Journey & Settlement in India



"When the dastur saw that fair land,
He chose a place for their abode there.
The dastur named it Sanjan,
As in the kingdom of Iran, and it became inhabited.
From that day they use the surname Sanjana
Know that this name is from that city"
(Qisseh ye Sanjan, 190-92)

The prose work, Qisseh ye Sanjan, tells of the legendary journey undertaken by a group of Zoroastrians who set sail from the port of Hormuz in Iran to escape persecution at the hands of Muslim rulers. Landing eventually on the west coast of India, they became known by the Indians as the Parsis or Persians and were allowed to practise their religion and establish a sacred fire. Centuries later, with the arrival in India of European merchants in the 17th century, the rural Parsi community became urbanised, and the development of a wealthy and well-educated Parsi middle class contributed significantly to the economic growth of Bombay. By the early 19th century Parsis under colonial rule were engaged in the export of raw cotton and opium to China as well as other long-distance trading activities.

From the 18th century onwards the European art of portraiture became popular among wealthy Parsi patrons. Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy (1783-1859), a Parsi merchant who had made his fortune in the opium trade, commissioned a painting by George Chinnery in which he is examining documents presented to him by his Chinese secretary. His daughter, Pherozebai Shapurjee Batliwala was painted wearing a long embroidered sudreh with the kusti tied around her waist. She holds a book as an indication of her English education. Parsis and Iranis (as later Zoroastrian migrants from Iran were called) were responsible for the growth of hotels, cafes and small businesses in Bombay. In Britain the first three Asian members of parliament were Parsis one of whom, Muncherjee Bhownagree, corresponded with the Shah of Iran and lobbied for political representation in the Majles for Iranian Zoroastrians.

Map of Hormuz Three Parsi Gentlemen Unidentified Parsi Girl Advertisements Nowrouz Greetings from Iran