Category Archives: History

THE ORIGIN OF “CINTHOL” SOAP

An interesting story to share…. I am sure most may have used Cinthol Soap during the years…

THE ORIGIN OF “CINTHOL” SOAP

For the last several decades, Cinthol has been ruling the roost as the most popular mid-segment soap with its “in-built” deodorizer which beats competition by a mile.

What could have been the secret behind it which no other soap-makers were able to match for decades? Well, the secret lies in the 10 years of intense research carried out by Dr Burjor Godrej, who was so passionate about soap-making that he actually took it up as his thesis for PhD during the 1930s while pursuing higher studies at a prestigious University in Germany.

In 1939, as war broke out in Germany, Dr Burjor returned to India with his incomplete thesis, but continued working on it at Godrej which was headed by his father Pirojsha Godrej (Co-Founder of Godrej Group). Although he managed to submit the thesis at the German University after the war, he wanted to utilize that knowledge to develop an idigenous product of world class standards.

Dr Burjor Godrej had noticed that most of the working professionals in India, who were upwardly mobile, used to buy perfumes or deodorants as well because their soaps were not sufficient to tackle the tropical climate prevalent across the sub-continent. That’s when he decided to take up the challenge of producing a soap which could play the role of a deodorant as well, and carried out further research on various chemical combinations.

During his research, he found that a certain Phenol based advanced composition could be an effective deodorizing agent along with anti-bacterial properties, which could be combined with soap. In the early 1950s, Dr Burjor applied for a patent for the technique of producing soap using those Phenol based compounds, and started a new division in Godrej for the soap project. Since the Phenol based compound was produced synthetically, it was initially codenamed “Synthetic Phenol” soap.

When it was time to give a commercial name to the “Synthetic Phenol” soap, Dr Burjor Godrej combined the first few letters of Synthetic (SYNTH) and last few letters of Phenol (OL) to form SYNTHetic + phenOL => SYNTHOL. Just to give some youthful twist, he replaced SYN with CIN which still resulted in the same pronunciation (Synthol = Cinthol), and thus the final product called Cinthol Soap was launched on15th Aug 1952, and there has been no looking back since then.

Marzban Giara passes away

Marzban Giara, a treasure trove of knowledge and one of the most notable Parsi historians was a mini library in himself. He has many firsts to his name, including the first illustrated Global Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples, All India Directory of Parsi Institutions, The Contribution of the Parsi Community during World War I, to name a few. He was a warm person and always shared his knowledge with those who came to him, especially the younger generation. His contributions to the Parsi community are immeasurable, especially in terms of documenting history and writing books, which he has left behind for the benefit of generations to come. His sudden demise today is a loss to the entire Parsi community and he will be deeply missed. Garothman Behest Hojoji

Jehangir Bisney

Surat Parsi family’s 194-year-old Family Heirloom

Turban of Lord Swaminarayan – Kept for Darshan on Bhai Dooj

The Lord Swaminarayan turban is kept in a wooden box and is kept for darshan during Bhai Dooj. (News18 Photo)

It has been said that Swaminarayan Bhagwan, who came to Surat in 1881, presented his turban and shriphal to the Parsi Kotwal Ardeshar and this turban continues to be a guiding force for the Parsi family for 194 years now.

 

Afamily heirloom that has been safely preserved for nearly 200 years. A Lord Swaminarayan turban that is kept for darshan in Surat on the day of Bhai Dooj festivities to this day and a Parsi family guards this priceless possession since they received it in 1881.

It has been said that Swaminarayan Bhagwan, who came to Surat in 1881, presented his turban and shriphal to the Parsi Kotwal Ardeshar and this turban continues to be a guiding force for the Parsi family for 194 years now.

The family strongly believe that God’s ‘head’ is with them and lovingly shares this gift with everyone on the eve of the Bhai Dooj festival.

