entry of 24th September 1870 records the generous gifts of Rs. 10,000
worth of a building to the Karachi Parsi Balakshala by Seth Shapurji
Soparivala to commemorate his beloved wife Bai Virbaiji, who had
died a year earlier. So this great Parsi, Seth Shapurji Soparivala,
who had taken upon himself the responsibilities of a Secretary also
became its greatest Patron. Henceforth the school was known as Parsi
happened in 1870. The story from 1859 is difficult to unravel. But
its foundation and growth were due to the great, wise, and benevolent
leadership of Seth Shapurji Soparivala, his sons, Seth Khursedji
and his grandsons Seth Edulji, Seth Kavasji and Seth Pestonji.
- THE FOUNDERS
An ancient proverb says "A gift of wealth is a great gift, but the
gift of knowledge is the most priceless treasure." The Parsis
of Karachi are eternally indebted to Seth Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala
and his family, for lovingly nurturing the small seed sown in 1859
which today completes, by the Grace of Ahura Mazda, over 150 years
of endeavour in the field of Parsi education in Karachi.
"Com Seva na amulya dhan thi
Karta ko nar vir jagat ma
Tan' man' dhan ne arpan kitha
Soparivala vir jagat ma."
Probably there is not a single Parsi family in Karachi who at one time or
the other, and in one way or another, has not derived some benefit
from the education given in this ancient temple of learning. At
this time let us learn something about its great Founder.
Records of The Founder
The Karachi Zarthoshti Calendar - a record of the important events in
the growth of the Parsi Community in Karachi, was compiled in1919
by Seth Jahangir Framroze Punthakey. He makes the following notes
about our Founder whom he calls the Father of Parsi Education.
Narayanji Master, who had dedicated his life to our school for many
years, in his admirable article Birth and Growth of Bai Virbaiji
Soparivla Parsi High School, published in the 1934 Jubilee Number
Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala came to Karachi in 1854. At first
he was an assistant in the firm of Mr. W. E. Chamberlain. Then
he commenced taking contracts for the commissariat. His major
business was to supply bedding to soldiers. Being an enterprising
man he expanded his business in many directions. He was of a
very kind and sociable temperament. People respected and loved
him. He took a leading part in the welfare of the Parsis of
Karachi. Being very generous he helped all good causes. In 1857
he had a 'Sagdi' (fireplace) built near the Parsi Towers of
Silence. In 1866 he with Seth Homusji Dubash, built the corpse-bearers
quarters. In 1869 he had a well dug and dedicated to the memory
of his beloved mother Bai Hiranbal. In 1888 he had a Poor Families
Benevolent Fund established. Earlier he had already donated
the munificent sum of Rs. 10,000/- for the Parsi Virbaiji School.
On 1st January 1877 when Queen Victoria assumed the Kaiser-e-Hind
title she awarded to her subjects special certificates of loyalty.
Seth Shapurji was one of the first in the city of Karachi to
receive this Certificate. On 26th March 1895 Seth Shapurji died
and the Parsi Anjuman of Karachi called a Special Meeting to
mourn his loss. In 1897 a special portrait of this great man
was hung in the Sadar Agiari."
Shapurji Homusji Soparivala worthily followed in the foot-steps
of other opulent members of his community in the cause of education
The school had been labouring under great inconvenience for
want of suitable and healthy accommodation, and Mr. Shapurji
Soparivala, with his liberal and public spirit came forward
and place at the disposal of the school, for us its use and
locations, his handsome and substantial house, which in those
days was worth about Rs. 10,000/-. This philanthropic act of
his towards his community, was indeed exemplary and redounded
to his credit. .....This gift consolidated the seat of Parsi
Although Mr. Shapurji
could not be called a very rich man in comparison with the other
Parsi gentlemen of Karachi in those days, still he proved to
be a man of greater mind."
History of The Founder
founder of the Soparivala family seems to be one Hatooji Makooji.
His son is named Behramji Soparivala. Hormusji was the only son of
Behramji. He married Bai Hiranbai Mucherji Ghandi, and they had three
sons and three daughters. The youngest was none other than Seth Shapurji,
born on the 9th December 1822.
Integrity and Charity
There are no historical documents to tell us about his early life, or his
schooling. Every year on his death anniversary the School has observed
a special Jashan and for years the pupils were privileged to hear
a speech delivered on the occasion by the late Shamsul-Ulema Dastur
Dr. Dhalla. In these talks it was revealed that Seth Shapurji led
a hard life. It usually commenced at four in the morning with prayers.
His place of business, opposite the Empress Market, was visited by
the poor as well as the rich, who called on him for advice or came
to leave whatever they possessed in his safe custody. His generosity
has already been referred to in the paragraph quoted earlier.
The personality of the Founder must have been striking. The lovely marble
bust adorning the entrance hall of the school bespeaks of his gentleness
and kindness. His noble features reflect the deep affection and admiration
he bore towards his beloved wife, Virbaiji, in whose memory the school
has been dedicated. A story goes that the fairness of his skin and
the build of Seth Shapurji had once made the then rulers of Sind suspect
him of being a foreigner.