Come August 17 and the Parsi community in the city will gather at the 170-year-old Fire Temple in Secunderabad to celebrate New Year. The majestic structure standing tall on MG Road was built in 1847 and is spread over 11,000 square yards.
Recognised as a heritage structure by the erstwhile Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (Huda), the Fire Temple has a unique architecture resembling the Indo-European style with huge columns in the facade.
Article by Sunil Mungara | Times of India
A mega winged symbol, Faravahar, welcomes the devout at the entrance of the temple. This symbol of Zoroastrianism is more than 4,000 years old and is also found in Egypt and what was ancient Mesopotamia. The symbol is commonly associated with the sun and the deities connected with it.
There is a sacred well on the premises of the temple, where a priest offers prayers. The 70-feet well brims with water all round the year. The devout also place burning candles at the mouth of the well.
“Fire occupies a prominent place in Zoroastrian eschatology. Zoroastrian priests take precautions to keep the fire alive throughout the year. Earlier, our community used sandalwood to keep the fire burning. But now we are using dry logs of babool as sandalwood has become expensive. Moreover, there is also restriction on the movement of sandalwood,” Capt KF Pestonji, president of Old Parsi Fire Temple Trust, told TOI.
They also take great pains to keep the consecrated holy fire immune from contamination. When tending to the fire, a cloth known as Padan is worn over the mouth and nose so that breath and saliva do not pollute the fire.
The community also takes good care of the temple structure, which was built was the brothers Pestonji Meherji and Viccaji Meherji. They were bankers and cotton traders who had been invited to Hyderabad by the Nizam and the temple is named after them.
The brothers, who made huge profits in their business, also built their residence beside the British Residency on Bank Street and their office at King Koti in the vicinity of the Nizam’s palace. Their residence today serves as the Government ENT Hospital.
Incidentally, Hyderabad has the second largest Parsi population in India after Mumbai and has two more fire temples apart from the one in Secunderabad. But on August 17, as many as 1,100 members of the community will gather at the Secunderabad temple at 7am to offer prayers. They will end the day with festivities at the Zoroastrian Club on SP Road.