Category Archives: History

Lt Jamshed Manekshaw: An unsung hero of World War II

Lt Jamshed Manekshaw (standing left on the second row) on the Burma Front during WWII.

he world knows late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw as the man who, as the chief of the Indian army in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War following the Bangladesh Liberation War, made great contributions to the creation of Bangladesh. Sam also fought on the Burma front as a Captain of the 12th Frontier Force and was seriously wounded fighting the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. But the world is unaware that another Manekshaw –Lt Jamshed Manekshaw (Jimmy)–was also defending the Indian territory against the Japanese invasion in the Dohazari region of the Chittagong front during World War II. While Sam survived the bullet wounds, Jamshed died in action in Dohazari and he became an unsung martyr. Lt Jamshed Manekshaw died on May 14, 1944.

Lt Jamshed belonged to Bulsar in Gujarat state of undivided India and he worked in Kabul in Afghanistan before he joined the Indian army as a commissioned officer. He was sent to fight against the Japanese Imperial forces in the northeast part of India and in the Chittagong’s areas. These areas which were then part of the erstwhile East Bengal are now part of Bangladesh. A large number of Indians, British, Australian and Africans died in action fighting here. Based on their religion the last rites of these brave soldiers were performed in the various war cemeteries built by the British army in the region. They were designated military cemeteries where the martyrs were laid to rest with full military honours.  Lt Jamshed Manekshaw belonged to the Parsi community in India; the Parsis are Zoroastrians who fled from Iran to settle down in India. The Parsis who settled down in Gujarat after escaping from Iran facing persecution later spread to various parts of India and excelled in business. They contributed to the economy of undivided India and a few families had businesses in Dhaka and Chittagong too. There was one businessman, Mr Merdhora, who lived in Chittagong then and the British took his help in performing the last rites of Lt Jamshed.

It is believed that his last rites were performed according to the Parsi religion. There were originally 400 burials in these cemeteries and later when the Commonwealth War cemetery was built in Chittagong the graves were transferred to the new cemetery. There are now 731 Commonwealth graves of the 1939-45 war here, 17 of which are unidentified. This cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of Britain that funds it.

The Commonwealth war cemetery is situated on the Badsha Meah Road in Chittagong city. The site of the cemetery was originally a paddy field adjacent to a horseshoe-shaped hill spread on the east and south, and located two and a half miles away from the then Chittagong city.

During the Second World War the pioneer camp of the Fourteenth Army of the allied force was set up in Chittagong along with facilities for army training and the British General Hospital. The hospital remained operative from December 1944 to October 1945 and initially, 400 corpses were buried in this cemetery under the supervision of the army.

The burial area is situated at the bottom of a slope directly behind Finlay’s Guest Houses and is surrounded by a large area planted with a mixture of jungle trees, fruit trees and flowering trees. It is not easily seen from the road.

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Tappeh Mill – one of Iran’s oldest temples

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2017-03-23 12:53:47Z | |

One of the oldest Zoroastrian temples of Iran – Tappeh Mill (literally – a mill hill), also known as the Bahram fire temple  – sits majestically on the hill near Ghal’eh Noe Village not far from the city of Rey. It was named ‘Mil Hill’ due to the distant similarity of the two main structures with the mill.

Archaeologists say that the temple was built during the Sassanid Dynasty (224 to 651 AD), but it is not possible to find out the exact time of its foundation. This is the reason why scientists cannot establish which Zoroastrian temple in Iran is the most ancient – perhaps it’s the Bahram temple. One way or another, there is an opinion that it was built even earlier – during the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC–330 BC), and was destroyed during Alexander the Great’s conquest of Iran.
The Zoroastrian temple is a place to keep sacred fire, which as attended by Zoroastrians wearing white clothes – a sign of their ritual purity. During the reign of the Sassanid Empire, Zoroastrianism became the state religion, as a result of which the number of such temples in Iran increased significantly. However, after the advent of Islam, Zoroastrian temples fell into decay.
The temple is built of brick, clay and egg white mortar. There was a large hall with columns inside, divided into three parts. The sacred fireplace burnt in the eastern part of the temple with high vault (iwan) and four round columns. After more than a thousand years, geometrically patterned plaster reliefs, reliefs with floral and animal motifs still can be seen on the walls of the temple. Such a choice of images was dictated by the traditional design of Zoroastrian temples of those times.
Despite the presence of protective structures, the temple was somewhat damaged due to strong winds in 2017. The temple was closed for reconstruction, and now it is – renewed and restored – ready to meet tourists again.

