Remembering Parsi greats on Navroze

Today Parsi’s celebrate Jamshedi Nauroze and will engage in celebrations, largely featuring good food and drink. They are possibly the smallest but most visible Indian minority. You will find a Parsi in every nook and corner of the world. This community has many luminaries, the “firsts” in diverse professions, and it is not possible to elaborate on their achievements. We list a few instantly recognisable luminaries, who by their contributions have left an indelible stamp of excellence on their chosen professions.

Perin_0

By Perin Ilavia I Nav Hind Times

The grand old man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji, born in 1783, was a great political thinker and ranks among the greatest Indian patriots. He was the first founder-editor of the newspaper Rast Goftara through which he challenged Britain to stop draining India of its wealth. At 28 he became the first Indian professor of mathematics at Elphinstone College. By founding the Parsi Natak Mandali in 1853 he established modern theatre in Bombay. Going to England in 1855, he started the first Indian firm in London and Liverpool and founded the first Asian Religious Association in Britain in 1861. He was the first Indian to be elected Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party at Westminster, London in 1892, campaigning vigorously for Indian Independence. A close friend of Mahatma Gandhi he was a founding member of the Indian National Congress and the first baronet in the British Raj. Naoroji was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and the first baronet in the British Raj. He was also the founding member of the Indian National Congress

Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy’s grit, business acumen, absolute integrity and honesty established his reputation. As his wealth increased, he donated generously and was involved in several philanthropic activities.  For his munificence the British conferred upon him the unique honour of Knighthood on March 2, 1842, bestowed to an Indian for the first time. In 1857 he was given a higher honour that of Baronetcy and the hereditary title of Jeejeebhoy, which was inherited by his eldest son Cursetjee Jeejeebhoy.

Sir Pherozeshah Mehta was the first Parsi to obtain a Master’s degree from the University of Mumbai. He established practice in the legal profession, which was till then dominated by the British. He drafted the Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 and is considered the father of Bombay Municipality. He was among the founders of the Indian National Congressand was its president in 1890. In 1887 and 1893 he was nominated to the Mumbai Legislative Council, he was also member of the Imperial Legislative Council, appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empirein 1894, and a Knight Commander in 1904. He started Bombay Chroniclein 1910, an English weekly chronicler of the political upheavals of a volatile pre-independent India.

The Tatas, known for their philanthropic acumen, was founded by Sir Jamsetji Tata in the mid 19th century. He and those who followed him aligned business opportunities with the objective of nation building. The family shares a set of five core foundation values: integrity, understanding, excellence, unity, and responsibility. This is a legacy that earned them the trust of many millions, in a measure few business houses anywhere in the world can match.

Sir Nusserwanjee Wadia started the first textile company in 1879. Bombay Dyeing is the major brand and revenue source. His son Nusli Wadia, and Jeh Wadia have taken the entrepreneurial spirit forward. 

Into the fourth generation, the Godrej group is over a century old. Started by Ardeshir Godrej in 1887, the three generations have built the group. Awarded the Citizen of the Year in 2003 by the Economic Times for its contribution to social development, the family strongly believes in the trusteeship role.

Minocheher Masanialso known as Minoo Masani was the leader of the opposition in Parliament. Homai Vyarawalla, the first woman press photographer, was awarded the nation’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan. Fiercely independent, disillusioned when the Nehruvian dream began to falter she quit her profession giving her entire collection of prints, negatives, cameras and other memorabilia to the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi.

The founding directorand professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha the first Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy commission was the most prominent nuclear scientists to emerge from India. Known as "fatherof Indian nuclear programme", he was the founding director of Tata Institute of Fundamental Researchand Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment(now named after him); both cornerstones of Indian development of nuclear weapons.

Among prominent legal luminaries, Fali Nairman, Chief Justice of India 2001-2002, is among the most respected and learned legal minds in the country. Former member of the Rajya Sabha, he lived amid controversy and the search for justice and truth. “One thing about our tiny Parsi community that you must know is that, to us the one thing greater than being a Parsi is being an Indian,” he said.