Apart from it being a family heirloom, the turban holds religious value. It is believed that when Lord Swaminarayan came to Surat 194 years ago, he presented this turban to Ardesar, who was working as the Kotwal of Surat. It is also said that when Swaminarayan Bhagwan was returning from in Surat, he was so pleased by the service of Ardeshar Kotwal that he presented him with his own turban on the day of Magshar Sud Trij.

By: Kirtesh Patel

https://www.news18.com/news/india/surat-parsi-familys-194-year-old-family-heirloom-turban-of-lord-swaminarayan-kept-for-darshan-on-bhai-dooj-6256801.html

A story about the Kanpur Cantt.

 

Strictly speaking this is not an MHS story. I have just too many of those. But it is a story of Kanpur Cantt and what happened a long time ago. It is a story of Atma Nirbhar Bharat and clever people with indomitable spirit, who worked to give India some teeth when it was needed. Their names are long forgotten.
 The story begins in 1948 during the Kashmir operations. During those desperate days the IAF was in operations to assist 160 Brigade in repelling the Pakistani invaders. India had no heavy bombers except the Tempest a fighter bomber with very low payload in bombs. Improvisation was used and transport Dakotas converted to bombers with bombs literally rolled off the aircraft esp. in assisting the besieged garrisons in Poonch and Uri. After the cease fire in late 1948, there was a serious rethink at Air HQ in Delhi and a strong need was felt for the young country to acquire a heavy bomber in light of the Kashmir operations. But where was this young country to find such an aircraft, it was poor. The British and American aircraft manufacturers demanded a lot of money. Then someone remembered that in Kanpur Cantt. opposite the Traffic Police lines in Mirpur, just before Mirpur Rd. joined GT road in front of the Loco colony there was a large ground that had been converted to an aircraft grave yard. What had happened was that the Royal Air Force and the US Air Force during WW2 had operated the iconic B-24 Liberator heavy bomber out of airfields in India at Ranchi, Panagarh, Dum Dum, Kalaikunda(Kharagpur), Salua(WB) to bomb Japanese military installations in China, Japan, Myanmar and Malaysia. At Indian Independence they could not haul this equipment away, so they broke the cockpit windows, poured sand in the engines and disabled the aircraft so they could never be flown again and dumped all these planes in that big ground in Kanpur Cantt. The ground does not exist anymore, but it was fun to crawl around even in the early 1960s. So Air HQ decided to send a team to refurbish the aircraft. The team came back and reported that some aircraft could be refurbished but since production had ceased on this aircraft by late 1949, no foreign aircraft company was willing to supply spares and if they did so the cost would be enormous for India. No manuals were available and Kanpur had no facilities for making the aircraft airworthy. The aircraft had to be taken to HAL Bangalore for massive overhauling. But the railways had no mechanism to transport the aircraft to Bangalore from Kanpur. The aircraft would have to be patched up to make them flyworthy a bit and flown to Bangalore. Chances were with such a long distance to fly maybe about 10% of the aircraft would make it rest crashing and killing pilots and who would undertake this suicide mission. Foreign pilots were contacted and the price they charged for each ferry flight was atrocious. India would become bankrupt. At this stage two Parsi brothers and a dedicated HAL team stepped in. HAL sent a team to Kanpur under a Mr. Yellappa to patch the aircraft as best as one could. Cockpit windows were taped up, some rough maintenance done on the engines so that the massive 4 engined plane would start up and yes the CTP(Chief Test Pilot) HAL one Jamshed (Jimmy)Kaikobad Munshi and his brother agreed to fly the aircraft out from Kanpur non-stop to Bangalore on these suicide missions. I will not talk much about Shri Munshi, there is an excellent book, Flying in the Hyderabad Dominions read it if you get a chance. The younger Munshi brother died in an air crash. The temporarily refurbished aircraft were taken by truck on the GT road from Kanpur Cantt to Chakeri. Yellapa and his men would patch the plane up as best as they could.
The heating system was inoperative on the B-24 at that time. Mrs. Munshi would wear a heavy fur coat, get into the plane with her husband.