Remembering the contribution of Indians (including Zoroastrians) in WWI

Presentation made by Malcolm Deboo to the Zoroastrian All Party Parliamentary Group on Monday 3rd December 2018 titled:
“Remembering the immense contribution and sacrifice made by Indians including Zoroastrians who served the King Emperor and Great Britain during the First World War”.
Courtesy : Malcolm Deboo and Marazban Giara

Cyrus the Great – Father of the Persian Empire

The Bronze Statue Of
Father of Persian Empire,
Sponsored & Manufactured By:
 Behnam Abadian Saxton Industrial Inc.
& on Oct 27th, 2019 Was Dedicated To:
“Zoroastrian Cultural Center in Los Angeles”
Statue of The
Who Freed Jews From Egypt & Sent Them Home to Rebuild Their Temple in Jerusalem, Is An
& A Source of Inspiration for Those Who Value
Behnam Abadian President & Manufacturer of the Statue
Sholeh Shams Shahbaz: Committee Chair
Khayatbashi: Program Director

Newly-Found Petroglyph In Western Iran May Have Link To Mithraism

Anewly-discovered rock-carving in western Iran could have a link to Mithraism, a prehistorical religion inspired by Iranian worship of the Zoroastrian god Mithra. Some Iranian archaeologists suggest that the carving was created by a follower of Mithraism as it depicts a simple portrayal of a human with his right hand raised and an object in his hand. But, experts say it needs much more study in order to date the petroglyph.

The petroglyph was found in western Kermanshah province on a mountainside near Taq-e Bostan, an archaeological complex, which consists of a series of properties from prehistoric to historical periods such as imposing Sassanid-era bas-reliefs, Morad-Hassel Tepe, an ancient village, a Parthian graveyard and a Sassanid hunting ground.

It was found upstream of a spring, inside a niche measuring about two meters by two meters, carved some 50 centimeters deep into the mountainside, archaeologist Keyvan Moumivand told IRNA on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a local tourism official has said that various archaeologists and teams of experts must conduct researches on the rock-carving in order to determine its origins and to make a definitive comment on it.

Some experts say that the existence of some Mithraism symbols in parts of the historical zone, including one nearby the bas-relief of Ardashir II, reinforces a possibility that the petroglyph being associated with Mithraism, IRNA reported.

Bas-relief de l’investiture d’Ardashir II à Taq-e Bostan


Mithraism, was the worship of Mithra, an Iranian god of the sun, justice, contract, and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran. Known as Mithras in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, this deity, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, was honored as the patron of loyalty to the emperor. After the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, Mithraism rapidly declined.

Taq-e Bostan is known for its bas-reliefs of Sasanid origin (3rd to 7th century CE). The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sasanians, include representations of the investitures of Ardashir II (reigned 379-383 CE) and of Shapur III (383-388), the latter in a man-made cave carved in the form of an iwan (three-sided, barrel-vaulted hall, open at one end).

The incredible adventures of Parsi Cyclists around the world

How it began

The first group to set off on their bicycles was made up of six members of the Bombay Weightlifting Club. They were Adi Hakim, Jal Bapasola, Rustom Bhumgara, Gustad Hathiram, Keki Pochkhanawala and Nariman Kapadia.

According to Rohinton Bhumgara, son of Rustom Bhumgara, the six youngsters had attended a public lecture in 1920 by a Frenchman who had walked from Europe to India. Hearing him talk left them deeply inspired.

Their journey began in October 1923 and meandered through Punjab, Balochistan, the Middle East, Europe, United States, Japan and South East Asia.

