The first thing I did on entering this town was to Inhale Lungful of fresh air….Udvada is a Parsi coastal town located in Valsad district of Gujarat. I christen Udvada sleeping beauty of Gujarat !as it sleeps ,breathes and thrives peacefully hidden from the hideous cacophony and pollution all around…..
I first got to learn about this quaint little town from a Food channel ! The place is famous for Parsi food (Non veg ) and Fire temple. Also , I once read a legend in a book (Surya,the sun god. by Shakti.m.Gupta) which highlighted an amalgamation of Hindu and Iranian cultures and traditions. According to the book,there is a legend in the Bhavisya purana , that mentions how Maghas, the traditional priest of Sun were born. Rishi Rijihva had a beautiful daughter called Nikshubha ,who was worshiper of Agni an aspect of Surya. Once,while she was worshiping surya, the Sun god fell in love with her and from their union was born a child called Jarasabda. When Rishi Rijihva got to know about all that had happened, he cursed his daughter. she was heartbroken,Sun god came to the rescue and blessed the child that he would become worthy of worship one day. The very learned Jarasadba became Zoraster of Iran later….
Being a foodie plus history enthusiast , the gamble was tempting…My palate was craving for yumyy_licious Parsi goodness and ear for more legends…
We had clubbed Udvada with out trip to Surat . Distance is around 112 from Surat. We started at around 9:00am and reached the town around 1-1:30 Pm…streets were deserted.. It was a Sunday afternoon…It seemed most were blissfully enjoying their siesta..
We were unable to find a single soul for directions…Our first destination was Iranshah Atash Behram….
Beautifully crafted town, I have to admit…Aesthetic sense is commendable ! Admiring the architecture all around..we somehow managed to reach our spot 1 , following signboards !
(For all those like me… Parsis( Parsees) are group of people following Zoroastrianism, they migrated from Iran to preserve their culture and took refuge in India and Pakistan during 8th to 10th century CE). that time Iran was under Arab/Muslim invasion .They first settled at a placed called Sajan( 30kms from udvada, then over a period moved to Navsari,surat,Udvada and Bombay….
Spot 1 : Iranshah Atash Behram…
There is a big board outside the fire temple ,that says Non Parsees are not allowed ! felt disappointed ……Sharing a little history that I gathered from internet..
You will be surprised to know, that only 9 fire temples exist in this world…and out of these none ,8 fire temples are in India ! Yes India is truly unique and was very fortunate to have seen one such wonderful temple . further details of Fire temples in India (four in Mumbai, two in Surat, one in Navsari, and the one in Udvada), and one of which is in Yazd, in central Iran. Atash Behram (from Middle PersianAtash Warharan for “Victorious Fire”, the highest grade of ritual fire of the Zoroastrians) housed in the fire temple there.The Udvada Atash Behram is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian fire temples in India and the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion. It is one of the world’s oldest religion. They worship a deity called Ahura Mazda.
( The literal meaning of the word Ahura is “mighty” or “lord”, and Mazda is wisdom. The religion was started and taken forward by Iranian Prophet Zoroaster. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas. Zoroaster proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe, and that human beings are given a right of choice, and because of cause and effect are also responsible for the consequences of their choices.
The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called Angra Mainyu / Ahirman, or angry spirit.
Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to “be among those who renew the world…to make the world progress towards perfection”. Its basic maxims include:
- Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
- There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
- Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.
There is a small curio shop outside the fire temple, small figures of Ahura mazda ,sandal wood,home made masalas are some of the items on display….
Inside the fire temple, the scene is somewhat like this I guess..( I clicked this picture at the museum)
Inside the fire temple, there is a big vessel in which fire continuously burns.The establishment and consecration of this fire involves the gathering of 16 different types of fire. Each of the 16 fires is then subject to a purification ritual before it joins the others. 32 priests are required for the consecration ceremony, which can take up to a year to complete. The 16 types of fire required for an Atash Behram are:
- The fire used by a dyer
- The fire from a house of a king or a ruling authority
- Fire from a potter
- Fire from a brick-maker
- From an ascetic
- Fire from a goldsmith
- Fire from a mint
- From an ironsmith
- Fire from an armourer
- From a baker,
- From a brewer
- From a soldier
- Fire from a shepherd
- Fire produced by atmospheric lightning
- Fire from the house of any Zoroastrian
SPOT 2 : Dastur Baug
It was nearly 2-2:30, and we were starving…Luckly my hubby spotted Dastur Baug…
Before inquiring about availability of food..I got busy taking pictures…
It was a big mansion,elegantly kept, just like the hostress! and yes Food was available ! (thank god for that !)The owner of this gracious homestay/Restaurant is one of the most pleasant ,sweet sounding ladies ,I have ever met in my life…Perviz…
Few pics from her album,that she showed us…
her silvery voice hinted me of her golden past. Out of curiosity , I inquired and as a result ,I got to know….She had a band named ‘Wild cats’ many years ago. She was the lead singer. Cooking was in her blood..Her ancestors were chefs and the legacy and talent continues ( Thank god for small mercies)…. I learnt,she had grandchildren my age ! Such an evergreen beauty she is…coming back to food…
Fish Cutlet – with the first bite I took, I still remember..there was an explosion of Parsee goodness in my mouth..(I was happy)
and then came the very famous Dhansak Dal and Mixed fried Rice ( Non veg) . As I write this ( I am actually salivating and missing Dastur Baug, Previz and Udvada) . She just charges 300 per plate( Non Veg) and she serves her culinary magic !
P.S( One plate is enough for two)
For dessert , we had home made kulfi…I did not wait to take picture..I simply wanted to savor the sweetness of Parsee Cuisine and her hospitality before leaving….
SPOt 3 : Udvada Beach..
It is Rocky muddy beach…I could not see a single soul on the beach and hence chose not to venture…
Spot 4 : Zoroastrian Information Center
Government has made a small Museum to promote tourism. From Birth to death..almost all the rituals involved…everything has been covered very thoughtfully ! A must visit spot.
To sum up my impression at the end was Neither sweet..Nor salty ! Not sour or Bitter…I was simply delighted to touch this part of India in my life….
On the way back home….We discovered a new place accidentally and yes the place had a fort! the locals call it Shivaji’s fort ! More on that in my next blog…..
How to reach
CAR ( Drive)
Option 1 : Ahmedabad to Udvada ( Minimum 3 days required)
Distance – 355km ,
You can halt at surat on the first day. ( Ahmadabad to Surat – 269km)
Drive down to Udvada next day. come back to surat same day. ( Surat to Udvada-112km)
Go homewards on the third-day.( Minimum 3 days required)
Club it when visiting Daman. (14.7kms)