Visiting the Iranshah during the Utsav: Be a True Zarathushti

Dear Fellow Zoroastrians,

A large number of us are packing our bags to attend the first Iranshah Udwada Utsav.. Still others aren’t interested or are deterred due to the expected numbers that will descend on our wonderfully serene, tiny and pristine Udwada. There are a few amongst us who are choosing to not attend on principle; why defile Udwada with so much populace, just use the money to improve security and infrastructure, have the gathering in Mumbai, etc. Whatever your approach to the IUU, there is probably none amongst us who doesn’t know its happening.

A horde of Zoroastrians in tiny Udwada is in itself a monumental event. Such days come to Udwada, about twice a year on specific days of the Shenshahi Calender when busloads of Zoroastrians come from everywhere to pay their respects to the Pak Iranshah and seek the Almighty’s blessings. Those are wonderful days where the vibrations and energy in the Pak Iranshah and around are palpable and alive.

But those are also nasty days. Tempers flare and egos surface and arrogance abounds. Everyone wants to meet their Maker but nobody wants to wait. And they want to do it their way. The rules and etiquette of visiting an atashbehram/agiary that we learnt as children from our parents and they from theirs are forgotten faster than you can say Ashem Vohu. I’ve had the honour of being a volunteer to assist in managing the peace and maintaining etiquette on one of these days thanks to my family (by marriage) who have been doing this for years. And it’s a sorry sight. And I assure you its going to happen this time too. Therefore, as fellow Zoroastrians who have the same fervor for the faith as any other Zoroastrian, we request you to kindly remember foremost, that you are going to be in the vicinity of and in the presence of our Supreme God and nobody and nothing deserves more respect.


We therefore hope and pray that all of us visiting the Pak Iranshah shall do so with extreme respect and decorum and utmost humility. Please read the following list, you might be doing one or the other without even realizing it:

a) Please visit the Iranshah immediately after a complete bath (head to toe); don’t come straight from the station or even in cars from Mumbai. Take a bath in Udwada. Don’t even attend some sessions at the IUU and then stroll over.

b) Come in clean, washed clothes. Lets try to keep our clothes sober, conservative, non flashy, not revealing and respectable. Visiting the Pak Iranshah isn’t a fashion parade for how modern and cool you can be. You are having an audience with Ahura Mazda and he deserves the respect one would afford to our most elder, 1000 times multiplied.

c) Please wear your sudreh and kusti when you enter the Pak Iranshah (yes, we’ve caught some who attempt to come in and then express personal offence when asked to show their non-existent sudreh and kusti).

d) Keep your heads covered completely. Wear a bhanvani topi, not p-caps. And for the women, wear a scarf that covers the head and all the hair, not half the head; if youre doing a soar with your sari, place it securely. A soar that keeps slipping off to reveal a bare head isn’t the thing to do.

e) Switch off your cellphones. This one cannot be emphasized enough (therefore this point’s so long). We Zoroastrians respect all other religions, visit their places of worship and follow their rules. Then why is it feasible to go to a Siddhivinayak or a Sai Baba Temple with a switched off cellphone but not do it in the abode of your own living breathing God. The hypocrisy in this aspect is monumental. And don’t lie about your cellphone status. Its unbecoming as an adult and very embarrassing when you’ve fought to insist youre not carrying a cell phone to later have it ring inside the Pak Iranshah. A half an hour of time dedicated to Ahura Mazda will not spell doom for anyone and facebook, twitter, whatsapp and all manner of communication via phones will not crash. Why sully and spoil the beautiful vibrations of Ahura Mazda himself with crummy magnetic waves from electronic devices. SWITCH THEM OFF. Or give them to the volunteers at the entrance, above the steps. You’ll get a token and your cellphone back once you’ve finished.

f) Don’t carry food or water into the Pak Iranshah. Leave it with the volunteers. They are there to safeguard your belongings.

g) When youre carrying sukhad, take off the rubberbands so that they don’t, mistakenly go into the holy fire with the sukhad offered by you. Take it out of plastic bags, remove the rubberbands and hold it. Feel the sukhad in your hands and think of why you are offering that sukhad. Offering sukhad should not be a mechanical exercise. And follow the rules for offering currency notes as simply explained over at the Farshogad Blog:

h) Ahura Mazda permeates the core of our existence and therefore rightly, we wish to thank him profusely or beseech him when we are before him. But whilst that is important, also consider the fact that there are more than a 1000 people outside under the hot sun who wish to do their share of thanking and beseeching too. If your desire to have an extended audience with him is so great, come back when there’s fewer people. Please pay your respects quickly and move on. Try going during the Ushen Geh. You will never have thanked better or beseeched more in that gloriously religious atmosphere where it may really seem like Ahura Mazda has come to Earth and is sitting by you.

i) If you are one of the 1000 waiting outside, please please have some patience. We know its hot and tiring but the queues can only move that fast. And only the hapless volunteers who are trying their best to move the queue along face all the anger that brims over.

j) Be polite with the Volunteers. They are there to do a duty under directions of the Vada Dasturji and are expected to fulfill it, even if it entails being stern. Being rude and aggressive with them shows you in a bad light. They are there from 6.30a.m. till after noon, on their feet without food or drink in that time and they are engaging with every person who enters Pak Iranshah, polite and not so. If they can hold themselves together, so can you.

We are all going to meet the Almighty, follow the tenets of his religion and be respectful towards God and your fellow Zoroastrians. We’re all in this together, we might as well make it a happy ride.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely that of the author, Mehernaaz and stem from her personal experience and observations at the Pak Iranshah. There has been no request to her from anyone, officially or unofficially to state the above. This piece has only been written because what she sees saddens her and she wanted to do something to make the experience better for everyone.