Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Creatures Big & Small in Zoroastrian Heritage


In this issue, Farishta Dinshaw, our guest editor has done a marvellous job of putting the cover story together on Creatures Big and Small in Zarathushti Heritage. Have you ever wondered about the role of Warasyaji in our religion? We have seen a pure white bull grazing in many of the agiaries in a special area. Well, Dasturji Dr Firoze Kotwal, in an erudite article explains the significance. Have you wondered why the dog is brought near the body of the dead person before the last funeral rites.? In this issue you will find answers to these and many other perplexing questions you may have had.

Truly, a Collector’s Item, shared with kind permission of Dolly Dastoor

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This new Colaba boutique is as exquisite as the Parsi Gara saris on display

Ashdeen is textile designer Ashdeen Lilaowala’s first store in Mumbai, its racks filled with hand-embroidered clothing inspired by the traditional Parsi Gara.

This new Colaba boutique is as exquisite as the Parsi Gara saris on display
Talib Chitalwala

After setting up a successful flagship store in New Delhi, textile designer and “Bombay boy” Ashdeen Lilaowala has brought his exquisite Parsi Gara saris to his hometown. “It was only a matter of time before I opened my store in Mumbai,” he says, acknowledging the Parsi community’s historic ties with the city.

Designer Ali Baldiwala of Baldiwala Edge, transformed the Colaba boutique, which previously housed Rajesh Pratap Singh’s luxury menswear, in a whirlwind 45 days. “I’ve always wanted to recreate a Parsi home,” he says. Bathed in a dusty rose, it’s elegant and feminine without being cloying—an exercise in restraint. The store is subtly divided by furniture and sheer curtains, creating a natural flow that guides visitors from one display to the next.

This new Colaba boutique is as exquisite as the Parsi Gara saris on display
Talib Chitalwala

Intricately embroidered, jewel-toned saris and lehngas glimmer from under clothing racks that were upcycled from the previous store and refurbished with a fresh coat of taupe paint, gentle tent-like curves and floral embellishments in brass—a finishing touch that’s a nod to Lilaowala’s botanical designs.

This new Colaba boutique is as exquisite as the Parsi Gara saris on display
Talib Chitalwala

Each flourish is carefully considered: hand-painted niches by artist Kanak Nanda, inspired by chinoiserie motifs that complement Lilaowala’s own designs, and custom window laminates with Art Deco and Art Nouveau influences by graphic designer Ruchita Madhok. Vestiges of the building’s old bones remain in the form of iron ceiling beams and patterned wooden flooring. “I wanted to have a blend of traditional and modern elements,” says Lilaowala, who also added several pieces of his own ancestral furniture, including the reception table, display cabinets, and a pair of armchairs. Art Deco–themed chandeliers and brass-framed windows add glamour and balance out the vintage elements with a contemporary touch. “It reflects our brand ethos which is to take the Parsi Gara textile tradition and innovate with it while keeping its essence intact,” notes the designer.

Picturing Modern India; The Untold Story Behind an Artistic Revolution


Picturing Modern India; The Untold Story Behind an Artistic Revolution
Kekoo Gandhy, cast adrift From his studies at Cambridge by the war, was sitting on Juhu beach in 1941 wondering what to do with his life. He saw a man in a car stuck in the sand and decided to help. Thus began a journey that transformed not only his own life but the artistic heritage of the city of Bombay. Kekee Manzil: House or Art is a feature documentary that interweaves personal testimony with rare historical and 8mm Family archive to tell the story of how a modern art movement was born alongside the new nation of India. Accompanied by a haunting soundtrack specially composed by Talvin Singh.
Producer                   :   Behroze Gandhy

Director / Editor         :   Dilesh Karya

Executive Producer     :   Michael Poole

Music                        :   Tolvin Singh

Came and celebrate the UK Premier of our new documentary -as part of the South Asian Film Festival

Sunday, 8th May 2022

Regent Street Cinema, 307 Regent Street, London, W1B 2HW

020 7911 5050 
7 pm             :  Screening starts (90mins)

8.30 prn Q&A

Drinks and chat at bar after

Dilesh Karya: 07891 072529 Behroze Gandhy: 07976 266196

NoRooz Celebration 2022 Kurdistan – Awat Darya and Yesna Organization

Dear Zoroastrians, Ushta, I hope you are all well and in peace.


