Migrants, Settlers & Originals: Rajan Jaykar 1
Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:20:29; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 27.853; Saturation: 0.448; Lightness: 0.301; Volume: 0.109; Words per Minute: 156.744
Summary: Interview with Rajan Jaykar (RJ). Interviewer Madhusree Dutta (M).
Camera by avijit Mukul Kishore.
Rajan Jaykar is a lawyer and artifacts collector. He is an important member of Pathare Prabhu community. Pathare Prabhus are believed to be one of the earliest settlers in the islands of Bombay. Many important citizens and philanthropists of the city are from this community. The interview was conducted in the context of exploring the history of migration in the region. Representatives of many community were interviewed in order to understand the demography and current identity politics of the city. The interview was taken in his family house in Opera house in South Bombay. The area is home for many old and aristocrat families and also hub for new commercial outlets.
Rajan Jaykar talks about Pathare Prabhus coming to the Mahim, then Maikawati, island from Patan in Gujarat
(M): So if you can talk a little bit about your family, I mean when the family came here, under what circumstances (Rajan Jaykar interrupts: you mean family mean my community?) Community, means your particular memory, I don't want in very generic terms, very specific. (R.J: no because it is the community as a whole which came my family alone didn't come). So if you can tell us that history. More anecdotal actually, not years, like where the community was and how it came.
(R.J): Basically we are from Gujarat, from Patan. But the community as a whole came in around 13th century to Mumbai and since then have been there on Bombay islands. As you know at that time there were 7 islands. So we basically came on Mahim islands which was then known as Maikawati, Along with our community king Raja Bimb. And that's how if you read books the story of Bombay starts from there.
Opera house, Bombay
east india company
Rajan Jaykar talks about his community, Pathare Prabhus migrating to Bombay by severing all connection with the native land in Gujarat. They were persecuted by the Muslim rulers. He most probably trying to emphasis that it is not a case of ordinary migration, but of relocation of a community.
(M): But what was the reason for the shifting?
(R.J): the reason was that because, we were staying near that Junagadh side, Patan and because of the Muslim rulers having started fight in those areas, the king himself ran with his entire community and 3 other communities the Panchkalshis, the Chaukalshis and the Portugal Brahmin came along with us and we all settled on Bombay island.
(M): Then how it started, back in Junagadh you had land? (R.J): no we came as I said lock, stock and barrel. Not only the entire community moved, there is no property nothing. If you go and see today, in Patan there is nothing of Pathare Prabhus.
(M): But there was a connection with Surat.
(R.J): Surat, basically it was a connection with the British, some of us did go to Surat after the invasion of the Portuguese, they went back. Some of the families went to Surat, but basically Surat has no connection with us.
Rajan Jaykar talks about how the whole community learnt Portuguese and then English in order to serve the foreign rulers. Pathre Prabhus are urbane white collar people. Thus literacy, even among the women, was essential.
(M): But what I know about it, you had a cordial relationship with the Portuguese right?
(R.J) (Close-up): we had cordial relationship with the Portuguese and we were middle-men, tax collectors and therefore some community members were in the good books of the Portuguese. And that's why our community also knew how to read and write Portuguese, including the ladies. (Madhu: Oh including the ladies) We have hundred percent literacy in the community right from day one. We always encouraged ladies to educate themselves. Although they were orthodox in the house, they were much educated and forward looking outside the houses. (M): and potruguese was part of education?) Portuguese were there. Before the British came in 1661, Portuguese were the rulers. (M): so studying Portuguese was part of the curriculum? (RJ): That's right. Because if you want on to be on the right side of the rulers you must know the language you must know how to communicate.
Among the settlers Pathare Prabhus were the first to arrive in the region of Bombay.
(M): So how would you call it that yours is one of the earliest urban community?
(R.J): We are the earliest immigrants or settlers on the Bombay island. We are not the originals. The originals were the kolis the fisherfolk , so we are the earliest known immigrants to the city of ay. (M): you are also one of the earliest urban community, no land, not an agrarian community.. (RJ): You can say that.
Rajan Jaykar talks about philanthropic activities of his community, their contribution in building the city.
(M): So there are many many legends, for a recent immigrant like me, I mean I have come only 17 years back, so we always hear lots of anecdotes about pathare prabhus.
(R.J): I told her some of the anecdotes. Like for example this, road which links haji ali to lotus its like a wall, which prevented the water from coming in when the reclamations took place, that was one of the breach that's why it is called Breach Candy. So the breach was sought to be closed, but it was not happening. Every time an attempt was made by the government of Bombay... it used to get washed out during the high tide. So there was the contractor or the person who was in charge of the construction, the goddesses of maha saraswati, maha lakshmi and maha kali came in his dream, and they said our idols are removed in a particular place in the sea, you remove them and install us in the temple and your work will be done. That's how you have got the mahalakshmi temple and that is how that road is said to be constructed.
