Satara Agiary: The tale of a fire temple and two families

The agiary may not attract many devotees, but those that come are full of faith

SATARA: Situated in the heart of the district town of Satara, some 300 km from Mumbai, stands a grand old Parsi fire temple. The holy fire especially brought by sea from Iran in 1901 remains lit round the clock, the temple bell chimes six times a day but there is hardly a devotee to pray.

For 50-year old Yezdi Tarapore, the temple priest for the last 12 years, the lack of devotees is no matter of concern and he takes pride in revealing that at least Farook Cooper, one of the senior members of the nine-member strong local Parsi community visits the fire temple, popularly known as Khan Agiary every day and offers his prayers.

“It is not mandatory for devotees to come to the Agiary every day. The members however attend all the three big annual celebrations like the Parsi new year,” he informed.

Some half a century ago, there were more than 50 Parsis in the city of Satara but over the years, most of them moved out for various reasons.There are just two families left behind. One family carries the surname Cooper and the other Satarawalla.

Both the families are very affluent and participate in the city’s educational, social and medical welfare activities. “They donate generously and contribute largely to the genuine causes. They are well-respected and revered by the local populace,” says Rahul Deshpande, a senior photo-journalist from Satara.

“They all speak Marathi and mingle up with local culture so well that sometimes it becomes difficult to believe that they are Parsis,” Deshpande opined.

“When the patriarch of one of the two families — Khurshid Cooper — died last year she was cremated according to Hindu rites by her family as that was her last wish,” he said. “There exists an old Parsi well in the outskirts of the city but it has been used rarely over the past few decades,” says Deshpande.

Temple priest Tarapore told DNA that the Agiary building needed some urgent repairs in 1951 and the community members from Satara and Kolhapur donated more than Rs34,000 for the purpose. “The repairs, however, required just around Rs7,000 and the remaining Rs27,000 was used for social causes related to the citizens of Satara,” Tarapore revealed. Incidentally, the majestic Agiary too was constructed at a cost of Rs27,000 in 1901, according to temple records.

Original article here.