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Sunday, July 15, 2012

For many, Udvada is a small town located in Gujarat, but for the Parsi Community it is the place where it all began.

After the Parsis left Iran, they landed on Indian shores at a place called Sanjan in Gujarat. From there on they moved to Udvada.

Houses in Udvada
As I entered the narrow streets I saw beautiful old Parsi houses. Most were ground-floor structures with extended porches. A few were a storey tall with balconies protruding out. Most of the houses were closed, the windows and doors tightly barred and a huge lock hanging on the doors. The houses had photos of Ahura Mazda prominently positioned at the entrance. Each of the houses had a well outside. I guess the well played a very important role in their culture.

As I crossed the bylanes, all I saw were houses and more houses but not a soul on the streets. Surprising, I said to myself. So many houses but not a single person here. I moved on to see more locked up houses.

Houses in Udvada

Finally I met an elderly Parsi lady named Mahrukh. I decided to have a conversation with her to know more about the place. I asked her, “Why is it that all these houses are locked up?” to which she replied, “The people who used to reside here are now in Mumbai. They live there and come down here in the month of May, as it is holiday season there. Alternatively they do come down for Parsi festivals too.” She then pointed out the Iranshah Atash Behram and said to me, “The Iranshah Atash Behram is the most important Fire Temple for all Zoroastrians across the globe, and all Parsis pay it a visit.” She then added that though the Fire Temple was established only around 400 years old, the fire in it is 1,280 years old. I found this very fascinating.
I thanked her for the information provided by her and headed off to see the Iranshah Atash Behram. The fire temple is beautiful. The following words are engraved on the entrance: “Homage unto Thee Oh Fire of Ahura Mazda” As I am not a Parsi, I was not allowed entry inside.

Houses in Udvada

But I spoke to Mr. Dastur who resides just outside the Fire Temple. He sells articles of worship.
He told me about the history of the Fire Temple. The information he gave was the same as given to me by Mahrukh. He told me that the priest stays next to the fire temple and that there are around 150 Parsi households here but only a few houses were actually occupied.
He told me that there are no schools and hospitals in Udvada. Also, he added, there was no way to earn an income so people had no option but to leave this place and head over to Mumbai for education and other facilities. He told me that most people do come back in the month of May for their holidays and that the streets were bustling with people then.

Houses in Udvada

Globe Hotel is located very close to the Fire Temple. The tariff at this hotel is Rs 1500 for a day’s stay, inclusive of three meals.
As I had finished viewing the streets of Udvada, I didn’t see any point in staying here any longer. Also, I wanted to head over to Silvassa, my next destination.

Iranshah Atash Behram

Don’t be surprised if someone questions you on taking pictures of these beautiful houses the way I was interrogated. I was questioned about where I came from, my profession and reason for visiting Udvada. I should have asked for prior permission of the house owners before taking photographs.
Udvada can be reached by both rail and road. Gujarat Express and Saurashtra Express halt at the Udvada railway station. If you are travelling by road, you have to take the NH8. Exit for Udvada instructions are given on the highway sign boards.

Razzberry and Icre Cream soda, the local cold drinks, too good

I enjoyed roaming around the streets filled with old Parsi houses. Each of the houses was unique. The windows, doors, balconies, porches and the wells outside the houses were an amazing sight to see. Not a single soul occupied these houses and there was not a soul on the steets. All about me wore a deserted look. I felt as though I was a cowboy visiting a ghost town. Only thing that was missing was my cowboy costume and my horse.
If you love Parsi cuisine, then Globe Hotel, Adarsh Hotel, Ashsisvang Hotel and Irani Inn are the places to enjoy a hearty Parsi meal.

I then headed off to a small hotel to have raspberry and ice cream soda. Having thoroughly enjoyed both the drinks, I headed off to see Silvassa, my next pit stop.


R Niranjan Das said...

Nice article.


Thanks R Niranjan Das

Anonymous said...

"If you love Parsi cuisine, then Globe Hotel, Adarsh Hotel, Ashsisvang Hotel and Irani Inn are the places to enjoy a hearty Parsi meal."

How was the food at these places? what do you recommend we try out at these places


Oh Yes you should :)

Kapil Biyani said...

Nice article and quite detailed.
Not sure if you are aware that family of Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of a rock band called Queens, originally belonged from a similar region in Gujarat, before moving to Africa. His family belonged to parsi community and had come from Iran, like a lot of other families you met.

Do check his wiki page for accurate details.


Thanks Kapil, for the headsup on Freddie Mercury, had no idea about it :)

Dimpy Roy said...

Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Check out all best hotels in Silvassa.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post.

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