When speaking at Cross Maidan Bhagwan always had to estimate the number of listeners, as he could choose between big scale in Cross Maidan near Churchgate or the smaller Cross Maidan near Dhobi Talaoa. Sometimes bookstalls were set up for the sale of Osho’s booklets and magazines: “I have to take care of maintaining the bookstall at Cross Maidan. We are hardly eight to ten friends who are actively involved in this work during Osho’s discourses and Bhagawati is one of them…This week passes very fast and Osho is back from Mount Abu. Tonight at 6:30pm He starts a new series of discourses. Nearly ten thousand people have gathered to listen to Him at Cross Maidan. The bookstall is very busy and I am worried about Bhagwati who has still not arrived to help me. Discourses continue for nearly one and a half hours and still there is no trace of Bhagwati. Somehow, with the help of a few friends, I manage the bookstall.” (Jyoti 1994 #74 & #75)
That Mahavir had not been entirely dismissed from Bhagwan’s broad repertoire was shown when a new series took off in Patkar Hall in Bombay on August 18th 1971, Mahavir Vani (The Voice of Mahavir). The discourse series was held in the mornings from 8.30 to 10.00 a.m. for eighteen days. The participants were chanting the five salutations Namokar Mantra honouring the Arihants, the ascetics, the acharyas, the Upadhyayas and all the saints of the world. Following this, Bhagwan started to throw his light on the scientific importance of sound and the secrets of electromagnetic field. “The gate of your heart opens as you perform salutation and dedication and also your receptivity increases…One who can perform these five salutations with full reverence can only experience and tell that this formula is quite auspicious and destroys all the sins.” This series lasted until September 4th, 1971. (Bhed 2006, p. 341) (57)
Poona. Although there are some hints of earlier Parsis in Poona, the main period of their arrival was post 1818, when the British took control of the city from the Marathi Peshwas following the battles of Kirkee and Yeraoda in 1817 and Koregaon in January 1818. Previously, the Parsis had been suppliers to the British forces in Sirar and moved with them to Poona. One known individual was J. M. Chinoy who had opened a shop at Shirur camp and in Poona in 1814 (d. aged 100 in 1891, see Patel and Paymaster, III, pp. 365-66), and thus he was an eyewitness to the wars between the Peshwas and the British. At Poona, Parsis started as shopkeepers supplying the Europeans (a then common synonym for British), but one of them, Khursetji Jamsetjee Mody (1755-1815), achieved high office in this early period. Mody joined the service of the British Residency at Poona in 1800, rising to the position of native agent to Colonel Sir Barry Close, Resident at Poona, a position he held for ten years. He came to the attention of the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao II, who made him revenue commissioner of the Carnatac. Mody faced plots from some Marathas who accused him of corruption before the Peshwa. These charges were unsubstantiated, but when Elphinstone was told that Mody was plotting with the Marathas against the British, Elphinstone demanded that he choose between the two positions, and he chose to continue with the British. Fearing for his life, Mody planned to leave Poona, but was poisoned the day before his planned departure (Darukhanawala, I, pp. 137-38; Karaka, II, pp. 40-41).
The first known Parsi edifices in Poona were two daḵmas, one built in 1825 and a larger one built in 1835 (Patel, pp. 40, 76). From approximately 1835, it became known as the “monsoon capital” of the Presidency, because government and the wealthy spent the monsoon period in the hills, away from the heat and humidity of Bombay. In 1838 Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy funded a dharmsala near Poona for travelers of all communities (Patel and Paymaster, I, p. 330). In 1840 he had a jašan (celebration with liturgical services) performed in Poona and announced plans to build a dar-e mehr there, though his correspondence suggests he only made his first visit in 1841 (Patel and Paymaster, I, p. 380). In 1843 the Patel dar-e mehr was opened, followed a year later by that of Jamasetji Jeejeebhoys (Patel, p. 97; Giara, pp. 128, 126). The Patel Agiari appointed as its first dastur a son of a Navsari dastur, Dastur Jamaspji Edulji (on the Poona branch of the JamaspAsa lineage, see Jamasp Ashana, pp. 41-152). As with the Bombay branch of the lineage, several of them were born and studied in Navsari, although they went on to later to Poona. Dastur Jamaspji Dastur was the high priest of the Deccan and active in the period 1824-46. He was one of the dasturs to whom various anjumans (association, assembly) turned for guidance on the consecration of agiaris and daḵmas (see below).
It is difficult to plot a history of the community on the scant information that has reached us. We know that a daḵ-ma was built there in 1654 (Patel, p. 3), a dar-e mehr in 1727 and another in 1760 (Patel and Paymaster, I, pp. 27 41; Patel, pp. 7, 14), and an Anjuman daḵ-ma was consecrated in 1833 with 5,000-6,000 Parsis having gathered to celebrate (Patel, pp. 3, 71). There were violent incidents involving Parsis and Muslims in Broach. In 1702, a Parsi called a Muslim a fakir (mendicant), and the nawab gave the Parsi the choice either to convert to Islam or be executed; he chose death and his memory continues to be honored in prayers in Broach (Patel and Paymaster, I, p. 22). In 1857 there were Parsi-Muslim riots in Broach. It was alleged that a Parsi (B. S. Bharucha) had entered a mosque; in retaliation two Parsi agiaris were desecrated, and some Parsis were killed, including the panthaki (a senior mobed who allocates priestly duties in his panthak), and the fire was extinguished. Bharucha himself was violently assaulted and then dragged through the streets. Five others were also killed (Patel and Paymaster, I, p. 728; other Muslim-Parsi riots occurred in the area in 1851 and 1874, see Palsetia, pp. 187-89). By way of contrast, the only indication of Parsi-Hindu relations is one Kamdin R. Bhagat (d. 1815), known as Bhagat (pious), because of his singing of Hindu Bhajans. A Hindu officer visited him weekly to venerate a pippal tree in his grounds (Patel and Paymaster, I, p. 130).
