Who was Manekji Limji Hataria? (TMY – Jamd Jamshed of 25-3 & 1-4-2018)

1. In the mid 19th century, the “Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund” was founded in Bombay by a few wealthy Zoroastrians including Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, to improve the conditions of their less fortunate co-religionists who were persecuted in Iran. In 1854, Maneckji Limji Hataria was appointed an emissary by the above organisation to go to Iran.

2. Maneckji was born in 1813 at the village of Mora Sumali near Surat in Gujarat . From the age of fifteen he travelled widely as a commercial agent in India. In his work he gained a lot of experience and self-reliance. These resources proved invaluable in his future work.

3. He arrived in Iran on 31st March 1854, and for a year studied the general conditions of the persecuted community. He found the Zoroastrians to be uneducated and suffering from diseases and malnutrition. Centuries of oppression and persecution had taken a heavy toll on their spirit.

4. To teach the Iranians, Maneckji established schools, published books and employed teachers. He talked about the advantages of collective social work and communal unity. He urged the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman to form societies (anjumans). With his encouragement and support, marriages took place and jobs were provided for the newly wed couples. He was also instrumental in building Dharmashalas and Dokhmas in Iran.

5. Maneckji established a Council of Zoroastrians in Yazd, which persuaded Iranian Zoroastrians to emigrate to India. Many Iranis today are descendants of these people.

6. Manekji met the Qajar king Nasiruddin and negotiated with him several concessions for Zoroastrians in Iran, like the remission of Jaziya in 1882, and lenient laws for Zoroastrians from king Muzaffar-ud-din (1888).

7. He tirelessly worked for the people of Iran for 35 years until his death in 1890. He is fondly remembered even today in Iran. His bust adorns the prayer hall of the present-day Atash Behram at Yazd. His magnificent photograph can be seen at the Wadiaji Atash Behram in Mumbai.

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