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New SOAS institute named after Shapoorji Pallonji

PUBLISH DATE 6th July 2018

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has launched a new Institute of Zoroastrian Studies named after Shapoorji Pallonji, the philanthropist and captain of industry with major interests in Mumbai and India.

The SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies is expected to become a resource dedicated to enhancing the research, learning and teaching of one of the world’s oldest religions.

SOAS was awarded a £5million gift in July 2017 to create the leading institute. The donation secures a long-term endowment for the Shapoorji Pallonji Lectureship in Zoroastrian Studies in the Department of the Study of Religion, the institution said.

Shapoor Mistry, chaiman of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said the launch of the institute filled him with pride. He described it as a “great journey that we are about to begin”.

He added, “These are the first baby steps that we take to protect our culture and religion (and) I’m sure that this initiative is the right initiative and the only way forward is with SOAS.”

SOAS director Valerie Amos said: “Over a period of some 80 years, SOAS has significantly promoted the study and understanding of Zoroastrianism and Iranian languages through engagement with the public, teaching and research.”

This legacy is being celebrated in the form of the new institute, “named fittingly after its supporters”, she said.

The co-chair of the new institute, Sarah Stewart, who also holds the Shapoorji Pallonji Lectureship in Zoroastrianism, said: “I hope that many of you – colleagues at SOAS and members of the Zoroastrian community – will help us to shape the future of the institute to make it the success that Shapoor Mistry and his family wish for and so richly deserve.”

Besides SOAS’ patron, Shapoor Mistry, guests at the launch event last week included Pallon Mistry, non-executive director at AFCONS Infrastructure, Alun Evans, CEO of the British Academy, Rohinton Kalifa, vice-chairman of Worldpay, Malcolm Deboo, president of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe, and Darayus Motivala, honorary secretary of the World Zoroastrian Organisation.

Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS since 1929, thanks to the Parsi community’s lectureship, which was held by Sir Harold Walter Bailey and Walter Bruno Henning. Renowned scholar Mary Boyce taught Zoroastrianism from 1947 to 1982.

Many other distinguished scholars of Zoroastrianism and Iranian studies have taught at SOAS, including John Hinnells, ADH Bivar, Philip Kreyenbroek and Nicholas Sims-Williams.

SOAS also produced a major international exhibition exploring the cultural history of Zoroastrianism, The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in history and imagination, which was held in the Brunei Gallery in 2013 and in the National Museum in New Delhi in 2016.

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