Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

The last Bhuj Parsi passes away

Roadaben Sorabji Botwala spent her whole life in Bhuj

Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch, which once boasted of a large population of Parsis is sad at the death last weekend of the last surviving member of the Zoroastrian community. Seventy-eight year old Roadaben Sorabji Botwala, who spent her whole life here, and who also looked after Parsi agiari as the single living member of the community had her last rites as per Parsi tradition performed by her relatives who rushed here from Mumbai. The agiari building in the camp area built in 1904 for members of the community which had come here for liquor trade and to serve in the administration of princely state of Kutch has no local Parsi keeper now.

Though Parsis came to Kutch in 1812 following a legendary Scotish British political agent Mac Murdo whose residential bungalow at Anjar has been preserved as an archaeological monument because of its having unique Kamagari art paintings. Their first recorded population was 40 which went up to the highest of 68 in 1921 with the largest number of 52 living in Bhuj. There was an unusual migrant family among them. The family belonged to Dadabhai Naoroji, the grand old man of India’s freedom movement.

Dadabhai had close personal relations with the royalty of Kutch and since he went to England at a young age and became a member of the British Parliament and at the same time he fought for home-rule, he shifted his only son Ardeshar from Mumbai to Kutch for safety reasons. Ardeshar settled in the port town of Mandvi with his wife Virbai. The couple had eight children. The Dadabhai family was so close to the royal family that the members of Kutch royalty addressed Ardeshar and Virbai as ‘Mama’ and ‘Masi’. The princely state gave them a bunglow in Bhuj to live. The Ardeshar children studied in the Alfred High school here and went to Mumbai and England for higher studies. Ardeshar’s eldest daughter, Maherbanu, after getting medical degree from England, settled down in Kutch to serve local people.