Chennai Parsis: A tale of grit and hardwork


March 13, 2013

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Parsis-in-Chennai Though they have always been a small number, from the time the first group of Parsis came to the city from Coorg in 1795, the community has had a major role in shaping the history of the city from the time it was known as Madras.

By Janani Sampath | Express News Service

As per records shared by Zarin Mistry in her series for Madras Musings, Heerjibhai Maneckji Kharas was accompanied by five other Parsis and two priests. It is likely that their decision to settle in Madras was not pre-planned but taken after arrival. They bought a plot in Royapuram, opposite the Catholic Church.’

It was in 1876 that they formed a Parsi Panchayat that comprised 11 members. Donning an important role, in 1893, Cawasji Panday was the first Parsi to be appointed Sheriff of Madras.

But, it was in the turn of the 20th century that turned out to be a glorious period in the history of the community in the city. Becoming prosperous dealers in motor cars and cycles, perfumes and dyes, the Parsis of Madras had a predominant role to play in various fields of occupation and services here, apart from being managers of banks and shops. Some established soda water and ice factories.

In 1906, when the young son of  philanthropist Phiroj M Clubwala died, the shattered family built the Fire Temple in his memory. This Fire Temple in Royapuram known as the Jal Phiroj Clubwala Dar E Meher was consecrated in August 1910. In 2010, the community celebrated the 100th year of the Temple amid pomp and splendour.