Asia’s oldest newspaper set to enter its 200th year

'Mumbai Samachar', Asia’s oldest newspaper, set to enter 200th year

Earlier known as 'Bombay Samachar', the Parsi-family owned newspaper has played an important role in India’s freedom struggle

The Mumbai Samachar office in Fort area of Mumbai. Credit: Mumbai Samachar

Asia’s oldest newspaper, 'Mumbai Samachar', will enter into the 200th year of its publication on 1 July.

The newspaper has seen the transformation of Bombay to Mumbai – and has covered all the historic events involving the financial capital and India.

Over the years, the Gujarati daily has carved a niche for itself – and its office is in the Red House at the SA Brelvi Road off the Horniman Circle in the Fort area of Mumbai.

Earlier known as 'Bombay Samachar', the Parsi-family owned newspaper has played an important role in India’s freedom struggle.

'Hicky's Bengal Gazette or the Original Calcutta General Advertiser' was the first newspaper printed in Asia, and was published only for two years, between 1780 and 1782.

The first edition of 'Bombay Samachar' came out on 1 July, 1822.

The first edition of the newspaper. Credit: Mumbai Samachar

It was the second non-English newspaper published in India – the first being 'Samachar Darpan', that came out on 23 May, 1818 published from Serampore in Hooghly.

The first Hindi newspaper 'Udant Martand' came out on 30 May, 1826, published from Kolkata, then Calcutta.

The 'Bombay Samachar' was established in 1822 by a Parsi scholar and priest, Fardunjee Marzban, who was a pioneer not only of journalism in Western India but of all Gujarati printed literature. He founded the first native press in 1812 and in 1814 brought out a Gujarati Calendar, fully 6 years before the first Bengali calendar was printed and published in Calcutta.

Initially, the paper consisted of three small quarto sheets and a half sheet supplement, published in a 10x8 inch format, containing overall 14 pages of printed matter.

The newspaper, born as a weekly, was published till 1832; post which it transformed into a bi-weekly till 1855 and a daily after that till date.

The Mumbai Samachar is now owned by the Cama family, which took over in 1933.

One copy of the daily newspaper is priced at Rs 10, the highest in India – and it commands a circulation of 1.5 lakh.

A veteran in the media industry, Hormusji N Cama, is its present Director.

“The newspaper has a glorious tradition and it still continues,” Nilesh Dave, the Editor of Mumbai Samachar, told DH on Sunday. "Competing 199 years and entering the 200 year is a landmark occasion...we all are excited about it," said Dave.

“The paper has a unique relationship with the Gujarati-speaking community including the Parsees,” said Jatin Desai, a veteran journalist, writer, activist and political commentator.

The Bombay Samachar played a very important role during India's struggle for independence being often quoted by freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and others.

“The newspaper has a glorious history but they are very futuristic. They were among the first to introduce card-punching for its staff and also computers in the newsroom,” says Ajit Joshi, a veteran journalist and an expert on Mumbai’s heritage.

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