Jal Edulji Amrolia’s gift to the Library

We were sad to hear last week of the death on 12 May of Jal Amrolia, a long-standing friend of the Ancient India and Iran Trust. Jal Edulji Amrolia was born in Zanzibar on 22nd August 1929 to Tehmina and Edulji Amrolia, one of three siblings with two sisters Khurshed and Sheru. He went to boarding school in Nargol, Gujarat, and then to Technical College in Surat where he met his future wife Banoo (Armin) whom he married in 1955. He returned to Dar-es Salam and got a job in the Tanganyika Electrical Supply Company with postings in Mwanza and Kigoma. In 1961 he came to the UK and worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board with postings at Brunswick Wharf, Hackney and finally as Charge Engineer at Battersea Power Station.

In his spare time Jal studied Avestan with Nicholas Sims-Williams at SOAS and took up silversmithing, specialising in reproductions of Achaemenid and Sassanian works of art. Two of his most successful works were exhibited in the exhibition Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination held first at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, in 2013 and more recently at the National Museum Delhi.

Amrolia rhytonA modern reproduction of a gold rhyton found in Hamadan (Ecbatana) in the 5th century BC now in the National Museum Tehran. Collection Z. Amrolia

Amrolia bowlA modern reproduction of a gold Achaemenid bowl found in Hamadan (Ecbatana), engraved with the name of the Persian king Xerxes I, c. 4th-5th century BC now in the National Museum, Tehran. Collection Z. Amrolia

We also benefited from his generosity at the Trust where he donated several books. The most interesting of these is a Gujarati translation of the story of the Zoroastrian hero Arda Viraz (‘the righteous Virazʼ), or Viraf as he is called in Persian and Gujarati. Originally written in Pahlavi (pre-Islamic Persian) in the early Islamic period, the story was translated into Persian verse at the end of the 13th century by Zartosht Bahram Pazhdu. The Gujarati version we now have thanks to Jal’s generosity, is a very rare book. It was printed in Bombay in 1871 using – as we are told in the introduction – an earlier published translation of Zartosht Bahram’s poem, but with the addition of 59 drawings copied directly from an unspecified Persian manuscript.

AVliesdown_2000Arda Viraf lies in a trance while his soul travels to the world of the dead. Public domain

heroes_2000Arda Viraf sees the souls of warriors in Heaven. Public domain

evildeana_2000Arda Viraf sees the soul of a male sinner as he meets his ‘daena‘, a female personification of his evil deeds on earth. Public domain. Public domain

slackers_2000The souls in Hell of those who were slack in carrying out the rules of the religion. Public domain

Jal Amrolia is survived by his two sons Zarathustra born in 1963 and Persis in 1964.

I am grateful to Malcolm Deboo for supplying biographical information.

Ursula Sims-Williams ©

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2 responses to “Jal Edulji Amrolia’s gift to the Library

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