Then Jimmy already had some familiarity with the Pratt & Whitney 1800-43 engines of the Liberators, as they came from the same family as engines of the DC-3s he had flown before. It is said that he would open full power on the four engines, and if nothing blew up, do some fast taxying to check that engines were delivering adequate power and that the brakes functioned properly. He was then off on a direct flight from Chakeri to Bangalore with undercarriage left down throughout. Only one flight is known to have been scary. There was a small fire in the fuselage just behind the pilot’s seat. Fortunately the HAL crew was serving coffee at the time. The entire contents of the flasks were poured on the fire, to successfully put it out. A flight was described by two IAF flight cadets who hitched a ride in one of the B-24s, with no understanding of what they were getting into. Their first surprise was that the co-pilot’s seat was occupied by Jimmy’s wife in a fur coat. She was well prepared for the draughty and cold cabin of the B-24. As the aircraft taxied out a front windshield glass cracked. Jimmy taxied back for quick repairs. HAL’s engineers put some dope on the glass, stuck fabric on it and declared the aircraft flyable. Fortunately nothing worse happened and the cadets slept all the way through to Bangalore.
Rest is history. India fully refurbished at least two squadrons of B-24s, a beautiful heavy bomber. 5 squadron Tuskers and 6 squadron Sea Dragons operated B-24s right until 1969 when they were retired. So India got teeth.
Jimmy ferried a total of 42 B-24s patched-up for flying by Yelappa and his men. All the ferried B-24s were overhauled and refurbished to long-term flyable standard. Jimmy then tested and cleared them for service. According to some HAL engineers, a visiting American pilot once flew one of these aircraft and complimented HAL on the quality of work done on it. He said that the refurbished aircraft was even better than some he had flown earlier. All this was done by Munshi on his regular salary. Nothing extra was asked by him and nothing extra was given. Possibly Rs 100 a month.
When the Americans discovered that India had acquired serviceable Liberators there was consternation and a suspicion that they had been bought clandestinely. They were unhappy that they had no logistics or other control over these fairly potent bombers No one could figure out who had sold them to India. An American team was invited to see what IAF and HAL were up to. The team went away satisfied that there were no underhanded dealings. Soon afterwards, the RAF graciously offered any help that India might need in handling the refurbished aircraft. Two experienced teams came to Poona to help convert and train IAF crews in operations on B-24s.
The first 6 refurbished B-24s from the Kanpur graveyard was handed over to Tuskers 5 squadron on 5th Nov 1948.
India owes a debt to Shri Yellappa and his men and Jamshed Mistry. It is rather strange that such a mass-produced bomber that took part in the Black Sunday Raid Benghazi(Libya) to Ploesti Rumania with almost 60% of aircrew lost to bomb and disrupt Hitler’s oil and petrol production a famous USAF raid not many planes were left to put in museums or even in flying condition after the war except what the IAF had. So soon after the IAF started to deinduct these aircraft, many air museums clamoured to get them. All flying B-24s in the world today (there are only 3 of them in flying condition) are from the Kanpur graveyard.
In case you are interested in seeing these planes. Here is a small list.
1. In India Air Force Museum Palam, closed on Monday. B-24 is there.
2. In the US, Pima Air Museum, Tucson, Arizona. It bears the emblem of 6 squadron IAF, Sea Dragons on one side and USAF emblem on the other side. Flew a ferry flight from IAF station Lohegaon Pune to Tucson. Gift of the Government of India.
3. Collings Foundation, USA, owns a flying B-24 from the Kanpur graveyard. Bought from the IAF. About 20 years ago, I took my small children inside it and told them that they were standing inside history connected to Kanpur. Later we watched it fly. I remember the deep roar of the B-24 engines that would be heard over school lessons in MHS as they would sometimes come to Chakeri for overhaul and maintenance.
4. United Kingdom, RAF Museum. I am attaching a in picture of the hand off ceremony of the B-24 to the RAF museum. Air Vice Marshal Rikhye MD, HAL seen in the photo had a son, Paramraj Singh Rikhye, finished ISC Class XI in 1966 from MHS, do you people remember him?
Look at US Propaganda, take a plane that IAF refurbished and not say a word about its amazing history, this is what the Collings Foundation has done,

