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Udwada – A lesser-known place

My journey started from Mumbai by road and the first destination was Daman. After spending a day at Daman by the beach, I drove towards Udwada. Udwada has been featured on the bucket list for a long time. It was a Parsi family friend who had once discussed the famous Iranshah Atash Behram temple, which happens to be an important pilgrimage site for the Zoroastrians worldwide. Udwada happened to be the site, where the Iranians set foot more than a thousand years ago.

I was led to the Fire temple through lanes and bylanes of old houses built the traditional way in the sleepy town. Most of the houses were in a dilapidated condition, they were abandoned and needed immediate attention. A few houses dated back to 1914 as mentioned on the wall at the entrance of the house. The quaint little hamlet is now occupied by a mere 60-70 families and mostly senior citizens, as the younger generations have flocked away for greener pastures. In contrast, the houses in the lane of the Atash Behram temple were 2-3 storeyed houses, which were better maintained. Stained glass windows, shiny and polished wooden swings in the courtyard, neat verandahs.

Senior citizens dressed in their quintessential Parsi attire of white vest and pyjama and a Parsi cap relaxing in the balconies and having a good time with their friends and frequent visitors to the temple. Houses opposite the Fire Temple sold essentials which visitors carry during their visit inside the temple.

The Fire Temple

Fire is considered to be a congregation of all forms of energy, thus the Zoroastrians worship the fire. The Holy Fire in the Fire temple was brought by the Iranians some 1000 years back when they migrated to India and has been kept lit since then. This is amongst the 8 fire temples globally and is situated on the coasts of Gujarat.

My friend happens to be one of the guardians of the holy fire within the temple, thus responsible for the safekeeping of the holy fire within. He makes a customary visit to Atash Behram diligently every month as a ritual. The area in and around the temple has pin-drop silence. It was unfortunate since I was denied entry inside the temple, being a non – Parsi. This was one of the assurances demanded by an erstwhile Zoroastrian priest from the then ruling king. I roamed around the place donning my camera to create little memories of this historic pilgrim spot. My curious mind was beyond the high walls of the temple only wondering about the rituals happening inside. Visitors were buying little sandalwood sticks from a nearby shop, which would be then offered to the holy fire.

 

Streets of Udwada

The streets of Udwada were strikingly empty with just a couple of hawkers in front of the fire temple selling Parsi curry masala, bakery products and pickles. After buying a packet each I realised that I knew very little about Parsi cuisine, a Bawa was more than happy to hand over recipes of a few Parsi delicacies which is stapled to my recipe diary even today.

The Parsis seemed to be an easy-going, peaceful and pious community of people. They are now all over the world and are generally very prosperous and successful in the profession that they choose. We have all heard of Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, Ardeshir Godrej, Jamshed Ji Tata, Dadabhoy Naoroji, Bachi Karkaria, Russi Moody, Bejan Daruwalla, Zubin Mehta, Freddie Mercury, Cyrus Broacha and the list goes on.

Food at Udwada

One of the main attractions to visit Udwada is its authentic Parsi delicacies served the traditional way. And what better than relishing it at Parsi land. After I missed the lunch hours at Dastur Baug Dharamshala, I rushed to, The Globe (by far the most authentic Parsi restaurant). Bookings at the Dastur Baug Dharamshala should be done a couple of days prior.

I was greeted by an elderly gentleman who was visibly irate seeing me enter for a late lunch. I cajoled him to offer some food as I had a toddler along and had travelled a long way to sample authentic Parsi cuisine. My little boy won the senior Bawa’s heart and we were lucky to be served with Patra ni Machi, Chicken Dhansak, Deep-fried Bombay duck with steamed rice and roti. While we washed down the food with some refreshing fresh lime soda made the Parsi way, Lagan nu custard made a grand entry only to be polished off within seconds. On a hot sunny afternoon, a fat cat chewed on the juicy head of the Bombay Duck while I burped away to glory.

With my tummy filled till the brink, the gastronomical juices were tingling for a siesta by the beach, but I had very little time as I was headed to yet another destination for the day. My heart sank once more seeing the state of Udwada, wish it could be considered as a heritage site. Udwada has a legacy and rich history of its own, it has every ingredient that goes to make a place worth coming back to. Wish a few Parsis returned back home and created magic in and around the little town and make it lively and full of warmth just like before. As my half-day trip to Udwada came to an end, I will cherish the history and spiritual tranquillity of this place. while I traverse through the greenery on either side, I head towards Saputara, a remote location nestled in a lesser-known hill in Dang district, bordering Gujarat and Maharashtra.

 

NB – I lost all my travel photos of this trip, courtesy of a little child who spilt water from his bottle kept next to my Nikon…:{{