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Jamshid Bahman Jamshidian

Prominent Zarathushtis


Mehrfar, Dr. Khosro



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Since the dawn of human history and the creation of trade through material exchanges and later, through monetary transactions, economic forces have had a strong and decisive role in shaping the progress of a nation. Adam Smith describes the concept nicely and eloquently in his masterpiece, “The Wealth Of Nations”. This is even more true during the current period of transition in which trade is becoming globalized, regardless of geographic or national boundaries.

This global movement is basically good, if it provides and promotes a mutual respect between the transacting parties and their national interests. This mutual respect for all must span a wide spectrum to include all the 198 countries of this planet, from The United Sates, currently the most advanced country on earth, to the most undeveloped nations of the third world.

It is a well-attested commonplace that a nation is as independent as its economy. While we cannot progress in a vacuum and need each other for accelerated progress towards international prosperity, we must recognize the fact that multidimensional global relationships must be established based on a factor of trust, which itself is built upon respecting and preserving each other’s interests. Anything less than this mutual respect is doomed to fail in the long run.

The basic ideas cited in the above introduction were the vision of a great Iranian of our time, Jamshid Bahman Jamshidian. He, Along with others, pioneered the idea of creating a National Bank with national and international reach. The National Bank or “Bank-e-Melli” was his brain child. Jamshid Bahman Jamshidian was known to the people of Iran as “Arbab Jamshidi.” He was  a charismatic and influential leader of recent Zoroastrian history, the first representative of the Zoroastrian Community in the Parliament of Iran, and the pioneer of modern banking in Iran. He knew well that sovereignty comes through self governance,  that self governance comes through freedom and democracy, and that freedom and democracy depend upon self sufficiency, which itself is built upon a sound national economy. This ideally will be an economy free of any dependencies on unfair international constraints and unjust foreign influences. (1)

Arbab Jamshid was a very powerful man.  It has been said that he was probably the most powerful non-Moslem in Iran in the last few centuries. The securing of seats for non-Muslim representatives in the Iranian parliament is due to Arbab Jamshid’s power and influence. Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians in Iran owe a great debt to him for this political representation, which continues to this day.

Through his vigor, proper planning and influence, Arbab Jamshid made the impossible possible. Arbab Jamshid was probably able to influence the Persian government more than the Parsis of Bombay, as no government could exercise power in Yazd or Kerman with out his support. (2)

Arbab Jamshid built his power and influence leveraging on his vast business and trade empire. He based his empire from the bottom to the top upon honesty, hard work and care for people of all kinds. His contributions to the welfare of the masses of the nation he loved are legendary and unparalleled. (3)

Professor Jackson, in his book Past and Present Iran, writes in the chapter titled “Teheran, the Modern Capitol:”

“… The Zoroastrians of Teheran, taken as a whole, are in better circumstances then those in many other cities of Persia, because of the more liberal conditions that prevail in general at the capital. The most prominent member of the community is a rich banker, Arbab Jamshid Bahman, whose wealth is estimated in the hundreds of thousands of Tomans, and whom recognition at court is also accorded- a fact which helps the position of the Zoroastrians considerably, since an appeal to the Shah is possible through his mediation.

His integrity is of the highest order and his esteem was even higher in the eyes of the Mohammedans, who naturally despised him as an’ infidel’. The Persians placed implicit faith in his honesty- a tribute paid to no other native banker as yet, so far as my knowledge goes. This is a tribute not alone to his uprightness (Arshtat in Avesta), but also to the teachings of Zoroaster, who made Truth and Honesty a watch word of the religion and whose creed was “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”.

“Arbab Jamshid called upon me shortly after my arrival and invited me to visit his home and his beautiful garden- a privilege of which I availed myself twice. The garden court adjoining his house in the city is laid out in a characteristic Persian manner…”

I need to explain that the Avestan word “Arshtat” that Professor Jackson has used, is translated into Righteousness, one of the most fundamental elements of the vision of Zartosht, the Persian Prophet. As Iranians, we owe our national pride and dignity to this great religious and historical figure.

The Jame Jamshid, printed in Bombay, March 17, 1904 wrote: “Arbab Jamshid is deeply involved in charity. He has commissioned several water reservoirs for  the needy, and spends 2300 rupees a year to supply and maintain them. He has also purchased a fine property in Kashan consisting of a garden and building which he has converted into a facility for travelers and pilgrims.  He possesses very fine personal characteristics… and his imperial majesty the shah holds him in high favor.