The earliest Parsi settlers in Poona were traders, but increasingly more became professionals, lawyers and doctors especially. In part this was because of the educational facilities of Poona that dated back to the early times of Hindu priestly centers there. In the second half of the 19th century, Parsi benefactors donated much to educational institutions. One of the early benefactors was Rustom Jamsetjee Jigibhoy who, for example, in 1863 gave 1,500 rupees to a convent school in Poona, and a further 1,000 rupees for student residences at Poona College; in 1864 Sir Rustam Jamsetjee Jigibhoy gave 100,000 rupees to the Deccan College in Poona; in 1865 C. J. Readymoney funded the building of an engineering college and in 1869 gave money for a science college; in 1878, Behramji Jeejeebhoy founded a medical school in the city; and in 1889 Sir Dinshah M. Petit gave a large plot of land for a bacteriological laboratory as part of the Science College (Patel and Paymaster, II, pp. 73, 128, 162, 654, III p. 315, 757). The Sardar Dastur Noshirvan School for Zoroastrian girls, mainly attracting students from middle class families, started in 1893; Zoroastrianism was included in the syllabus and daily prayers were said (Patel and Paymaster, II, p. 412). Until 1947, when it had to become inter-communal, it had the reputation of being one of the best schools in the Presidency. It also had boarding facilities for students coming from afar. A school for boys was not opened until 1912, because it had been thought that there were better provisions for boys’ education in the 19th century (Patel and Paymaster, V, p. 1; see also Oturkar, p. 94). This focus on educational charity continued into the 20th century, when Sir D. J. Tata (1859-1932) and Sir R. J. Tata gave 15,000 rupees for the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Poona and a further 25,000 rupees to the Institute for a Persian and Arabic Department (Patel and Paymaster, V, p. 67, VI, p. 4; Oturkar, pp. 98-99). In 1930 Sir Dorabji Tata Trusts gave 15,000 rupees per annum for five years to establish a Tata section in agricultural economics at the Gokhale Institute for Politics, and two years later Sir Cusrow and Sir Ness Wadia founded the Naoroji Wadia College, which is now a constituent college of Poona University (Patel and Paymaster, VIII, p. 90; Oturkar, p. 88). In 1943, Sir Dorabji Tata Trusts provided funds for a college of commerce, and a year later gave 8,309,000 rupees for a national chemical laboratory (Oturkar, pp. 102-4). Several Parsis were prominent academics, for example, C. D. Naigumwala, who was made professor of Experimental Physics in 1882 at Poona Science College, and in 1900 became director of the Poona observatory (d. 1938; Patel and Paymaster, VIII, p. 450).
A distinctive feature of the Poona community was the number of Iranian Zoroastrians who arrived there as refugees. It is difficult to give many details because most were not wealthy or powerful. Several opened tea-shops and restaurants (Diddee and Gupta, p. 235). They moved from Bombay to avoid the monsoons, but many appear to have faced, if not discrimination, a rather patronizing attitude from Parsis. An exception to the general lack of information on the Iranians in Poona is Aspandyar N. Khairabadi, who died in 1899 at the age of 116. He had been orphaned at an early age and worked in a tailor’s shop before opening his own shop, but then moved into farming. He married at the age of fifty-two in 1837, and migrated to Bombay in 1858 to escape persecution. He moved on to Poona, where he worked at the funeral grounds, Dungerwadi, for sixteen years, a lowly level of employment, but it is said that all Poona Parsis went to his funeral (Patel and Paymaster, III, p. 741). At the turn of the century there were 1,900 Parsis in Poona (Gazetteer on Poona, p. 181).
Before he left Jabalpur in June 1970 Rajneesh had already referred to Bombay as the place where he had his greatest following, and he had added too, that the most intelligent people in India of course are to be found in Bombay. He may have alluded to the many well-off Jain businessmen in Bombay who had become his friends, but also the many Gujarati Hindu and Jain families he had acquainted would from now on have a much better opportunity to keep in touch with their master. In Bombay he would furthermore be in close connection with the main office of Jeevan Jagruti Kendra (Life Awakening Movement). So Bombay was where the people and the money were located, ready to move the work of Acharya Rajneesh further on and into a new phase with an expanding international focus.
The Marathas and Gujaratis were the main groups of Metropolitan Bombay when Rajneesh arrived to the largest urban area in India and capital in the state of Maharashtra. For centuries the city was known as The Gateway of India, a name given to the seaside domed arch of yellow basalt built in 1924 to commemorate the arrival of the British king, George V in 1911. And in 1947 the British left their Indian Empire under the same arch with troops marching on to their ships for the last journey home, an emotional scene to be repeated in Hong Kong exactly fifty years later.
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