SORABJI DADABHAI BHUJWALA DAREMEHER IN INDIA
Friends, (please share this with your local community and friends)
My great-grandfather, Khanbahadur Seth Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwalla, who served as the Personal Aide to the then Maharaja Khengarji Rao of Kutch, India, had a Daremeher and Aramgah (burial ground) built in 1905, and inaugurated on May 19, in the city of Bhuj (in northwest India) in memory of his father Sorabji Dadabhai Bhujwala, which is still maintained as a heritage structure, to serve Zarathushtis and keep the image of Parsis alive. During the 7.9 earthquake of January 2001 in the city of Anjar near Bhuj, many homeless families were allowed to temporarily shelter in the Daremeher compound and adjoining building. Local newspapers and television channels feature coverage of Parsis and the Daremeher every Parsi New Year, with pictures, writeups and interviews. You can see more pictures of the Bhuj Agiary at https://zoroastrians.net/2010/04/19/bhuj-agiary-photos/
When my daughter Shehnaz and I visited Mumbai in December 2016, we met my cousin, Pestonji Ardeshir Bhujwalla (a former pilot in Indian Airlines), who informed us of the need for funds to maintain the Daremeher and Aramgah, and described his plan to build an office structure on a part of the Daremeher compound, whose rent would provide a steady supply of funds for its maintenance. The cost of the construction is Rs. 35 lakhs for a 2,000 sq. ft. building. He has asked me to inform fellow Zarathushtis about this need. Please consider donating to “Shri Kutch Parsi Anjuman Trust Fund” which can be mailed to the Trustee, Captain Pestonji Ardeshir Bhujwalla, No. 4, Babulnath Road, Mumbai 400007, India. He may also be contacted by phone directly at 98700 81042 , or you can contact me at (714)374-7078 or via my email. (if calling from USA use prefix 011 91 for exit code and country code respectively, before the phone number in India)
Following is the news article about the inauguration ceremony of the Daremeher, printed in The Times of India of May 24, 1905, for your information:
Times of India, Wednesday, 24th May, 1905
NEW FIRE TEMPLE AT BHUJ
OPENED BY THE RAO OF KUTCH
The ceremony of consecrating a fire temple at Bhuj, built at the expense of the late Khan Bahadur Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwalla, was performed on Friday, last week, by his Highness Maharao Shri Kengarji Sawai Bahadur, in the presence of a large gathering. The ceremony was particularly interesting in that a Parsee place of worship was being opened by a Hindu Prince. It was the desire of the donor to have the building opened at the hands of his Highness and a day was fixed for that purpose last year, but Khan Bahadur Pestonji suddenly died and it was with a view to carrying out the wishes of his late officer that his Highness was pleased to accept the invitation of the relations of the late Khan Bahadur to to declare the building open prior to the ceremony of the installation of the sacred fire by the priests. A large shamiana was erected in the compound and among those present were his Highness Rao Khengarji, G.C.I.E.; Kuvur Madheva, heir-apparent; Kuvur Kuluba, C.I.E. ; Kuvur Manuba; Colonel Abud, Political Agent; Dr. Damania; Mr. Chunilal Sarabhai, Dewan; Mr. Chotalal Sevakram, private secretary; Mr. Pallonji Bejonji and many others.
In the course of an eloquent speech requesting his Highness to declare the new temple open, Mr. Dhanjishah Sorabji, brother of the deceased, said :—Your Highness Maharaja Dhiraj Mirza Maha Rao Shri Sat Sir Khengarji Savai Bahadur, G.C.I.E., Colonel Abud, Ladies and Gentlemen. Allow us to thank you all for your presence in the name of our most revered worthy father Khan Bahadur Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala. We have met here this evening for the purpose of opening for use as a “Sacred Fire Temple,” this building with all the articles of furniture pertaining to its use, which was built and furnished entirely at the expense, of our late father Khan Bahadur Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala, to perpetuate the memory of his late good father Sorabji Dadabhai Bhujwala who for the whole of his life had been a merchant and a respectable Government contractor in Cutch and Kathiawar. No such sacred institution has existed in the whole province of Cutch until to-day, and the necessity for such a place of worship was greatly felt. We most certainly consider a great favour and honour to see the institution opened at the auspicious hands of our royal noble patron his Highness Maharaja Maha Rao Shri Sir Khengarji who always has at heart our welfare and interest, and whose benevolent protection our ancestors, as wnell as our worthy dear father Khan Bahadur Pestonji Sorabji, have always enjoyed. To the Hindu Princes of India, the Parsis also owe their political education and advancement, for it was by them , that they were first admitted to important administrative posts of trust and confidence in their States and there is hardly a Native State in the Bombay Presidency at present, wherein Parsis are not ‘en evidence’ more or less. Baroda, the premier native Hindu State, has at present a Parsi Dewan, and similarly other important native States such as Kolahpur, Cutch, Rutlam, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, and Gondal, have at one time or another, taken a Parsi as their Dewan or Naeb Dewan. Most of the Parsis living in Cutch owe their position and prosperity to the benevolence and generosity of his Highness Maharaja Rao Shri Sir Khengarji. We now request you Majaraja Rao Shri Sir Khengarji to favor us in opening the building with your auspicious hands and declare it open for use. Allow us to say once more that whatever has been accomplished for the good of the cantonment of Bhuj and elsewhere by our late respected father Khan Bahadur Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala during his lifetime was entirely due to the gracious encouragement and generous treatment he had invariably received at the hands of his noble patron Maharaja Rao Sahib Sir Khengarji. We beg most cordially to thank his Highness Maharaja Rao Saheb Sir Khengarji and you all for the honour that has been done to us today.
His Highness then opened the lock on the door of the building with a silver key and declared the building open for the performance of the ceremony of the consecration of the fire by the priests, according to their religious rituals. His Highness then addressed the assembly. He said :—Colonel Abud, ladies and gentlemen, – I have been requested to preside at to-day’s proceedings and it is in compliance with the earnest wishes of the members of the family of the late lamented Mr. Pestonji that I have consented to undertake the duty. But we cannot proceed without being moved with a touch of melancholy sympathy for the loss which the family has sustained. However, as the late gentleman has a good record behind, the family concerned should try to assuage their sorrows. It may here be added that he was a zealous officer of the Durbar and did his duty earnestly wherever he was placed. Moreover, he was well known to the public of Bhuj as a citizen who possessed wide sympathies and a goodness of heart. I believe it would not be inappropriate to remark that all the duties which we are enjoined by religion to undertake the one that contributes towards the worship and adoration of the Most High is pre-eminently the best and most worthy of adoption. In conclusion, I hope all present on this occasion will cooperate with me in declaring open the Fire Temple which I now do. It will be honoured with its consecration by the religious part of the ceremony to be performed, as I am informed at the hands of the Parsi priests a few days after. Lastly, I may express my thanks to the members of the family for having particularly wished me to preside over a ceremonial function which, properly speaking, should be presided over by a privileged member of their own community.
The usual nazranas were offered to his Highness and the Kuvars, and in return H.H. the Rao presented poshaks to Mr. Pestonji’s sons and brothers, and this terminated the proceedings.