On March 20, 2022, as a member of the committee preparing for Nowruz celebrations in Sulaymaniyah province, Kurdistan, among 16 members, I as the representative of the Zoroastrians and Azad Saeed, director of Yesna Organization for the Development of Zoroastrian Philosophy in Kurdistan, we celebrated with all the Zoroastrians in Sulaymaniyah, it was happy celebrations, where more than ten  Thousands of Zoroastrians and non-Zoroastrians participated in this event.


It was broadcasted live on numerous TV and Radio channels, and we as Zoroastrians gave an example of how the celebrations of Nowruz were conducted in the time of the Sassanids when the Zoroastrian religion was spread in the homeland of the Aryans (ancient Iran), which extended from the borders of India to the borders of China, passing through Asia Minor in Tajikistan  And Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, present Iran, Kurdistan and Mesopotamia along the eastern side of the Euphrates River, where we presented a play that embodies the spirit of celebrations on Nowruz festivals at that time, to make people understand that Nowruz holidays have become part of the heritage and traditions of the Aryan peoples who still celebrate it as a Feast.


On behalf of the Zoroastrians of Kurdistan and Iraq, we congratulate you on the holidays of Nowruz, hoping that it will be the beginning of goodness, love, peace, prosperity and happiness for all human beings in the world.



And most importantly, the Prime Minister of Iraq, has declared NoRooz as a National Holiday (after so many centuries)




Awat Darya



































First Parsi and Zoroastrian museum opens in Rochor

Parsi artifacts like Lamassu/Godha featured; DIVO a lamp symbolize light that dispels darkness and SES auspicious tray holding ceremonial utensils. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE – Singaporeans now have a chance to learn more about the Parsi community, numbering about 350 here, with the opening of a museum on Monday (March 14).

Based in Zoroastrian House in Desker Road in Rochor, it is a showcase of the Parsis’ history, traditions and Zoroastrianism, one of 10 recognised religions here.

The two-floor permanent exhibition, titled The Joyous Flame, tells its story mostly through illustrated panels. There are some objects that the Parsis use in their everyday life – a silver fish decorative object used to store sugar, and apparel worn during the Navjote ceremony, an initiation service for children aged between seven and nine, are highlights.

Originating from ancient Persia, the Parsis fled to western India in the seventh century to avoid religious persecution. They trace their history in Singapore back to Mr Muncherjee, a supposed convict who was the first Parsi in recorded history to arrive here 200 years ago.

“We have never had this (museum) before, but as our numbers grew in the last few decades, the need was increasingly felt,” said Parsi Zoroastrian Association of South East Asia (PZAS) president Homiyar Vasania.

“We also felt this was important for our own community members to know more about their history and culture. We consider ourselves an important intangible culture heritage in Singapore, and hope this museum is an important window to look into and understand us.”

The exhibition is co-curated by PZAS with the Parzor Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on Parsi-Zoroastrianism heritage.

Since the first Parsis arrived, the community has become a wealthy and influential segment of society despite their small number.

They are well known for their philanthropy and business activities. Among the most notable Parsis in Singapore are entrepreneur Navroji Mistri, who donated $1 million to build Singapore General Hospital’s children wing in 1952, and the Cursetjees.

The latter were the original partners of John Little, who set up the now defunct but well-known department store of the same name here.

Mr Homiyar said many schools, museums, organisations and researchers have approached PZAS, headquartered here, to learn more about the Parsis and their traditions in recent years, and work began on the museum a few months before Covid-19 started.

The community faces a continued struggle to maintain a “critical mass” in numbers, he added.

For instance, it has no full-time priest for religious activities and there is no Zoroastrian fire temple in Singapore, unlike in India where flames – representing Ahura Mazda, their supreme deity – are kept burning 24/7.

Zoroastrianism is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, and was among the first historically to preach concepts like heaven, hell, angels and demons.

Its prophet and founder, Zarathustra, began teaching Zoroastrian tenets some time between the 18th and 16th century BC, and has become a widely studied figure for students of religion, history and philosophy.

Perhaps Zoroastrians’ most well-known practice is the Tower of Silence, where their human dead is placed in an open circular, raised structure and exposed to the elements and carrion birds in a process of decay that they believe avoids contaminating the soil.

Three Parsis embroidered fabric border which are a unique part of India’s diverse textile heritage. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

They also claim the oldest human rights charter, the Cyrus Cylinder, placed by Persian king Cyrus the Great in Babylon after he captured the city in the 6th century BC.

It states that “I freed its citizens from the yoke of servitude, I allowed no one to harass or terrorise, I set them free to worship their gods whose abodes I raised from ruins”.

