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They also share the highest number of haplotypes with present-day Iranians and we estimate that the admixture of the Parsis with Indian populations occurred ~1,200 years ago.
Enriched homozygosity in the Parsi reflects their recent isolation and inbreeding.
India’s tiny but prosperous Parsi community is struggling to find a balance between preserving its traditional rituals and an embrace of modern practices, amid a declining birth rate and growing numbers of mixed marriages.
Parsis, who are concentrated in Mumbai and count many of the country’s best-known billionaires among their ranks, now number fewer than 70,000 in a country of 1.2 billion, with fertility rates well below average.
The vulture population in India is the victim of poisoning by a bovine painkiller which the birds ingest from feasting on cattle carcasses.
Among present-day populations, the Parsis are genetically closest to Iranian and the Caucasus populations rather than their South Asian neighbors.
He was one of two reformist Parsi priests banished by community leaders from the Towers of Silence six years ago for conducting prayers for the few people who chose alternative methods of disposal.
Families wanting to bury or cremate their loved ones struggled to find other venues where a priest could perform the ritual four days of prayers required to ensure the soul of the deceased reaches heaven.
Seated under a fan and dressed in an immaculate traditional white suit, the spritely 62-year-old said he saw electric cremation as the fastest and cleanest modern way to dispose of a body, and was upbeat about the future. People keep asking me how they should go about it,” he said.
He has conducted seven funerals since the hall opened at the beginning of this month.