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The Iranis are an ethno-religious community in South Asia; descendants of Zoroastrians who emigrated from Greater Iran (in the main from central Iran) to the South Asia within the last few centuries. They are culturally, linguistically and socially distinct from the Parsis, who - although also Zoroastrians - arrived on the subcontinent over 1000 years ago. The Parsis and Iranis may also be considered legally distinct. This is based in part on a 1909 obiter dictum that, among many other issues relating to the Indian Zoroastrians, also observed that Iranis (of the now defunct Bombay Presidency) were not obliged to uphold the decisions of the then-regulatory Parsi Panchayat.
Although the term 'Irani' is first attested during the Mughal era, most Iranis are descendants of immigrants who arrived on the subcontinent during the 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, when Iran was ruled by the Qajars and when religious persecution of non-Muslims was rampant. The descendants of the immigrants of those times remain culturally and linguistically closer to the Zoroastrians of Iran, in particular to the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman. Consequently, the Dari dialect of the Zoroastrians of those provinces may also be heard amongst the Iranis.
In India, the Iranis are located mostly in and around the city of Mumbai, while in Pakistan they are most commonly residents of Karachi and Lahore. They are famous for their restaurants and tea-houses (see 'Irani cafés' for details). Most Iranis have 'Irani' as a surname, but this is not always the case.
Notable members of the Irani community include:
- Anosh Irani, Indo-Canadian novelist
- Ardeshir Irani, director of the first Indian sound film, Alam Ara
- Aruna Irani, Bollywood actress
- Boman Irani, Bollywood actor
- Sanaya Irani, TV Actress
- Daisy Irani, Bollywood child actress of the 50's and 60's
- Dinshah Irani, Zoroastrian leader who provided aid to the Zoroastrian community of Iran.
- Honey Irani, Screenwriter (Krrish)
- Jenni Irani (Jamshed Khudadad Irani), cricketer
- Karishmeh Felfeli, western classical pianist and radio broadcaster
- Meher Baba (Merwan Sheriar Irani), mystic
- Ronnie Irani, cricketer
- Bakhtiyaar Irani, TV Actor
- Tanaaz Irani, Actress