The First Attorney General of India, among the foremost legal minds in the country Soli Sorabjee, is now the grand old man of the Indian bar. In his eighties, he defies age. Every case is still fresh in his mind; he remembers them by his client’s first name! Known for his humour, at the felicitation by the Bangalore Parsi Association, I remember him saying, “When a horse wins a race, it is the trainer and owner who are congratulated. My trainer is my wife; she should be congratulated.”

Nanabhoy Palkhivala also known asNani Palkhiwala, one of India’s most prominent jurists and eloquent and articulate barristerand economists is considered to be the leading authority on the Indian constitution. At 30 with Sir Jamshedji, he authored what was then, and still is, an authoritative work: “The Law and Practice of Income Tax.”

Chief Justice Sarosh Kapadia rose from a lower middle class background with no godfathers, political connections or caste reservations. No doubt being born into a community that is universally well regarded helped. His grit, determination and tenacity got him to where he is.

India’s first Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw served the country through five wars. Honoured with the Padma Vibhushan and the Military Cross, he once said, “Even after commanding one of the biggest Armies of the world and fighting so many battles, I am unable to command one person that is this lady -my wife.”

Movie producer Sohrab Modi, the Cecil B DeMille of Indian Cinema, (1897–1984) stage and film actor, director and producer, his historical films carried a message commitment to on social and national issues. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Awardin 1980.

Homi Wadia, doyen of Indian cinema, a producer -director of silent movies in the 1930s set up Movietone Studio. His movie Hunterwalli with Nadia followed by Hunterwalli ki Beti, flipped box office records. When I interviewed him in 2002 his memory of the 1930’s was as sharp as a pin.

Mehli Mehta born in Bombay, a pioneering figure in the Indian musical world, founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestrain 1935 and the Bombay String Quartetin 1940. His son, Zubinis legendary.

Farrokh Bulsara  (1946-1991) more famous as Freddie Mercury, a musician, singer and songwriter, the lead vocalist of the rock band ‘Queen,’ Britain’s first “Asianrock star" was born in Zanzibar, left India in his mid-teens, is voted the greatest male singer of all time.

Cyrus Todiwala cooked his way into British hearts. Training as a chef with the Taj group for over 15 years has excited the palates of the curry savvy British, and was awarded an OBE. His Café ‘Spice Namaste’, a landmark in London is listed amongst the top 100 restaurants of the city.

Zerbanoo Gifford is a Human Rights campaigner. She is the founding director of the ASHA Foundation. Honoured with the Nehru Centenary Award for her work championing the rights of women, children and minorities, made political history in 1982, when she was elected in Middlesex, as the first non-white woman councillor for the Liberal Party. Despite facing racism and threats from the British National Party, is the first Asian woman to stand for parliament three times.

Today, there are about 150,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. While India houses the largest population the Greater Toronto Area comes second. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy, Toronto’s top gastroenterologist at St Michael’s Hospital is recipient of 23 international awards and author of 300 research papers.

The late Dr Nani S Davar was principal, Davar’s College of Commerce, one of India’s oldest and most reputed institutes. His wife Puran now heads the professional team in imparting skills that make a perfect Millennium Secretary, with diverse career oriented courses for successful careers in blue chip companies. Starting with one Institute in Bombay, they have several branches and presence in all Metro’s in India. This sprightly eighty two year old, always impeccably dressed, stopped teaching a few years ago, still drops by at the institutes everyday to supervise administrative work. "What will I do sitting at home?”A decade ago, when I interviewed her, she said, “Shiamak is the famous one, why interview me? We had an inkling he’d be a performer since he was into dance and music from an early age. Back then, people ridiculed him. ‘What is a boy doing dancing?’ But we encouraged him. Our only condition was that he complete his graduation before moving on to anything else. I am Shiamak’s mascot," she laughs, “I always travel with him for his shows aboard.” Shiamak’s success makes her beam. Shiamak, is India’s first Contemporary Dance Choreographer, famous for changing the choreography of Hindi cinema, the first Indian to bring Contemporary Jazzand western forms of dances through his first of its kind dance schools.

  • Homeedalal

     Kindly read this also.

