Story of ‘handsome Bombay Blackwood’ furniture

The legacy of Bombay Blackwood is intricately woven with that of the Parsi community. The furniture trade was a natural extension for this mercantile community, which had by then pioneered the ship-building trade in the Bombay Harbour. Most craftsmen, carpenters and furniture store-owners dealing in Bombay Blackwood were therefore members of the Parsi community. “Of the seven shops in Bombay selling this furniture in the mid-19th century, one, Jaffer Sulliman, was owned by a Muslim while the rest were Parsi-owned,” informs Dr Rodrigues. She points out that several Parsi craftsmen won accolades overseas when they showcased their furniture pieces at international exhibitions.

The Parsis in Bombay not only drove the trade, but also patronised it. This was partly because the Parsis, and other well-to-do communities, such as the Pathare Prabhus, were the ones who lived in large, spacious homes required to house Bombay Blackwood furniture, which was heavy, bulky and ornate. Peep into a Parsi family home even today, and you are likely to be come across these treasures from an era long gone by.

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