Parsi high priests in a debate over Metro 3 route

Metro 3 is from Colaba to Bandra to SEEPZ which passes by two fire temples and a well

A difference of opinion — with a trace of lack of trust — broke out between Parsi high priests, with one saying that a neutral person from the community should come forward to explain the Metro 3 alignment issue. The Parsi community that gets bitterly divided in in the community’s religious matters, saw another such case rise up on Wednesday, after a letter written by two high priests to the prime minister and chief minister on the Metro 3 route, surfaced.

Article by Ashutosh Shukla | DNA

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Dastur Dr Firoze M Kotwal and Dastur Dr Kaikhusroo Jamasp Asa wrote a letter on October 21, 2017 asking that Metro 3 route alignment be reconsidered. Metro 3 is from Colaba to Bandra to Seepz, which passes by two fire temples and a well.

Some community members have apprehensions that the route passes beneath the sanctum sanctorum of the fire temples — H B Wadia Atash Behram on Shamaldas Gandhi Marg (Princess Street ) and Anjuman Atash Behram on Jagannath Sunjersett Road near Marine Lines station and will spoil water table of Bhikhaji Behram well. They even had signature campaigns.

“Consecration of an Atash Behram Padsaha (Spiritual King) is an elaborate and complex process, which takes over a year of teams of high-skilled priests to consecrate and enthrone the sacred fire. Today, we do not possess the capability or the ritual skills to consecrate such sacred Fires…Further, during the process of consecration and enthronement, the holy fire is linked spiritually, to the earth below it, from which it draws sustenance:” reads an excerpt of the letter.

However, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) in a press statement said, “Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor of Udwada, a member of the National Commission for Minorities visited the site office of MMRCL on Saturday at 3 pm along with Mr Manek Daver… was fully satisfied that tunnel alignment does not come in the way of well of sanctum sanctorum.”

Khurshed while talking to DNA said, “I invited Kotwal to come along, but he refused. I explained everything to him and he is(SAID HE WAS) satisfied. In case of Wadi there is buffer of 15 feet from the Sanctum, while in the case of Anjuman, the route is just about to the steps. Some people in the community are forming pressure groups and asked him to write the letter.”

Kotwal said he could not go due to frail health and added, “After discussions, we can reach an amicable solution, but it is better if the two Atash Behram are left untouched. There are a lot of groups in the community. A neutral person should take a look at the issue as I am not a specialist.”

“From what I have seen, the route does not pass beneath the Anjuman Atash Behram. In case of Wadia Atash Behram I am not sure, and the trust is conducting its own survey and the findings should be awaited,” said Maneck Davar, member of the community.

“If the route is not beneath the sanctum sanctorum, then I don’t think there is a problem,” said Dr Viraf Kapadia, another member of the community, adding, “There should have been unity among high priests in this issue.”

Some like Yazdi Desai, BPP chairperson who had approached Kotwal to write a letter said, “We are still against the route because our learned High Priests have opined that an Atash Behram includes the whole edifice in which the consecrated divine fire is housed and the Holy Fire is linked spiritually to the earth below it from which it draws sustenance. Further, the tunneling process could affect the water tables adversely resulting in the Atash Behram wells going dry in which case no high rituals of the Zoroastrian faith can be performed.”