 

Comments welcome from anyone who has further information on this wonderful historical piece

Lady Meherbai Tata: Champion of Women’s rights

October 10 is birth anniversary of Lady Meherbai

Jamshedpur, Oct 9: Meherbai was born on October 10, 1879, into an illustrious Parsi family in Mysore State. Her father        H J Bhabha, the Inspector General of Education, Mysore State was a prominent educationist and among the earliest Indians to have studied in Britain. He was influenced by western liberal values that he inculcated in his beloved daughter. Meherbai absorbed these liberal ideals, retaining to the core her proud heritage as a Parsi and an Indian. From an early age and throughout her lifetime, she displayed a resolute and strong will.

Sir Dorab Tata and Lady Meherbai Tata, both had deep love for Sports. Meherbai Tata was a tennis player and won the Triple Crown in the Western India Tennis Tournament. She had won over 60 trophies.

A special feature of Meherbai’s game was her pride in dressing up. She always wore a sari, even on the court. She was also a good rider and drove her own motor car.

Lady Meherbai was keen to see all women taking charge of their own lives. She was one of the founders of the Bombay Presidency Women’s Council and then of the National Council of Women. Meherbai introduced India into the International Council of Women.

Lady Meherbai campaigned for higher education for women, for banning the purdah system and for the eradication of the practice of untouchability. Lady Meherbai believed that without education and knowledge the status of women in India can never be raised. Lady Meherbai was also consulted on the Sarda Act designed to outlaw child marriage.

 

Lady Meherbai Tata: Champion of Women’s rights

Parsee Church Street, named after Kolkata’s 183-year-old Parsi fire temple

Parsee Church Street, named after Kolkata’s 183-year-old Parsi fire temple

A significant part of the lane and the larger neighbourhood’s documented history starts during the 19th century when the Parsi and Jewish communities began settling here.

It is not clear when the lane was so named, but Parsee Church Street gets its name from the large Parsi fire temple or agiary that stands at 26, Ezra Street. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)

It is easy to miss Parsee Church Street, the narrow bylane just off Ezra Street in central Kolkata. Hawkers and shops jostle to cover every inch of the pavement in these parts of the city seven days a week, late into the evenings. Such a short lane it is, that the lane can be covered on foot in less than five minutes.

The stories of Ezra Street and Parsee Church Street are inextricably tied and in many ways, it is difficult to discern where the story of one ends and the other begins. A significant part of the lane and the larger neighbourhood’s documented history starts during the 19th century when the Parsi and Jewish communities began settling here in large numbers, establishing homes, businesses and places of worship.

 

The stories of Ezra Street and Parsee Church Street are inextricably tied and in many ways, it is difficult to discern where the story of one ends and the other begins. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)It is not clear when the lane was so named, but Parsee Church Street gets its name from the large Parsi fire temple or agiary that stands at  26, Ezra Street. In September 1839, Rustomjee Cowasjee Banajee, a shipping magnate, set up this temple, in the presence of several established residents of Calcutta, with Dwarakanath Tagore present to support his friend. The streets and lanes around the agiary started developing into residential areas for the Parsi community in the street.

According to Encyclopedia Iranica, an online portal dedicated to the study of Iranian culture, Parsee Church Street gets its name because of its proximity to this fire temple.

 

A significant part of the lane and the larger neighbourhood’s documented history starts during the 19th century when the Parsi and Jewish communities began settling here in large numbers, establishing homes, businesses and places of worship. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)The Parsi agiary, declared a Grade I heritage building in 2001, a stunning example of Gothic architecture with ornate pilaster and marble, now lies decrepit, defunct and aggressively eyed by property developers, particularly since 2018, following the death of the last known trustee, Cursetjee Manackjee Rustomjee.

