Wadias: Gujarat’s philanthropic architects

Masterstrokes, an exhibition of models of the iconic works of Richard Meier, was held at the Sir J J College of Architecture. The college is a fine example of Parsi philanthropy by Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhai whose generosity extended to Gujarat as well.

Published in TNN

In Surat, the Sir J J School is one of them, built by Framroze Pestonji Wadia and Hoshang Wadia of Surat’s P B Wadia Sons, who have given the city many of its most well-known structures.

Framroze and sons Hoshang and Zal Wadia built many buildings, most on a non-profit basis. Science and MTB Arts College, Vanita Vishram, Bhatt Hospital, Surat People’s Bank-Parsi Sheri, Uttaran Power House, Parsi General Hospital, MS University Baroda’s Kala Bhavan, Polo Club are some.

Architect Louis Kahn once said, "Even a brick wants to be something." Pestonji Wadia believed even a ship’s beam wants to be a beam of the building; his skills put good quality teak and mahogany from wrecked ships to good use in the construction of buildings.

The Wadias stayed at Dr Behramji Ni Wadi, "Located by the riverside at the Variyavi bazaar near Mugal Sarai, its garden had many exotic seedless fruits like bors and lemons also, bougainvillaea that flowered in four colours from a single plant," reminisces Zawareh Wadia, Pestonji’s great grandson. Mugal Sarai was originally just a single floor with its present frontage; the entire supporting catacomb of modern structure behind it was built by Wadias.

In 1935, Pestonji had built India’s first cement concrete road, beyond Hope Pul, through a depression in the Tapi River, to join Surat to Rander, forming a causeway. His brother Dhanjishaw simultaneously built one in Pune.Pestonji also developed Athwagate, Policelines and built Dumas Palace for Nawab of Sachin. The Nawab bestowed on him the title of ‘Khan Bahadur’.

The French sold Athwalines and Diwalibaug to Pestonji. Known as the French gardens, the meeting of the Indian National Congress took place here, when Aurobindo Ghosh and Subhash Chandra Bose visited Surat. Part of it was donated to Lashkari ladies club who further sold it to Athwa petrol pump and Parsi Panchayat. Three villas were also rented out to the Surat Electricity Company, (then Killick Nixon) for a mere Rs.1.25.

A Wadia mansion was donated for women’s education to Vidya Mandir trust, in the name of Zal Wadia. A national body-building champion, Zal accidentally died young at 27.

&lta href="http://netspiderads2.indiatimes.com/ads.dll/clickthrough?slotid=36458" target="_blank">&ltimg src="http://netspiderads2.indiatimes.com/ads.dll/photoserv?slotid=36458" border="0" width="660" height="95" alt="Advertisement"></a>

  • Delnavaz

    Hi, The Wadias were truly amazing. It’s incredible how much they have done for our country. Looking forward to more such articles on Parsi history & culture.
    thanks

  • Keki Guard

    It makes us really proud that our forefathers were indeed great, they did so many things for the development of the Nation. We the Parsis can truly be called as the “Developers of Modern India ” our forefathers had great foresight and vision to which the present generation is eating the fruits. The Tata’s, godrej’s, Wadia’s, Balsara’s, Shapurji’s did so many things for the betterment of our country as well as our community.

    I sincerly request our present respected Parsi community members to learn something from our forefathers and work towards the same instead of getting into internal quarrels on pity issues and trying to block the road to prosperity.