Heritage status: Parsis pen support for BMC’s plan


August 2, 2008

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Bombay | Heritage | Mumbai

The development plan department of the BMC has received nearly 3,000 letters from Zoroastrians all over the world in support of an official proposal to list the 47 fire temples in the city under the protection of heritage laws.

After four years of hectic lobbying by activists, the BMC finally notified these structures in June last year and invited objections as well as suggestions from the public . Most of these fire temples have been proposed to be listed under the more stringent Grade 2 A, which restricts construction on such lands.

On Wednesday, prominent citizens and civic activists gathered at a public meeting organised by the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarathushtris (WAPIZ) to felicitate community member Dr Kurush Zorabi, conservation architect Pankaj Joshi, city's guardian minister Jayant Patil and civic chief J Phatak for pushing this proposal through.

“I only hope that once these agiaries are listed, there should be no interference from the state. If the heritage protection prevents builders from grabbing such lands, the purpose will be served,'' former top cop Julio Riberio, who was at the meeting, told TOI. Riberio, however, expressed concerns that while there are so many fire temples in Mumbai , “the Parsi population in the city is not encouraging'' .

Civic activist Gerson Da Cunha said the proposed listing is one of the most “heartening things' ' to happen in recent times. “Not only does it show respect for a culture and heritage of the city, but also for a community, which is responsible for the growth of Bombay as we know it. These agiaries are part of our culture because of their peculiar architecture,'' he said.

Anahita Desai of Wapiz said the drive to collect signatures in support of the heritage status received a tremendous response. “We collected more than 2,000 letters that were handed over to the BMC recently,'' she said.

Another community member Pervin Mistry met BMC's development plan department chief A T Shintre last week and handed over support letters from 500 Zoroastrians from across the world, including associations in California and Auckland.

However, some Parsis have submitted their objections against the heritage grading of the oldest Atash Behram (the highest grade of fire temple) in the city-Dadysett at Girgaum , which was set up in 17-83 , say sources. Four years ago, the Dadysett Atash Behram trustee and a builder wanted to demolish a building on the temple premises and build a multi-storey structure.