Parsis of Baroda

On the banks of the river Vishwamitri lies the erstwhile State of Baroda. The city of Baroda has now been renamed as Vadodara. At present it is the third largest city of Gujarat, after Ahmedabad and Surat and has a population nearing 18 lakhs.

 

On November 6, 1642 the "Parsee Prakash" takes note of a first Parsi Panchayat assembly at Navsari, but it seems that the Panchayat only established its authority after Bombay was taken over by the British The Panchayat was constituted by the Elders and influential members of the Community.

 

With a 'Dokhma ' in Baroda near Vishwamitri constructed as far back as 2nd May 1842 i.e 156 years ago, and the imposing Umrigar Agiari in Fatehgunj constructed on 1st February1845, it is safe to conclude that Parsis have been living in Baroda since the last 200 years or even more. History records that Parsis played a very active role as political agents in the courts of the Maharajas in the 19th century. In 1800 the earliest Parsi in Baroda was A. Desai, he was of great service in negotiations between the British and the Gaekwar. The other Parsi at the court of the Peshwa was Khursedji Jamsedii Modi, who hailed from Khambhat and was appointed Native Agent to the British. These were two of the earliest Parsis, whose names have been recorded in history and who served under the Gaekwar of Baroda. There must have been a flux of Parsis to Baroda at this time and no better proof can be provided than the construction of the Dokhma in 1842 and the Umrigar Agiari in 1845. The next Parsi to be heard of was the eminent Dadabhai Naoroji in 1873 Gaekwar Maihar Rao of Baroda who was charged by the British with maladministration, called upon Dadabhai Naoroji and made him the Dewan of Baroda in 1874. Dadabhai took up the challenge and it has been recorded that during the short period of two years that he was Dewan of Baroda, Dadabhai Naoroji had repressed bribery and corruption which had overwhelmed the administration of justice in the State. Due to uncalled for interference and unsubstantiated allegations against him by the British Resident, he resigned and returned to Bombay and from there went to England where he fought for India's freedom and was the first Indian to be elected to the British House of Commons by a wafer thin majority of 3 voles.

 

As on today, the Parsi Community in Vadodara compromises of 305 families, totalling 1059 individuals (49% Males, 51% Females). Our Panchayat is a unique institution which combines within itself all types of activities, religious, social, cultural, educational etc.

 

The Trustees' main objective has always been to work for the welfare of the Vadodara Parsi Panchayat and for the happiness of the entire Comminity. Our Dharamshala in Hira Baug, Fatehgunj, is one of the most well maintained and comfortable rest houses to live who come from outside Vadodara. The Vadodara Parsi Panchayat was officially registered as a "Trust" on November 13, 1953 with the Charity Commissioner's Office, Vadodara bearing Registration No. C-2. The Trustees of the Vadodara Parsi Panchayat hold dual responsibility, first as leaders of the community, and second as Trustees of the various funds and properties. Each one knows that as a Trustee, he has to be involved in manifold responsibilities involving him in every big and small decision. This involves several hours of work each week, apart from the Board Meetings at which 2-3 hours are spent.

 

The Trustees of the Panchayat have to maintain, manage, improve, develop and deal with the properties. under their control, which includes the Dokhma, Agiari, Dharamshala premises and the Pirojsha Godrel Hall. They also manage the religious, charitable and other trust funds entrusted to them created for the benefit of the Parsi community, or for some specific purpose (like 'Gambhars') Other problems concerning the Community also requires their attention and action. While most of the above activities are left to the Trustees of a progressive Panchayat like ours. Their Major achievement has been to maintain complete unity and harmony between all members of the community and have made themselves available and open to new ideas. Various Committees to deal with specific issues been constituted where other members of the Community are involved. This tradition has come, over the in years in Vadodara. At the helm of the Panchayat have been its past Presidents, who have played a very vital role in the running of the Panchayat affairs. 

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