Navsari – Home of Indian Zoroastrianism & Hub of the China Trade

The town of Navsari, near Surat in Gujarat, is the ancestral home of many eminent Parsi families (of which several were prominent in the China trade). The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library was founded and endowed by a prominent mercantile family and it has been sustained for over one hundred forty years by other Parsi families from Navsari.

The library’s brochure explains: ‘in 1872, a wealthy Mumbai Parsi, named Navsariwala Seth Burjor Bamanji Padam, commissioned a building to be erected on his own land, known as Lakkad Falia, and, with a fund of Rs 225, the First Dastoor Meherji Rana Library was born’.

The library is named after a figure of great significance in Parsi history – a Zoroastrian savant by the name of Meherji Rana: ‘According to a Persian biography in the library’s possession… Meherji Rana was chosen by the Mughal governor at Surat to have an audience with the Emperor Akbar to explain the Zoroastrian religion. During his stay at the court from 1578-9 AD, Meherji Rana impressed the emperor so much that according to the Mughal court historian ‘Abd al-Qâdir al-Badâ’ûnî, the empreror ordered his vizier Abu’l-Fazl to keep a fire burning day and night at the court… Meherji Rana’s presence in Akbar’s court was a great historic incident for not only the Parsis for Navsari, but for the whole Parsi community. Appreciating this, when he returned to Navsari, all the priests accepted him as the head of the Navsari priests, and for the first time the title of high priest (vadâ dastur) was bestowed. Therefore, he became famous as the First Dastoor Meherji Rana, beginning a priestly lineage which continues to the present day.’

Click Here to read the full story from Amitav Ghosh’s blog

 Courtesy : Jehangir Bisney

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