    Hirjee Readymoney was the first Parsi to go to China in 1776
    to build up trade connections.

     

    Lowjee Wadia  was the
    first Parsi to built Dockyard in Mumbai in 1750

     

    Dadabhai Nosherwanjee was the first Parsi to opened a Cotton
    Screw in Mumbai in 1776 giving fillip to cotton Textile industry.

     

    The Responsible Broker to the East
    India Co. was  Rustom Maneck

     

    The first mint established by Britishers  appointed  
    Ratanjee of Surat as good coiner.-an able workman.

     

    During French war 
    when Bombay Government was in financial difficulty A Parsi named
    Pestonjee Bomanjee Wadia stood by the British during the critical Period.

     

    The honor of introducing Gas light in India falls to the lot of
    Parsi-Ardesher Khurshedjee Wadia –for the first time lit his  Mazagaon house with gas on 20/02/1834.

     

    Similarly the first private residence in Mumbai to be
    installed with special electric dynamo was grand son of Hon Nawroji Wadia- in
    1897

     

    Jamshedjee Tata was the first Indian to own an automobile in
    Mumbai .

     

    The distinction of establishing first Spinning & Weaving
    Mill in India
    goes to Cowasjee Nanabhoy   Davar who opened Bombay Spinning & Weaving
    Mill in 1854.

     

    The inauguration of   Hydro Electric Works  & of Iron & Steel works in Bihar was
    by Prince of industrialist Jamshedjee Tata.-completely revolutionized  Indian Industry & illustrious founder’s
    name will be chronicled in letters of GOLD in economic history of modern India.

     

    Rustomjee Kersaspjee published first calendar for the year
    1780 in First Printing press. Established in India.

     

    Similarly Bombay
    Samachar Press –the first vernacular press was published first by Furdunjee
    Merazban.

     

    The first Indian to obtain certificate in Pitman’s Shorthand
    was Nanabahy Chichgar-a reporter of Times of India.

     

    Parsis had hand in establishment of Indian National Congress
    in shaping the constitution of India-men like Dadabhai Navroji, Mancherjee
    Bhownagaree,Shapurjee Saklatwala the only Indians who have been hitherto
    returned to British House of Commons have enhanced the reputation of community
    by voicing the grievances of Indian people before the British Public.

     

    Sir Pherozeshah Mehta –the father of Bombay Corporation
    rendered yeomen service to India.

     

    Men like Sorabjee Bengalee, Navrojee Fardunjee, Dossabhai
    Karaka,  Maneckjee Cursetjee , Byramjee
    Malabari , Kaikhshru Kabrajee, Dinshaw Wacha, Phiroze Sethna, Cawasjee Jehangir
    , Hormusjee Mody,  Khoorshed Nariman
    & others did their best to uplift the inhabits of this country..

     

    The Dastur Meherji Rana (whose adoptive name was Mahyarbin
    Vachcha )was head of Navsari Parsi & leader of the party had gone to
    Akber’s court & was granted two bigha of lands under a special “furman “(
    document of grant)

     

    Sir Jamshedjee Jejeebhoy numerous act of benevolence like
    hospitals, educational & religious institutions .dharamshalas etc have
    acquired world wide  reputation. .He was
    given the title of Knighthood in 1842 followed by bestowal of Baronetcy on a
    native of India.
    Mrs. Avabai Jamshedjee Jejeebhoy became a Lady –the first Indian woman-to be
    honored

     

    Ir Cawasjee Jehangir –a great Parsi Philanthropist –founded
    several public institutions such as hospitals education institutes, public
    fountains lunatic asylum, dharamsala etc.

     

    Pestonjee Bomanjee Wadia a well-known merchant owned about
    13600 square yards of land in Fort area. Owner of number of ships-Hero-Anne-Taj
    Bux-Milford-Bubmaniar and Gangaveer.Built Tower of Silence in Ankleshwar, Dharamshala
    in Pardi & built steps from Mumbai chowpatty to Tower of Silence.

     

    Merwanji Mancherji Cama founder of Mancherji F. Cama Athornan
    Institute set apart 25 lacs to set up this institution for creating Priestly
    class.

