Contribution of Parsis to Chennai

A seamless part of the fabric that is Madras

Deepa H. Ramakrishnan, The Hindu, August 21, 2014

Trade with the East India Company, government service and Partition brought people from various communities to the city of Madras.

This city received everybody with open arms, so much so that it is called vandharai vaazha vaikkum ooru (a city that helps visitors too to thrive).
“The first man to come to Madras was Beri Thimmappa, who was from Telugu-speaking country. He was the one who helped the British strike the deal with the Nayaks. The Telugu community has grown since then and presently, we have about 25 lakh Telugus in the city,” says historian Sriram V.

The many Sindhis and Punjabis who came here during Partition in 1947 (there were small numbers of both communities living in the city even before that), Parsis who came to Madras in the early 1800s, the Gujaratis who came here in the early 1700s along with the Marathas from Tanjore, Bengalis who came here to be part of government service, the Jains who came in the 1840s and lent money to the East India Company — all of them made Madras their home.

They learnt Tamil, built places of worship, schools and colleges, established businesses and gave gainful employment to locals.

The tiny Parsi community too contributed in building the Madras that is Chennai now.

Zarin Mistry, secretary, Madras Parsi Association, and daughter of M.M. Cooper, who was professor of anatomy at Madras Medical College, says, everybody — from J.H. Taraporewala, who was in the construction business, and D.B. Madan, a shipping magnate, to Clubwala Jadav, who founded the Guild of Service — has contributed to the city.

Those who came to the city also fell in love with this place as it grew and became cosmopolitan.

Just as the visitor in ‘The Madras Song’ — presented by Murugappa Group in association with The Hindu — Amandeep Singh Kandhari, a Punjabi who runs a tyre business, says that he too has his own favourite spots and loves the city.

“From a kulfi seller in Triplicane to a place that sells fantastic chaat in Sowcarpet, to theatres that I prefer to watch movies in, I have my favourites,” he says.

Ramesh Lamba, general secretary of Punjab Association, says that when refugees started coming to the city, the Punjabi families in Madras took care of them.

“The local people and the State government were very kind to us. About 30,000 people from Punjab and Sindh provinces had to be clothed and fed. But within a matter of 6-7 years, all of them set up businesses here and became a part of the State,” he says.

Amarlal G. Rohira, a Sindhi who has been in the city since the 60s, says that the very first thing the community did was to construct a temple.

“Our temple has images of all Hindu gods and goddesses. This is our way of mingling with the society that welcomed us,” he says.

The Malayalees, who have a strong 10 lakh population in the city, have been here for a long time too.

“The Malayalee Club in Chetpet is 117 years old, and one of the oldest Malayalee associations in the world. We try to organise programmes where Tamil culture is also included. The government of Kerala recently launched a programme where non-Malayalees are taught Malayalam,” M. Nanda Govind, president of the club.

Mr. Porus Wadia writes further………
Dear Editor,
The Hindu.
As Chennai celebrates its 375th anniversary, I wish to draw your attention to the connection Porbandar ( birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi ) and the Parsi community has with the city of Chennai.
The M&SM Railway building – now known as the Southern Railway Headquarters building was built of Porbandar stone by the Wadia family of Porbandar. It was my grandfather Rajaratna Mr. Manchershaw Wadia who bid for the contract to build this edifice and together with his brothers executed the project. I have a photo of the Porbandar building stone being tested in Madras for its tensile strength.
Following are the details 
H. H. Wadia & Bros, founded by Hormusji Hirjibhoy Wadia, were the pioneers in quarrying Porbandar stone and later played an important role in popularising its use in many parts of the country. When this small, unknown firm bid for the contract to construct the M&SM Railway building in faraway Madras (presently the Southern Railway Headquarters, Chennai) they must have surely faced ridicule. How they bagged the contract and successfully completed it, as also just escaped bankruptcy due to the innate fairplay of the British are tales by themselves.
Hormusji, the natural leader, and younger brother Manchershaw, a competent builder and meticulous organiser, camped in Madras for almost a decade from 1913 to 1922. They took along their team of skilled masons from Porbandar under the leadership of master mason Pitambar Hira.
The foundation stone was laid by Lord Pentland, Governor of Madras on 8th February, 1915, and the offices were formally inaugurated on 11th December,1922 by Lady Willingdon, wife of the  Viceroy. The majestic edifice is constructed with Porbandar stone which was transported for 8 years via sea to Kerala and then by rail to Madras. The building stands as a living tribute to the entreprenaurial traits of our family.
                            enlarge photo
Hormusji Wadia     Manchershaw Wadia     Southern Railway Headquarters
Mr. Porus Wadia,
Parvandah, Wadia Road, Porbandar 360575



Britain institutes award commemorating Dadabhai Naoroji

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Tuesday announced an award in memory of the legendary Indian businessman and freedom-fighter, Dadabhai Naoroji.

