Category Archives: Books

Mankind – Whither Bound

This treatise, by Dasturji M N Dhalla, an eminent scholar, traces the history of mankind and the thought processes prevailing during each era and the path forward for mankind. This scholarly work has been acclaimed to be amongst the best of his writings. We bring this to you with the kind permission of Ms. Coomi Vevaina for the benefit of the community. Download it and read it at leisure for an enjoyable experience.

This is a 567 page book and will take some time to download – please be patient

Click Here to download Mankind – Whither Bound

Meher Castellino’s New Book

Meher Castelino’s Fashion Musings takes a humorous, saucy, cheeky, tongue-in-cheek look at the fashion, beauty and film world in her unique style.
The unconventional Q & A format of the book makes it easy reading, while taking the reader through the various segments of style and glamour.
With a Foreword by ace couturier, Tarun Tahiliani and stunning cover design/illustrations by Marangoni Istituto trained designer, Aniket Satam, Meher Castelino’s racy style with quirky anecdotes and hilarious one-liners, makes Fashion Musings a great travel read or a relaxing bedside book.



Mlle. Delphine Menant wrote her work on the Zoroastrian Communities in India in 1897. The first 3 Chapters were first translated from the original French by Miss Ratanbai Ardeshir Framji Vakil, B A. The entire work was later translated by M M Marzban in 1917. “The first part comprises chapters devoted to the civil life of the Parsis, from birth to death, under the customs described by old travellers, and the changes of the present century”.
“The second part is a treatise on the religious duties of the Parsis”.” A succinct account is submitted on the labour of scholars of the ancient Persians”. She takes the reader from the Parsis of ancient Persia to the Parsis in India today.
The date of this book 1917 is important as it was the time of learning, and a time of rediscovering the forgotten connection the Parsis in India had with the Parsis in Persia. It highlights the Head Priests of the communities as scholars having studied under foreign savants and authors on books of Religion.


Shams-ul-Ulama Dastur Darab Dastur Peshotan Sanjana,B.A. Present Dastur (High Priest of the Wadiaji’s Shahanshahi Atesh-Beherum, in Bombay, since 1899. Born 18th Nov 1857 A D

A scholar and linguist; Principal of the Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy”Zarthoshti Madressa” (Seminary) since 1899: Fellow of the University of Bombay. Author of: “The Doctrine of the Soul in the Avesta”: “Next of kin Marriages in Iran”, “Position of Zoroastrian Women in Remote Antiquity”. Translator, in English of “Zarathustra in the Gathas and in the Classics”, from Dr.W.Greiger’s German work. ‘The Age of Avesta and Zoroaster”, from Dr.W.Geiger and Von Spiegels works. Editor of : “The Pahlavi Nirangistan and Minu-i-Khrat” (with notes and commentaries): “The Dinkart”, (Vols X-XVI) (with translations into Gujrati and English):”The Pahlavi Karnamak-I Artakshir-i-Papakan”,(Pahlavi text with English and Gujrati translations): Author of a number of Papers, Lectures, and Sermons, in English and Gujrati.

These are Dastur Darab’s views on acceptance of people born in another religion and converted to Zoroastrianism as recorded in the court case Saklat vs Bella:
Extract from pages 24-25 of Zarathushtra in the Gathas by Darab Dastur Peshotan Sanjana, filed before Commissioner. EXHIBIT 54 Suit No. 91 of 1915 OF CHIEF COURT, LOWER BURMA.
R. S. DADACHANJI, Commissioner
18th March 1916.
First, it is regarded as a sacred obligation to convert the infidels by means of words and doctrine (Yasna XXVIII, 5). The religion of Zarathushtra is a religion of culture, of spiritual and moral progress and proficiency. It penetrates through all conditions of human life, and it considers every action of life, as for instance, the clearing of the soil, the careful tending of herds, and the cultivation of the fields, from the standpoint of religious duty. Such a religion, or such a philosophy, cannot be confined to a narrow circle; the propagation of it and the conversion of all men to it, are ideas which are at the basis of its very essence. We, accordingly, find complete hymns, as Yasna XXX and XLV, which were evidently intended to be delivered before a numerous audience, and in which Zarathushtra, or one of his friends, expounds the essential points of the new doctrine for the approval of the hearers.
Ratan Tata asked for Dastur Darab’s opinion before converting his wife Susaune to Zoroastrianism. This is Dastur Darab’s reply:

Bombay 8 February 1903
Gracious Seth Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata
Respected Sir, we have received your letter dated February 7. 1 would like to thank you for your gracious invitation to participate in this Navjote ceremony that is going to take place today. For this invitation consider that you have kind feelings for me. Because of certain items, I am sorry that I will not be able to attend the gathering
You have said in your letter that you had read the public sermon which we have published, and that you are planning to act accordingly. I am very happy to know this.
If a pious man or woman with firm belief is accepted into the Zoroastrian religion and taken into the community, then the Zoroastrian religion has no closed-door policy. This is our humble opinion that we have expressed in our sermon
Darab Dastur Peshotanji Sanjana


Shams-ul-Ulema, Dr Dastur Peshotanji Beheranji Sanjana, (father of Dastur Darab Peshotan Sanjana), M.A., Ph D., Late Dastur of Wadiaji’s Shahanshahi Atesh-Beheram, in Bombay. (Died on 26th December 1898).


A ‘Fellow’ of the University of Bombay, and a member of the German Oriental Society. Editor of the ‘Dinkart (Vols I to IX),’ with Pahlavi text, transliteration in Avesta characters: and translations into English and Gujrati: of ‘Vijirkard-i-Denik;’ ‘Karnamak of Ardesher Babagan,” in Pahlavi : and author of a voluminous Pahlavi Grammar.
“His works, connected with Pahlavi literature were both numerous and important, all indicating as competent a knowledge of that complicated language as any contemporary scholar possessed….” Dr E W West, Editor of the Sacred books of the East Series.
He wrote ‘Nirang-i-Zawitdinan”, an explanatory treatise, with regard to the kind of ceremonies that should be performed for admission of Jud-dins(aliens) into the Mazdayasna Zoroastrian Religion. As recorded in the court case of Saklat vs Bella





Dastur Dr. Jamaspji Dastur Minocherji Dastur Edalji Jamaspasana, D C L,(Oxford), M A (Germany). Late Dastur of the Anjuman’s Shahanshahi Atesh Beheram, in Bombay. Died on 26th September 1898, in Bombay.
Author of: “Old Zend and Pahlavi Glossary”. Pahlavi, Gujrati and English Dictionary; the “Pahlavi text of Ayibatkar-i-Zariran”. Translalator of “Sardar=e-Behere Tavil,” from Persian to Gujrati, and author of many Gujrati Sermons and Controversial pamphlets. Translator, into Gujrati of the Pahlavi “Vendidad”, with translations.




