During the Saffarid Dynasty, Shiraz was the one of the ancient cities and capital of Persia.The city which used to be a trade hub a thousand years ago is now in the south-west region of Iran, popularly known as the city of gardens.
It is said that around 500 years, travellers from Shiraz came to sell horses in India, but never went back. At that time India was ruled by the Mughals and Iran was part of the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire and the Mughal Empire shared boundaries with each other and had cordial relations. At that point, as it also to some extent, the strength of the cavalry spoke of an army’s strength. Iranian horses were in great demand. Both the empires had people who spoke Farsi, and due to this it was easier for the Iranian traders to sell horses at fairs, festivals, to rich landlords and sultans.
These tribals made a mini-Iran wherever they travelled to and sometimes, ended up staying back in India, forming small pockets in various states.
Living on a small share of land in bastis (bamboo huts) in Kishanganj, Bihar, is one such Little Iran in India. The residents arrived here generations ago, and at the moment, are about a hundred such huts in the Motibagh area of Kishanganj.
They speak fluently in Hindi and Farsi, eat Persian food and until 15 years ago, they used to live in tents which was the historic way of living back when they came to India. Their ancestors considered tents as their homes and these were a part of their identity here in India. But since maintaining a tent cost more, they shifted to bamboo huts instead.
One of the major reasons behind staying in Kishanganj is Khagra Mela which had been started by the Nawab of Khagra, Mohammad Fakruddin. For the longest time, Khagra Mela was the biggest fair and trading horses was a flourishing business for the Iranians. It was this mela that made them earn a good amount to stay back in India and make Kishanganj their home.
Earlier, these ‘saudagars’, merchants used to trade only horses but with changing times they have also started selling locks and keys, photo frames, sunglasses and precious stones for a livelihood.
Marriage outside their community is still not allowed as it is preferred to marry within the community.
They have all required Indian documents like Aadhar card, voter ID etc but still at times, they end up facing trouble casting their vote and are often considered outcasts by local administration.
Iranians in Kishanganj follow all of their rituals and practices from back home in Iran, be it the language, clothes or food but for them India is their home. They are Indians first and should be treated as Indian citizens.
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