Parsis to approach Modi to save their first settlement Community fears non-agricultural status of holy land in Udvada may herald industrialisation The threat of industrialisation of Udvada, considered a heritage site by the Parsis, has worried the community members. It was at Udvada that the Parsis first settled down permanently — around 500 years ago — following a truce with the local king of Sanjan, Jadav Rana, after they fled from Iran.
The bone of contention is the transfer of an agricultural land situated behind the fire temple Shreeji Pak Iranshah Atashbehram, into a non-agricultural plot. The land contains sweet water wells, which serve the daily requirements and the religious purposes of the 168 Parsi households in the area. Dasturji Khurshed K Dastur, High Priest of Udvada Samast Anjuman, said: “We consider the well water holy as it is used for rituals. Our daily lives depend on these wells despite the panchayat building an overhead tank in the area. The tank water is available for only 20 minutes daily.” He added: “If an industrial estate comes up or Udvada is expanded, the wells will get contaminated. We will not be able to use the water for our rituals and our daily requirements.” Earlier on October 18,
Dastur had met Valsad Collector Nalin Thakkar after which the construction of a proposed residential colony was stopped. But with the status on the land remaining unchanged, Dastur filed an online petition on October 21, signed by 2,800 Parsis across the world. Now, all the six high priests of the community from across the world will write to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and seek his intervention. Thakkar confirmed that construction activity has been stopped in the area till the issue is resolved. “The Deputy Collector had passed the order for transfer of land as he was heading the Revenue Department.
After we received a representation from the community, I asked the transfer order to be reviewed. But some of the buyers of the land have gone against my order to review the transfer in the Revenue Tribunal. The matter has been stayed and construction has been halted,” said Thakkar. Dastur said, “We want to have a meeting with the Chief Minister so that he can declare the area a heritage site and stop the transfer of land into a non-agricultural one.” It may be noted that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has lifted the moratorium on new projects in five industrial sites, including Vapi in the state.
Fire Temple Shreeji Pak Iranshah Atashbehram is loosely translated as the First Fire Temple of the Highest Graded Order. The fire was called Iranshah, giving it a kingly status, and was dedicated to Iran, the country of Prophet Zarathustra’s birth, which was earlier known as Persia. The fire so consecrated is kept burning and alive even to this day. It was located at Udvada in 1742 AD, and is the oldest existing fire temple in the world. The fire was also shifted to Barot Hills from where it travelled to various parts of south Gujarat including Navsari.