Jamshid Bahman Jamshidian was born in Yazd, Iran in 1851 C.E. At the age of 11, due to his intelligence and exceptionally sharp memory, he was sent to Borujerd along with one of his father’s friends, to work in the local trade center owned by Arbab Rostam Mehr. He stayed there until the age of 20. By that time, the young Jamshid had opened his own small trade centers in Borujerd and Bandar Abbas and he was focusing on the clothing business. He expanded his operations to the north and specifically towards the capital, Tehran. One of his early intentions, deeply rooted in the care that he had for his society and his fellow Zoroastrians, was to employ, as much as possible, bright young Zoroastrians in his business, to reduce the centuries old dependency of their society on traditional farming.

Arbab Jamshid encouraged and facilitated Zoroastrian migration to the capital of Tehran. At the height of his operation, he had 150 Zoroastrian employees in his Tehran financial firm. (1)

“One of the first Zoroastrian neighborhoods was formed in the area surrounding the residence of Arbab Jamshid. The nucleus of this community was formed by his employees and their families, joined later by other Zoroastrians. The building of the Anjoman and the schools were all located on land either owned by him or adjacent to his property.” (6)

By the age of 35, Arbab Jamshid had several trade chambers in the central market known as the Bazaar of Tehran. This was a place where, traditionally non-Moslems had difficult times establishing businesses. This was at a time when bigotry and prejudice against non-Muslims, was at its height. It was deeply roted in centuries of discrimination and unjust behavior. Yet Arbab Jamshid could succeed against all odds, due to his highly intelligent strategy of establishing relationships with the key political figures of his time. These included 2 kings of Iran, Mozaffar-eldin Shah and Mohammed Ali Shah Qajar, two prime ministers of Iran; Ali Askhar Kane, Atabak e Aazam, also known as Aminol Soltan, Nasrollah Khan-e-Moshir ol-doleh and Soltan Abdolmajeed Mirza, also known as Einol-Doleh, and many other influential national and international figures. These relationships were built upon mutual respect and were almost always accompanied by generous gifts and proper presents that Arbab Jamshid would give to his friends. (1)

While keeping these powerful relationships, he never forgot about the needy and the poor. Anyone from any religious belief and/or background would be welcomed on a weekly basis to his house or his business centers. We know that on an average, about 400 to 500 of the poor attended his weekly lunch, where they would receive half or one rail from the generous hands of the Arbab himself. (3).   Indeed Arbab Jamshid was known as the Hatame-taie of Iran. (2)

By the age of 40 his reputation had reached the far corners of Iran. The legendary tales of his generosity had made his caravans safe and untouched by the brigands who roamed the countryside and preyed on caravans by night.

The weekly magazine “Our Thoughts” or “Andishe Ma” in Farsi, in the 3rd edition of Esfand 1314 Yazdgerdi, wrote:

“… If in his entire life, there remained nothing else but (Arbab Jamshid’s) generosity, the youth of Iran would still have the duty to respect and remember this great man of our time with due dignity and honor. This is due to the fact that Jamshidian’s generosity was so vast and so open to both friends and foes alike  that legends were told about him. These legends reached all across this great land of ours. Even his close friends knew about these legends and attested to their truth. Arbab Jamshid’s name will remain with high honor and respect in the galaxy of our great stars.”

One of Arbab Jamshid’s closest friends was Atabak Aazam Aminol Soltan. This man was two times prime minister of the late Qajar, a capable politician who had not only arranged the cover up of the Naseroldin Shah assassination in order to avoid chaos, but had achieved a peaceful transition of power to Nasseroldin’s son Mozaffaredin Shah.