Nearby, in an old building, a sign hangs for a Parsi Charitable Clinic but its doors were closed when indianexpress.com visited and it is unclear whether the clinic operates today.

 

The Parsi fire temple, declared a Grade I heritage building in 2001, a stunning example of Gothic architecture with ornate pilaster and marble, now lies decrepit, defunct and aggressively eyed by property developers, particularly since 2018, following the death of the last known trustee, Cursetjee Manackjee Rustomjee. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)In his book  ‘A History of Calcutta’s Streets’, historian P. Thankappan Nair mentions that Parsee Church Street was once called ‘Domtollee ka rustah’ in colonial maps of the city, but it is unclear when the name changed. It is likely that the colonial administration decided to rename the street sometime post 1839 after Banajee’s fire temple was erected in Ezra Street and the Parsi community began settling in the vicinity of the temple.

Nair writes that ‘Domtollee ka rustah’ gets its name from the Dom community, considered untouchables in the caste system. Before the three villages of Sutanuti, Kalikata and Gobindapur were combined to form the city of Calcutta by Job Charnock in 1690, Doomtullah lay on the outermost fringes of Sutanuti.

 

With the exception of the fire temple and its adjoining buildings, today, there are few visible remnants of the street’s history associated with the Parsi community. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)The Doms, because of their positioning in the caste system, were forced to live in the outskirts of Sutanuti. When the village created Calcutta, they remained in the areas that had formerly made the fringes of the villages.

But as the city of Calcutta grew and transformed over the years, with the British and foreigners arriving in the city and other communities settling in the city, changing the demographics of various parts of the city, the Doms slowly found themselves displaced from neighbourhoods where they had historically resided.

 

It is likely that the colonial administration decided to rename the street sometime post 1839 after Banajee’s fire temple was erected on Ezra Street and the Parsi community began settling in the vicinity of the temple. Express Photo Shashi GhoshBy the 19th century, this neighbourhood became an important part of the Jewish community, largely because of the philanthropy of the Ezra family, and the Parsi community because of wealthy businessmen like Rustomjee Cowasjee Banajee.

Written by Neha Banka

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/streetwise-kolkata-parsee-church-street-parsi-fire-temple-8194804/

The Avesta and Zoroastrianism: The Creation, Disappearance and Resurgence of an Ancient Text

Zoroastrian Fire temple at Baku, Azerbaijan adapted practiced according to the Avesta and other Zoroastrian scriptures.	Source: Konstantin / Adobe Stock

Of all the religious texts, the Avesta is perhaps the least familiar. This is unsurprising, since the Avesta was written in a now-dead language, before being lost for almost one thousand years. However, thousands of people still follow the teachings of this ancient text that is thought to have its origins between 1500 and 1000 BC. The Avesta is key not only to understanding Zoroastrianism, but also the origins of younger and more widely followed religions.

The Farvahar, the most common symbol of Zoroastrianism. (Alexeiy / Adobe Stock)

The Farvahar, the most common symbol of Zoroastrianism. ( Alexeiy / Adobe Stock)

What is the Avesta?

The Avesta is the religious text of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zoroaster at some point between 1500 and 1000 BC. The religion developed from an oral tradition, and its original prayers and hymns were composed in a language which was called Avestan, now long dead.

Thankfully, the  Sassanian Empire  (224-651 AD) went to great lengths to write the Avesta down. The text is usually divided into 6 sections: Yasna-Gathas, Visperad, Yashts, Vendidad, Minor Texts, and Fragments.

According to Zoroastrian tradition, the original 21 books, called  Nasts were revealed by the Zoroastrian god himself, Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda is said to have revealed the texts to the prophet Zoroaster, who recited them to King Vishtaspa. The king then had the Nasts inscribed on golden sheets. This work was then memorized, recited at  yasna (services), and passed down through word of mouth for generations, until the Sassanians took it upon themselves to record it all.

