Iranshah Udvada Utsav 2017 A Resounding Success

The second edition of the Iranshah Udvada Utsav was a resounding succes, bringing 2000 Zarathushtis from near and far together for a 3 day celebration.

Zarathushtis from Udvada were joined by those from towns and cities in Gujarat, Mumbai, other parts of India and from Zarathushtis all over the world, many of whom had come down just for the Utsav.The wide variety of program on the three days had something for everyone who attended.

As the crowds gathered on Friday December 23rd and picked up their registration passes, they made their way to a well designed mainstage. The evening proceedings began with a welcome speech by the Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor thanking one and all for their presence in Udvada for the Utsav. Gujarat Chief Minister and other government officials present were happy to see Parsis in such large numbers assembled here. The evening festivities continued with an exquisite fashion show where our own brilliant designer … aapro Ashdin Lilaowala pulled out all the stops in presenting Parsi culture through fashion.The musical component of the evening was a celebration of the life of Freddie Mercury aka Farrokh Bulsara, the greatest rock start of the last century. Favorite songs were performed live by the band present.

Sunday December 24th began with a panel discussion on Zoroastrian ethos in the current Age and included a distinguished panel moderated by Zarine Commisariat. The panelists included Dr. Shernaz Cama of PARZOR, Katayun Kapadia of FEZANA, Malcolm Deboo of ZTFE and Ervad Dr. Ramyar Karanjia. They all spoke and grappled with ideas of how community efforts are woring towards keeping the youth involved and aware.

Mobed FIrozgary, the Vada Dasturji of Tehran gave a presentation of the wedding ceremony as performed in Iran today. Ervad Soli Dastoor of Florida spoke about the simple Afarganyu and its significance in all our religious ceremonies. The Jiyo Parsi Campaign, FEZANA and North American Mobed Council all made presentations of their work and activities.

Legendary Parsi theater man Yazdi Karanjia of Surat regaled the crowd with words of wisdom and humor that help one through the daily grind of life.

Parsi historian Marzban Giara launched his 42nd book titled “Valiant Parsis in War and Peace”. The book was launched by Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor.

During the entire morning Heritage Walks all around Udvada were conducted in small batches every 30 minutes. This gave the participants a first hand glimpse of the architecture of Udvada gaam.

Over 40 teams of youth had a field day participating in the Treasure Hunt organized by Hoshaang Gotla and his team.

Vada Dasturji also announced the launch of a Global Intiative for the Iranshah Udvada Atashebehram where Zarathushtis from all over the world can contribute funds towards the upkeep of Iranshah.

The evening program saw Union MInister Smriti Irani address the gathering along with Dr. Farokh Udwadia. Smriti Irani praised the Parsi community’s achievements over centuries and was very happy to note that 25 young Zoroastrian youth from all over the world had come to the Utsav as part of the Zoroastrian Return To Roots Program.

The musical portion of the evening celebrations had the Parsi band Big Red Bus performing a wide variety of songs, which had the entire crowd dancing and clamoring for more.

The concluding days proceedings on Monday December 25th, 2017 saw the Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu address the gathering along with two eminent Zoroastrians who were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their work. Pallonji  Mistry and Dr. Farokh Udwadia were the two receipiants. VP Naidu spoke about India’s diversity of cutlure and religion as its crowning feature and thanked the Parsi community for being such an important and integral part of the fabric of Indian society.

The program ended on a fantastic note and those who attended left with a sense of pride for their community and having been witness to a memorable Utsav.

While the first Utsav of 2015 was all about the euphoria of a new idea, the second Utsav in 2017 was the coming of age for this event. The very first impressions were that the organizers had taken heed of all the minor teething organizational issues and processes were streamlined. The venue was setup well and attendees had easy access to all parts of the venue and other locations in Udvada gaam. The organizers need to be thanked for having thought of small and big things to make this experience an excellent one.

The very important component of “food” was executed with finesse. Participants knew which seating they had to show up for and there were none of the usual lines and jostling that are typical of large gatherings. The variety and quality of the food served was excellent.

The AV setup and all the backend techical setup was executed without a flaw. And the attention to details showed in its execution.

The Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor was present right through and as the ever gracious host greeted one and all, while at the same time overseeing a myriad of activities. Havovi Dastoor, his wife who oversaw all aspects of the organisation and logistics of the Utsav was present and in “all hands on deck” mode to make sure things happened as planned. Havovi and her team drew on tremendous resources of personal patience and calm in dealing with small and big issues that come up when planning an event of this type. What was really encouraging to see was the involvement of youth in organizing and running the show, and the organizers need to be lauded for empowering and enabling the youth to do so.

The program was packed and sometimes one had to make tough choices about what they could participate in. However this also enabled that there was something for everyone to do, no matter what age.

Udvada gaam was all spruced up with new street art and the fantastic Gateway built as an entry portal into town. The Zoroastrian Information Center was decked up for the occassion.

It was personally heartening for me to see Parsi Boy scouts and Girl Guides on duty at the Utsav, following decades old traditions of Parsi Scouts and Guides volunteering at big events in helping the organizers with security, crowd control, information kiosks etc.

It was clear to all present that the Utsav was adapting and changing with the times and variety of programs and activities was a testament to that. In the years to come the Utsav should continue to market itself more to the younger generation and bring them here in larger numbers than ever before.

As is said, in history; numbers do not matter. The 2000 Zarathushtis who gathered here in Udvada had a chance pay their respects to the Pak Iranshah Atashbehram and also join their community in celebrating our own culture, traditions and excellence of human achievements by young and old. The presence of a large number of Parsis from abroad reinforced the idea that even though one may be thousands of miles away, when the “home beacon” calls, the faithful shall flock.