Sir Shapoorji Burjorji Bharucha


June 22, 2020

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A tribute on his death centenary

by Marzban Jamshedji Giara

He was a self made and large hearted man, financier and business magnate. He was born at Bharuch on 30th April 1845 of poor parents. He lost his father when he was a child and his mother brought the children to Bombay from Bharuch when he was 12 years old. He would sit and stitch along with his mother and sisters. He failed in his matriculation examination. He did not get higher education but learnt to speak English. He joined Bombay Baroda & Central India (now Western) Railway as a petty clerk, then the Asian Bank in the same capacity and became a broker in 1864. He attained the highest pinnacle of his profession and later became a prominent figure in the financial world of Bombay. The British named Bharuch as Broach and hence his surname was also Broacha.

On the recommendation of the finance member of the Viceroy’s Council he gave evidence in London before the Herschel Committee on the question of silver. The Finance Commission had to amend its report due to his forceful plea. He was the President of Native Share Brokers’ Association, the agent of several mills and a director of many joint stock companies. His advice was sought by government officials, bank managers and businessmen.  Share brokers, businessmen and bankers had confidence in him. He was a capable finance expert. He was made a life member of the Calcutta Stock Exchange.  He used to manage the finances of the Maharaja of Gwalior as his local agent. In 1908 Lord Morley, the Minister for India invited him for a meal and sought his views on finance.

He was made a Justice of Peace in 1896 and a Sheriff of Bombay and knighted in 1911 when King George V visited India in recognition of his cosmopolitan charities.   He used to help the poor irrespective of caste or creed. He donated Rs. Four lakhs for Masina Hospital, Rs.2,50,000 for various charities in Bharuch, Rs.Three lakhs for building a hostel at Benares Hindu University, Rs.1,28,000 for the benefit of share brokers of Bombay for education of their children and against relief of contingencies, Rs. One lakh for Gujarat and Kathiawad famine relief. The sum of his total benefactions amounted to more than Rs. Forty lakhs. His munificence was indeed large and diffusive. He has set up an example of wise philanthropy capable of being imitated without undermining the self reliance spirit of the poor. Rich and poor alike might contemplate Shapoorji’s career with practical advantage. His life was worth living, his example is worth following.

His marble bust was unveiled at the Bombay Stock Exchange Building (now Pheroze Jeejeebhoy Towers) by Lord Brabourne, Governor of Bombay on 4th April 1935. His bust is also installed at Shapoorji Bharucha Hall at Bharuch in 1917.

He passed away on Roz 17 Sarosh, Mah 10 Dae 1289 Y.Z. 23rd June 1920 at age 76. He had no children and was survived by his wife Lady Pirojbai. Shams-ul-Ulama Dasturji Darab Peshotan
Sanjana recommended that his name be recited in namgharan list in all prayers at Atash Behrams and agiaries.

Two residential Parsi colonies in Mumbai are named after him – one at Andheri west owned and managed by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet and another at Grant Road near Aslaji Agiary managed by a private trust. A marble bust of Sir Shapoorji Bharucha was presented by Kekoo Gandhy and installed at the Baug named after him at Andheri a few years ago.   

May the present generation of Parsis derive inspiration from his life and rise to great heights.