was Parsi. These are some Parsi facts and beliefs.
Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of rock band Queen, was given the name Farrokh Bulsara, sometimes reflected as Faridoon Bulsara, at birth and was Parsi. These are some Parsi facts and beliefs.PHOTO: FREDDIE MERCURY / FACEBOOK

Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of rock band Queen, was given the name Farrokh Bulsara, sometimes reflected as Faridoon Bulsara, at birth and was Parsi. These are some Parsi facts and beliefs.

The Parsis were originally from Pars, or Fars, in Iran. Their prophet Zarathushtra Spitama founded their faith, Zoroastrianism, around 600BC, making this religion one of the world’s oldest.

2 After Muslim Arabs invaded Persia in the 7th century and persecuted Zoroastrians, about 1,000 set sail for the East with their sacred fire. They landed in India’s western state of Gujarat, where Indian King Jadav Rana showed their priest a pot brimming with milk, to hint that his kingdom was too full for refugees. The Zoroastrian priest sprinkled sugar into the milk to show that his people would assimilate well, and make life in Gujarat sweeter. The king then welcomed the Parsis on three conditions: They would adopt local dress, speak the local language and would not convert others.

3 The Parsis worship their God through fire, which to them symbolises righteousness. They abhor waste and so bury any uneaten food in the ground; they believe they should not soil the earth, which is why they leave their dead on high ground for vultures to devour. In Singapore, they wrap their dead in cloth and bury them in special concrete coffins at Choa Chua Kang.

4 Parsis have no temple in Singapore, and so pray with an urn of ever-burning fire at home. Zarathushtra exhorted his followers to practise good thoughts, good words and good deeds. To remind them of this, every Parsi initiated into the faith wears a white muslin undershirt called sudreh, for life, and, over it, a cord of of lambs’ wool called a kusti, wound three times around the waist. The sudreh has a little pocket over the heart, in which one’s good thoughts, words and deeds are captured.

5 Common Parsi surnames in Singapore include Chacha, Daruwalla and Medora. Some Parsi surnames reflect their forefathers’ jobs, such as Contractor, Engineer and Doctor. Others end in “walla”, meaning occupation or place from where the person originates, such as Singaporewalla. Parsis are known for their charity, humour and hospitality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'The Freddie Mercury connection'. Print Edition | Subscribe