In the spirit of celebrating the delightful Parsi community, let’s visit some quintessentially Parsi places this Navroze, right here in the heart of Mumbai. The best bit is that we’ve found 5 that are within a radius of 2 kms, each just an easy stroll away from the other.
Britannia and Co. Restaurant, Wakefield House
A hearty meal comes highly recommended before commencing anything that involves even a mild exertion. Ask a Parsi and he couldn’t agree more. So Britannia as a starting point to your sojourn will meet with wholehearted approval. The berry pulav, dhansak, and sali boti come recommended.
Mon – Sat, 11:30 am – 4 pm; Average cost for 2 – Rs1000
Maneckji Sett Agiary, Perin Nariman Street
Built in 1733, the Manekji Sett Agiary’s Atash Adarn (holy fire) was consecrated on June 19th, 1733 and has burnt continuously ever since. Its stunning architecture is perfectly maintained and offers a visual treat even from the outside. The Sheedu Lamassu statues – an Assyrian protective deity with the head of a human, the body of a bull, and the wings of a bird – that stand at the entrance are particularly stunning.
Non-Parsis are not permitted inside the agiary.
Esplanade House, Azad Maidan
The erstwhile residence of Jamsetji Tata was built in a renaissance revival architectural style and designed by the reputed firm of Gostling & Morris, with inputs from Mr. Tata himself. Completed in 1837, the intricate stone carvings, a grand cast-iron & teak staircase, and exquisite stained glass windows lend an air of royalty to this place. Immaculately restored, it has found a mention in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Restoration list of 2014.
J N Petit Institute Library, 5, Maharshi Dadhichi Marg
Dating back to 1856, the J N Petit Institute Library is one of the oldest in Mumbai. Housing a collection of over 150,000 books, it also has one of the largest reading rooms in Asia. A year’s membership costs a mere Rs. 1,000 and grants you access to countless old Zoroastrian manuscripts, along with a rare copy of Firdausi’s 11th century epic poem Shahnama, illustrated with gold leaf. But even if ancient publications aren’t your thing, the Gothic styled structure and period architecture are sure to catch your fancy.
The library is open 365 days a year, from 7 am to 8:30 pm.
Mumbai Samachar Building, Horniman circle
Its distinctive red brick façade houses the office of the Mumbai Samachar, India’s oldest continuously published newspaper. First printed on the 1st of July 1822, it is now on the verge of its bicentennial year. And while you’re there, keep a lookout for a maroon ’56 Chevy Bel Air. Owned by Hormus Cama, the current proprietor of the Mumbai Samachar, this automobile has been the pride of many a vintage car rallies, and a perfect testament to the meticulousness of the Parsi community.
Anjuman Deodhar quit medical school to pursue his passion for writing. A well-heeled traveller, intrepid birder and wildlife enthusiast, he is currently working on a memoir of the 15 years he spent with "the dog who didn't know better".