On the way, one team member returned to India from Tehran for “personal reasons”, while two others were so “enamoured” of America that they stayed back.

Adi Hakim, Jal Bapasola and Rustom Bhumgara return to Bombay after nearly five years.
Adi Hakim, Jal Bapasola and Rustom Bhumgara return to Bombay after nearly five years.

“Once, he [Jal Bapasola] narrated how they approached the Raleigh Cycle Co of England in Bombay about [the company] sponsoring the cycles,” Babani was told by Bapasola’s 82-year-old son Noshir Bapasola, who lives in New Jersey.

“The company refused. But when they reached England, he said the company was begging them to use their cycles. He asked them why they had a change of heart and was told quite bluntly ‘we did not believe that you boys would be so successful’.”

By the time Hakim, Bapasola and Bhumgara reached India in March 1928, they had covered around 70,000 kilometres.

In their book With Cyclists Around The World, they enumerated their achievements with “pardonable pride”: in four and a half years, they had scaled the Alps, crossed “pirate-infested territories” and waded through jungles with “hostile semi-savage tribes”, sometimes “escaping death by inches”.


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There was no separate railway station for Udwada on Bombay Baroda B. B. & C .I. Railway. One had to alight at Pardi station and travel eight miles to reach Udwada. Seth Behramji Nusserwanji Seervai (1824-1914) started his business as a railway contractor and carting agent in 1864 for B. B. & C.I. Railway.

Seth Behramji Nusserwanji Seervai wrote a letter to Mr. J. K.  Duxbari, the railway company’s agent  on 16th October 1868 and stressed the need for building a small station at Udwada where Parsis go on a pilgrimage to the ancient Atash Behram and if the railway company wants he offered to pay the expenses for constructing the station.

On 11th June 1869 Mr. C. Curry, the railway company’s agent replied to Seth Behramji Seervai that a small station will be constructed at Udwada by the railway company but if he or his friends could improve the road from the station to Udwada village.

Seth Behramji on 20th October 1869 wrote a letter to Mr. T. C. Hope, Collector of Surat and offered to pay half the expenses for repairing the road. Mr. Hope accepted the offer by his letter of 8th January 1870 to Seth Behramji and stated “… the Local Fund Committee will undertake hereafter to improve it as far as the means at their disposal will allow.”

Thereafter Seth Behramji on 8th April 1870 deposited Rs.2,000/-  in Surat’s Government Treasury for the road to Udwada village. The railway company constructed a small temporary station at Udwada and inaugurated it on 23rd December 1869. The road to the Udwada village was built on 25th May 1870.

Bai Motlabai Jehangirji Wadia contributed Rs.68,000/- ( Rs.38,000/- for constructing the permanent road and Rs, 30,000/- for its repairs)from Udwada station to the Atash Behram. The railway company demolished the 25 year old temporary station and built a permanent station 3/4th mile away and inaugurated it on 1st January 1896.

(Source: Parsee Prakash Vol. Ii  Translated from Gujarati into English by Marzban Jamshedji Giara)

Udvada Station recently renovated now

Sarosh Yazad Panah Baad! – How Divine Help saved a devout Parsi family – part 1

The Bharuch Mansion (picturized, not real)
The Bharucha Mansion (imagined, not real)

It was a quiet evening, of an yet un-eventful day, the 23rd of July, 1922. Those were the days when Mumbai was still a cluster of the main city and the distant suburbs made up of small villages. In the hamlet of Marol, situated in the suburb of Andheri, Putlibai and her husband Ardeshir Merwanji Bharucha, along with their children, and Ardeshir’s brother, Darabsha, had just finished their dinner. They settled down in their sprawling mansion, called Shapur Baug, nested amongst many acres of verdant land covered with numerous trees and gardens.

The property had been acquired and built by their illustrious relative Sir Shapurji Bharucha, a self-made man and one of the leading stock brokers of his day, well known as the person who had gifted to charity, in those days of easy prices, the staggering sum of Rs. 25 lakhs. In admiration and recognition of this astounding charity, which was given for both Parsi as well as cosmopolitan purposes, the British Empire had knighted the gentleman.