     

    Dadabhoy Pestonjee Wadia (J.P)- adopted son of of Pestonji
    Wadia built bridge at Kim, Fire temple Building
    of Udvada, Two Agiaries in Mumbai Two in Surat,
    Dharamsala at Bassein & Pardi. One of the founder member of Bombay Chamber
    of Commerce, Only Indian appointed to Committee to establish the Bank of Bombay & promoter of
    Oriental Bank. He was one of the first JUSTICE OF PEACE –appointed in1834.

     

    Hamabai J.K.Mehta (J.P.) –grand daughter of Dinshaw &
    Nusserwanji Petit inherited valuable jewellery 
    estimated about 12 lacs which she sold & donated the proceeds
    towards foundation of Parsi Girls Orphange at Bandra-in her mother’s memory.
    She was Sportswoman-keen rider & owned 
    Horses. She was one of the first Lady Motorist, to tour around the
    world  & visited remotest part.

     

    Jamsetjee Fardoonjee Parekh- Founder of Parekh Dharamsala at
    Chaupatti for Blind & disabled Parsis-Trustee of BPP IN 1859

     

    Cursetjee Furdoonjee Parekh- (J.P.)Trustee BPP Sheriff Of Bombay. Constructed Flora
    Fountain.

     

    Byramjee Jeejeebhoy –Established high school in Thana + Mumbai Medical school at Poona + Ahemedabad

     

    Seth Rustomji M. Kooka—Founder of Parsi orphanage –Surat in 1912 — Donated
    3.5 lacs to Surat Education scheme

     

    Ratajee Manekjee Enti –Built Fire temple at Srimari &
    Dharamsala at Surat
    _ He left 25 lacs for charitable purpose in the year 1804

     

    Sir Cawasjee Jehangir Bart.-Knighted in 1895 & received
    Baronetcy 13 years later. He had honour of receiving knighthood directly from
    the Her Majestic Queen Victoria. –Built Cawasji Jehangir Hall & gave large
    sums to Hospitals
    Schools & other
    charitable institution.

     

    Petits

     

    Sir Jamshedji N Petit + Nusserwanji M Petit –Parsi boys
    orphanage + J>N> Petit Institute

     

    Bai Dinbai Nusserwanji Petit –Gave more than 25 lacs in
    charity in 1898

     

    Bai Avabai Petit- Parsi Orphanage at Bandra

     

    Seth Framji Dinshaw Petit (J.P.)- Sanatorium at Cumballa
    Hill

     

    Manekjee Cawasjee Damaunwalla—Started free dispensary At
    Udwada in 1867 for which he donated his own house.

     

    K.R.P. Shroff (J.P.)-President of Bombay Stock Exchange-

     

    Pestonjee Hormasjee Cama- Established Cama Hospital  In Mumbai

     

    Sir Cusrow  & Sir
    Ness Wadia along with their mother spent 20 lacs-for Navroz baug -35 Lacs for
    Rustom Baug- 15 Lacs for Jer Baug & 27 lacs for Cusrow Baug.

     

    Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala—was first Indian to start –Indian
    bank known as Central Bank Of India

     

    Homi Bhabha ‘s was pioneer for India’s Nuclear Power.

     

    The list is endless

    .

    Homi Dalal— (Compiled from Luster of Parsi on Indian Soil.)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Homeedalal

     Kindly read this also.

    Hirjee Readymoney was the first Parsi to go to China in 1776
    to build up trade connections.

     

    Lowjee Wadia  was the
    first Parsi to built Dockyard in Mumbai in 1750

     

    Dadabhai Nosherwanjee was the first Parsi to opened a Cotton
    Screw in Mumbai in 1776 giving fillip to cotton Textile industry.

     

    The Responsible Broker to the East
    India Co. was  Rustom Maneck

     

    The first mint established by Britishers  appointed  
    Ratanjee of Surat as good coiner.-an able workman.

     

    During French war 
    when Bombay Government was in financial difficulty A Parsi named
    Pestonjee Bomanjee Wadia stood by the British during the critical Period.

