July 4, 2011

Iranshah Atash Behram

This time I went In Search Of Zoroastrian culture and their holy place. Search took me to a small town called Udvada in Gujarat State of India. This is about 190 km drive from Mumbai.

I was excited about this trip because I have never visited any Zoroastrian (better known as Parsis in India) temple. But all excitement died when I saw a notice board saying “People other than Parsis are not allowed inside”.

It was a quiet afternoon and we were standing outside a magnificent temple thinking how can we go inside? It was so quiet not many people were around; a thought came in my mind; let’s try entering. But then I realized this is the most holy place for them; even some Hindu temples do not allow other religion people to enter. I decided to respect their religion and took some photos from outside only.

Of course before taking the photos from outside; I checked with security guard if it is OK. He told us to visit a small museum where we can learn more about the Zoroastrians; their history and culture.

Same as temple museum was beautifully white and crisp clean. As not many people are aware about this town and Atash Behram; we were the only to visit the museum.

Museum was small but very informative. I learnt not only about the fire temple but also a lot about this silent small community living in India from last 10 centuries.

Parsi community has its roots in India from 10th century when many of them were migrated from Greater Persia. First parsi establishment was in Sanjan (Gujarat State in India).

According to parsi legend; these bunch of refugees arrived in Sanjan had ash of holy fire with them. This ash is served as the bed for the fire today at Udwada.

Fire temple was moved from Sanjan to Navsari to Udwada (all are towns in Gujarat State).

The highest grade of fire is the Atash Behram means “fire of victory”. It involves the 16 different kinds of fires gathered from 16 different sources. Udvada’s Atash Behram is established in India in 1742. This is the oldest and thus significantly important temple for Zoroastrians. This temple holds the fire since more than 250 years.

Apart from this there are 4 Atash Behrams in Mumbai; oldest is Dadiseth Atash Behram established in 1783; 2 in Surat, 1 in Navsari and 1 in Yazd Iran.

More than thousand years Parsis have been integrated in Indian society while maintaining their own distinct customs.

Parsi community has remarkable contribution to the history and development of India. Notable parsis in field of Science and industry includes Homi Bhabha, Dadabhai Navroji and many members of Tata, Godrej and Wadia family.

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