Dastur Kaikhusru Dastur Jamaspji Jamaspasana. Late Dastur of the Anjuman’s Atesh-Beheram, in Bombay. (Died on 23rd June 1916 A D).

Editor of the “Arda Viraf Namah”. In the original Pahlavi (with introduction and Notes: Gujrati translation and Persian version of “Zarthost Behram” in verses
Dastur Kaikhusru and Dastur Minocher (next Picture) performed the Navjote of Susaune Braire and her wedding to Ratan Tata by Parsi rites under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. Dastur Kaikhusru was also the Head Priest of Calcuttas Banaji Agiari, the Banaji Atash Behram and the Camay Bay Agiari, Soda Water Wala’s Agiari, and the Godiwala Agiari. He was in charge of the Agiaris in Aden,Colombo, Lahore and Lunoul.
The opinions of the Dasturs was sought by the sub-committee which was appointed by a committee chosen by the Zoroastrian Anjuman Council on the question of a non- Zoroastrian being accepted into the Zoroastrian Religion.
This is the reply given by Dastur Kaikhusru Jamaspji

September 14, 1903
You have asked your opinion of whether or not to accept people of other faith into our religion, according to the teachings of our religion. You want to know whether this is acceptable or not. I am taking the permission to reply to you that according to our religion there is absolutely no restriction against accepting a non-Zoroastrian into the Zoroastrian religion. This is what the religion says. In the daily prayers of the Zoroastrian such as “Khurshid and Meher Niayesh”, the person prays that May the Mazdayasna religion be spread on seven continents. (Hafta Keshvar Zamin). In the olden times the Athornan (Priest) class did not only pray this and sit around, but they went into far off countries in order to spread the Mazdayasna religion or the religion of Ashoi. (See Yajashne Ha chapter 41 paragraph 6). In several instances tyrannical people used to create problems when these Athornans went out to spread the religion. (Yajashne Ha 9 paragraph 24) We would like to point out above instances only: from the instructions or the ruling found in the Zoroastrian religion we can say that it is perfectly alright to accept non-Zoroastrians into the Zoroastrian religion.
We agree completely with the second publication of the booklet by Ervad Temurasp Dinshawji Anklasaria with the necessary proof for accepting non-Zoroastrians into the Zoroastrian religion. (Judeen No Ne Mazdayasni Din Ma Dakhel Karwa Rava Chhe Te Vishaynee Shahdato). In this, the learned Ervad points out examples from Avesta, Pahlavi, and Farsi books.
Also, our late respected Dastur Jamaspji has pointed out in the book “Pasokhay Nirangeh Javit Deenan” published in 1252 Y.D. that to accept non-Zoroastrians into the Zoroastrian religion is perfectly alright, and he has given examples. From the examples of the above booklet by Ervad Temurasp Anklesaria, as well as our late Dastur Jamasp, one can say that for any new student there is nothing left to search for. For this reason, we are pointing you to the examples in these booklets and are presenting them to the sub-committee. Signed,
Kaikushru Dastur Jamaspji.




Dastur Minocher Dastur Jamaspi Jamaspasana. Present Dastur of the Anjuman’s Atesh-Beheram, in Bombay. (Born 2nd November-1870 A D)
Editor of an “Epitome in Gujrati prose, (in four volumes), of Firdausi’s Shah Nameh” He together with Dastur Kaikhusu did the navjote of Susaune Brair and her Parsi wedding to Ratan Tata.











Shams-ul-ulama, Khan Bahadur, Sirdar, Dr Dastur Hoshangji Jamaspji Jamaspasana C I E., Ph.D.
(Died on 23rd April 1908 A D)


Late High Priest of the Shahanshahi Parsis in the Deccan. A scholar and linguist, Professor of Persian, in the Deccan College, in Poona. Author and Editor of several works, of which the principal are: “Pahlavi Pazand Glossary: Shikana-Gumanik Vijar, (co-edited with the scholar Dr E W West.): “The Book of Adar-Viraf Nameh, with an English translation, (co-edited with Dr Martin Haug): “The Vendidad in Avesta text, with Pahlavi translation and commentary and Glossorial Index.”. Editor of : “Zend and Pahlavi Izashne”, and the “KHORDEH AVESTA” : “The Minokherd”, etc. Author of a number of Sermons on the Zoroastrianism and many contributions on Avesta and Pahlavi literature.
Dr E W West and Dr Martin Hauge were 2 of the famous foreign scholars on Zoroastrian Religion. They established Zoroastrianism as a monotheistic Religion with the belief in one God, Ahura-Mazda.
The Dastur Hoshang Memorial Volume, papers on Iranian subjects in honour of the Late Shams-ul-ulama Sardar Dastur Hoshang Jamaspji was published in his honour by the Gatha Society of Bombay. Eminent Iranian scholars of the East and West answered the call of the society and contributed more than 75 articles for the Memorial Volume. Dastur Sheriarji Bharucha’s article on the universality of the Zoroastrian Religion is published here titled “Is Zoroastrianism Preached to All Mankind or to a Particular Race”.






