Return: 2013-14 Trip Summary
There are two types of tours you can choose to apply for at this stage. We currently only host one type of trip per year so please check the application page to ensure you are applying for the correct trip.
Trip 1: Track A
(please note we are not offering a Track A trip in 2015).
The pilot launch of Track A in January 2014 focused on exposing the participants to learning, understanding and connecting with Zoroastrianism and its rituals in India and Parsi material culture (food, art, music). On Track A trips, we also visit consecrated Agiaries and Atash Behrams. In accordance with the rules and customs of these religious sites, participants must satisfy the criteria of entry of these religious sites for this trip.
Trip 2: Track B
(applications are now open)
The second track (B), which will take place in Spring 2015, will draw participants from the Zoroastrian diaspora who want to explore their culture, community, and potential opportunities in Zoroastrian India. Participants will meet local Zoroastrians at the forefront of business, science, government, philanthropy, arts and music. This track will also include religious elements, for example in the forms of visits to Zoroastrian religious institutions that are open to all and viewing a demonstration of the jashan ceremony. This track will be open to all participants who have at least one Zoroastrian parent and have had their Navjote (sudreh-pushi) ceremonies..
Where in India will we go?
Track A trips are held in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Track B trips are held in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi.
We also plan to introduce similar trips to Iran in the future, however current political circumstances in the country make it very difficult at this point in time. As we plan to organize trips to future trips to Iran, we especially want Iranian Zoroastrian youth to participate in the India trips.
1) Sanjan Stambh
The idea to build a Sanjan memorial column came from Mademoiselle Daphene Mennent, a French lady who was a scholar on Zoroastrianism. When she visited Sanjan in 1901 she was astonished to find that the Parsis had neglected to raise a commemorative monument where their ancestors had first landed on the western coast of India. Her idea caught the imagination of the Parsis and Iranis and the column was formally inaugurated on 15th February 1920. It is affixed with 3 plaques in Gujarati, English and Avestan giving the short history of the Parsis. The column is made of granite and is 50 feet high.
2) Udwada Atash Behram
The Udwada Atash Behram, named the Iran Shah fire by the temple priests, is reputed to have been consecrated in 721 CE. The sacred fire housed in the present building was consecrated in Sanjan within a few years of the Parsis landing in India. It is interesting to note that before this sacred fire was made, priest were sent to Khorasan in Iran, to bring back the alat i.e. sacred implements as well as the priests needed to consecrate the fire. The present building was inaugurated in 1894, with funding from Dadabhai and Muncheerji Pestonji Wadia and Motlibai Manockjee Wadia.
3) Desai/ Bhagarsath Atash Bahram, Navsari
The fire of the Desai/Bhagarsath Atash Bahram in Navsari, India was consecrated in December 2, 1765 ACE. A leading role in its establishment was played by Khurshedji Tehmulji Desai, a prominent member of the Parsi Community. It is interesting to know that the first Dastur of India with the title of Meherjirana became the head of the Navsari Atash Behram. Some say it is a miracle that on the marble clad walls of the prayer hall, of the Navsari Atash Behram, a natural silhouette in tones of grey and black can be seen emerging from the walls of the fire temple. This silhouette bears a remarkable resemblance to the portrait of the first Dastur Meherjirana which hangs in the main hall of the fire temple.
4) Meherjirana Library
The first Dastur Meherjirana library was established in 1872; it houses some of the finest manuscripts of the Zoroastrian faith and is visited by scholars all over the world. It is situated in the heart of Navsari in an area called Tarota Bazaar, which was at the centre of a terrible controversy which occurred between the priests of the Bhargarsath Anjuman and the Sanjana priests who looked after the Sanjan fire (The Udwada fire now). The fight resulted in the death of a number of people and was finally resolved in the court of the Gaiwad in the town of Sonjhad. It is after this fight that the Sanjana priests took the sacred Iranshah fire out of Navsari to its current location in Udwada.
5) Vadi Dar i-Mehr
It is the oldest known structure in western India. It was built in the 12th century, in 1142, by the first priest, Mobed Kamdin Zarthush, who came to Navsari from Sanjan. It is here that all the priests from Navsari as well as the Sanjana priests who looked after the Iranshah, had their navar and martabs (priestly initiation) done there. The importance of this institution lies in the fact that a priest who has had his navar / martab in the Vadi Dar i-Mehr could for many centuries serve in any fire temple in India. It also functioned as the headquarters of the Bhagarsath Anjuman from where directives were issued and the formation and the secular governance of the community was carried out.
