Charni Rd school regains Gothic glory
The BJPCI school is one of the last remaining structures in the city built in the Gothic architectural style.
The 132-year-old Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Parsee Charitable Institution (BJPCI), a historical landmark opposite Charni Road station, has been restored to its former grandeur by conservation architect Vikas Dilawari.
The BJPCI school is one of the last remaining structures in the city built in the Gothic architectural style. It was designed by Khan Bahadur Muncherji C Murzban, whose name has been relegated to the pages of history but is an unsung native architect of Bombay.
The building, established in 1890, stands out for its distinctive teakwood screens and coloured glass, exemplifying the Gothic Revival style. Today, the school accommodates approximately 1,500 students across morning, afternoon and evening sessions.
It was commissioned by Byramjee Jeejeebhoy, the institution’s founder. As the structure was being built, the school operated out of a rented building on Queen’s Road, after its formal inauguration in September 12, 1891. At the time it offered primary and middle school sections exclusively to Parsi boys. In 1908, the school relocated to its present location; the building was constructed on a budget of ₹4.5 lakh. The restoration was supported by Virtusa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Virtusa Corporation, an IT company with offices in major cities in India.
Over the years, it evolved and eventually became co-educational in 1972, while junior college divisions for commerce and science were introduced in 1975 and 1978, respectively. In 1985, the institution began accepting students of all religions.
Highlighting the building’s striking Gothic elements, Dilawari said, “Lancet arches, buttresses, pierced and quatrefoil parapets, corbel tables, rose windows, bouquet knobs and gable roofs are unique to this structure. The front façade – an imposing and symmetrical structure with a central bay gable pediment crowned by a statue of Athena -- represents the goddess of learning.”
The restoration of this historic building began in the 1990s and continued in 2000 and 2010, focusing on different aspects each time, including the restoration of the Athena statue and interiors. This most recent, and major, restoration project included structural repairs in localised areas, including classrooms and passages, along with comprehensive repairs to the front facade and the rear main staircase block, both internally and externally. “Virtually all common areas and the entire second floor, including the halls, were part of the current refurbishment,” Dilawari added.
While taking pride in the restoration, the school’s principal Daisy Zohrabi dwelled on the future plans. In the next academic year, it will introduce a playgroup. “With this, our education institute will be a one-stop solution for the students from play group to degree college,” said Zohrabi.
Rustom N B, school trustee, said, “I am committed to continuing the legacy of my great-grandparent, the school’s founder, and I have plans to submit the building for consideration as a UNESCO Heritage award entry.”