Shams-ul-ulama, Sirdar Dastur Kaekobad Adarbad Dastur Noshirwan Jamaspasana (born 3rd November1861 A D) Present High Priest of the Shahanshshi Parsis in the Deccan, Calcutta and Madras and Malwa and had 23 Panthaks under him. (High Priest of the D B Mehta Zoroastrian Anjuman Atash Adaran Calcutta)
Editor of: “Kar-na-mak-I Ardeshir Babukan”, in the original Pahlavi text, transliteration, (with comparative passages from the Shah-Nameh), with notes and translation in Gujrati: “Dana va Mino-i-Khirad”, with notes and translations in Gujrati.
He represented the Community at the Parliament of World Religions where he spoke about the universality of the Zoroastrian Religion. Of a belief in one God Ahura-Mazda and that the religion was meant for all mankind
Dastur Kekobad Aderbad Dastur Noshirwan went from Calcutta to Rangoon to perform Bellas navjote. Bella was the orphan child of a Parsi mother. He accepted Bella as a Parsi as “she was born of a Parsi mother”. (Saklat vs Bella)









A report was published in the Jame Jamshed when Dastur Kaikobad took office as High Priest:
(Jame Jamshed: 21st July 1908)

In the Parsi community presently there are three Baronets, two Knights and a Sardar and to that there is the addition of one more Sardar. The Honourable position of the Head Priest of the Parsis of Deccan and Malwa has been graced since many years by the descendants of Dastur Jamasp Aashana. Two Dastur Sahebs – the last of this clan – Dastur Nosherwanji Jamaspji and his brother Dastur Hoshangji held the position of the first grade of the Dasturs. Presently their successor, the new Dastur Kekobad Adarbad has also been conferred with the honour of being decorated as the Sardar of the first grade by the Honourable Government and has spread joy and cheers in the community. We have been observing that this Dasturi family of Poona has won the laurels and honours because of their wisdom, ability and determination. The native place of that family is Navsari and as a rule, the Athornan tribe of Navsari has been a success wherever they have been because of the wisdom of their heart. However, the Jamasp Aasha family of Poona have gained their fame due to their knowledge of the religion, their progressive habits in keeping with the current trends, and considering it as their ardent duty to make their fellow tribesmen achieve progress. Dasturs could be found in plenty today, but those that guide their tribe in accordance of the advanced knowledge of their religion to stride on the true path, are not known to us to be found except – those daring Dasturs from Poona”.



= Ervad Sheriarji Dadabhai Bharucha. Born in March 1843. Died 2nd September 1915A D).


More than once he refused to accept the offer of a Dastur’s office.
Late Instructor, of Zend, in Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Madressa(Seminary), in Bombay, from 1865 to 1870: of Zend, Pahlavi and Persian, in Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Zarthosti Madressa, in Naosari, from 1877 to 1884. Author of “An Outline of Zend Grammar, Compared with Sanskrit”: of a Series of 6 Brochures on Zoroastrian Morals,(in Gujrati): of “Nirange Rististan (A Complete Account of Zoroastrian Customs and Ceremonies of the Dead): A Brief Sketch of Zoroastrian Religion and Customs, ( Specially ritten for the Religious Congress in connection with the World’s Colombian Exhibition , of 1893, at Chicago): of an essay on the Distair, ( especially written in the Oriental Congress in 1895 at Geneva): of “Collected Sanskrit Writings of the Parsis, in seven parts (some being still unpublished): of a “Scheme for the Education of Parsi Children in the tenets of the Zoroastrian Religion”: of “Lessons on Avesta and Pahlavi Pazand”: of Pahlavi-Pazand-English and English-Pahlavi-Pazand Glossary”: Translator of the “Pahlavi of Aderbad Marespand’s Pand-Nameh: Co-edited the Pahlavi “Dadestan-i-Dinik”, with the late Ervad T D Anklesaria. He has published numerous Lectures and Sermons on behalf of the “Rah-numane Mazdayasnan Sabha”. The “Gayan Prasarak Mandli” and the Fasli Sal Mandli”.
Note-To his personal, valuable assistance The Parsis in India are highly indebted.
Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha was one of the members of the Expert Committee on Religion appointed during the case Petit vs Jeejeebhoy to determine if conversion was a tenet of the religion. He gave evidence in favour of Ratan and Susaune. He wrote a” Brief Sketch of the Zoroastrian Religion and Customs” which was presented at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893. Swami Vivekananda made his historical speech at this Parliament of World Religions.
His opinion on acceptance of a person born in another faith and converted to Zoroastrian Religion is expressed in the letter he wrote to the Trustees of the Anjumans Atash Behram.
I have received your letter of this current month dated the 16th, and I am taking the liberty to answer the questions being asked in it
Any person of another faith, man or woman, who with a firm belief, free will, and a desire, wishes to enter our religion to perform his Navjote and accept him into the Zoroastrian Religion
If once an individual either born to people of another faith or born to a Zoroastrian has a Navjote performed, and has made the necessary solemn declaration in the presence of the priest thereby being accepted into the Zoroastrian Religion, from that point that person should be considered for all the rights as a Zoroastrian. This is my humble opinion
Ervad Sheriarji Dadabhai Bharucha.






Dr. Dastur Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla, Ph. D.

Present High Priest of North-Western India. (Born on 22nd September 1875 A D).
Author of: “Zoroastrian Theology, from the Earliest times to the Present Day”,(in English) : “Nyaneshis, or Zoroastrian Litanies

Dastur Dhalla says in his Autobiography, The Saga of a Soul, in 1942,
“It is possible that after decades the community may create an enlightened and educated priest-class and a popular understanding that to spread the good faith and to increase our strength is not only commensurate with the precepts of our religion but also in the interest of our social well-being.” Dastur Dhalla.






The Anjuman’s Atash Behram wrote a letter to experts on Religion whether it was alright to accept people of other Religions into the Zoroastrian faith. Dastur Mahyarji’s reply:
January 3, 1904
Received your letter in which you have written, “Kindly express your opinion at your earliest with examples and arguments on the question of whether according to the teachings of our religion is it alright to accept people of other religions into the Zoroastrian religion”. I am taking the liberty to answer this question. According to the writings of our religious books, any person of another faith with a true belief, and who is anxious to enter our noble religion, has no restrictions shown him. There are certain proofs in favour of acceptance as found in:
Jashne Ha (Chapter) 30 Paragraph 11 Jashne Ha (Chapter) 43 Paragraph 6
Jashne A (Chapter) 46 Paragraph 13
Jashne A (Chapter) 45 Paragraph 1
Yajashne Ha (Chapter) 8 Paragraph 7
The final paragraph of the Vendidad Progress, etc.
Dorabjee Dastur Maheeyarji


Courtesy: Prochy Mehta



The original name of Sanjan.


