Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Iranshah Udvada Utsav 2019 closes with a flourish

The second day of the Iranshah Udvada Utsav began on Saturday December 28, 2019 to bright blue skies and a slight chill in the air. The morning was dedicated to various activies. A treasure hunt organized by XYZ Foundation under the leadership of Hoshaang Gotla had 30 teams compete for the top prize. Heritage walks around Udvada were organized under the guidance of Jimmy Bhiwandiwala and a cookery demonstration by Cafe Farhoar kept the participants of the Utsav busy.

Participants also got a chance to visit the Zoroastrian Information Center where they got to experience the Multimedia Yasna project in virtual reality using 3D goggles. Another stop was the Mirza library that exhibited some rare books and manuscripts for the viewing pleasure of the attendees.

Photographs by Shantanu Das, commissioned by Pervez Damania were exhibited at the ZIC. Other photographs by Sooni Taraporewala were exhibited in the lane leading to the Iranshah.

The sports games continued through the day. And eventually each sport had a winner with some very closely contested finals.

The evening function began with a “state of the union” address by the Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor. He laid out his vision for the community in the years to come and thanked those who have been supportive of all the initiatives be it at the national government level, or at the local panchayat level. The fantastically organized Utsav was a testament to the hundreds of hours of planning that would have gone beforehand. Special thanks to Havovi Dastoor and the entire organizational setup for pulling this off.

This was followed by a presentation and launch of the Iranshah Initiative by Arzan Sam Wadia, Vice-President of FEZANA. The Iranshah Initiative is a concept put together by global youth leader Tinaz Karbhari with collaborators from all over the world. It is a youth generated initiative for the long term sustenance of the Pak Iranshah Atashbehram. You can check out the website at https://iranshahinitiative.com

A new book for children titled “My Golden Book on Zoroastrianism” was launched this evening. Edited by Meher Bhesania of Dubai, and published by the World Zoroastrian Organization Trust, this book contains information for children and is accompanied by a DVD. This book was given to the participants on the last day of the Utsav.

Edul Daver, Global Chair of the World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce made a fantastic presentation on the activities, mission and goals of WZCC.

A series of awards were presented to various eminent Parsis who had excelled in their field. These included Jehaan Kotwal, Sooni Taraporewala and many others.

A fantastic dance was choreographed with the beautiful creations of Ashdeen Lilaowala. Ashdeen’s work continues to wow audiences worldwide and it was no different here in Udvada.

The highlight of the evening was the spectacular production Amar Jyoti Zarathushtra by Mithoo Jesia and the Muncherji Edulji Joshi Memorial Trust, Dadar. This hour long Broadway style production enthralled the crowd and ended with standing ovation and a thunderous applause for the crowd.

A stage performance was choreographed by Burzin Engineer; and the closing act  by Merlin D’souza, who is fondly nicknamed the Female Rahman, is a pianist, composer and music director.

Sunday December 30th, 2019 dawned bright and sunny as Udvada got ready to welcome the chief minister of Gujarat. Mr. Vijay Rupani arrived at the Vada Dasturji’s house and after a traditional Parsi welcome, was given a tour of the area under renovation at the Iranshah Atashbehram. As the year long renovation is in progress, the Atash Padshah have been moved to the adjacent building. This gives a rare opportunity for non-Parsis to see the inside of the building.

CM Rupani and the Vada Dasturji along with other Gujarat government officials then proceeded to the Gymkhana grounds to address the thousands gathered for the valedictory function of the IUU 2019.

As the Chief Guest for the closing ceremony, Hon’ble CM Shri Vijay Rupani said, “The Parsi is a community that is peace loving and filled with good intentions; and has always given back to the society through bigger initiatives and institutions, for instance the B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, JJ School of Arts in Mumbai and other institutions. The efforts of many Parsi luminaries, specifically those of Dr Cyrus Poonawalla who led IUU 2019 as the main sponsor, has made a big contribution to India by making vaccines and his Swachh Pune initiative.”

Offering his gratitude at the event, Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor said, “I’m a great admirer of Shri Vijay Rupani, especially because whenever the Parsis of Gujarat approached him and the government in the face of challenges, they were mostly resolved. We have had the privilege of being the beneficiaries of his benevolence.”

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, Founder and Chairman of Serum Institute of India and main sponsor for IUU 2019 was represented at the Closing Ceremony by his nephew Jehangiir Panthaki.

With a final vote of thanks by Mahrukh Chichgar and Hoshaang Gotla, the IUU 2019 came to an end.

The participants enjoyed the last lunch before they made their way back home.

Some personal observations on the Utsav.

The third edition of the Utsav was a well oiled logistical machine. Lessons from the last two Utsavs were learnt and processes tweaked. This was reflected in the smooth movement of the thousands who were present.

It was heartening to see 4 of the sitting trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet come specially for the Utsav. Xerxes Dastur, Viraf Mehta, Kersi Randeria and Noshir Dadrawala all came and participated at the Utsav. As did ex-trustees Dinshaw Mehta and Jimmy Mistry and many other prominent Parsis like Mickey Mehta and Pervez Damania.

The sports games was a masterstroke. The games brought 200 young and old together specially to play various games. Sport is truly a uniter and a magnet that draws players and spectators together. Something that future Utsavs should continue to promote.

The work being done for the major renovation of the Iranshah is spectacular. I cant wait for it to finish and experience the building in its renewed architectural glory.

Udvada during the Utsav seems to have a new energy. It had the feel of a thriving bustling town and my fervent hope is that somehow this energy is harnessed and repeated on more frequent occasions, and not just once every two years.

And we await the next Utsav….till then au revoir.

PS: Due to spotty internet in rural Gujarat, this report is a bit delayed.