Today, I am announcing the Dadabhai Naoroji Awards which will be given annually to individuals promoting partnership between India and UK in domains like commerce, education and culture,” Clegg said on the sidelines of an event in St Xaviers College where he interacted with the students.

Known as the Grand Old Man of India, the Mumbai-born (then Bombay) Parsi, Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Asian MP in the British House of Commons (1892-1895) and was also one of the co-founders of the Indian National Congress, which led the country’s struggle for Independence from British rule.

Nick Clegg during an event in Mumbai. AP Nick Clegg during an event in Mumbai. AP

The award will be run by the British Foreign Office and willrecognize exceptional individuals who promote and celebrate the partnership between the two countries in different spheres, he said. Clegg also said that there would be no limit on the number of Indian students going for higher education in Britain.

There is a great potential for the two countries to collabor ate more on education and hence there would not be a cap on the numbers of Indian students who will be allowed to study in that country, he said.

Parsi natak, jivto reh

Parsi natak, jivto reh

 By Reema Gehi, Mumbai Mirror | Aug 31, 2014, 12.28 AM IST
After a long lull, Parsi-Gujarati theatre gets a shot in the arm with young talent from the community dishing out fresh stories, Bawa-flavoured.
That evening, five more Parsi-Gujarati plays – Sam Kerawalla’s Hasa Has, Dinyar Contractor’s Bhaag Bawa Bhaag, Dinyar Tirandaz’s Darling Humna Nai, Vistasp Gotla’s Savaksa Ni Sex Badlai and Cyrus Dastur’s Havey Mane Joi Lav – were performed across venues.

This was a first in many years, says Contractor, a veteran who has made generations of Parsis leave the auditorium smiling in time for their salli boti dinner on Pateti. “It is like a revival of some sort,” he smiles, glad that the myth of Parsi theatre losing its grip is being challenged – this time, by young stage talent.


The 74-year-old, whose Dinyar Contractor Productions, collaborated with Jim Vimadalal to stage Bhaag Bawa Bhaag on Navroze and the Parsi-Gujarati-Hinglish adaptation of Derek Benfield’s Touch and Go in June, says the young lot bring with them sleek production values and the ability to market theatre. “The onus to take Parsi theatre forward is now on them,” he says, highlighting a movement that theatre stalwarts believe has well begun.

It’s a serious responsibility Contractor refers to, considering the Parsis are credited with launching the modern theatre movement in India in the 1850s, influenced largely by European drama.

Click Here for the full story

Zoroastrianism (Mazdayasna) – An Amazingly Ancient, Yet Advanced Religion and Philosophy

Mazdayasna-“the praise of Wisdom”, known as Zoroastrianism in the West, is the world’s first Monotheistic religion. Founded by the Prophet Zarathushtra in the Late Bronze Age about 3750 years ago, Zoroastrianism is not only one of the most ancient religions, it is also one of the most advanced philosophies known to mankind.


Here is a detailed report on an important American,  from Arizona becoming a Zoroastrian in the latter half of the 19th century, building a Fire Temple on a Hill, calling it the place the Parsee Hill . Like a Dukmah on top of a hill, the HILL that became his final resting place.
Please click on the link below and hope you enjoy the read and the 17 photos.

Rusi Sorabji


FATHER OF ARIZONA; Charles D. Poston ……Became a Zoroastrian in in 1878 (136 years ago)

Charles Poston built the first fire temple in the United States in 1878. He was born in 1825 in Kentucky and practiced law in Tennessee. Later he moved to Arizona and successfully convinced President Lincoln to make Arizona a US territory. This led to admission of Arizona as 48th state of the union in 1912. For this reason, Charles Poston is known as the “father of Arizona.” Afterwards, Poston became one of the first Arizona delegates to Congress. 