A few interesting observations from the first chapter of the book. The original name of Sanjan.

The 16 Sanskrit Slokhas and the 5 promises made by the Zoroastrian  refugees to India,  as mentioned in the Kissah-i-Sanjan.


Sanjan: A small village of the Thana district in the Bombay Presidency. It was formerly an important town known to the Portuguese, and called, after them, under the name of Saint John. (See Imp, Gaz. Of India, vol. iii., p 174.)


The 16 SHLOKAS or distichs, (presented by the early immigrants to the King) in which they summarised the duties enjoined by their religion were: –


1.We are worshippers of Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being), of the sun, and of the 5 elements.


2.We observe silence during the bath, at payers, while making offerings to the fire, and when eating.


3.We use incense, perfumes, and flowers in our religious ceremonies.


  1. We honour the cow.


  1. We wear the sacred garment, the Sudreh or the shirt, the Kusti or girdle for the waist, and the two-fold cap.


  1. We rejoice ourselves with songs and musical instruments on marriage occasions


  1. We permit our women to wear ornaments and use perfumes


  1. We are enjoined to be liberal in our charities and especially in excavating tanks and wells.


  1. We are enjoined to extend our sympathies to all beings, male or female


  1. We practise ablutions with gaomutra, (one of the secretions of the cow.)


  1. We wear the sacred thread when praying and eating


  1. We feed the sacred fire with incense.


  1. We offer up prayers five times a day.


  1. We religiously preserve conjugal fidelity and purity


  1. We celebrate annual religious ceremonies in honour of our ancestors.


  1. We observe the greatest precautions with regard to our wives during their confinement and at certain periods of the month.”


“It is interesting to notice that, at this juncture, the Zoroastrians showed themselves singularly skilful and shrewd, avoiding all mention of the true basis of their religion, and only setting forth certain ceremonies, of little importance, but which seemed of a nature likely to win the goodwill of the Rana. Anxious to find some place of repose, the Parsis were acquainted with the Hindus, their susceptibilities of caste and religion too well not to have their conciliation at heart; and that is why they formulated their answers with a subtlety and skill which won the favour of the Rana. He therefore permitted them to reside in the town, on condition:


1) that they adopted the language of the country,

2) and ceased to speak that of their ancestors,

3) that their women should dress according to the Hindu mode,

4) that the men should no longer bear clem weapons,

5) and should perform their marriage ceremonies at night, according to Hindu custom.


“What could the unfortunate exiles, thirsting for peace and rest, do but accept these conditions? And this they did. They settled down in a vast tract of land not far from Sanjan, and, with full hearts, offered prayers to Hormuzd. They resolved to fulfil the vow they had made at the time of their memorable voyage from Diu to Sanjan to build an altar for lighting the sacred Fire. The Hindu, far from opposing this, helped to build the temple and from that time forward, Zoroastrian rites and ceremonies began to be performed on Indian soil.  (Parsi Prakash vol. 1. P. 2)”

This she says “is recounted in the Kissah-i-Sanjan which was written in verses, in 1600 A D in Naosari by Behman bin Kaekobad Hormazdyar Sanjana ‘In his old age’. In it he informs the readers that he bases his narratives on what was communicated to him by Mobeds and old people, and by a learned Dastur. The narrative is based on tradition.”


New Book about history of Zoroastrianism has been published

My name is Denis Karasev. I live and work in Russia.


My father – Dr. Vladimir Karasev – is a famous archeologist and historian from Central Asia. Here is his official website –


For more than 30 years he was studding history of Zoroastrism in Central Asia and based on his 30 years research, he has written a book with the name “At Ahura Mazda’s Throne”. This book was published few days ago with quite limited circulation and now available in Russian language on Vladimir’s official website (For English Version – Click Here – It is distributed only as a hard copy and can be delivered worldwide.


This book is the first book that has been published about Zoroastrism in post-Soviet space and I believe that may be of your interest. Vladimir does not speak English so I would be more than happy to help and answer any questions.


Book has introduction letter from Dr. Keki Bhote (one of the principles of World Zoroastrian Organization).


Kind regards,

Denis Karasev




How the name of a Gujarati language printer and publisher who died in the plague lives on in Mumbai

Jehangir B Karani’s business rose, fell and then rose again posthumously.

Jehangir B Karani (1850–1897)

Descending the broad steps of the Town Hall of Mumbai after spending a few hours at the Asiatic Society of Mumbai has always felt like walking on history. The layout of the roads branching from the grand circle laid out in front of the building is exactly the same as it was in 1860, when the vast open space called the Bombay Green was truncated into the Elphinstone Circle, later the Horniman Circle. Many of the buildings also date from the same period, while a few are older. The roads and buildings might have new names, but the old ones linger on.

As I walk past the Mint, built in the 1820s, turn on to Pherozeshah Mehta Road, and head towards Dadabhai Naoroji Road, I am transported to an almost mythical Parsi Land. Both these political heavyweights have been dead for over a hundred years, but their presence still looms large in the city. On my right is Modi Street, a name which can be traced to the last decades of the seventeenth century, when the Mody or Moody family were ship-chandlers to the East India Company.

Further up is Bazaar Gate Street, now Perin Nariman Street, which leads to one of the main exits of the erstwhile Fort of Bombay whose ramparts were demolished in the early 1860s. To the right is a structure, part-clock tower, part-water fountain, erected in 1880 in memory of the businessman Bomanjee Hormusjee Wadia.

Topped by a flame eternally burning in stone, guarded by lamassu – larger than life sculptures that are part-animal, part-bird, with a heavily bearded human face – and adorned with cuneiform inscriptions of the Zoroastrian credo, it was the first attempt to leave a Parsi architectural imprint on the city. On my left is Homji Street, “an old street, named after Behramji Homji (died about 1750), a rich Parsi Merchant,” according to Samuel T Sheppard in his Bombay Place-Names and Street-Names (1917).

Right ahead is a major intersection where the road meets Parsee Bazaar Street. As its very name suggests, it was a market in which most of the shops and establishments were run by Parsis. In the 1890s, the neighbourhood was populated by printing presses, bookshops and newspaper offices, many of them owned and run by Parsis, such as the Frasho-gard Printing Press and the Fort Printing Press.

