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The Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman




The first Parsis came to Madras from Coorg, where they were traders and dubashes. King Veera Rajendra of Coorg treatied with the British against his local enemies.  When he passed away, his brother, Lingaraja, sent a deputation in 1809 to Madras to deliver a picture of the late Veerarajendra to the Governor of Fort. St. George. Mr Hirjibhai Maneckji Kharas was one of them and thus came the first Parsi to Madras.

He was accompanied by five other Parsis and two priests. Perhaps preferring the trade options offered by Madras, they bought a plot in Royapuram, opposite the Catholic Church. A few years later, additional land was leased out from the Governor, Edward Clive. The current burial ground is in a portion of this land.

There is hardly any record of the next fifty years. On November 20, 1876, the Parsis formed themselves into an association known as the Parsi Panchayat. When the Crown assumed sovereignty in 1858, all lands leased out by the Company for a term of 99 years, were deemed to be the property of the lessees. Thus, in 1895, the ownership of the plot in Royapuram was transferred to the President of the Panchayat. In 1900, this body was renamed The Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman. 

The Parsis of the 1900s were generally a prosperous lot. There were dealers of motor cars and cycles, perfumes and dyes. There were Government and Railway officials, managers of banks and shops. The first Irani families came to Madras only around 1900. They too were entrepreneurial and set up pocket friendly Irani Cafes, and cinema theatres.

All the Zoroastrian community properties in Chennai come under the aegis of the Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman.

The Parsi Club - Jal Phiroj Clubwala Memorial Hall, and The Pavilion

To honour Phiroj Clubwala after his death, the community bought a building called Greenfields in 1927, and made it both a memorial hall and a club, with a separate indoor badminton court which was opened in 1930, and where many popular badminton tournaments were held. The community now had a meeting place where members could participate in sports and cultural activities and celebrate festivals and marriages.  In 1980, the Parsi Club was completely renovated largely due to the efforts of Mr J H Tarapore and Mrs Mani Jehangir CIubwala. Mrs Sherry Batliwala & Mr. Noshir Ratnagar led the community in the production of a series of plays that  proved to be good fundraisers. Much later, the main hall underwent extensive renovations and was fully airconditioned for the Agiary’s Centenary on 10 July 2010. The community extends their deep gratitude to Mr & Mrs Darius Bahadurji and Mr & Mrs Darayes Dalal, since their generous contributions, added to the contributions from the three community organisations, made these expensive upgradations possible. Similarly, the badminton Pavilion also was refurbished  with the support of funds from Darius and Tehnaz Bahadurji, and inaugurated on 21 March, 2018 nearing the approach of the Agiari’s 110th anniversary.

Air conditioning and renovating these two halls has been very important for the community, as renting them out has created a steady income stream that has provided long term financial security, as well as the finances to repair and renovate all the Anjuman properties in the short term. Chennai has had a minor influx of young people coming here on jobs, and they have benefited from this economical housing. It has also encouraged a few of them to stay on and put down roots, which replenishes the youthful energy and vigour of the community.

There is another residential building on Arathoon Road, whose income is dedicated to the Dar-e-Meher, which currently requires extensive maintenance.

 Parsi Anjuman Bagh

Our Parsi Anjuman Bagh in Chennai is a sprawling property containing our Dharamsala, which is comprised of three buildings - a graceful 100-year old heritage red brick building called the Jal Phiroj Memorial Building, greatly in need of expensive restoration under the guidance of an expert conservation architect, a dormitory section called the Fardoonji block, and a building containing the living quarters for the dharamsala manager, along with a few rooms.

Within the Bagh, there is a pillar commemorating the earliest Chennai Zoroastrian settlers. Also in the Bagh are our Bangli known as Khorshed Hall, the Aramgah and a Wall of Remembrance recording early deaths in the community.

There are also some residential buildings and a small hall within the complex. The Billimoria Block built by Mr Maneckji Dorabji Billimoria, and the Zal Rustom Irani Memorial Building, face Arathoon Road, Nogi Phil Cottage is within the compound, and Framji Hall has access from West Mada Church Street. Also with access from West Mada Church Street, is the bungalow built by Mr Dinshaw Amalsad, and later purchased by the Anjuman as per a prior agreement. The small hall in the Bagh complex was built in memory of Sohrab H R Engineer, an airmail pilot whose plane crashed nearby.

There are also a number of wells in the Dharamsala complex, but most of them are only being used as recharge wells for rain water harvesting. There are many large trees, and this area has been made green and verdant with flowering plants through the efforts of Firdause Jila.

Zoroastrian Temple Shrine at the Theosophical Society        

The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, is a worldwide body headquartered in Chennai. Its primary object is Universal Brotherhood without distinction on race, gender, creed or any other factor. Theosophists respect different beliefs and encourage the study of all religions. There are shrines dedicated to major religions on the Theosophical Society grounds in Adyar, Chennai, including a Zoroastrian Temple Shrine, along with Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh shrines, which are maintained by the Theosophical Society.

- Compiled by Zarin Mistry, Roshan Poncha & Tehnaz Bahadurji

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