How has Bai Motlibai Maneckji Wadia contributed to enrich the Parsis? (TMY, JJ of 19 & 26-1-20)

1. Motlibai Wadia was a descendant of Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia, the famous ship-builder. However, she was not born in the ship-builders’ line of the family, but in the line which had turned towards trade and commerce. Her grand-father Nusserwanji Maneckji Wadia had set up a vast business in France and was the agent of the French Government in Bombay. Her father Jehangirji had inherited this business.

2. Motlibai, born on 30th October 1811, was the only daughter of her parents. She married her father’s brother’s son Maneckji who also was with his father in the family business. Maneckji, however, died early and Motlibai became a widow at the age of 26 years. She had two sons Nowrojee and Nusserwanji.

3. Motlibai lived the rest of her life very purposefully, and also looked after her two sons. Like the other members of the Wadia family, she too contributed large sums of money to charity, mostly towards building, repairing and upkeep of fire temples. She also had two Towers of Silence built at Diu and in Surat. The total amount of her public charities alone was estimated to be about Rupees Twenty six lakhs.

4. Over and above her public charities was a vast number of private humanitarian charities that she did, to help the poor for their weddings, Navjotes and after-death rituals, the real extent of which, we will never know. She also supported a large number of poor, needy and destitute families by giving them monthly stipends and generously donated towards other causes like hospitals, dispensaries and schools.

5. In 1851, she contributed Rupees Twenty thousand towards the reconstruction of a Daremeher in Navsari. She also contributed a piece of land, the income from which was to be utilised towards the upkeep and maintenance of the place.

6. On 10th June 1863 she had a fire temple consecrated at Pitha Street in Mumbai. In 1941, the sacred fire from that fire temple was shifted to the Wadiaji Atash Behram. On 29th April 1966, this fire was taken from the Wadiaji Atash Behram and shifted to Malcolm Baug, Jogeshwari, on account of the requests of the residents of the Colony. 

7. In 1893, she had the Iranshah Atash Behram at Udvada rebuilt at the cost of Rupees Eighty thousand. Her stately and majestic photograph adorns the Atash Behram Hall.

8. Motlibai passed away on 24th May, 1897, at the age of 86, after a brief period of illness and immediately after the unfortunate and untimely death of her younger son Nusserwanji. A rare honour was bestowed upon her at her Uthamna when Dasturji Dr. Darab Peshotan Sanjana instructed the priests of those times, to take her name in all the rituals they perform, along with the names of other hallowed and great Parsis. This honour, uptil then was reserved almost exclusively for the gentlemen of the Community.

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