High Court says no to plan for redevelopment of Kappawala Agiary

In a major victory for the Parsi community in the city, the Bombay high court recently dismissed an application seeking to commercially exploit a portion of the Kappawala Agiary (fire temple) at Tardeo.

Justice Nishita Mhatre upheld the order of the charity commissioner, which had denied permission to the Seth Shapurji Sorabji Kappawal Charitable Trust to demolish the agiary annexe building and construct a seven-storey highrise.

The community considers the Kappawala Agiary as very important as the last Zoroastrian saint, Dastur Jamshed Ervad Sohrab Kukadaru (1831-1900), was a priest in this fire temple. The fire in this agiary was consecrated in 1857 (the year of the Sepoy Mutiny) and the magnificent building was built in 1941 when the fire was shifted from Fort to Tardeo. The heritage committee declared the building a Grade II-A protected structure in 2008.


"The agiary has a sacred well and the proposed multi-storeyed building would have come up in close quarters of this sacred space,” said Anahita Desai of the World Alliance for Parsi Irani Zarthostis (WAPIZ), who along with temple trustee Behram Billimoria, spearheaded the opposition to the redevelopment plans. "The sanctity of the holy place would have been compromised. It is the duty of the agiary trustees to protect the temple, and they cannot be seen to allow it to be commercially exploited,” Desai added.

The court order caps a three-year battle to save the agiary land. In 2006, trustee Dara Nicholson sought permission from the charity commissioner to demolish the ground-plus-one-storey agiary annexe building occupied by lone tenant Rohinton Devlaliwala on the grounds that it was dilapidated. Devlaliwala himself won the redevelopment tender by offering to give Rs 60 lakh and a 800 sq-ft flat to the trust. The trust, in return, was to give him development rights of about 5,000 sq ft of the unutilised floor space index (FSI). The charity commissioner rejected the application in 2008 and Nicholson moved court.

In his plea, Nicholson said the building was in a dilapidated condition and posed a danger to the lives of the tenants as well as visitors to the agiary. The court did not agree.

"The charity commissioner’s order, citing structural engineer’s report, says all that the building needs is repairs. Further, any highrise coming up in the precinct of the temple will be a violation of the heritage law,” Desai said.

  • Delnavaz

    Great ! It is good to know that the court has saved ‘Kappawala Agiary’ from land sharks. The Agiary is a heritage structure and cannot be meddled with. Also a building so close to the Agiary would destroy the sanctity of the place as well.


  • I am very pleased to hear that. Infact every Zoroastrain will support this move.our fire temple’s are only remaning Entity of our community for our future Genration. If these are demolished you can imagine what could happen.

  • Anti Dhongidox

    Would it not have been better if the “Development” had been allowed to be carried out and funds raised therefrom compelled to be transferred for maintenance of holy fire? One could have approched the Authorities then instead of prematurely aborting the develpoment. If we had such “Zoroastrian spirit’ a century back, no residential Parsee colonies would have come up.When Parsee population shifts from a locality, the Fire Temples encounter shortage of funds and is it a wonder that a Marine Lines Agiary has to resort to Advertise its services in Jame.Are not various Agiaries like Indawalla, Aslaji,Mehella Patel, to just name a few, covered from the front by residential buildings.? I am not for encouraging Land Sharks but for betterment of our Holy places and placing them on sound financial footing.

  • phiroz

    Ms. Delnavaz.
    I do not wish to go into merits or demerits of this Case but your remark that a building close to Fire Temple would make Fire Temple lose its sanctity leaves a reader bewildered. Are our Holy Fires so weak to lose their sanctity.
    If we accept your reasoning then following fire templews which have buildings adjoining them have lost their sanctity (which is not so)
    Dadysett Agiary at D.N. Rd,
    2. Vaccha Fire Temple also at D.N. Rd,
    3. Langrana Fire Temple behind BPP.
    4. Mithaiwalla Agiary at Grant Rd.
    By the way most Agiaries have quarters for Panthakies/Mobeds.I do not think that our priests lead a celibated life.
    Let not future generation of Parsees condemn the current generation for shortsighedness.For whom do we intend to leave these properties when after 70 years or so, numerically we may be a few dozens.Just ponder.

  • Delnavaz

    Hi Phiroz,
    When you say that my remark leaves a reader bewildered – it may certainly leave you bewildered, but to another it may make perfect sense. In a croweded city like Bombay it is indeed very difficult to have any place of worship away from crowds/buildings/commercial activity, however wherever possible like in the case of ‘Kappawla Agiary’ it should be prevented. I hope the future generations do not condemn but appreciate our efforts of preserving our heritage to the best of our abilities in these turbulent times. This too will pass.

  • phiroz

    I do not think I alone am bewildered. I have quoted names of Agiaries which have sizable number of devotees but have adjoining buildings, residential/ commercial but NOT LOST THEIR SANCTITY.
    Another example is Aslaji Fire Temple at Girgaon/Grant Road which has large number of devotees but is on the rear side of a cosmopolitan chawl.
    If a Fire Temple has residential complex next to it then there are bound to be devotees.Fire temples away from Parsee residencies have seldom any devotees and have to meke frequent “Appeals” for donations in order to survive.
    If one goes by logic of ‘losing sanctity’probably Sethna Bhabha Building next to Banaji Atashbehram would not have come up in the latter half of last century.
    Did any body find anything wrong in buildings adjoining Anjuman Atashbehram.?
    By the way I am not for commercial exploitation of Religious places but want that corpuses of Religious places be augmented at a time when maintenance costs are escalating and number of devotees bocoming lesser due to declining population.

  • Anti Dhongidox

    Both of you are wrong. The pace at which our population is dwindling in future there will be encroachments on our properties.If somebody wants fire temples in secluded places then just see the condition of fire temples in South Gujarat and other moffusil places. They are starved of funds even for Bawal Kaathi.
    Moreover, somebody permitted construction of Annexe to Kapawalla Agiary in last century and at that time no body opposed it, then why make a plea of requirewment of solitude now.Why discourage entry of more humdins and more humdins will definitely enter Agiaries if it is close to their dwelling.What is required is preventing commercial exploitation of Trust Lands by a handful of individuals and not a blanket ban on improvements subject to fruits of Trust property being credited to the concerned Trust.