Arbab Jamshid had a close relationship with the Court of the Qajar rulers, especially Mozaffaredin Shah, who had awarded him with the honored title of “Rais-ol-Tojare Parsi.”  Jamshidian’s financial firm was trusted to pay the shah’s personal drafts. (7) In addition, the Qajar government issued bonds, payments for military purchase orders and the salaries of some of the top government officials, and these were paid from the special accounts of Arbab Jamshid. (3)

The vast business empire of Arbab Jamshid, at the height of its power, employed close to 4600 employees of which about 150 were Zoroastrians. The Zoroastrians were mostly in charge of accounting operations and monetary affairs. The Zoroastrians were in these positions due to their honesty and proven track records of faithful and ethical behavior. Arbab Jamshid, as has been said above, wished to reduce the Zoroastrians’ dependency on traditional farming by moving them towards more profitable employment.(1)

The employer-employee relationship of Arbab Jamshid’s firm was significantly different from which had existed in Yazd and Kerman.  Arbab Jamshid’s merchant house provided housing loans and medical services. He held a weekly open house dinner for his employees. He did not limit his interest to immediate services for his employees but supported the Zoroastrian community in general. (5)

Noshirananjee Manekjee Cooper, editor of the London Indian Chronicle, dedicated one of his books, The Imitation of Zoroaster, to Arbab Jamshid for his contribution and devotion to the Zoroastrian Community. (3)

Along with the expansion of his business, Arbab Jamshid started to acquire real estate in Tehran and other major cities of Iran. Over the years he accumulated thousands of acres of land, including a vast piece of land in northern Tehran known as Jamshid Abad and Amir Abad and an estate in the center of Tehran known as Parke Atabak. “After the assassination of Atabake Aazam, Arbab Jamshid bought his palace known as Park-e- Atabak and converted it into his primary residence. He also bought the surrounding lands and commissioned additional buildings, to be added to his estate” (1).

Morgan Schuster describes the estate: “…The building was white stone, two stories high, containing about thirty rooms, a number of which very spacious, and it was filled with the most remarkable collection of curious bric-a-brac and strange furniture from all over the world, including very fine and rare Persian rugs. The ground was laid out in an immense park with several artificial lakes and water courses…” (9)

Hirbod Borzoojee Grajjee in his book, The Parsi Culture: Religion and Customs   page 31 says: “Arbab Jamshid owns 15 or 16 villages, vast pieces of land and real estate. He is a distinguished banker and merchant. The Shah, Princes and government officials are known to borrow money from him from time to time… None of the Muslim or European business establishments in Iran are larger than his.”

The growing network of financial centers that Arbab Jamshid had built over the years, based on honesty, integrity and innovation, threatened the two largest banks of Iran that time. One was the Bank-e-Shahanshahi, established and run by the British, which also had the concession of publishing Iran’s monetary notes. The other was the Bank-e-Esteghrazi, which was established and run by Russia. The two most damaging and threatening issues, to these foreign banks, were the enormous amount of savings being channeled into Arbab Jamshid’s financial centers and wide spread money exchange networks in various cities of Iran and abroad. By this time, Jamshidian’s financial network had branches in St. Petersburg, Paris, Bombay, Calcutta, and Baghdad. (7).

“He was one of the first Iranian merchants who used double entry bookkeeping and the first modern banker of Iran.” (2) The expansion of his financial network reached such a point that the Russian bank in Iran had to close some of its branches to avoid further losses. (3)

By now, Arbab Jamshid had started a cargo transportation network called Gari Khaneh. It was operated and managed with the utmost efficiency and order. He had control of cargo transportation between Tehran, Kashan, Qhom, and Esfahan as well as the horse-drawn transportation of Southern Iran. (7).

There seemed to be no barriers to his expansion. Through a strategy, planned by  the Arbab himself, in partnership with the Parsees of India, the financial network of Arbab Jamshid was on the verge of becoming the major financial center of Iran, under the general name of Bank-e-Melli. (8).

This was an idea which was also encouraged by the American banker Morgan Schuster, who was the treasurer general of Iran from 1911 to 1912, employed by the newly formed constitutional government. (1)

Morgan Schuster says: “…we were driven to Atabak Park, a very beautiful residence… This palace and ground had passed into the hands of a very patriotic and wealthy Parsi named Arbab Jamshid. He had generously placed his residence at the disposal of the government for our entertainment while in Iran.” (9)

Arbab Jamshid’s financial network was an ever expanding, independent national force that could stand up against the two foreign banks. Although Jamshid’s competitors often came into conflict with each other, this time, the British and Russian banks collaborated to weave a plot to destroy Arbab Jamshid. (8)

Arbab Jamshid’s financial empire and diversified business practices needed a large amount of cash to support and operate. The two foreign banks started to provide loans to Arbab Jamshid and even appeared to compete against each other to provide better terms and lower interest. In return, they insisted on vast land and real estate holdings as collateral. By this time, the British Bank of Shahanshahi had lent about 2 million tomans and the Russian Bank of Esteghrazi about 13 million to Arbab Jamshid, a total of 15 million tomans. (3)

The increased economic and business activities of Arbab Jamshid coincided with Iran’s constitutional revolution of 1906, which he supported enthusiastically. He financially supported the revolutionary leaders Satar Khan and Yeprem Khan.