Rajan Jaykar talks about the transition of ownership of the Bombay islands from Portuguese to British. In order to cope with the change of rulers the Pathre Prabhus adopted to English instead of Portuguese and then assisted the British in building the city.
(M): So you say that many of the earliest constructions which made Bombay, Bombay is by Pathare Prabhua?
(R.J): Yes, Pathare Prabhu architects, Patahare Prabhu contractors, engineers. They were responsible. The British were the rulers, so ultimately the decisions were taken by them. But the local population did help them.
(M): So the alliance from Portuguese to British was smooth? I mean any problems?
(R.J): It was not smooth. In fact the Portuguese ceded this island to the British as part of a marriage dowry, of the sister of Portuguese, Catherine Braganza, sister of Portuguese King and British King Charles the II. There were so many other islands that were given but Bombay island formed part of the marriage treaty.
(M): No, I am talking about your alliance, the shift from Portuguese to British was it smooth?
(R.J): Well alliance to shifting (fumbles) see the thing is that we could not have stopped the marriage alliance, we could not have stopped these islands from being given as a dowry, so if there is a change of ruler, you've got to be faithful to that ruler. So then we adopted the English Language.
(M): But what about the conversion, because Portuguese were known for conversions.?
(R.J): That's right, so some members of our community got converted. They got converted (nods his head). (M): Oh, so there are Pathare Prabhu Christians) Pathare Prabhu christians not identifiable, but there is an author, authoress on Bombay called Olga Veldarez, she insists that she is from part of that converted sect. I had an occasion to talk to her, now I believe she lives in Goa, but when she was staying in Bandra I met her and she insists she must be part of that converted sect, branch.
Rajan Jaykar talks about conversion by Portuguese rulers.
(M): What do you think, are they now under this generic name called east Indian? (shot of window)
(R.J): No east Indians are different. (M: but its also a very generic name, I mean its very difficult to say..) R.J: Yes very difficult to say unless somebody goes into their family tree and tries to trace it for 300 years, you'll not know. (M: so theres no way to identify the root?) R.J: No, probably Olga Velderez will know because she is an author and has done research on Bombay she might be able to identify more branches which according to her might have been converted.
(M): You don't know about any forced conversion or any such thing?
(R.J): Well the recorded history says that there were forced conversions. Forced conversions in the sense that they were not at the point of gun. People that time were so gullible, not only from our community but from other communities also, that if they drank water from a well where the Portuguese had thrown bread , you automatically got converted. There was no ceremony required for conversion. So if people believed that and continued to follow the religion, well then it is their look out.
(shot of the window, reflection of pedestrians on the busy opera house road) Though Jaykar does not deny the possibility of Pathare Prabhus converting to Christianity during Portuguese or British rule for the sake of convenience, he states that he is not aware of any such case.
Rajan Jaykar says that while working for the govt. the Pathare Prabhus acquired lots of land in the city. Since there were no other urban dwellers it was easy to acquire land.
(M): So the general impression is that Pathare Prabhus are the affluent section of Bombay.
(R.J): That's right. They used to be affluent, now they are average. Affluent because they owned tracks of land which was easily available. There were no takers. And also because of their Portuguese connection, while collecting rent they must have eyed some land and they must have got it as a grant or they must have bought it. The city, the people stayed in the city. Now city is considered to be the original Bombay island. There were seven islands and one island the third island was considered to be Bombay island where Fort and everything... that area was there. So Parel, Mahim, they were supposed to be in those days suburbs. People had agricultural land. People who were staying on the Bombay island had agricultural land on those islands.
But later British govt. got other communities to come and serve the city. Those communities had better entrepreneurial skill and they slowly bought off the land from Pathare Prabhus.
(M: So then what happened?)RJ: Then with the reclamations etc. the islands started becoming one, and in the process the British invited other people, other communities to come. And the other communities which came were not the communities like we came with Raja Bimb, and we came and inhabited a virtually vacant land, land which was not owned by anybody. These communities came because they thought that Bombay was the place for them to prosper. And the main communities like the Parsees, the Bhatias, the Banias and other business communities which came, after they came, the importance of the Pathare Prabhus started going down. Still they own lot of tracts of land. Even today, in certain, in most of the areas if you see, the title documents dating back to 200 years, probably you'll find some Pathare Prabhu owning it. Over the period of time the land was sold and some other communities took over. So that's how, because they did not have entrepreneurial skills, therefore other communities took over. They had a very affluent lifestyle, and their income did not match with their lifestyle, so the obvious option was to sell their land and properties, which they kept on doing. And in the process the landed properties started decreasing, and now today as a result you have virtually very few landed properties for the Pathare Prabhus to own
Rajan Jaykar says that Pathare Prabhus are all essentially from Bombay and not from Maharashtra.