Most of these names have long disappeared but there is one that is still around: the ground-floor shop at Behramji Mansion bearing the name Jehangir B Karani’s Sons. A prominent printer and publisher of Gujarati books in the nineteenth century, Karani was struck down by the plague in 1897. How has his name survived for over 120 years?

The present shop at Pherozeshah Mehta Road | Image credit: Ganesh Raghuveer

A Bombay childhood

Jehangir Bezonjee Karani grew up in a city which was rapidly transforming itself into a metropolis of the British empire. After experiencing an unprecedented boom in the first half of the 1860s, which swelled its population to over eight lakhs in 1864, the city’s economy collapsed in 1866 but was on the path to recovery by the early seventies when Karani entered business. Karani’s childhood, representative of that of most lower class Parsi men in the mid-nineteenth century, is best described in his own words, which appeared in the introduction to Jehangir Karaniwali Navi Arabian Nights.

“I was born in 1850. My father was a respectable merchant and my mother was a sweet-mannered, innocent soul with a measure of intelligence. As the youngest son of my parents, I was showered with love but in no way was I ever pampered. As was usual in those days, my early education was in a local school run by a mehtaji…In spite of being quite a mischievous boy, I managed to reach the fifth grade under the guidance of a mehtaji named Baldevram.

With some luck, I was able to join the Seth Rustomjee Jamsetjee School at Dhobi Talao with a scholarship. I started learning English in the class of Hormusjee Master. Though he was good in every other way, this Hormusjee Master had a great fault. Once he worked himself up into a mood, he would administer beatings on any student in his line of sight. It did not matter whether you had done your lessons or not; if his jaundiced gaze fell upon you, there was no escape, no argument! Having survived this onslaught for about six months, I was promoted to the class of Dadabhai Dorabjee Master. Under his excellent tutelage, I was able to acquire a little knowledge of English and was generally ranked either first or second in the class.

Around this time, I had to pitch in quite often at my father’s shop. The business was not doing too well at that time and as my presence seemed to be rather useful, I used to take leave from school. My father was toying with the idea of making this arrangement permanent but my mother had other ideas. She was keen that I study further and disapproved of this proposal. However, my father’s resolve was getting stronger by the day, and after the summer vacation in 1868, he never sent me back to school. When he began to take me with him every day to his shop on Parsee Bazaar Street, my distraught mother tried to dissuade him…My dear mother’s protests were swept aside by my father who soon transferred the entire responsibility of the business to me.”

Within two years, Jehangir Karani bought out his father’s stake in the shop at Parsee Bazaar Street and started a small bookshop in 1870. There were perhaps two other independent bookshops in Mumbai for locally published books in Gujarati and Marathi at that time.

Karani initially catered to the school market and stocked a wide range of textbooks and exercise books. He quickly built a reputation such that his name became shorthand for a bookshop among school-going children. Soon enough, author-publishers began to stock their books in his shop. By the mid-1870s, Karani began to enter into pre-publication deals with them and his name began to appear on the title pages as sole bookseller of the book.

Within a few years, Karani had acquired the appellation of “Book-Seller”. If this had happened a few decades earlier, it might well have become the family surname like numerous other trade-based Parsi surnames.

Becoming a publisher

Even in the 1870s, when printing had been established in Mumbai for nearly a century, there was little or no specialisation in the literary food chain. More often than not, the printer doubled up as the bookseller, while the author or creator was the publisher who underwrote the expenses. Sometimes, all these roles were subsumed in one person. Furdoonjee Murzbanjee, the pioneer of Gujarati printing and publishing, whose literary career spanned over three decades until his death in 1847, was also the creator of most of his imprints as author, translator or editor. Furdoonjee printed, published, and sold his own books.

Most authors, however, had to publish their own books and pay printers to get them printed. Alternatively, the author could extend an advance to the printer and in return would get an agreed number of copies, while the rest of the print run could be sold by the printer on his own account.

The three biggest printing presses in Mumbai which focused on Gujarati – the Bombay Samachar Press, the Jame Jamshed Press, and Duftur Ashkara Chhapakhana – were all owned by Parsis and had been in existence for several decades. Their mainstay was a portfolio of magazines and eponymous newspapers. Though they had been publishing books, mainly related to the Zoroastrian religion, on their own account, most of the books printed at these presses were commissioned print jobs.

It was only in the 1870s that the role of the publisher began to evolve in Mumbai when the city experienced a fresh phase of growth. Besides the construction of public buildings, private investment in real estate and industrial infrastructure provided an impetus to all sectors. The increase in the city population from 644,000 in 1872 to 773,000 in 1881 was ascribed by the Bombay City Gazetteer (1909) “to the general progress of trade, particularly of cotton spinning and weaving industry, the extension of railway communication, and the advance of urban administration.” The increasing demand for books in a variety of genres created conditions where publishing could become a profitable business.

For Jehangir Karani, it was just one more step from being a sole seller of books to becoming a publisher. There was a thriving market for guides and tutorials and Karani first began publishing these books which had an assured market among students. Perhaps the first popular book that Karani published on his own account was Hindustani Gayan Sangraha in 1879catering to an insatiable demand for Urdu poetry among the Parsis.

Jehangir Karaniwali Navi Arabian Nights (published 1897)

This was followed by many others in the coming years on topics as varied as the constitution of England, Indian classical music, folk tales and popular stories, medicine, history, astrology, and Zoroastrian religious texts. Many of these books sported titles which emphasised his personal brand; for example, Karaniwalo Ragastan (1882) was a collection of ghazals, lavanis and other musical pieces.

Karani also began to build up a portfolio of periodicals as part of his publishing business. In 1880, he acquired the Gujarati monthly magazine Dnyan Wardhak, which had been in existence from 1873 and was already popular for its articles on drama, history, literature and practical skills. In January 1882, Karani started a weekly newspaper titled the Mumbai Punch, which was intended to provide a humorous take on the week’s events with cartoons and satirical pieces. It, however did not last more than a year.