The original Avesta has expanded over time. Besides Zoroaster’s original teachings, it now includes ecclesiastical laws, commentaries, and customs. New beliefs which came long after Zoroaster have also been added.

A Sassanian Frieze in Iran showing Persian King Ardashir I crowned by Ahura Mazda (right). The figure standing behind the king is probably his son and successor Shapur I (Artaban V Vers 230 / CC BY SA 3.0)

A Sassanian Frieze in Iran showing Persian King Ardashir I crowned by Ahura Mazda (right). The figure standing behind the king is probably his son and successor Shapur I (Artaban V Vers 230 /  CC BY SA 3.0 )

Early Development

Zoroastrianism began as a polytheistic religion (a religion with more than one god).  Ahura Mazda  was seen as the king of the gods, and he was supported by lesser gods and spirits that represented the forces of good. Opposing Ahura Mazda and his retinue was the spirit Angra Mainyu and his forces of darkness. We know that in the early days of Zoroastrianism there was a priesthood that worshipped the gods, but very little other information exists about this early period.

Sometime between 1500 and 1000 BC, one of these priests rose up with new teachings. This priest,  Zoroaster, claimed to have received a vision from Ahura Mazda. A being of pure light, Vohu Manah, had visited Zoroaster on the god’s behalf to inform him that Ahura Mazda was the one true god. It was Zoroaster’s responsibility to spread the word.

Unsurprisingly, things did not go well for Zoroaster when he first dropped this bombshell revelation. The priesthood turned against him, and his life was threatened, causing him to flee his home. Zoroaster soon arrived at the court of King Vishtaspa, who had him imprisoned for his heresy. Luckily, Zoroaster managed to win over the king by healing his favorite horse. Impressed by this miracle, King Vishtaspa promptly converted to Zoroaster’s version of Zoroastrianism and commanded his kingdom to follow suit. Zoroaster was no longer seen as a heretic, and his new religion began to spread rapidly.

An image of Zoroaster from the 1849 Bombay Shahnama (Public Domain)

An image of Zoroaster from the 1849 Bombay Shahnama ( Public Domain )

The new religion revolved solely around Ahura Mazda, the all-good, all-forgiving, all-loving god. All Ahura Mazda wanted was for humans to acknowledge his love through good thoughts, deeds, and words.

According to Zoroaster, his followers had to lead a virtuous life. This was done by honoring  Asha (truth) and resisting  Druj (lies). It was said that by leading lives of honor, people helped to combat the forces of darkness which were still led by Angra Mainyu. It is during this time that Zoroaster is believed to have composed the  Gathas, the earliest section of the Avesta which takes the form of hymns addressed directly to Ahura Mazda. As stated above, legend states that King Vishtaspa had these hymns recorded on golden sheets, but no evidence of these sheets remains.

Click Here to continue to this interesting article at Ancient-origins.net

175 years after Parsis flocked to Karachi, glimpses of the community’s fading history

On April 22, 1847, Parsis from across India assembled in Karachi as the foundation for the city’s first Tower of Silence was laid.

 

On the spring morning of April 22, 1847, when the Siberian migratory birds were singing a fond adieu to Karachi, the city on the edge of the Arabian Sea was welcoming groups of Parsis from across India. It was still six years before India would get its first train, so they all made the journey by cart and boat. They were gathered for the tana ceremony to lay the foundation of the city’s first dakhma or Tower of Silence.

Advertisements about this socio-religious event were published in many newspapers of Bombay including the Jame Jamshed. After the tana ceremony, a jashan thanksgiving ceremony was led by Fareedunji Behramji Jamasp-Asana, who was declared as first dastur or High Priest of the Parsis of Karachi.

 

 

But even though few Parsis remain, signs of their presence are still visible in the city. There are schools built by Parsis, hospitals, dispensaries, parks, administrative offices, the Karachi Parsi Institute and other places for social gatherings. There is also the Jehangir Kothari Parade, an elevated sandstone promenade.