“The Jamshidian and Jahanian commercial firms would receive the imported ammunition at the port of Bushehr and distribute it among the Mojahedin (revolutionary forces) in Tehran and other cities. (7). Arbab Jamshid was also influential in preventing Colonel Liakhof, a Russian mercenary, employed by  the Mohammad Ali Shah government, from doing further destruction after he attacked the newly formed parliament (Majlis) with artillery. (1)

The Iranian nation should also recognize the contribution and sacrifice of other patriotic Zoroastrians who lost their lives in the national struggle for independence and constitutional reform. Arbab Parviz Jahanian and Arbab Fereidoon Fereidoonian, who were both assassinated by the thugs of anti democratic forces, should be particularly recognized.

As an example, I would like to cite an excerpt about Khosro Shah-Jahan, one of the successful Zoroastrians of early 20th century, in the periodical “Shour-e-Esraphil.” On Page two of the 31st edition of the periodical in year 1315 Yazdgerdi we read:

“…Recently, about 400 of the long range rifles of type Verendel have been sold to this Parsi man and about 200 of the mid range, 5 bullet capacity Macend and about 150,00 bullets have been sold to another person…” Arbab Jamshid, himself on one occasion paid 20,000 Tomans of his own money and on another occasion facilitated the collection of the same amount from other Zoroastrians of Iran to be given to the forces of freedom and democracy.

Eventually, in return for the support and sacrifices that Arbab Jamshid made on behalf of the successful revolutionary forces, one Parliamentary seat apiece was offered to all 3 of the non-Muslim religions of Iran. This offer was soon blocked by the hard line Mullahs. Here I would like to introduce an excerpt written by Dr. Farhang Mehr in the FEZANA journal, winter 2000 issue which eloquently describes the situation.

“…Perhaps Arbab Jamshid’s most lasting service was to secure a seat in the Majlis (Parliament) for the Zarathushti community, and consequently, for other religious minorities- Zarathushtis, Armenians, and Jews.

However, during the elections the hard line mullahs argued that the religious minorities could not elect one of their own, but could only appoint a Muslim cleric to represent them. The Armenians and Jews agreed and appointed Ayatollah Tabatabaie. But Arbab Jamshid asked for a day of grace, saying that he had no authority to decide on the matter and had to consult his colleagues in the Tehran Zarathushti Anjuman. Outside the Majlis, Arbab Jamshid used his influence and contacts to change the political atmosphere.

The next day, Ayatollah Behbahani made the following statement in the Majlis:

“Zarathushtis have an inherent right to the air, land, and water of Iran; they are prudent and patriotic. Their coreligionists (the Parsis) abroad are highly educated and have a seat in the British Parliament. The Zarathushtis of Iran should be allowed to have a representative of their own in Majlis.”

With the approval of the Majlis, a seat for the Zarathushti community as well as for the Jews and Christians were assured. This is a position that all the religions owe to the late Arbab Jamshid’s effort and foresight.

Arbab Jamshid possessed a kind heart and generous outreach for all Iranians regardless of their background or belief. At the same time, he was a man of power and influence who carried a large amount of clout.  The combination of the two made him a sort of shelter for those who needed protection. One group which was in desperate need for help and protection during that era was the Bahais of Iran. During the time that Bahais were persecuted and murdered several of their leaders escaped and took refuge and asylum in Arbab Jamshid’s estates in Tehran and Shiraz. Due to his religious belief and his devotion to the Zoroastrian doctrine of “Good Deeds,” Arbab Jamshid sheltered them and saved their lives. The Bahai community acknowledged this fact with the utmost respect and gratitude.