     

    The honor of introducing Gas light in India falls to the lot of
    Parsi-Ardesher Khurshedjee Wadia –for the first time lit his  Mazagaon house with gas on 20/02/1834.

     

    Similarly the first private residence in Mumbai to be
    installed with special electric dynamo was grand son of Hon Nawroji Wadia- in
    1897

     

    Jamshedjee Tata was the first Indian to own an automobile in
    Mumbai .

     

    The distinction of establishing first Spinning & Weaving
    Mill in India
    goes to Cowasjee Nanabhoy   Davar who opened Bombay Spinning & Weaving
    Mill in 1854.

     

    The inauguration of   Hydro Electric Works  & of Iron & Steel works in Bihar was
    by Prince of industrialist Jamshedjee Tata.-completely revolutionized  Indian Industry & illustrious founder’s
    name will be chronicled in letters of GOLD in economic history of modern India.

     

    Rustomjee Kersaspjee published first calendar for the year
    1780 in First Printing press. Established in India.

     

    Similarly Bombay
    Samachar Press –the first vernacular press was published first by Furdunjee
    Merazban.

     

    The first Indian to obtain certificate in Pitman’s Shorthand
    was Nanabahy Chichgar-a reporter of Times of India.

     

    Parsis had hand in establishment of Indian National Congress
    in shaping the constitution of India-men like Dadabhai Navroji, Mancherjee
    Bhownagaree,Shapurjee Saklatwala the only Indians who have been hitherto
    returned to British House of Commons have enhanced the reputation of community
    by voicing the grievances of Indian people before the British Public.

     

    Sir Pherozeshah Mehta –the father of Bombay Corporation
    rendered yeomen service to India.

     

    Men like Sorabjee Bengalee, Navrojee Fardunjee, Dossabhai
    Karaka,  Maneckjee Cursetjee , Byramjee
    Malabari , Kaikhshru Kabrajee, Dinshaw Wacha, Phiroze Sethna, Cawasjee Jehangir
    , Hormusjee Mody,  Khoorshed Nariman
    & others did their best to uplift the inhabits of this country..

     

    The Dastur Meherji Rana (whose adoptive name was Mahyarbin
    Vachcha )was head of Navsari Parsi & leader of the party had gone to
    Akber’s court & was granted two bigha of lands under a special “furman “(
    document of grant)

     

    Sir Jamshedjee Jejeebhoy numerous act of benevolence like
    hospitals, educational & religious institutions .dharamshalas etc have
    acquired world wide  reputation. .He was
    given the title of Knighthood in 1842 followed by bestowal of Baronetcy on a
    native of India.
    Mrs. Avabai Jamshedjee Jejeebhoy became a Lady –the first Indian woman-to be
    honored

     

    Ir Cawasjee Jehangir –a great Parsi Philanthropist –founded
    several public institutions such as hospitals education institutes, public
    fountains lunatic asylum, dharamsala etc.

     

    Pestonjee Bomanjee Wadia a well-known merchant owned about
    13600 square yards of land in Fort area. Owner of number of ships-Hero-Anne-Taj
    Bux-Milford-Bubmaniar and Gangaveer.Built Tower of Silence in Ankleshwar, Dharamshala
    in Pardi & built steps from Mumbai chowpatty to Tower of Silence.

     

    Merwanji Mancherji Cama founder of Mancherji F. Cama Athornan
    Institute set apart 25 lacs to set up this institution for creating Priestly
    class.

     

    Dadabhoy Pestonjee Wadia (J.P)- adopted son of of Pestonji
    Wadia built bridge at Kim, Fire temple Building
    of Udvada, Two Agiaries in Mumbai Two in Surat,
    Dharamsala at Bassein & Pardi. One of the founder member of Bombay Chamber
    of Commerce, Only Indian appointed to Committee to establish the Bank of Bombay & promoter of
    Oriental Bank. He was one of the first JUSTICE OF PEACE –appointed in1834.