The original is now held in the British Museum and its message of freedom of religion and tolerance has led to the display of a replica at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.

A replica scale model of a Dokhmenashini, a system of sky burials that relies on the sun and carrion birds to dispose of bodies. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong was at the opening ceremony on Monday, and said the Parsis are a very important part of Singapore.

“Despite relatively small numbers, the Parsi community has always been an active participant in Singapore’s rich social fabric. It is a community both of deep roots and tall branches.”

He added that the museum will open the Parsi community up to the rest of Singaporeans. “Understanding and knowing is the first step to accepting (a different culture) which then becomes embracing and being a part of,” he noted.

Entry to the museum is free but visitors are advised to make an appointment with PZAS at before going.

JOY, AWE AND TEARS – My association with Sargam

JOY, AWE AND TEARS – My association with Sargam


Shireen Isal

Joy, awe and tears: a range of emotions experienced over forty years of artists’ management through Association Sargam!  Intense feelings in unequal measure, for the joy and awe has vastly outweighed any angst or tears.  For this I owe immense thanks to the fifty Indian musicians and dancers, and their accompanists, that I was privileged to invite to tour Europe over four decades (1978 – 2018).  “Joy, Awe and Tears” is that story, of my love affair with the performing arts of India, a discovery that infused me with a passion to reveal its timeless beauty on the shores of that continent – Europe – where destiny brought me: in France, the UK and innumerable European countries.

The vision started with a seed, planted, in the early seventies in Mumbai, through a simple encounter with an Indian dance recital and its protagonists: the iconic Jhaveri Sisters (Manipuri danceand that awesome connoisseur of Indian dance, Shri Sunil Kothari.   And, from that moment, there was no turning back. Revealing the magic of India’s classical heritage to a western audience became akin to a personal calling, which consumed my professional life for forty years.  All was not smooth sailing. I have encountered generosity and gratitude but experienced extreme personal hurt and disappointments too; eccentricities and clashes of egos amidst humility and kind understanding.  Some of those negative experiences did take their toll but the overwhelming feeling that remains with me today is one of pure magic!

“Joy, Awe and Tears” relates all this simply, as it happened.  Above all, it is a catalogue of Sargam’s achievements over four decades and grateful recognition of those – artists, organisers, audiences and family – who made it all possible. I hope you enjoy reading it.

The book is available: in the UK, at  Price: £7.95 + postage (link:  In France and continental Europe, at (link: ).  Price: 9.45 Euros + postage.  In India, from 15th March 2022, at and in the Parsiana bookshop (K. K. (Navsari) Chambers, Ground Floor, Opp. Cathedral School side entrance, 39B, Amrit Keshav Nayak Road, Fort, Mumbai 400001. Tel: +91-22-22074347, +91-22-22074335). Price: Rs.599 + postage.  It can also be ordered directly from me, the author.

Please share this information via email and on social media.

Thank you so much.

Shireen Isal


Songs of late Homi B Doctor

Hormazd B Doctor was famous in the Parsee community for his stage shows. Old people of the 50s would surely remember. Famous people like learned Noshirwan H Jhabwalla, Vistasp A. Bulsara used to respect his knowledge of over 100 Ragas. He received his formal training under Agra Gharana and through various other Ustaad’s of that Era. In the recording which was done in 1998 all famous Ustaad’s have played the instruments. A noted famous female playback singer was to sing the duet songs but after the recording Homi fell ill and thereafter passed away, so our community and Gazal lovers could not have access to his album which consist of Eight songs.

The songs, lyrics, composition and voice are the ownership and copyrighted by late H B Doctor. His son Boorjis Doctor has kindly consented to have them published on for the benefit of the community at large. Thank you Boorjis.


The Appeal and Influence of Parsi Theater

Nichola Pais explores the Parsi theater, a highly influential movement in the realm of modern Indian theatre, and its impact on cinema.


