Two Parsi high priests have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to realign the tunnel of the upcoming Metro-III rail project because it threatens two of the most sacred fire temples in south Mumbai.
Since the past month, the Zoroastrian community has been protesting against the Metro tunnel. Now, two of the senior most high priests, Dastur Firoze Kotwal and Dastur K M JamaspAsa, have thrown their weight behind their community .
In their letter sent to the PM last month, they said, “This project has caused great apprehension, anguish and concern within our small community .“
The Metro tunnel will pass underneath the Wadia Atash Behram, which was consecrated in 1830 at the Princess Road junction and in close proximity to the Anjuman Atash Behram (1897) across the road. These two are among the eight Atash Behrams in India.
“An Atash Behram is a composite whole comprising not just the consecrated fire enthroned in the sanctum sanctorum but also includes, within this definition, the whole edifice in which the divine fire is housed. During the process of consecration and enthronement, the holy fire is linked spiritually to the earth below it from which it draws sustenance…our ancestors took great ritual precautions to protect and maintain this connection and sanctity ,“ they said.
The high priests further said the tunnelling work could result in the Atash Behram wells going dry “in which case none of the high rituals of the Zoroastrian faith can be performed.“ They added, “This would be a great religious loss to our community . This loss is unacceptable to us as high priests.“
The nearly 300-year-old Bhikha Behram Parsi well near Cross Maidan could also be similarly affected by the construction, they warned.
“We are confident you and your organization are competent to explore options and realign the tunnelling so that our spiritual heritage and sites are not harmed,“ they said.
Last month, close to 11,000 people worldwide signed an online protest petition addressed to the PM on the issue. An American, Rose Baudin, who signed the petition, wrote: “I have been visiting Bombay every year since 1970 and have always been moved and touched by the obvious sanctity and powerful feeling of protection that this Parsi Temple radiates. It would be a travesty to allow any project underground or above to jeopardize its safety.“
Udwada high priest `satisfied’ with work
Parsi high priest Khurshed Dastoor of Udwada has expressed `satisfaction’ with the underground Metro-III corridor work that is executed along JSS Road, which has two fire temples. The delegation, which included Manek Daver and architect Shovir Irani, was given a presentation on the project by A Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) team. “After the presentation, Dasturji, along with the other members, visited all the places and again confirmed that they are fully satisfied that the wells, agiary and sanctity of sanctum sanctorum of both the fire temples are not affected,“ said a MMRC spokesperson. TNN
Metro rail officials have said none of the temples will be affected, but admitted that one of the tunnels will run 3.5 metres inside the Wadia Atash Behram and close to the sanctum sanctorum.