     

    Hamabai J.K.Mehta (J.P.) –grand daughter of Dinshaw &
    Nusserwanji Petit inherited valuable jewellery 
    estimated about 12 lacs which she sold & donated the proceeds
    towards foundation of Parsi Girls Orphange at Bandra-in her mother’s memory.
    She was Sportswoman-keen rider & owned 
    Horses. She was one of the first Lady Motorist, to tour around the
    world  & visited remotest part.

     

    Jamsetjee Fardoonjee Parekh- Founder of Parekh Dharamsala at
    Chaupatti for Blind & disabled Parsis-Trustee of BPP IN 1859

     

    Cursetjee Furdoonjee Parekh- (J.P.)Trustee BPP Sheriff Of Bombay. Constructed Flora
    Fountain.

     

    Byramjee Jeejeebhoy –Established high school in Thana + Mumbai Medical school at Poona + Ahemedabad

     

    Seth Rustomji M. Kooka—Founder of Parsi orphanage –Surat in 1912 — Donated
    3.5 lacs to Surat Education scheme

     

    Ratajee Manekjee Enti –Built Fire temple at Srimari &
    Dharamsala at Surat
    _ He left 25 lacs for charitable purpose in the year 1804

     

    Sir Cawasjee Jehangir Bart.-Knighted in 1895 & received
    Baronetcy 13 years later. He had honour of receiving knighthood directly from
    the Her Majestic Queen Victoria. –Built Cawasji Jehangir Hall & gave large
    sums to Hospitals
    Schools & other
    charitable institution.

     

    Petits

     

    Sir Jamshedji N Petit + Nusserwanji M Petit –Parsi boys
    orphanage + J>N> Petit Institute

     

    Bai Dinbai Nusserwanji Petit –Gave more than 25 lacs in
    charity in 1898

     

    Bai Avabai Petit- Parsi Orphanage at Bandra

     

    Seth Framji Dinshaw Petit (J.P.)- Sanatorium at Cumballa
    Hill

     

    Manekjee Cawasjee Damaunwalla—Started free dispensary At
    Udwada in 1867 for which he donated his own house.

     

    K.R.P. Shroff (J.P.)-President of Bombay Stock Exchange-

     

    Pestonjee Hormasjee Cama- Established Cama Hospital  In Mumbai

     

    Sir Cusrow  & Sir
    Ness Wadia along with their mother spent 20 lacs-for Navroz baug -35 Lacs for
    Rustom Baug- 15 Lacs for Jer Baug & 27 lacs for Cusrow Baug.

     

    Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala—was first Indian to start –Indian
    bank known as Central Bank Of India

     

    Homi Bhabha ‘s was pioneer for India’s Nuclear Power.

     

    The list is endless

    .

    Homi Dalal— (Compiled from Luster of Parsi on Indian Soil.)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Shirinjpatel

    “Today Parsi’s celebrate …”

    Trust most Parsis are moire literate than this.

  • Shirinjpatel

    “Today Parsi’s celebrate …”

    Trust most Parsis are moire literate than this.

  • Shirinjpatel

    Oh dear, more howlers. Dadbhai Naoroji was never created a baronet – first or otherwise. How credible is this article going to be?

  • Shirinjpatel

    Oh dear, more howlers. Dadbhai Naoroji was never created a baronet – first or otherwise. How credible is this article going to be?

  • I LOVE DOKHMENASHINI

    No man is great. God is the greatest of all.

  • I LOVE DOKHMENASHINI

    No man is great. God is the greatest of all.

  • Contradhongi

    Homi Dalal,
    Your list seems to incomplete in the sense that you have not included the ‘attainments’ of  B.P.P. Trustees both  i.e. o recent  past as well as present bunch of ‘do gooders’. How can we tolerate this ‘injustice’

  • Contradhongi

    Homi Dalal,
    Your list seems to incomplete in the sense that you have not included the ‘attainments’ of  B.P.P. Trustees both  i.e. o recent  past as well as present bunch of ‘do gooders’. How can we tolerate this ‘injustice’

  • phiroze

    Homee, you forgot one Homi Dalal who allegedly spends 50000 on charity and wants the whole world to know about it. now the list is complete as this is what todays reformist Parsis do as compared to those who came before.