In 1888, he acquired the Pakhwadiyani Majah, a fortnightly magazine in the same genre. Occasionally, his longer books, like Gujarati translations of classical tales like Don Quixote and Arabian Nights, would first be issued in monthly segments before being published as a book.

A publishing conglomerate

Karani had been getting his books and magazines printed at various Mumbai presses, such as the Nirnayasagar Press and Ripon Printing Press. By the mid-1880s, his publishing business had grown large enough for him to consider setting up a printing press. In 1886, he established the Standard Printing Works, where he printed his own publications besides doing job printing for others. This venture was so successful that he set up a type foundry in 1889 to support the press. Karani’s business was now comparable to that of the three largest Gujarati print establishments.

His original trade of book selling seems to have paled in comparison to the meteoric growth of his printing and publishing business. Karani however had bigger plans. In 1892, he acquired the printing press of the magazine Indian Spectator, owned by the Parsi social reformer BM Malabari, and recast the entire business into a joint-stock company, Jehangir B Karani & Co. According to the prospectus published in The Times of India (4 April 1892), Karani hoped to “bring greater profits when aided by the capital and resources of a company than by the limited means and resources of a private firm.”

While the other directors of the company were Parsis, Karani was the chief executive officer of this company. His family firm Jehangir B Karani & Sons, the designated managing agent of the company, would receive a ten per cent share of the profits besides a percentage of the sales. It had all the makings of a large publishing company with interests across genres, a portfolio of periodical publications, and control of all aspects of the business from printing to distribution.

Gujarati translation of Gulliver’s Travels (1930s edition)

However, not all his associates were happy with this development. They felt that he had relinquished control over an established book selling and publishing business for too little a consideration. The Kaiser-i-Hind (3 April 1892) noted that it was rather courageous of “Mr Karani, who had started his business on a very modest scale, and grown it to its current size by his personal efforts and dedication, to convert it into a public limited company to accelerate its growth.”

Karani began with a bang by establishing branches at Medows Street in the southern part of Fort and on Kalbadevi Road besides the main bookshop at Parsee Bazaar Street. As he had acquired a printing press with expertise in English, Karani began printing and publishing books in that language, besides expanding his Gujarati offering. He also started dealing in books imported from England and began issuing advertisements in newspapers like the Times of India. It did seem that the Karani brand would become a major presence in the Indian publishing industry.

Reversal of fortunes

Towards the end of 1894, however, Karani’s business imploded, likely caused by too rapid an expansion and a mismatch between cash receipts and expenses. Perhaps the other investors were not happy with its prospects under Karani. The business was taken over by three Bhatia businessmen through their company, D Lakhmidas & Co, and Karani had to completely disassociate himself from it in 1895. To ensure that he had a regular income, he began managing the Saraswati Printing Press on behalf of its proprietors from February 1896.

Karani was now neither a bookseller or publisher, but his personal brand name still had a cachet in the Mumbai market. In March 1896, he decided to make a fresh start by restarting the small bookshop at Parsee Bazaar Street under his own name. Like his father did thirty years ago, he installed Manekshah, his eldest son, who was just sixteen then, to handle the shop which was named Jehangir B Karani’s Sons.

He also began to consider publishing projects and decided to issue the third edition of the Arabian Nights, which had been one of his most popular books. But he seems to have had a premonition of worse things to come when he wrote the introduction to the book in April 1896.

“The circumstances under which the first edition of this book was published were very different from my current situation. However these things cannot be helped; change is the only constant. Everybody has seen the changes which have taken place in the fortunes of Jehangir Karani and only God knows what the future holds for him!

If he is still alive, Jehangir Karani will write the introduction to the fourth edition of this book, else my heirs will do so.”

Much of the printing for the book had been completed when the city of Bombay was swamped by the plague epidemic in September 1896. Most of the working population of Bombay under the colonial government was “migrant labour”, whose employment conditions and minuscule wages precluded even a toehold on the city.

They fled the city at the first sight of the disease with its characteristic symptoms: high-grade fever accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes. Many printing presses had to shut down as there was no one to work the machines. The Saraswati Printing Press also shut down in January 1897. Karani was out of a job and his book project also had to be suspended.

Meanwhile, on 29 November 1896, his wife Deenbai died suddenly. She might have died during childbirth as was the fate of many women during those days, or perhaps she was an early victim of the plague. Karani did not have much time to mourn the loss of his wife, as he had to take care of his eight children.

He moved them to Baroda for their safety but did not stay there for long himself. He returned to Bombay on the 24th of January when the first wave of the epidemic was at its peak. By the 31st, he was afflicted by the disease. When his condition deteriorated steeply, he was admitted to the Parsee Fever Hospital at Byculla where he died on the 4th of February 1897.

Seal of Jehangir B Karani’s Sons

Afterlife of a publisher

The bleak situation of the eight orphan children who had lost their parents in quick succession can best be imagined. However, Jehangir Karani’s eldest son, Manekshah, stepped up to fill the breach. With the help of his father’s friends, he completed Karani’s unfinished book project and published it in June 1897 as Jehangir Karaniwali Navi Arabian Nights.

The firm continued to publish Gujarati novels and books connected with Zoroastrianism on a modest scale. In 1911, Manekshah started the New Art Printing Works, where he printed a variety of greeting cards to be sold at his shop. Designed specially for Parsi festivals, these cards in the Gujarati language proved to be extremely popular.

Hormusjee Bomanjee Memorial (erected 1880) | Image Credit: Rajesh Agrawal

In 1937, over forty years after Karani had lost control of his publishing business, Manekshah purchased the defunct D Lakhmidas & Co so that he could acquire the rights to the books published by his father before 1895. By the time Manekshah died in 1940, the focus of the business had however evolved to stationery, diaries, and cards – embroidered, perfumed, photogravure, Indian views – for every occasion from Christmas and New Year to Diwali and Navroze.

After moving across a few locations on Parsee Bazaar Street, the shop settled at its present location on Pherozeshah Mehta Road in the 1920s. Drawing on the prestige of its founder, it has always retained the name Jehangir B Karani’s Sons, thus becoming one of the last links connecting the city to a time in the nineteenth century when Parsis played a major role in the printing and publishing world of Mumbai.


This series of articles on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on publishing is curated by Kanishka Gupta.

