The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library has been continuously serving the people of Navsari, as well as the Parsi and scholarly community, for more than 135 years. In 1872, a wealthy Mumbai Parsi, named Navsariwala Seth Burjor Bamanji Padam, commissioned a building to be erected on his own land, known as Lakkad Falia, and, with a fund of Rs. 225, the First Dastoor Meherji Rana Library was born.
Dastoor Meherji Rana
The library is named for one of the most significant figures in the history of the Parsi community. In 1534 AD (905 AY), a boy was born in Navsari into a priestly family from the Kaka Pahlan pol. This boy was given the name Mahyar, the son of Rana Jesang, and he came to be known as Mahyar (Meherji) Rana. Meherji Rana, who was adopted into the priestly lineage of his paternal uncle (kākā) Vaccha Jesang, was a man renowned for his piety and learning, and his fame was widespread. According to a Persian biography in the library's possession, the Māhyārnāma (Manuscript F-81), Meherji Rana was chosen by the Mughal governor at Surat to have an audience with the Emperor Akbar to explain the Zoroastrian religion. During his stay at the court from 1578-9 AD, Meherji Rana impressed the emperor so much that according to the Mughal courty historian ʻAbd al-Qādir al-Badāʼūnī, the emperor ordered his vizier Abu ʼl-Fazl to keep a fire burning day and night at the court. According to the traditional account found in the Māhyārnāma, Meherji Rana thwarted the sorcery of a Hindu priest called Jagatguru, who, according to the story, had caused a plate to levitate into the sky appearing like a second sun. Before Meherji Rana left the court, he was presented with a jāgīr or land grant by the emperor, receiving property in an area called Ghelkhadi, near the modern town of Navsari.
Meherji Rana’s presence in Akbar’s court was a great historic incident for not only the Parsis of Navsari, but for the whole Parsi community. Appreciating this, when he returned to Navsari, all the priests accepted him as the head of the Navsari priests, and for the first time the title of high priest (vaḍā dastur) was bestowed. Therefore, he became famous as the First Dastoor Meherji Rana, beginning a priestly lineage which continues to the present day. For almost 50 years (1960-2010), the Navsari community was served by Marhum Dastoor Meherji Kekobad Dastoor Meherji Rana, the sixteenth member of the Meherjirana family to bear the title Dastoor. On January 25, 2010, Kaikhushroo Navroze Dastoor was chosen as the seventeenth Dastoor Meherji Rana.
After the construction of the first library building in 1872, a formal trust deed was drawn up in 1874, and a committee was formed for the management of the library. From its very beginning, the Library has been cosmopolitan and has served all the communities of Navsari. The library was visited by international scholars interested in Zoroastrianism from a very early date, and to this day, the library's guestbook is virtually a "Who's who" of Zoroastrian studies. As the library's collections grew, the original building was found too small, and in 1906 Jamshedji Kavasji Dastoor Meherji Rana gifted the present building, located near the Navsari Atash Behram, to the library. In 1967, a famous merchant of the Kolahji family Seth Rustomji Hormusji Kolah provided the funds for annex to be built. In 1999, the entire library structure and interior were renovated with funds donated by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust to provide its patrons better amenities. In March 2008, another hall was constructed above the 1967 annex with the library's own funds. In September 2009, a new annex building was constructed from funds donated by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust wherein various modern facilities have been incorporated, including a new reading room, a conference hall, apartments for visiting scholars, and a laboratory for the preservation of the library's many rare books.