(M): But how it is, you come from Junagadh so, (R.J: it is Patan)
(M): yes Patan, so there are no Pathare Prabhus in any area in Maharashtra?
(R.J): No. Now the thing is that after...from Bombay now they have gone for their business for their services, they have gone overseas also. But if you trace their roots they are from Bombay. Any person from outside Bombay, if you go about 300 years you'll find their roots somewhere here.
Rajan Jaykar says that Marathi was not the original language of Pathare Prabhus. They adopted to Marathi slowly after settling in Bombay. Though the history of the community is not very well articulated, but by the evolution of the spoken language and dietary habit it can be said that the dominant Marathi culture of today was not part of the ancestral legacy of the Pathare Prabhus.
(M): So the language was Marathi even in 13th century?
(R.J): Doesn't seem to be. Because even as late as my grandmother, who died in around 1956, I've heard her use certain words, although she was talking Marathi, certain words, Gujarati in her normal day to day talk. For example staircase, we call it dadar, dadro, which is called jina in normal marathi. Like the swing, which you call Jhopala in Marathi but it used to be called...what is it.... something else, so that's how there were are so many words which were used ..(remembers the word) Hindola, Hindola. So these are the words I've heard my grandmother using. See over a period of time...language takes a long time to change, but eating habits change faster. Like since we, we are supposed to be warrier community, form warrier family, because all our surnames are war or victory oriented. (Madhu: like just give us some examples) R.J: yeah Jaykar, my surname, Vijaykar, Senjit, Senjit means senajit, which means capturer of armies. Gorakshaka. Now of course Gorakshakar may not be directly war oriented. Gorakshakar means keeper of the cows and in those days the cow was suppose to be wealth and most of the wealth was with the king. So there are victory and war oriented surnames, and we are Kshatriyas, so it is obvious we must have been non-vegetarian eaters, because we are.
history of Patahre Prabhus
After settling in Bombay Pathare Prabhus adopted to the local culture - starting from fish and coconut in cuisine. The language was called parbi, a mixed language evolved from Gujarati, Marathi and Marwari.
But when we came to this side which is coastal - two things became predominant, one is fish and the other is coconuts. So even in our day to day life, we normally have, normal our diet, out of 7 days, five days is fish and the curry is of coconut. So these habits have continued but the language took a long time to change. Now it has become a melting pot and there is nothing, otherwise this was called Parbi language. Pathare Prabhus, like a Parbi woman, a Pathare Prabhu is called a Parbu. (M): Parbi language). R.J: Parbi language. Parbi language means certain Gujarati words included in the Marathi language. Now in the earlier generations, around 200 years ago, there were certain Marwari words also, so the person who has written a thesis on the Pathare Prabhus of Bombay, he conjectures that before coming to Patan we must have come from Marwar.
History of a community is researched only when there is a public figure in the community. Pathare Prabhus are yet to get their well researched history. Well, till then some of them can continue to play the savior of the Marathi culture in the city of Bombay.
RJ: It's a conjecture, there is nothing...because its like, unless you have some person of national level in your community, you community the history is not something that is researched upon. Like see if Shivaji was not there in that family, the Satarkars would have been just any other community. More research goes into it when you have some outstanding person in that community. So maybe after Raja Bimb we still haven't found a person of that...so but anyway there is lot of research. I got almost 30-40 books on my community, because when I got the copy of the thesis which was written in 1942, by Vasant Dinanath Rao, I checked up the bibliography and as a collector I collected almost 80% of the books which he used as reference books, and there are quite many books which are devoted only to Pathare Prabhu history. Some of them like Sahyadri Khand, Maikawatichi Bakr talks about so many other things including Pathare Prabhus, but there certain books written as history of Pathare Prabhus.
vasant dinanath rao
Till recently Pathare Prabhu community was antagonistic to marriages to anybody outside the community.
(M): So this is a very small community? (R.J: it's a very small community, population never exceeded 10,000 worldwide) So are they like Parsees trying to ...(R.J: Paresees are almost 10 times our ..10 times more.) (M): no how they are not encouraging marriages outside their community?
