Zoroastrian Information Center at Udvada: Speech by Dasturji Mirza

This is a brief report on the speech given by Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza at the launch of the Zoroastrian Information Center at Udvada, Adar roj, Adar mah, YZ 1377, April 24, 2008.

Report submitted by Pervin J. Mistry on an email distribution list.

It is reported that a small crowd of about 200 Parsi-Irani-Zarathushtis attended the official opening of the Zoroastrian Information Center at Udvada. The expected throng of 3 to 4 thousand plus Zarathushtis did not materialize this time at the twice postponed inauguration. The event was not publicized widely, as the past two attempts were publicized, and it is also reported that many in Udvada itself did not participate because they were either not informed or were averse to attending any of the FDU’s activities in Udvada.

Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza, one of the High Priests of Udvada, Sir Jamsetji Jejeebhoy- Eighth Baronet and Dr. Miss Mehroo Bengalee, one of the trustees of WAPIZ, were present as Guests of Honor.

Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Mirza’s speech was, as usual, very educational and carried the right impact. He began his speech by saying that he was perplexed as to why he was chosen as the “Guest of Honor” when he was born, bred and lived in Udvada for most of his life! Udvada is his hometown and yet he was made a “Guest” there! He said he participated at this function, “rather than a Guest of Honor, I stand here today as the Dastur of Iranshah AtashBehram and The Udvada Anjuman”! His family has lived at Udvada for generations! His late father, Dasturji Dr. Hormazdyar Dastur Kayoji Mirza, was a very well known High Priest of Udvada and was renowned for his religious knowledge and research in Avestan, Pahlavi and Ancient Iranian Studies.

The erudite Dasturji then explained the significance of learning and understanding history, and went on to trace the journey of The Holy Iranshah from Sanjan to various places within the state of Gujarat, till our Holy Iranshah finally came to be enthroned at Udvada. He reminded the audience that our fore-fathers came to India and settled in Sanjan for the sole reason of the protection and preservation of our religion and community. They consecrated the Holy Iranshah at Sanjan, progressed and spread to various places on the west coast of India. This necessitated the need to form the five Panthaks of the priests. However, due to difficulties the Holy Iranshah had to be shifted to various places. The Holy Iranshah was in Navsari, with the fore-fathers of the present Nine Family Athornan Anjuman-Udvada for 320 years. In the year 1740, due to circumstances, it was necessary to shift the Holy Iranshah from Navsari to the Sanjana territory.

Enroute, they halted at Valsad and then Udvada. The tranquil and serene ambiance of Udvada attracted the forefathers of the present Nine Family Athornan Anjuman-Udvada, who decided to enthrone the Holy Fire permanently at Udvada. In contrast, Sanjan had by that time become a commercial centre and the atmosphere was not conducive to peace and quiet which is what the Holy Iranshah unconditionally needs to maintain the spiritual sanctity. Thus, Dasturji emphasized that to maintain the religious and spiritual sanctity of the Holy Iranshah; it becomes our duty that Udvada should not be turned into a Tourist Centre with Tourist Lodge, Tourist Walk etc. He added emphatically that the Tourist Agenda and the clauses that are not in the interest of The Holy Iranshah and Udvada should be deleted from the FDU Trust Deed. He further maintained that Udvada is a ‘Holy’ place and must remain a ‘Holy Place’ and no attempt should be made to turn it into a ‘Holiday Place’ as this would ruin the sanctity of Udvada as a place of Parsi/Irani Zarathushti pilgrimage.

Thank you, Dasturji Saheb, we are all very grateful to you for letting the FDU Trustees know, truthfully and in public, the true sentiments of the community regarding the FDU’s ill conceived Trust Deed and the factual ruination certain clauses in the Trust Deed will incur to Iranshah’s spiritual sanctity which must remain sacrosanct.

Dasturji reminded that our community is passing through a critical period. He mentioned that it is our duty to remain vigilant against some Parsis namely: Dr. Kersi Antia and the likes of him, who are encouraging and assisting Mr. Ali Akbar Jaffrey- a Muslim, to commit Blasphemy against the Zarathushti Religion.

Further, the learned Dasturji mentioned of the sand erosion at the Udvada beach. He maintained that this was due to the mass scale theft of sand from the beach in the past decades particularly during the industrial development in places around Udvada. He also mentioned of the recently built sea wall at Udvada that has failed to protect the sea from encroaching upon the close proximity to Iranshah. He said that generally speaking, most problems these days are attributed to global warming but the failure of the sea wall to protect Iranshah was due to human error alone. The sea wall was built in the wrong direction! Instead of being built from North to South it had been constructed in the other direction, from South to North. The constructors are rectifying this error and Dasturji Saheb hopes that Iranshah will now be safe from the rising sea water during the monsoon season.

Mr. Noshir Dadrawalla, the compere, offered thanks to Dasturji Saheb for his erudite speech, and for his presence at the inaugural function for the Zoroastrian Information Center.

Prior to the inauguration of the Zoroastrian Information Center at Udvada, some individuals in the community hastily questioned Dasturji Saheb’s objective for having accepted FDU’s invitation to participate at this function as a Guest of Honor! In contrast, some implicitly trusted Dasturji Saheb’s wise determination to accept the privilege of being present as a Guest of Honor at this inaugural function. The Parsi-Irani-Zarathushti community is indeed very proud of and grateful to Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza for accepting the privileged position of a Guest of Honor at this inaugural function and letting the FDU trustees know exactly how the community feels about changing Udvada from a Holy Place into a Tourist Dham! Thank you, Dasturji Saheb, for your dedication to Iranshah, and for your honesty, courage, sincerity and religious leadership. May you serve Iranshah for many more years to come! May you lead the community from despair and religious ignorance to hope of survival and spiritual wisdom!