The caves at Ajmalgadh a small mountain in Vansda, Gujarat, India. For over 14 years this place provided a safe refuge for The Iranshah, the holiest of our holy fires, 700 years ago. Today it was the location for a celebration the vibrations of which must’ve made the mountain sing and Ahura Mazda smile down at us.
Ajmalgadh is one of the many places that our holy Iranshah Atash stayed at in its long and troubled journey before it found its home in Udvada. Here in a cave within the mountain the fire lived and breathed for 14 years under the constant care and faith of our ancestors. A few years ago, the Vansda Parsi Anjuman decided to build a monument to this remarkable and unimaginable feat and to honour the Atash and those who tended it. The beautiful Stambh at Ajmalgadh was planned. The plateau of Ajmalgadh is also home to a Hanuman Mandir and a small Shiv Mandir. When the Anjuman decided to start work on the Stambh, the Forest Department took umbrage and stopped the work citing their ownership of the land.The Anjuman approached one of our community leaders who observed that if there could be 2 mandirs erected there, why not a Stambh. He got the wheels rolling and thereafter it was a smooth sail.
Today the Vansda Parsi Anjuman with the support and financial assistance of the World Zoroastrian Orgainization Trust Funds under the leadership of Dinshaw Tamboly and with the blessings of Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor, the vada dasturji of the Iranshah Atashbehram, planned a jashan next to the Stambh and they invited our samast kom to grace this occasion and participate in the celebrations. It was a beautiful day and as we got there, the mountain itself seemed alive. Numerous cars made their way up the mountain traversing some very steep and sharp roads. The event was efficiently and thoughtfully organised. There were cars to take people right till the top from a pick up point midway up the mountain. Helpful young men were deployed all along the route with welcoming smiles and some useful tips on how to navigate the steep incline in their cars.
The Anjuman had erected a giant shamiana for the public at large and the place was packed. Hundreds of guests from near and far gathered for this historic event. There was a refreshment counter too and some industrious ladies were selling bhakhra and organic jaggery. People had come from Mumbai and all over Gujarat. In fact, the WZO organized a bus from Navsari to bring residents of the Old Age Home at Navsari. The young, very young and very old attended too.
The jashan was conducted by 16 priests, led by the Vada Dasturji of Iranshah Udwada, Khurshed Dastur. It was a beautifully conducted hour long jashan that lifted the spirits. At this event one is reminded of the adage “a community that prays together stays together”.
After the jashan, the felicitations took place. We were honored to be in the presence of Vada Dasturji, Dinshaw Tamboly and his graceful wife Bachi, Jamshed Dotiwala the chair of the Surat Parsi Punchayet, the Maharaja of Vansda and his son, and a very eloquent grandson of the Vadodara Royal family. Of course the office bearers of all the Anjumans who could be present were present. Each one was honored with a shawl and flowers and some of the dignitaries gave rousing speeches harking on the hard work and glory of our ancestors and calling on the samast kom to aim once again for those heights.
The event culminated with a Gambhar at the Wadia Hall in Vansda catered superbly by Jimmy Gadiwalla.
Ajmalgadh got its due respect today from the community, after centuries and we hope this becomes a regular event.