How a Gujarati cookbook came to symbolise love and gratitude during the bubonic plague in Bombay

The story of Vividh Vani

Walking down Churchgate Street, I noticed a ubiquitous Mumbai institution: a raddiwalla with neatly arranged piles of books. Closer inspection revealed that most of them were Gujarati books of a certain vintage. An old Parsi book-lover had died and the family got rid of their book collection. As I rummaged through the novels and books on the Zoroastrian religion, I spotted a hefty tome with its cloth-bound cover depicting a dainty lady cooking on a kerosene stove. It was the first volume of the third edition (1915) of Vividha Vaani, a cookbook which had enjoyed cult status among Parsi households for over half a century. I snapped it up for a few rupees.

When I mentioned this to my friend, the scholar Virchand Dharamsey, he said not only did he have both volumes of the third edition but also a copy of the second edition of Vividha Vaani. Luckily for me, his interests did not extend to cookbooks and those copies also found their way into my collection. Many years later, I met Jayant Meghani during a visit to Bhavnagar in Gujarat. The soft-spoken writer and translator, who for many decades ran the bookshop Prasar, had also built up a wonderful collection of rare books. As we got talking about our interests, he fished out a copy of the first edition of Vividha Vaani.

It was this edition which appeared on 9 August 1894 when a Parsi lady named Meherbai Jamsetjee Wahadia wrote and self-published a Gujarati book of recipes titled Vividha Vaani, subtitled Pakwan Banavavnu Pustak. This could be translated as An Assortment of Culinary Dishes or The Book of Cooking. Written in the Parsi idiom of the Gujarati language, the book contained 1248 recipes arranged alphabetically.

Meet the authors

Meherbai hailed from the famous Parsi clan of Wahadia (Wadia) shipbuilders who had later diversified into a range of businesses and professions. Her father Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee belonged to a family that owned a range of industrial enterprises including cotton and jute mills, insurance agencies, and banking companies, alongside their traditional brokerage business. However, they lost control over these investments in the aftermath of the Share Mania of 1866.

When Meherbai was born on 24 November 1866, the family had been reduced to a relatively modest lifestyle. Before he died, her father had made extensive notes on the history of his family; perhaps this inspired Meherbai to develop her writing skills. A generation earlier, most Parsi girls from her social background would have been educated at home, but Meherbai went to school. Besides learning to read and write, the girls were taught a curriculum that emphasised the domestic sciences – cooking, sewing, knitting, and gardening.

During the 19th century, when print in Indian languages was still in its infancy, Gujarati cookbooks were hardly commonplace. The first Gujarati cookbook which I could trace was the Pakshastra Vishe Granth by Uttamram Purushottam. It was published in Ahmedabad in 1857. Uttamram wrote the cookbook based on his own experience coupled with references to Sanskrit writings on cookery. He was convinced that cooking was an art, and though a book might be useful to consult, it was “the touch of the hand” which made all the difference.
Title page of the third edition of ‘Vividha Vaani’ (1915)

He continued to revise and enlarge the book and a third edition was published in 1869. The first Parsi to publish a cookbook was Burjorjee Nusserwanjee Heera, whose Pakwan Pothi contained 400 recipes and was issued in 1878. A second edition appeared in 1882. This was followed by the Pakwan Sagar of Burjorjee Sorabjee Chikan Chhapnar in 1887.

Though it was not an innovation when it appeared in 1894, a cookbook like Vividha Vaani was still quite a rarity as it was the first Gujarati cookbook to be written by a woman. Just a few years ago, it would have seemed too forward to reveal one’s name and claim authorship, but by the 1890s, Parsi women were willing to have their names published along with their writings.

Even though she was 28 years old when the book was released, Meherbai was unmarried, exemplifying a trend towards late marriage which had just set in among the Parsis. Contrast this with her father who was only 17 when she was born, and her mother Pirojabai must have been younger.

Parsi society had seen major changes in the last decades of the 19th century and perhaps saw an opportunity to expand its cuisine and update its cooking practices. Though she belonged to the upper echelons of society, Meherbai seems to have spent a lot of time in the family kitchen. According to RA Wadia, the author of Scions of Lowjee Wadia, “In the preparation of this work, she had devoted all her energies and had prepared recipes by calling in the aid of special cooks.”

Between the covers

Vividha Vaani is a collection of recipes drawn from numerous cuisines. Meherbai never claims that she is documenting Parsi cuisine; on the other hand, she is insistent on introducing a variety of new dishes to her readers after she has perfected their recipes with the assistance of her “special cooks”, many of whom have earlier worked in European households. The book features standard Parsi fare like akuri, aleti paleti and patiyo, but there is also a plethora of cakes, jams, tarts, creams, essences, and dumplings.

As the entries are alphabetically listed rather than by genre, you could be looking at custard recipes one moment, only to encounter a variety of cutlets on the next page. Even the many “How to” tips are scattered all over the text. Most importantly, there is no separate listing of ingredients; each recipe is a single paragraph and might include numerous minor variations. Meherbai also includes Goan and Bohri recipes besides a number of Madrasi items. An omnibus cookbook, Vividha Vaani exposed the average Parsi housewife to a new world of culinary experiences.

The book attracted the attention of the two largest Gujarati publishers to this genre of books. In the following year, the Jame Jamshed Press issued a cookbook titled Pakwan Sangraha. The Duftur Ashkara Press, which had last issued Heera’s Pakwan Pothi in 1882, now had it completed revised by a Gujarati scholar, enlarged it substantially, and published it in 1896 as an 800-page behemoth under the title Duftur Ashkarani Pakwan Pothi.


Enter the plague

Exactly two years after Vividha Vaani was published, Bombay was struck by the bubonic plague in September 1896. It had probably been imported into the city by international travellers arriving by ship. The disease did not make any distinctions between the rich and the poor and spread rapidly in a densely packed city. The city emptied out as the rich moved to bungalows and tents in the suburbs while the poor went back to their villages.

The plague fever struck in waves for the next few years. Plague hospitals were quickly established all across the city on caste and community lines as people were still worried about ritual caste purity even in the worst of times. This applied not only to Hindus but to all the other religions of Mumbai. The Bombay Parsee Punchayet, whose main role was to administer the trust funds of the community, set up a fund to establish a hospital exclusively for Parsis.