At the turbulent era of the end of The Qajar dynasty, the cities were not calm. People were worried and insecure about their future. The time was just right for the British and Russian plan of destruction to unfold. The propaganda machine of the two banks started a rumor that Arbab Jamshid’s financial network was out of cash and had no capital to leverage upon. When the rumor spread and the news reached the masses, a financial panic started in the major cities and within a few days people and businesses withdrew their cash. A couple of days later, the Russian Bank e Esteghrazi called in their promissory notes and demanded payment of loans prior to their maturity. The British Bank (Shahanshahi) did the same immediately afterward. Within a few days, the government ordered the seizure of Arbab Jamshid’s financial firm by the urban police force, who dismissed the employees and sealed off its entrance.

The Russian embassy deployed Cossacks (Russian gendarmes) at Arbab Jamshid’s estate and blocked all communications. (3). One of Arbab Jamshid’s trusted servants, who was  carrying Arbab’s private message to his chief financial officer, was arrested and badly beaten by the Cossacks. The account records of many clients, including the loan documents of those who borrowed from his firm, were mysteriously lost. Therefore, it was not possible to enforce the pay back  of these lost loans. (1).  Furthermore, the Czarist Russian bank in St. Petersburg did not honor its contract for the amount of 500,000 rubles that had been a guaranteed credit to Arbab Jamshid, endorsed by the central Russian bank.  It was denied against all contractual agreements.

Arbab Jamshid’s business empire collapsed and his financial firm, real estate, personal properties, and household goods were confiscated. Equally unjust was the liquidation of collateral by the two banks. Jamshid Abad and Amir Abad were transformed into farmland, while the gardens and a summer house of Arbab Jamshid’s, which had been appraised at 600,000 Tomans, were sold for 5,000 Tomans, a rate amounting to less than a penny for the dollar. Arbab Jamshid’s residence, Park-e-Atabak,  became the Russian embassy and its western section was later sold to the British embassy. (1)

The less valuable southern section of the estate still owned by Arbab Jamshid was transformed into a residential area and subdivided into several houses and a street known as Arbab Jamshid Avenue. One of those houses, along with its surrounding garden became Arbab Jamshid’s residence for the rest of his life. It was later inherited by his eldest son Arbab Rostam who rebuilt the house. This house is now the primary residence of Ayatollah Hakim’s family. Arbab Jamshid died a few years later at the age of 82, in the year of 1301 Yazdgerdi.

This great man of our recent history built his business empire on honesty, integrity, intelligence and innovation. He was a devoted Zoroastrian who desired prosperity and progress for the people of his motherland.

May the example of the productive life lived by this great individual inspire us and may his soul rest peacefully in the Abode of Songs along with the soul of his teacher and mentor, Zarathushtra the Manthran.

^The Toman and Rial are the units of currency used in Iran.  One Toman is 10 Rials.  At that time 1 Toman would have been the equivalent of US$1. Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, for a long time  the rate of exchange was US$1 = 7 Tomans.  At the turn of the 20th century that rate has dropped to as low as US$1 = 1000 Tomans and at the time of this writing it is about US$1 = 780 Tomans.

*The author considers it a personal honor and privilege to be related, through his wife, to the late Arbab Fereidoon.

Contribution of information from Dr. Jamshid Jamshidian and Dr. Farhang Mehr for this article is acknowledged. 


  1. Personal recollections of Dr. Jamshid Jamshidian, Arbab Jamshid’s grandson, based on information related to him by his father, Arbab Jamshid’s son and by his grandmother Gowhar Jamshdian, Arbab Jamshid’s wife and others.

  2. FEZANA Journal, Dr. Farhang Mehr,: Winter 2000, pp. 36-37

  3. Farzanegane Zaratoshti (Farsi); Rashid Shahmardan, pp. 432-465

  4. Past and Present of Iran, Professor AW Jackson, pp.426-427

  5. The Zoroastrians of Iran, Janet Kestenberg Amighi, pp.151-152

  6. The Zoroastrians of Iran, Janet Kestenberg Amighi, p. 154

  7. Mashruteh Dar Yazd (Farsi), Ali Akbar Tashakori Bafghai, pp. 157–158, 182, 187

  8. 30 years History of Bank e Melli: Iran, p.106

  9. The Strangling of Persia,  W. Morgan Schuster, pp. 11-12