CYRUS H. MERCHANT describes and FARZANA CONTRACTOR photographs Udvada for the UpperCrust. A tribute to the Holy City of the Zoroastrians on the occasion of Jamshedi Navroze today.
The 20th day of the Zoroastrian calendar is not just another day, but a date with Victory. For, it belongs to the angel Behram Yazata who presides over triumph, success, and victory of all and any sort. Small wonder then that this day sees more bent knees and lowered heads, petitions and pleas… and more than anything, kept promises to Iranshah, as there is little else that beats the Heaven and Earth combo of Behram and Iranshah; McParadise indeed!
Passed down to a generation of us from folklore and the folds of our grannies’ sarees, Behram roj and Udvada together signal the arrival of good times, changing times, a turn in a devotee’s tide. All through the month you pray around this landmark day, a crescendo of wishes or one single wish which if Behram, favours clashes with cymbals within the keblah room as a bell is rung ten powerful times. So auspicious is this day that there are more Behrams in the community than there are, say, Cyruses.
There are regular Behram Roj-Iranshah goers, so regular in fact that legend has it that the railway tracks leading to the coastal town of Gujarat are familiar with their names. The pathway to good fortune indeed is a familiar friend to those seeking it.
For over 20, 25 years they go every single Behram Roj, not a roj is missed. I know them by face, name even, but some part of piety is pricked when the privacy of a worshipper is invaded. They have their train pass, their pudhina-chai flask, their faith. Armed with these three and little else, they board at 5.40. Mostly from Bombay Central, full of vim even at that hour, eagerly awaiting Dinshaw from Dadar Parsee Colony to join them in ten minutes at the next stop. Some doze through the ride, many pray, most eat.
There is something about Parsees and food; even on a pilgrimage. The pora (sorry, omelette is no substitute for the onomatopoeic rendition of this word), the akuri sandwich, the baffela ida (boiled eggs), the appetite! Compartments resemble Cusrow Baug, as throngs make the journey to what Nairyosangh Dhaval established as the most anointed fire in the world. One that takes within it’s golden flames all the lusts, longing and unspoken shadows of the human mind and heart. The Fire that burns, also cleanses.
More than Behram Roj, on Adar Mahino Adar Roj (which is the jashan day of Fire and the birth anniversary of the miraculous Iranshah), and on the biggest calendar day of November 24th, additional trains, a genial legacy of the late Homi Taleyarkhan, carry these faithful and their breakfasts. A quick shower and off we go into the sanctum sanctorum. From next door’s Globe Hotel and around the globe, they come for even an hour in front of the King Of Fires.
On Behram Roj there is little standing place while the Machi is being performed, chants of Behram Yashts and litanies to Ama Yazata the co-angel of Courage, tan-dorastis, a golden Fire leaping and reaching out to the angels above. It is mesmerising. The evening Aiwsiruthrem Geh even more beautiful as it allows no electricity (quite like Boyce Agiary, Tardeo, Bombay), there are only burning divos and the Iranshah.
Never mind if a prayer is answered or not, but on Behram Roj in Iranshah, a heart finds its peace, a lover, it’s beloved and a dreamer his or her dream. You are renewed. Refreshed and you trouble trouble with prayer!
Troubles, like a mistress that haunted you just because you spent some time with her, are finally discarded. All evil is eliminated, as you raise the special Udvada garland of pink roses and white flowers.
You can’t beat the magic of this day, the memories associated with it. Of love and family and rare togetherness. Fanta bottles, mothers in garas, children running around on the red carpet in their frills and whites, the elderly bent into the blue Avesta books, good-looking young boys in jeans keeping the Parsee gene alive, pretty girls with scarves tied across their faces like Italian maidens on breezing Lambrettas, the NRI Parsees so easily distinguishable with their accents and flow of philanthropy. But above all, you see people with faith. Eyes with faith. Yes, it will be done, Behram Yazad and Iranshah will do it for us, they have done it for countless before. More than the perfume of sandalwood, you smell Faith. Hope. Peace. For anyone who erroneously believes that the community is dying, you need to be in Udvada on Behram Roj.
Having fed the soul, you return to your Ratanshah Katila Lodge, amidst gleaming trees in the monsoon and easily the prettiest place to stay in Udvada, you call for the boi and the rickshawallah (who knows every visiting Katy and the prowess of her haggling) and you head back home, always but always by the 3 o’clock train. And turning right towards the walls of the Atash Behram in an ancient symbolic gesture of returning, with eye and heart gazing at the calendar you wait for another calling, on another Behram Roj because like Life, like Iranshah, somethings just have a date with destiny.
The more things remain the same, the more they change. Yes you are alarmed, yes you are worried, yes you feel regret and an ineffable sadness and wonder what will happen to your community, your religion. Then on this day, or any other day, you go to Iranshah and you look and you see and you feel, that all is not lost as yet, that in some recess of every mind is a loyal seed waiting to sprout under the splendour and strength of Behram. That like the Gujarat Mail that no matter how late, comes to it’s platform, the lost will return home… to a waiting Father who knows that as far as bad times g
Original article here