The Diamond Jubilee of the Bangalore Agiani
and Fifty-Two Years of My Service
ERVAD NADIRSHAH P. UNVALLA
The Bai Dhunmal and Cawasji Dadabhoy Dar-e-Meher which was founded 1926 by the late Seth Dinshaw Cawasji of Khandala, completes sixty glorious years of its existence in January 1986.
It was my good fortune, that I joined the service of this Agiari in August 1934, and have continued so since then. I joined as an Assistant Priest, under my revered father, from whom I received inspiration and experience of administering various religious ceremonies and other duties towards the “Behdins” of Bangalore.
During these long years, my late father, Pestonji Unvalla, passed through very difficult times to maintain harmony between people of divergent views. We both realized, that to do the service in the name of the community and the religion, we require integrity, courage and devotion to duty. We belong to Udvada, the place of holy pilgrimage for Parses. We both shared the same staunch Orthodox views, and age long religious customs. Sometimes, we were disheartened, but we faced all difficulties and opposition with the courage of our convictions, and hard work.
After accepting the Panthak of Bangalore, my revered father was able to establish with the help of the late Seth D. Cawasji and others, four big institutions in Banglore. Today, the worth and value of these institutions has grown tremendously. In 1927, the Aramgarh sadly lacked a prayer hall or even a compound wall. My father got these built. In 1932 the Lady Kothari Memorial Hall came into existence, with the munificent donation of the late Sir Jehangir Kothari of Karachi. This hall came into the control of the Anjuman, thanks to the persuasiveness of the late D. Cawasji and my father.
In the year 1937, the Anjuman thought of building a Tower of Silence, in which again my father gave his best efforts and spent a number of years to the completion of this project.
I feel that it is not inappropriate here to mention the controversy concerning the Tower of Silence and Aramgarh. In brief, I can outline this old history. In 1936-37, the majority of the Parsis were eager to have this facility and their number was rapidly increasing in Bangalore. Among them were the late Sir Hormusji Adenwalla, the late Seth P. N. Mehta, Seth D. Cawasji, Mr. Nusserwanji Dinshaw Mr. Ardeshir Hakim, Mr. N. Pestonji, Mr. Faramji Colah and Dr. Jamshed Patel. The Anjuman resolved to collect funds and established a Committee to do so. They acquired land, and also obtained the necessary Permission from the Government to establish a Dokhma in Bangalore. My father was appointed Hon. Secretary to this committee. The late Mr. D. Cawasji as President, and the late Dr. T. P. Kapadia as the Hon. Treasurer. Within a short Period of eighteen months, this committee was able to collect Rs.1,25,000/- and secure a valuable plot of over fourteen acres of land in Hebbal for Rs.6,000/-. This has appreciated in value a hundred fold. The construction of the Tower and Bungli, was started in December 1938 and everything was completed in record time of fifteen months, at a cost of Rs.70,000/-.
After the Tower of Silence came into existence, an unhealthy controversy took root, which lasted for nearly five years. The matter went as far as the law courts. But with the passage of time, that bitterness and hostility settled down, leaving the Parses of Bangalore still divided into two factions. However, gradually they have come to forget their differences, and joined hands for the Common good of the community.
The narration of the above episode is necessary here, because during the time that this project was undertaken, my revered father and I, together with our whole family, suffered much criticism, even brickbats and insults, because we remained unshaken our staunch beliefs in the Zoroastrian faith and its traditions.
During the year 1956-67, the Dharamshala came into existence, thanks to the munificent donation of the late Burjorji and Banoobai Entee, This project came up with the help Of the late Mr. E. K. Palia, Mr. Dhunjishaw Manekii and again my father.
Then in the year 1969-70, the Kathari Hall Annexe Building was constructed. This project was ably handled by our present President, Mr. B. S. Sidhwa. In this, I worked hard along with him, so that we were able to give shelter to nine needy families.
With the Passing away of the previous President, Mr. E. K. Palia, his son and then trustee, Mr. Phiroze Palia made a contribution to put up a small office block at the southernmost part of the Agiari compound. The rent thus obtained is utilized for the maintenance of other properties.
After my father's demise, I was appointed the Panthaki of the Bangalore Dar‑E‑Meher in 1965. Since then I have performed my duties as Panthaki, which included performing various ceremonies, delivering lectures, imparting religious knowledge to Parsi children and expounding our religious beliefs and customs to various groups of non-Parsi visitors, from India and abroad. Amongst them, I give presentations regularly to the students of comparative religious, at the United Theoligical College.
In my experience, I have often seen that in every Anjuman, the Panthakis must follow the instructions of the Trustees. I agree that the Panthakis and their assistants are the paid employees of the Anjuman, hence, the duty of the Panthaki abide by the instructions of the Trustees, so long as they do not violate our religious commandments and our own conscience. The Panthaki’s duty is to guide the members of the community, advise them in the right direction, visit individuals in their hour of need or distress and in doing so, if I have overlooked some instructions, because they are in opposition to my own convictions, I ask to be excused.
My late parents, Mobed Pestonji and Meherbanco, inculcated in me, a strong sense of dedication and duty, and I would not have been able to continue in the service of this Agiari for so long if I were not supported by them and my brothers Faram and Jamshed, along with my sisters Gool, late Piloo, Dhun, Nergish and Banoo. After my marriage, my devoted wife Manijeh joined hands with me to carry out my various tasks and duties. I owe my grateful thanks to all of them.
In the end I must mention, that during these sixty years many people have given their service as assistants priests. I would be failing in my duty, if I do not mention a few of them, like the late Noshirwan Unwalla, Manekshaw Bhadha, Shiavax Bhadha and Jamshed Bhadha. Now retired or working elsewhere are Ervad Mormugii B. Unvalla, Bhikhaji D. Sidhwa, Shiavax Sidhwa, Tehmurasp Anklesaria and Fali Dastoor. Presently, we have since the last eighteen years, Ervad Janshed Chinoy to assist in all matters.
I owe my special, thanks to my brother Jamshed, who has assisted both my father and then me, during the last fifty years, without any remuneration. So also I place on record my gratitude to my three sons, Adil, Yezdi, and Khurshed, and my nephews Aspy, Cyrus, and Nowroze Antia, for their willing help in carrying out my duties towards the Agiari.
The Anjuman is also fortunate in having had two Parsi helpers in the late Naoroji Todywalia, and presently Jamshed Pastakia, who has a long and faithful service of over thirty years.
Finally, I would like to thank the past and present Trustees of the The Bangalore Parsee Zoroastrian Anjuman who have always respected my views and many a time have taken me into their confidence to manage the affairs of the Anjuman. I am deeply indebted to my benefactor Mr. Kali Cawasji, Bai Alumai D. Cawasji, and Dr. Tehmurasp Kapadia who has inspired me to render my service responsibility and sincerity.
To all those friends and well-wishers, who freely gave of their time and effort towards the success of the Diamond Jubilee celebration and the fund raising for this occasion, I owe my thanks. Special mention should be made of Mr. Homi Jijina, though far away, was most helpful.
I pray to the Almighty that the Parsis of Bangalore may flourish and lead a life of service in the Zoroastrian way. May the younger generation be united in marriage within the community and keep the Zoroastrian flame alight always.