Totem Pole, Ottawa — Also a Salute to Parsis

Totem Pole, ByWard Market, Ottawa ——ALSO A SALUTE TO ALL PARSIS

Look at the top of the Totem pole. It is the Farohar which we  wear round our neck or place in our homes

Click for more…Totem Pole at the Byward Market




(An extract from a leading Indian publication)

No Indian community internalized the civilizing mission of the
British as did the Parsis.

Only 50,000 remain in Bombay today, mainly in South Bombay, the most disciplined and cultured part of India


In South Bombay, the cutting of lanes by drivers is punished,  jumping a red light is impossible, parking is possible only in allotted areas, roads are clean, service is efficient, the restaurants are unmatched – civilization seems within reach. South Bombay has some of the finest buildings in India

, many of them built by Parsis.

The Parsis came to Bombay after Surat ‘s port silted over in the 17th century. Gerald Aungier settled Bombay and gave Parsis land for their Tower of Silence on Malabar Hill in 1672.

The Parsis made millions through the early and mid-1800s and they spent much of it on public good.

The Parsis understood that philanthropy – love of  mankind -recognizes that we cannot progress alone.  That there is such a thing as the common good. They spent as no Indian community had ever before, on building  institutions, making them stand out in a culture whose talent lies in renaming things other people built.The Parsis built libraries all over India , they built the National Gallery of Art.

The Indian Institute of Science was built in 1911 by Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, the Tata Institute of  Fundamental Research was built by Dr Homi Bhabha, the Tata Institute of Social Science was built in 1936 by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.

The Wadias built hospitals, women’s colleges and the five great low-income Parsi colonies of Bombay .

JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College were founded by Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy.

By 1924, two out of five Indians – whether Hindu, Muslim or Parsi – joining the Indian Civil Services were on TATA scholarships.

They gave Bombay the Jehangir Art Gallery, Sir JJ School of Art, the Taraporevala Aquarium.

The National Center for Performing Arts, the only place in India where world-class classical concerts are held is a gift of the Tatas.

There are 161 Friends of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) – 92 of them are Parsi. For an annual fee of Rs 10,000, Friends of the SOI

get two tickets to any one recital in the season, they get to shake hands with artistes after the concert and they get to attend music appreciation talks through the year.

The  Parsi dominates high culture in Bombay are always full in halls and this means that a concert experience in the city is unlike that in any other part of India . Classical concerts seat as many as two thousand.

Zubin Mehta, the most famous Parsi in the world, is director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra  since 1969. He conducts the tenor Placido Domingo, the pianist Daniel Barenboim and the soprano Barbara Frittoli. Four concerts are held at the  Jamshed Bhabha Opera House and then one at Brabourne Stadium with a capacity of 25,000.

No other city in India has this appetite for classical music and in Bombay

this comes from the Parsi. Despite their tiny population, the Parsi presence in a concert hall is above 50 per cent. And they all come. Gorgeous Parsi girls in formal clothes – saris, gowns -children, men and the old. Many have to be helped to their seats. Most of them know the music.

The people who clap between movements, thinking that the ‘song’ is over, are non-Parsis. Symphony Orchestra of India concerts begin at 7 pm. Once the musicians start,  latecomers must wait outside till the movement ends.

The end of each movement also signals a fusillade of coughs and groans, held back by doddering Parsis too polite to make a sound while Mendelssohn is being played. No mobile phone ever goes off as is common in  cinema halls: his neighbors are aware of the Parsi’s insistence of form and his temper.

The Parsis were also pioneers of Bombay ‘s Gujarati theatre, which remains the most popular form of live entertainment in Bombay

. Any week of the year will see at least a half dozen bedroom comedies, murder mysteries, love stories and plays on assorted themes on stage.

The Parsis were the pioneers of this, writing and acting in the first plays of Bombay. They also built the institutions that supported  this.. Bombay

‘s first theatre was opened by Parsis in 1846, the Grant Road Theatre, donations from Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy and Framjee Cowasjee making it possible.

The  Parsi in Bollywood caricature is a comic figure, but always honest, and innocent as Indians believe Parsis generally to be, rightly or wrongly.

In the days before modern cars came to India the words ‘Parsi-owned’ were guaranteed to ensure that a second-hand car  listed for sale would get picked up ahead of any others. This is because people are aware of how carefully the Parsi keeps his things. His understanding and enthusiasm of the mechanical separates him from the rest. Most of  the automobile magazines in India

are owned and edited by  Parsis.

The Parsis are a dying community and this means that more Parsis die each year than are born (Symphony concert-goers can also discern the disappearing Parsi from the rising numbers of those who clap between movements).

As the Parsis leave, South Bombay will become like the rest of Bombay

– brutish, undisciplined and filthy. The British left when they had to, but they left some of their civilisation behind and the best of it remains in the possession of this great Indian community, the Parsis!

Preserve this race…..You are privileged if you have a Parsi Bawa as your friend…He/She is indeed a “Heritage” to be treasured for ever.


Courtesy : Jimmy Mehta

One comment

  • J Bulsara clarifies on the Totem Pole:

    Sorry to tell you but its total nonsense. There is no such history with the first nations people and this totem pole. Who comes up with this stuff??

    15 years ago, the Zoroastrians in Ottawa paid $1200 to the Ottawa School of Art to carve the Farohar on the totem pole. (Look at the school in the picture, its right behind the totem pole and you can see the name sign there).

    Not one of the symbols on the Totem pole represent any native cherished symbols. They are national symbols of countries around the world. That is what the totem pole was created for to represent the nations of the world. However, one of our Zoro colleagues in Ottawa convinced the school to include our favourite symbol. Interestingly, in unveiling the totem pole, the Mayor of Ottawa introduced the symbols from each country and mistakenly indicated that the Farohar was the symbol/emblem of “Zoroastria” as though it was a country.

    This is the third time I’m getting this misinformed email. So, this time I’m copying this email to all my contacts in hopes that people would get too far down the road with this fantasy of Canadian Native peoples cherishing Zarathustra as the best prophet, etc.

    J. Bulsara (flat roofing applications) (all other roofing) (cottage rental info)
    1054 Hunt Club Road
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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