 

Read more with pics at https://scroll.in/article/1033887/175-years-after-parsis-flocked-to-karachi-glimpses-of-the-communitys-fading-history

The Parsi Connection With The Bandra Fair

The Bandra Fair is a week-long annual festivity that is being held this year in 2022 after two years (due to covid restrictions), from 11th to 18th September. Also known as ‘Mount Mary Fair’, it’s been observed at Bandra now for over three centuries, attracting thousands, rich or poor, Christian and non-Christian, to partake in the festivities.

It is believed that the idol of Mother Mary was brought to India by Jesuit priests in 1570 and worshipped in a small, simple structure on the hillock, where the current grand edifice stands. Later, Arab pirates attacked this old chapel and broke the right hand of the idol, believing it was made of gold. For two decades, (1741 to 1761) public worship at Mount Mary came to a halt. However, when the original idol was reportedly found in the sea by an unknown and unnamed Koli fisherman, it was ceremonially enshrined back on the mount at Bandra.

In those days, Mumbai was a cluster of seven islands. To reach Bandra, pilgrims had to sail from Mahim to Bandra in tiny, open boats, often perilous, especially during heavy September rains. In Bandra, people moved around on foot, bullock carts or horse-driven carriages. Pilgrims at the annual feast of Mother Mary also attracted vendors of food and other goods and that is the origin of the famed Bandra Fair.

The Mount Mary Basilica is dedicated to Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. People who pray at this shrine claim that their wishes get fulfilled. This Basilica has hosted two popes (Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 1986) and millions of pilgrims from all strata of society and all religious denominations.

The Parsi Connect – Jejeebhoy Family’s Contribution…

Sir Jamshedji Jejeebhoy’s wife, Lady Avabai had many sons but she craved a daughter. The daughter of Sir Rogerio Faria recommended that she write her wish for a daughter on a piece of paper and deposit it at the feet of the idol of Mother Mary at the shrine in Bandra. Soon thereafter, a girl was born to Lady Avabai and she was named Piroja. When Piroja turned eight, there was a storm and twenty boats capsized while crossing the Mahim creek to Bandra. Lady Avabai decided that the family would fund a causeway to connect the two islands by road. Mahim causeway is the gift of Lady Avabai Jejeebhoy to the city, dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Mount’ or ‘Mount Mary’.

Bomonjee Steps: Three years after the Mahim causeway, the Jejeebhoy family also funded half the cost of the steps leading to the shrine. These are known as ‘Bomonjee Jejeebhoy Steps’. Today, when one approaches the steps that lead down to Hill Road, one may almost miss noticing a half-buried stone plaque or marker on one side of the steps, which reveals an old marker, where Bandra is referred to as Bandora (Bandorawala is also an old Parsi surname). This marker reveals that these steps were originally known as ‘Degrados de Bomonjee’ or ‘Bomonjee’s Steps’, acknowledging that these were built by Bomonjee, a scion of the Jejeebbhoy family.

Parsi Architect Of The Basilica: Shapoorjee Chandabhoy, another Parsi gentleman, served as the architect for the construction of the new edifice which we see today. Shapoorji initiated and oversaw construction of the Basilica despite the Bubonic Plague epidemic of 1895.

Economic And Spiritual Hub: Mumbai is not just an economic hub but also a great religious hub. Faithful old-timers believe that Mumbai city owes its vibrancy, economic prosperity and general safety from all calamities to the various places of worship, from the Mumbadevi, Mahalakshmi, Babulnath and other Hindu temples to the Haji Ali and Makhdoom Shah Dargah of the Muslims, the four Zoroastrian Atash Bahram and churches like Mount Mary, to name just a few. May these Sacred Spaces emanating positive energy fueled by the faith and prayers so many, keep all of us safe, healthy, happy and prosperous!

Noshir Dadrawala

 

 

 

 

 

The Parsi Connection With The Bandra Fair

 

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