6) J.N. Tata Home
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was born in 1839, in a priestly family. He was initiated as a priest in the Vadi Dar i-Mehr in Navsari. When he was 14 years old he joined Elphinstone Institution as a free student. He made his fortune as a commissariat agent for the British during the Abyssinian war. He later joined his family firm of Nusserwanji Kalyandas in Hong Kong and traded in tea, cotton, opium, silk, camphor, cinnamon, copper, brass and Chinese gold. He returned to Bombay at the height of the cotton boom and amassed a great fortune. Jamsetji Tata is known as the one man Planning Commission of India for he set up cotton mills, hotels, educational institutions of science. This humble home is a tribute to a man who rose from a modest family to become one of India’s leading industrialists.
7) Munshi Parsi Farm
This unique farm house is 300 years old and has remained in the Munshi family for nearly 10 generations. Visiting it will give you an insight as to how Parsi farmers lived in the old days. Its Spartan interior and basic living styles contrast hugely with the lavish lifestyles of the Parsi merchants of Bombay. All the lintels and the vertical beams have been hand carved and its natural cross ventilation system kept the house cool in the hot summer days. Its interesting feature is that the toilets were a separate structure behind the farm house.
8) Seth Dadabhai Naoshirwanji Modi Atash Behram
The Shenshahi Modi Atatsh Behram was built by Jaijee Dadabhai Modi who was the granddaughter of Lovjee Wadia the first ship builder of Bombay. When an Atash Behram fire is consecrated, one of the requirements is a fire obtained when lightening strikes a tree and is witnessed by 2 Parsis. The lightening fire for this Atash Behram was obtained from Calcutta and the story goes that Seth Rustomji Cawasji Banaji and his friends gathered every Sunday on a river bank for a picnic and on 4th May 1823, Banaji and six of his friends witnessed a tree being struck by lightning. This fire was preserved at the home of a priest and was later brought to Surat where the consecration process was being carried out. The entrance to the fire temple has motifs and features from the fires of Persepolis.
9) Ijashni Ceremony
The Ijashni or Yasna ceremony reenacts the ordering of the cosmos or the creation of the world by Ahura Mazda. When the Yasna ceremony is performed correctly all the seven creations, which are venerated in the Zoroastrian faith, are brought together to make the world more righteous. The word Yasna or Ijashni literally means he who sacrifices to Ahura Mazda. The main purpose of the Yasna ceremony is to consecrate a libation called Hom nu Pani in which the twigs of the Haoma plant are pounded together with water from the well and goats milk, are strained and consecrated reenacting by this act the story of how Pourushaspa the father of Zarathustra pounded the Haoma twigs and mixed it with milk giving it to Zarathushtra’s mother prior to the birth of Zarathushtra.
10) Dadar Madressa
It was established in 1919 by the great scholar priest Dastur Doctor Dorab Peshotan Sanjana. It started with 10 students and when the numbers increased the present building was built in 1924. The present principal of the Madressa is a scholar priest, Ervad Ramyar Karanjia who has also authored several books on Zoroastrianism.
11) Irani Bakeries
In the 18th and 19th Centuries in Iran, the Zoroastrians under the Qajar Kings were ruthlessly persecuted. A poll-tax known as the Jizya was imposed on every single Zoroastrian, who had to pay this tax either in cash or in kind and if this was not possible it was not unknown for tax collectors to demand from them sacred manuscripts and books which were then weighed and burnt to teach the Zoroastrians a lesson. All this left the Iranian Zoroastrian community in abject poverty. Thus it is not surprising that over a period of time many Zoroastrians came from Iran to India to work in order to send some money back to their families in Iran. The most common jobs available were in the chai-khanas of Bombay which catered to the labour class, dockyard workers and others who worked in the early morning shifts. Some of these bakeries were established by wealthy Iranian Zoroastrian traders who traded with India in commodities such as Asafoetida, resin, fruits, dates, tea and gum. Their most popular dish is Bun Maska which means bread and butter, Keema Paow and Frill Cutlets. The famous Irani cafes are Brittania, Kayani, Sassanian and New Light of Persia.
Heritage Walk Tour of Bombay