Who was Shams-ul-Ulema Ervad Dr. Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Modi? (TMY, JJ of 25-11 & 2-12-18)

1. Jivanji Modi was born in 1854. He was the only son of a priest who served as the first Panthaki of Seth Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy Agyari, Colaba. At the age of 11, he became Navar, and in 1871 he passed matriculation and underwent the Martab. In the same year, he succeeded his father as the Panthaki, where he formally served for 40 years till 1910.

2. Mr. K.R. Cama made him take up Iranian studies. He received a B.A. from Bombay University in 1876. He studied German and French in order to understand the works of  European scholars writing about Zoroastrian religion. He was elected a Fellow of Bombay University in 1887 and also a member of Bombay’s Anthropological Society and Royal Asiatic Society.

3. Jivanji was elected as Corporator of the Bombay Municipality in 1889. He was also appointed Justice of Peace in 1890. He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Heidelberg and Bombay. The British government conferred on him the title Shams-ul-Ulema in 1893, and the Knighthood in 1930. The title Shams-ul-Ulemā literally means “Shining like the sun (shams) among the wise ones (ulemā).

4. In 1893 he was appointed secretary of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), and served there for 37 years. He was associated with the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute for several years, in various capacities, like its President, secretary and editor of its journal. He was instrumental in having the ‘Sanjan Stambh (column) erected in 1917 at Sanjan to commemorate the landing of Parsis there.

5. Jivanji travelled extensively in the sub-continent, as well as in the United States, Asia (including Iran and Japan) and Europe. On some of his travels he attended international conferences such as the 7th International Congress of Orientalists at Stockholm (1889). He was the sole Zoroastrian at the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893, where Swami Vivekananda also gave his legendary address.  Jivanji was a dynamic speaker, and  delivered over 350 lectures in his life.

6. Jivanji was also a prolific writer. He has written more than two hundred research papers and essays in English and Gujarati. He has also authored more than 100 books, 50 each in English and Gujarati, and also two books in French. He also composed some Monajats (devotional songs in Gujarati) and translated parts of the Shahnameh in prose as well as in verse form into Gujarati. His best known work, used extensively even today, is The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees.

7. He passed away in 1933 at the age of 79. He shines as an illustrious star in the firmament of Zoroastrian studies. He was a multifaceted personality, who was active not only in the academic field but also in the Community and society. His contribution towards Zoroastrian academics in light of comparative religion, literature and science, is unparalleled.  He may be considered one of the most decorated Zoroastrian priests and the most prolific Parsi scholar of modern times.

2 thoughts on “Who was Shams-ul-Ulema Ervad Dr. Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Modi? (TMY, JJ of 25-11 & 2-12-18)

  1. Thanks for this.
    A very clear summary of material available elsewhere, but not easily compiled or accessed.
    It would seem that the Giara biography is a major source, but I have not been able to locate it.

    My interest came in follow-up of work on the Anthropological Society of Bombay, of which he was such a stalwart. Sadly, his work has hardly been recognised in the disciplinary history of Indian anthropology.

    His learning was clearly prodigious, yet he seems to have carried it with great modesty.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s