Vignettes of (left) Meherbai Wahadia (1866–1897) and Dr KN Bahadurji (1860–1898)

The Parsee Fever Hospital was the brainchild of Dr Kaikhusru N Bahadurji, one of the most prominent Indian doctors of Bombay. When the city was overwhelmed by the plague, he was at the forefront of two critical initiatives – medical care for patients and research into possible treatments for the disease. Not only did he initiate the Parsee Fever Hospital project, Dr Bahadurji also equipped and conducted its operations.

Meherbai was unfortunately one of the patients to be admitted to the Parsee Fever Hospital during the first wave of the plague. She was taken care of by a strong contingent of female medical workers including Dr Manek Turkhud (the first woman to obtain a medical degree in Bombay in 1892) and the future nationalist, Bhikai Cama, who volunteered her services as a nurse. Writing to the Times of India (20 January 1897), a visitor to the hospital saw that food and drink were an important component of life in the worst of times. He wrote that he was…

“…greatly struck with the admirable arrangement of the wards, everything being scrupulously clean and arranged in order. I visited the kitchen and was surprised to find that the able conductors of the hospital with a wise forethought had succeeded in securing the services of Parsee cooks – so difficult to obtain now-a-days – so that even the orthodox people of the community could have no objections to avail themselves of the benefit of the institution during this critical period…To supply a quantity of pure milk for the patients, about a dozen buffaloes were kept in the compound, so that genuine article of nourishment for the sick without adulteration may be had on the spot at any hour of the day or night.”

Two deaths

Dr Bahadurji might have been already acquainted with Meherbai and her family and perhaps, she was admitted to the Parsee Fever Hospital at his urging. It must have taken some persuasion as hospitals were then viewed as places to which only the poor resorted; the upper classes preferred to be treated at home. She came under his personal care and experienced some of his new treatment protocols including prolonged immersion in ice baths. However, nothing could avail the dying patient, and Meherbai at the age of 30.

Meherbai was survived by her mother Pirojabai for whom her bereavement would have been very traumatic. Dr Bahadurji visited Pirojabai frequently after Meherbai’s death, both as a medical practitioner and as a well-wisher. Was there a romantic angle to the connection between Meherbai and Dr Bahadurji? Were they engaged to be married before Meherbai’s illness?

It is useless to speculate without further information, but Dr Bahadurji continued to be in regular contact with her mother who was grateful for it. He had also managed to antagonise a prominent section of the Parsi community; the severe restrictions he placed on the visitation rights of the family in view of the contagious nature of the disease were not viewed favourably, nor were his methods of treatment, especially the prolonged immersion in wet baths packed with ice.

Dr Bahadurji fell seriously ill with fever which was diagnosed as typhoid and eventually died on 15 August 1898. The Times of India (17 August 1898) noted that, “His services during the plague were characterised by all the strenuous zeal and devotion to duty which distinguished him, and it is to be feared that the excessive amount of work he undertook really hastened his death by weakening his constitution.”

Many Bombay organisations with which Dr Bahadurji had been associated began to debate the methods by which his memory could be perpetuated and his contributions recognised. Pirojabai also must have felt the need to commemorate her gratitude towards a doctor who had first tended to her daughter and then to her. What better way to do this than to give new life to her daughter’s creation?

She decided to issue a fresh edition of the Vividha Vaani and dedicate it to him. It would not be a mere reprint; the book was entirely rewritten and was expanded to include 1593 recipes. Recipes were structured such that the ingredients were listed first, and variations were spun off into new recipes. However the basic structure of the book with its alphabetical listing was retained and Meherbai continued to get sole credit. A Gujarati cookbook thus came to symbolise love and gratitude during the bubonic plague which raged for over a decade in Mumbai from 1896.

Recipe for revival

The second edition of Vividha Vaani, nearly 700 pages long, was released in 1901. Printed at the Jame Jamshed Press, it was published by its owners J B Marzban & Co, who also acquired the copyright to the book from Pirojabai. The book had begun to assume the form of a culinary encyclopedia.

In 1915, a third edition was issued under the same imprint. Nearly twice as big as the second edition, its 2050 recipes extended to over 1200 pages which had to be bound in two volumes. It was this edition which ensured the reputation of Vividha Vaani as a vade mecum for the Parsi housewife. The fourth and final edition of 1926, published before Pirojabai’s death in 1928, was over 1500 pages long and listed 2180 recipes. These editions were also credited to Meherbai Jamsetjee Wahadia and the dedication to Dr KN Bahadurji by Pirojabai was prominently featured.

Covers of the first three editions of ‘Vividha Vaani’

All editions of Vividha Vaani are handsomely bound in cloth with the text embossed and gilt. Each edition features a different image on the cover illustrating the changing times. The first edition of 1894 features a young woman, almost a girl, cooking on a wood-fired stove placed on a low platform. The 1901 edition features a middle-aged woman, a Parsi matron, with an apron tied over her sari stirring a pan on a coal-fired sigri placed on a wooden table. The third edition has a decidedly modern woman, with her hair done up in a bun, working at a kerosene stove placed on a countertop with shelving underneath. One can see the contours of the modern Indian kitchen emerging from these images.

Passed on from generation to generation, the later editions of Vividha Vaani became family heirlooms. From being a book of reference, it became an object of reverence not to be discarded even when it fell into tatters. However, by the 1950s, the archaic language of the book was incomprehensible to many Parsis who had drifted towards English as a primary language.

In the same decade, Indian weights and measures went metric and soon the tola, rattal, tipri, and sher measures used in the book rendered it all but unusable. Niloufer Ichaporia King notes in My Bombay Kitchen (2007) that Vividha Vaani “is enchanting in its vigorous Parsi eclecticism.”

Emulating the efforts of Meherbai Jamsetjee Wahadia and her mother Pirojabai, the later anonymous contributors to the book assimilated influences from numerous other cooking cultures and helped shape what is now globally recognised as Parsi cuisine.

This series of articles on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on publishing is curated by Kanishka Gupta.

Gohare Jamaspi


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And here is Jamaspi in Pahlavi Pazand and Persian Texts

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