Parsi Businessman of Mumbai, Old Photo 1890
Old 1890 photo of a Parsi businessman of Bombay, now Mumbai. In the 17th Century, the British arrived in India to trade and came into conflict with the Portuguese. Fifty years later the British acquired the seven islands of Bombay not by force but as a gift. The islands were included as part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. When she married King Charles II of England in 1661.
The islands of Bombay eventually developed into a single landmass by reclamation. It was a slow process and during the 18th century, the city gradually developed as a trading station. But from 1830 onwards a much more rapid and commercial expansion took place. The growing prosperity, together with religious tolerance shown by the British, attracted immigrants from all over the Indian sub-continent and from abroad.
Out of these were the Parsis, they were shrewd businessmen from Gujarat who came to make their fortunes. Parsis- a Zoroastrian community that had fled from Persia in the 8th century because of persecution. They moved down to Mumbai from Gujarat where they first settled. The British had first encountered the Parsis in Surat and had found them valuable as middlemen between themselves and their Indian suppliers.
They possessed skills that were badly needed in a growing city, they were traders and shipbuilders. They soon became the most influential group in the city. In 1735 the East India Company found it difficult to procure enough ships and repair them locally. Persuaded a Parsi shipbuilder, Naserwanji Wadia to move his operations from Surat to Mumbai. He arrived in 1736 and established a shipyard.
From then on the Wadia family was to be inevitably linked with the history of Bombay docks. The Parsis are today one of the most formidable business people in India. The Tatas have the most prolific businesses the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel is one of them. Air-India was a Tata enterprise before the government nationalized it in 1953. But Air-India has again seemed to have fallen back into the Tata lap after an auction. This businessman of Mumbai shown in the photograph probably traded in cotton which was one of the primary commodities that the city thrived by export. Click on the photo for better view.
See my post on Zoroastrian Temple Parsi Fire Temple Mumbai – Old Postcard 1905.
Did you know- Mahim had coconut groves well into the twentieth century, although today it is an upscale residential cum commercial area.