After the loss of his wife and daughter, Charles Poston decided to make a trip to Asia. On his travels in India, he became familiar with Zoroastrianism and became a Zoroastrian after his return to the United States.
He then built a pyramid shape fire temple in Florence, Arizona. He named his fire temple the “Parsee Hill.” But after a few months, the flames died out. People then mocked the temple calling it “Poston’s Folly.” Today, however, the fire temple is known as “Poston’s Butte.” In 1925, some 23 years after Charles Poston’s death, he was buried at the summit of his beloved “Poston’s Butte,” which is still stands today.

Also, click the following links where it is confirmed that he was converted to Zoroastrianism. 

He should have changed his last name from Poston to Peston, which would have made him more authentic Parsi Bawaji!!!

FEZANA AWARDS – NOMINATIONS 2014 due September 1, 2014

REMINDER – Message From FEZANA Awards Committee

FEZANA recognizes and celebrates the achievements of our community members in North America through the FEZANA Awards. Nominations for 2014 awards are now open. There are 7 award categories:
    • Outstanding Zarathushti Student Award
    • Outstanding Young Zarathushti Award
    • Excellence in Performing Arts, Painting or Literature Award
    • Excellence in Business or Profession Award
    • Humanitarian Service Award
    • Outstanding Zarathushti Award
    • North American Mobeds Council (NAMC) Community Services Award
The nomination packet can be downloaded from FEZANA website shown below:
The deadline to receive the packet via e-mail is Sept.1, 2014.
These awards will be given out at the North American Congress in December 2014 at Los Angles, CA.
The awards committee always welcomes qualified individuals to serve on the committee to select the awardees.  All inquiries are to be directed to Noshir Langrana ( or Adil F. Mistry (

Noshir A. Langrana & Adil F. Mistry



It is interesting to note that the expected cyclic cataclysm is currently gaining popularity in the media. An eventual doomsday scenario keeps surfacing. Attention is subsequently focused on varied “vaba”, meaning eruptions of pestilences that accompany these cyclic global cataclysms. 

Many may not have heard the words “Vaba-e Atashak”. I have learnt the word from Kshnoomic teachings. “Vaba” connotes pestilence. “Atashak” indicates ailments such as heat, burns, and cancerous growths caused by radiation or heat. “Vaba-e Atashak” refers to all pestilences or ailments arising out of radiation. There are different kinds of pandemics, one such is the Ebola virus which is spreading currently in many parts of the world. Ebola is not caused by radiation but when Nature’s balance maintained by the elements of fire, water, air and earth is disrupted, many sicknesses surface. 

We know that Atash, the Divine Energy of Ahura Mazda, is at the root of all Creation. Without energy, nothing exists! The Universe is a web of energy of different grades and kinds. Even in water, the “seed” of fire exists which is called “Apam Napat”! There is fire within the elements of earth and air also. When lightning strikes, we see the air being charged with electrical impulses. The earth’s fire is the molten lava inside the Earth! And so, Fire pervades throughout Nature.
Continue reading VABA-E ATASHAK

Looking for Goshasp Avari

Guess you must be snowed under with requests all the time but was just chatting with an Old Barnes School class mate and we tried to figure how many in our batch were we in contact with and GOSHASP AVARI’s name came up. She was in the 1973 batch with us, was a day scholar so either from Devlali or Nasik Road
Being a day scholar her father probably had a local business with proper X Banner Stands advertising his wares. Goshasp was with us in our class in Barnes school Devlali. We passed out together in 1973. After 1973,there is no track of her. She is one of the last in our class who we have not been able To trace so far.I will be very happy if you could use your good Office to locate her. She should be 56/57 years old by now.
If you can find out would be great.
Have fun and all the best

Kalyan Parsi Anjuman Agiary

Dear community members

We are thankful to the Trust of the Kalyan Parsi Anjuman for running the Agiary in Kalyan.

Kalyan not being a tourist spot, does not have many Zoroastrian visitors there, thus short supply of Sandal wood and largely rely upon the Kathi. There, the requirement of Kathi is around 2 tons in 3 months.

Thankfully, the Dasturji there, Dorab Dalal efficiently maintains the Agiary premises too.

Thus, we if we donate generously, the flames will remain there in the future.

For more details contact Dasturji Dorab Dalal in Kalyan. His mobile number is 8108526002.

Thanking all in anticipation.

Noshirwan Mistry