Settlement in Bombay and the Parsi Salon

Here you will learn about the settlement of Parsis in Bombay and the development of the China trade which lead to the growth of Parsi wealth.
Golden embroidery on deep pink silk depicting a typical Chinese scene with a couple surrounded by pavilions and bridges.

Painting of a large ship with multiple sails
A Wadia Ship, East Indiaman Earl Balcarres, built by Wadia and Company, 1810. Photograph courtesy of Rusheed Wadia in A Zoroastrian Tapestry: Art, Religion and Culture © Pheroza J. Godjrej, 2002

A black wooden cupboard. The upper half has mirrors and the lower half has the image of Zarathustra
Wooden cupboard with carving of Zarathushtra, from the Alpaiwalla Museum © 2013 SOAS, University of London – The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination Catalogue

Parsis and the British

Parsis were ideal trading partners for the British. They were not restricted to rules of caste regarding the work they undertook. There were no restrictions on the employment of women or religious bans on, for example, the growing of crops to make alcohol:

“There was the Paddy Goose, the Green Railing Tavern and the Parsi George, ‘reserved for the jolly Parsi who would like to have bouts, specially of his favourite ‘Gulabee Mowra’, liquor of rose and jungle flower in his own fashion’ ”(from A Zoroastrian Tapestry: art, religion and culture)

British officialdom from the Governor down enjoyed lavish hospitality from Parsi families such as the Wadias, the Jijibhais, the Banajis and the Readymoneys, who made fortunes from the opium trade. This arrangement suited the British when sanctions were imposed on the opium trade as it avoided their involvement with the export of illegal goods. Such interaction undoubtedly had its advantages for the Parsi community: ‘The monied classes generally are favourable to us, they enjoy a degree of security under our Government which they never experienced under native rule’, wrote Lord Elphinstone to Lord Stanley in 1859.

Hirjeebhoy Merwanjee Wadia (1817–83), Jehangeer Nowrojee Wadia (1821–66) and Dorabjee Muncherjee Nanjivohra, by J. R. Jobins, 1842. From the collection of Hameed Haroon © 2013 SOAS, University of London – The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination Catalogue

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