What is Parsi theatre?
Parsi theatre’s aesthetics and strategies greatly influenced the concept, organisation and production of modern Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu theatres in India. It had absorbed several features of eastern traditional or folk performing arts, such as music, mime, and comic interludes.
While theatre in India may be traced back to Sanskrit dramatist Kalidasa’s plays, it was with Parsi natak mandalis that drama developed in colonial times. Focusing on entertainment with a social message, Parsi theatre was a highly influential movement in the realm of modem Indian theatre. A professional theatre movement, it was sponsored by the Parsis and the Zoroastrian traders who migrated in the 17th century from Pars in Iran to India, to settle in Gujarat’s coastal areas, before many chose to move to nearby Bombay for trade and commerce. A rich and prominent business community in the city, the Parsis had predominantly adopted English ways of living. They went on to develop theatre both for their personal amusement and commercial purposes. Flourishing between the 1850s up until the 1930s, Parsi theatre was the result of the blending of European techniques and local folk forms of Indian theatre. It marked the beginning of a new tradition in Indian theatrical culture; before this, the only kind of Indian theatrical practice in existence was folk theatre performances. Popularising proscenium-style theatre in regional languages, Parsi theatre was melodramatic and entertaining in nature, with the plays incorporating humour, melodious songs and music, sensationalism and stagecraft.. success led to the development of bhasha theatre in regional languages. Parsi theatre’s aesthetics and strategies greatly influenced the concept, organisation and production of modem Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu theatre in India. It had absorbed several features of eastern traditional or folk performing arts, such as music, mime, and comic interludes. Thus, Parsi theatre plays were not a mere imitation of western theatre but a blend of Eastern and Western dramatic techniques. Neither purely based on Western theatre nor on eastern theatre, it was a hybrid which was successful in garnering the attention of audiences, as its influence quickly spread across India.



Unique elements
Commercial Parsi theatrical productions had a number of unique and interesting elements. Three actors would chant a prayer before the drama began, after which one actor would deliver the prologue. In marked similarity to the Bengali indigenous dramatic production, Jatra, music played a significant part in Parsi theatre. The end of a play would see an actor come forward to offer a vote of thanks, ending with a farewell song. Parsi theatre was also rooted in community identity, with community members sharing a sense of oneness with the theatrical productions, and fostering identity and community culture. Communicating in the local languages like Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu, it used European-style proscenium with richly painted backdrop curtains and trick stage effects. It also depended on spectacle and melodrama to appeal to its audiences. It ushered in the conventions and techniques of realism, as it marked the transition from stylised open-air presentations to a new urban drama.


Novel dramatic devices
Plays mixed elements of realism with fantasy, music, dance, narrative and spectacle, dialogue and ingenuity of stage presentation, within a dramatic discourse of melodrama.
A predominant feature of Parsi theatre was the alternation of deep and shallow scenes. While the deep scenes contained serious subject matter, the shallow scenes were largely comic in nature, to amuse the audience. The shallow scenes would be mostly presented on the front stage and the deep scenes in the deeper part of the stage. While the shallow scenes ran at the foreground of the stage with a painted curtain generally depicting a street as backdrop, the deep scenes would be prepared during this time. The shallow scenes, enacted by the ‘lower class’ characters, served as links in the development of the plot Their main purpose however w. to keep the audience engaged while the deep scenes, which showed interior of palaces, royals parks, and other such visually opulent sets, were being changed or decorated. While important characters rarely appeared in the street scenes, the comic characters kept their place in the deep scenes. The characteristics of shallow scene of Parsi theatre have evidently come from Shakespeare, where the technique was used for ‘comic relief’ in his tragedies. However, while Shakespeare used comic relief as mental comfort for the audience just after the blood-shed on stage, Parsi theatre used shallow scenes for the passing of time when the scene preparation was in progress for the deep scene. Shallow scene incorporated comic dialogues, romantic scenes, highly dramatic actions, and some risque scenes. Parsi theatre always used back and middle curtains to change the location or scene. The painted curtain dropped from pulleys was used for the changing of scenes rather than using props on the stage. Parsi theatre also directly presented melodrama on the stage like death and blood-shed, thus producing aesthetic pleasure in the audience’s mind. Plays mixed elements of realism with fantasy, music, dance, narrative and spectacle, dialogue and ingenuity of stage presentation, within a dramatic discourse of melodrama. Additionally, special kind of language was used for special kinds of characters, in another similarity with Shakespeare’s use of language in his plays. Thus, characters in the play spoke according to their social status, with the higher class speaking in figurative and beautiful language while the lower class used prose or communicative language. With the audience for Parsi theatre largely hailing from the middle and lower working class, there were wide usage of songs, metrical and rhythmic lines. Background music was also used in order to produce aesthetic pleasure or Rasa in the play, even as it helped the director create the illusion, reality on stage. Interestingly, the usage of music was borrowed from Indian folk theatre. Parsi theatre was thus a new and experimental movement on various levels, opening a hitherto unseen way of presenting a play on the Indian stage. In a nutshell, it promoted the use of both deep and shallow scenes, introduced secularism in content, and enabled the performance of plays in proscenium theatres.

Read the full interesting article at

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