Firoz Rustomji Batliwala: Remembering the Poet on his Death Centenary

The following article was sent to us via email. It is written by Marzban Giara

The music maestro who composed the Parsi anthem Chhaiye Ame Jarthosti to the tune of Good Bye My Blue Bell

byMarzban Jamshedji Giara

How many of us know that he also composed the popular songs such as Khudavind O Khavind, Saras sau thee kharo rahebar, Bhale lidho janm jagpar. He was born in 1846 at Navsari. He studied at Elphinstone College. He  served as a cashier in G.I.P. Railway. He used to sing and teach music in various public societies. From childhood his hobby was to compose Gujarati poems and songs.

Rahnumae Mazdayasnan Sabha organised a competition in 1893 for composing devotional hymns in simple Gujarati language. This competition was won by Firoz and his lyrics were published by the Sabha in 1894. He had also prepared a book of Indian ragas with staff notation according to western music. He prepared several music books such as ‘Firozi Gayan’ and ‘‘Sarode Avestani notation tatha Jarthosti Bandagio’ and Sarode Paak Daamani ane Sitame Minar –tragic story of two Parsi ladies who in order to save their honour sacrificed their lives at the Rajabai Tower, Mumbai.

Sarode Avesta is a collection of devotional hymns in Gujarati giving the meanings of  most of our daily prayers Ashem Vohu, Yatha Ahu Vairyo, Kemna Mazda, Hormuzd Khodae, Jasme Avanghe Mazda, Sarosh Baj, Ahmai Raescha, Hazangarem, Jasme Avanghe Mazda, Kerfe Mozd, Dinno Kalmo, Doa Tandorosti, five gehs, five niyaeshes, Namaskars. etc.  When he composed Sarode Avesta he went to Dasturji Peshotan Sanjana who was very pleased on hearing these songs. Firoz also rendered these devotional hymns before audiences in Poona. Late Sardar Dastur Kaikobad and his cousin Khan Bahadur Dastur Meherji expressed their desire to teach these hymns in their schools.  Vistasp Bulsara, the famous music maestro along with Dhunnawaz Indorewalla produced a gramophone record of these lyrics. These songs are now available on an audio CD titled Zoroastrian Hymns.

Firoz used to teach music in Parsi schools and compose songs for public functions. He earned great fame by rendering his songs at public functions in the presence of Viceroys and Governors. ‘Gayan Uttejak Mandali’ started by Kaikhushru Navroji Kabraji in 1870 conferred honorary life membership on him on 23rd November 1889 in appreciation of his valuable services. He also served as its secretary for some time. He presented a collection of his books to this Mandali. He composed songs for plays and himself used to sing and play the tunes which were well appreciated. He was a most humble and well respected person. He devoted his whole life to teaching music in schools. Innumerable grandmas, mothers and daughters sang these songs in Parsi homes and spread joy.

He was the son of Rustomji Cowasji Batliwalla and father of Kaikhashru Firozshah Batliwalla. He passed away at age 66 on Khordad Sal day Roz 6 Khordad Mah 1 Farvardin 1282 Yezdezerdi 17th September 1912 A.C.

Parsis flock to programs of film music but are unaware of their own rich musical heritage.  A song becomes a hit because it is played over and over again. Unfortunately today at many Parsi functions only a few lines of Chhaiye Ame Jarthosti are sung and not the entire anthem of five verses. Let us in this centenary year of the Kavi sing the entire anthem in full as also his devotional hymns and usher in joy and happiness in our homes and our surroundings.