Sir Shapurji Bharucha

An intensely devout and very traditional Parsi family, the Bharuchas, despite their great wealth and prosperity, never forgot their humble roots. The expansive mansion was built in such a way as to enable the easy practice of all the Tarikats of purity and ritual cleanliness of the faith. The family had also installed a small Atash Dadgah, which was kept burning perpetually and also kept on the estate a full time Priest to tend to the Fire and offer Boi at regular intervals. Of the many rooms in the mansion, one room had been specially set aside and was out of bounds for any non-Parsi or any non-family member. In this room, was kept a very heavy, fire-proof safe where the many riches of the family were stored. On top of this giant safe was kept a perpetually burning Divo along with a framed picture of Prophet Asho Zarathushtra. Next to the safe was also kept a photograph of Sir Shapurji Bharucha who had passed away recently. This room was cleaned and maintained only by the family members and no servant or non-Parsi was allowed to enter.

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JRB Jeejeebhoy – The Google of Bombay!

Mumbai has forgotten the ‘leading historian’ who once highlighted its forgotten past

JRB Jeejeebhoy, who wrote numerous pieces on the city and its heritage from the 1920s to the 1950s, has met the fate of his subjects.

JRB Jeejeebhoy | Asiatic Society of Mumbai

History unfortunately has been superseded in favour of flighty novels and trashy periodicals, with the result that the investigation and research into the ancient annals of cities and villages have been entirely neglected. It is sincerely to be hoped that this branch of the study will interest the present and the future generations and that they will continue to concern themselves with the history of the origin and rise of their ancient cities and towns and with the narratives of the hardships, enterprises, successes and misfortunes of their adventurous and intrepid ancestors.

— JRB Jeejeebhoy, 1927.

If one were to think of a household name in Mumbai that has endured for over the last two centuries, it would most likely be Jeejeebhoy. There is no escaping the name in the city: it graces hospitals, schools, colleges, dharamshalas, and everything in between. And the person most associated with the name is Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy (1783-1859), the famous philanthropist and opium merchant, who made his fortune in the Bombay Country Trade with China in the first half of the 19th century. Given his contributions, any namesake was bound to be burdened with his reputation.

Now imagine if Jeejeebhoy was your first name and last – the chances of being confused with the original Jeejeebhoy would surely double. Improbably, such a person did exist. Born in 1885, he was Jeejeebhoy Rustomjee Byramjee Jeejeebhoy, a scion of the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy family, then the leading industrialists of Bombay with a range of textile mills and heavy industries under their control.

With such a privileged background, Jeejeebhoy could have very well led a life of leisure and luxury. But he had other plans. For nearly four decades, from the 1920s to the late 1950s, he wrote numerous long and short pieces on Bombay and presented facets of its history to the public for the first time. Linking the past to the present, he was perhaps one of the first to be concerned with city heritage and its loss.

Practically everything about the city of Bombay and its history interested Jeejeebhoy and often provoked an article or two. It could be its famed mango trees, which not only had exquisite taste but also fruited twice a year, in May and December. Or the first time an elephant came to the city – Richard Bourchier, governor of Bombay from 1750 to 1760, was gifted an elephant by Peshwa Balaji Bajirao. The East India Company was so alarmed by the elephant’s food bill that the governor was asked to get rid of it forthwith. The first consignment of ice in Bombay (imported from Boston in 1834) interested Jeejeebhoy as much as the manufacturing of aerated waters (again from the 1830s). Subjects as diverse as keeping the Sabbath and the practice of witchcraft caught his attention. From describing the advent of moving pictures and complaining about the perennial problem of rash driving to remembering the long-forgotten first Indian judge of the High Court of Bombay and recalling the prevalence of slave trade in the city, Jeejeebhoy’s range was wide.

An early depiction of the Parsi Tower of Silence in Bombay from 'A Voyage to the East Indies' (London, 1772) by John Grose.
An early depiction of the Parsi Tower of Silence in Bombay from ‘A Voyage to the East Indies’ (London, 1772) by John Grose.