(R.J): In those days well, there were people who tried to marry and they were virtually thrown out of the community, and they had to suffer a lot. Widow remarriage, inter-caste marriages, they were not heard of and people who tried to do it, say at the turn of the century they were treated very badly. So there was a taboo on marrying outside, there were so many bachelors and spinsters in our community, till almost upto this generation I had 2 auntys who were not married, my father's sisters, they stayed with us. (M: because outside community marriage is not encouraged?) R.J: not because of that. They didn't marry they had an option of marrying our community but they didn't marry. I don't know what reason, but that's a fact
Women of the Pathare Prabhu community are literate, some even highly educated. Though they are not known to be visible in public life.
(M): So with this kind of education for women, what is the percentage of working women, I mean is it more than other communities? Working outside?
(R.J): Working where outside means? (M) clarifies: working means not only housewife) No I can't say whether there were more or not. But everybody could read and write. My mother was the first post-graduate in my community, lady, post-graduate lady. She did her BA in 1936, sorry MA , MA in 1936 with English Literature and French. (M: French !) And in one of my chor bazaar trips I found one St. Xavier's college year book and I suddenly see in the inter-arts class my mother sitting there in a nine yards saree.
st. xavier's college
(M): Tell us something about your interests as a collector, how you started, what really..
(R.J): See I look at it...because I've been a collector from day one. As a school going boy I used to collect match box labels because in those days we hardly had any pocket money, there was nothing like pocket money. And matchbox label is something like if you throw I pick it up, because you don't want it. So I pick it up from the road. I've picked up labels from gutters and roads, stations, everywhere. That's how I started building up my collection. Then I was a collector of stamps and coins, not very serious, but I was quite serious about the match box labels. Luckily, my parents although they did not, I would say, they did not encourage in the sense, once I started building up my collection I found on one of my birthdays, it was I think my seventh birthday, my mother gave me a small cupboard. She said you are collecting so many things they have to be in one place. You just can't dump it here, there and there, you'll lose it. So she got a special cupboard, got a carpenter and got a cupboard for me. So that was my cupboard, I used to...she made a lock also, you better lock your cupboard. Don't complain your brothers and sisters are taking away things. So I used to lock my cupboard. So that was a little encouragement I got.
Rajan Jaykar says that he is a spontaneous collector.
And then looking back I feel you have to have a little gene in you, a collector's gene. My daughters are not interested in any of my collection and I am not unhappy about it. That's fine they are doing what they want. So as a collector of things, it was naturally I was anxious to know about my community. So many things were said about it, read, people used to inquire. So I said let me inquire about my community. As I started inquiring about my community, I found that the history of my community is directly linked with the history of Bombay. So these are the two aspects on which I even collect material today. Even yesterday I picked up a beautiful engraving of a European Hospital which was never constructed. I got a 150 year old engraving, I got it from chor bazaar, yesterday only. An engraving, which shows the entire plan of the building, elevation of the building, a sort of artists impression of how that building would have looked if it was completed, and there's no such building. It said European general hospital, Bombay. (M: around which year?) R.J: Must be around 1860's or so, 1860's, because that was the time when Victorian Bombay was constructed 1860's. The construction started
Chitrakar Dhurandhar Marg
URBAN COMMUNITY of PATHARE PRABHUS
VISUAL RECORD of the community and the city occurred in 19TH CENTURY
CHITRAKAR DHURANDHAR MARG
PICTURE POST CARD
Rajan Jaykar talks about Pathare Prabhus as an essential part of early Bombay. Painter M V Durandhar, a Pathare Prabhu, had painted many commissioned works for Princely states (most probably portraits or landscapes for the royalties of the neighbouring independent states). Irrespective of the subject he always painted Bombay as the backdrop and there would always be a Pathare Prabhu walking on that Bombay road.
chitrakar dhurandhar marg
(M): But can you say a little more about that. You said the history of your community is linked to the history of Bombay (R.J : correct) for lay people if you can talk a little more about it.
(R.J): More about it, as I said ours is a city bred community. Entire community is in Bombay. So whatever happened in their life happened in Bombay. Now the visual record of our community as well as of Bombay started around in the 19th century. So in terms of books, lithographs, engravings. So and other important factor is, a member of my community who was an artist, M.V Dhurandhar, there's a road named after him at khar, Chitrakar Dhurandhar Marg, although he was commissioned by so many native states for portraiture etc. for the kings, he was basically a Bombay artist. So if you see any of his drawings, paintings, the background you'll see is of Bombay. And I have a substantial collection of artist Dhurandhar's picture post-cards, not the original paintings, but prints etc. So everywhere you see where Bombay is depicted, even where a Pathare Prabhu is walking on the road, the background is Bombay. So these two things go hand in hand and together.
(END OF PART I)
picture post card