Jeejeebhoy went to St Xavier’s College for his undergraduate studies but did not bother to acquire a degree. After a brief stint at the London School of Economics, he turned to politics and joined the Congress in 1914. Upon entering public life, he preferred to be known as JRB Jeejeebhoy. A close associate of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Jeejeebhoy was aligned with the party’s liberal faction, which advocated a less confrontational policy against the British. By 1919, the National Liberal Federation had been formed in direct opposition to the Congress and its new leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Actively working against Gandhi’s campaigns, Jeejeebhoy took the attack to the enemy camp by writing a pamphlet titled Non-Co-operation: Its Pros and Cons in 1921. Though pushed to the sidelines by the charisma and public appeal of Gandhi, the National Liberal Federation continued to pursue its policies, and Jeejeebhoy was associated with them at least until the late 1930s.

But it was just as well that active politics did not consume him. It allowed him to devote his time to his first love: writing about the city of Bombay, its history and its heritage.

Jeejeebhoy was perhaps one of the first people to lament the rapid destruction of built heritage in the city. During his own lifetime, Bombay lost hundreds of structures built in the 19th century, including his birthplace, the famed Mazagaon Castle, which was the residence of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, his maternal great-grandfather. The destruction of the historical Police Court Building in Mazagon in a fire in 1942 resulted in a piece of nostalgic writing. The closure of iconic institutions, whether they were educational institutions like the Deccan College (in 1934) or judicial institutions like the Honorary Presidency Magistrate’s Courts (in 1947), troubled him, and he used the opportunity to talk about their history in the hope that others could be perpetuated. The Parsi community, to which Jeejeebhoy belonged, was an area of special interest to him. Not only was he concerned with their history, including their settling in Bombay from the 17th century and their achievements in numerous fields, he also documented the rapid cultural reforms that the community adopted during his lifetime.

Jama Pichori, the Parsi ceremonial dress.
Jama Pichori, the Parsi ceremonial dress.

Scouring decaying volumes of old Bombay newspapers, such as the Bombay Courier, the Bombay Gazette and the Bombay Saturday Review, Jeejeebhoy excavated nuggets of information, which he polished into entertaining articles. He was the first person to attempt a history of the law and judiciary in Bombay, which resulted in a corpus of writings that can serve as a standard reference on the subject. Crime and punishment held a great fascination for Jeejeebhoy. While he worked hard to rehabilitate released prisoners in the Bombay Presidency, he also traced the gruesome history of corporal punishments and executions in the city with a certain gusto. His magnum opus, Bribery and Corruption in Bombay(published in 1952), is concerned with the same subject.

Many of his Bombay writings appeared in the special Pateti and Nowroze issues of Anglo-Gujarati periodicals like the Sanj Vartaman Annual and Kaiser-i-Hind that have completely vanished from the public eye. He also wrote for the leading English newspapers of Bombay: the Times of Indiaand the Bombay Chronicle. Though positioned on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, both dailies opened their columns to Jeejeebhoy gladly.

‘Sanj Vartaman Annual’, 1948, featuring leading film actress Nirupa Roy on the front cover

During his lifetime, Jeejeebhoy enjoyed a reputation as “Bombay’s leading historian”, but after his death in 1960, his numerous writings gradually disappeared from public memory. Jeejeebhoy thus shared this fate with many of the subjects of his articles, who had long been forgotten until he wrote about them. And like them, Jeejeebhoy can also hope to enjoy a second lease of life through the works of 21st century writers.

JRB Jeejeebhoy’s select writings on the history of Bombay have been collected in a volume titled J R B Jeejeebhoy’s Bombay Vignettes: Explorations in the History of Bombay (edited with an introduction by Murali Ranganathan). Published by the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, it is priced at Rs 950.ADVERTISEMENT

All photos courtesy the Asiatic Society of Mumbai.

Also read:

‘He was the Google of Mumbai’: Foy Nissen’s photos reveal his intimate relationship with the city

The unlikely connection between a church in Bandra and a World War I memorial in Brighton

Murali Ranganathan

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