Udvada – I got to know about this place when I saw some pictures in some Photography club on Facebook where were intriguing enough to make me search about it. I found out that it’s a holy place of Parsi’s and renowned all over the world for the Zoroastrian Atash Behram.
The importance of Udvada in Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) history and religion centres around the Atash Behram (from Middle Persian Atash 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. The Udvada Atash Behram is one of nine Atash Behrams worldwide, eight of which are in western 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. (Wiki)
Zoroastrianism, the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran that survives there in isolated areas and, more prosperously, in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Iranian (Persian) immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees.
How to reach :
Being a culture explorer, I really wanted to go and check out this place and so went the Plan. A friend from Surat tagged with me. We booked a morning train to Vapi and reached by 10:00 am. From Vapi, one needs to take a rickshaw to reach Udvada.
Udvada is located at a distance of 110 kms approx from Surat. If you are planning by Train, you need to get down at Vapi Station. It does have a Railway Station but being a small station most of the trains don’t stop there. From Vapi once can hire a Taxi or get into the sharing rickshaws. Since not many people travel to Udvada, you may not find a shared rickshaw taking you to Udvada village. We took first auto from Vapi station till Udvada Station and then another one to the Udvada village. They might charge you 10/- or 15/- rs per person.
The First stop for us was the food, of course. We asked the rickshaw wallah to drop us at the Ashishwang Hotel which is a popular one. There aren’t many restaurants here, so one may not have many choices. The food was great and a typical Persian restaurant cum Hotel. I ordered a fish along with some Chapatis and a Potato sabji. There was also a Veg. Omlette which was delicious. Our another favorite was the local cold drink which came in wonderful colors. Try these instead of the other famous colas and pepsi.
If you Plan to stay here, this place is a good option. The owner of the Hotel is quite welcoming and would guide you more if you have any questions about your Udvada plan.
More pictures from the Hotel :
After our heavy brunch, we started our walk around this tiny village to explore. We reached the beach first, but did not see much people around. Unlike other beaches there was not much activity happening here. If you are in Udvada for a day, coming here sometime close to sunset can be peaceful.
It was a hot day even in the 3rd week to October, so we decided to move ahead.
Zoroastrian Information Center
We reached the Musuem next, also known as the Zoroastrian Information Center. You can find out everything about the Parsi Culture here. This is Open from Wednesday to Monday from 9 am to 5 pm (Tuesday Closed).
Zoroastrian Atash Behram
Zoroastrian Atash Behram, a holy place of worship for Parsi’s is a temple in Udvada, also known as the “King of Iran”. This temple was built in 1742 by Dinshaw Dorabjee Mistry from Mumbai.
Non- Parsi’s are not allowed to enter inside the temple. One can click pictures from outside and talk to the local people to know more about it. There are shops outside the temple selling Sandalwood.
Photo – walking
Most of the streets were empty and the houses vacant. There are not much people living in the village and most of the Parsi’s have now moved out of this place. On checking with the locals, they told us many have moved to Mumbai or elsewhere. They only come to visit the Holy temple and go back. Sundays are when mostly you get to see more people or otherwise you probably will be walking alone here most of the time.
I loved the old houses, most of them resembled the Persian architecture, but could not spot many Parsi’s to interact with. There were few who came to visit the temple but soon left in their vehicles after the visit.
There is one Irani Bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth. You may also find the rickshaw wallahs selling Mango ice-cream in their rickshaws, make sure you try them.
While walking we saw a nameplate called Della – Majestic and started clicking pictures. Soon the security guard came out with two other people and brought to our notice that we did not take prior permission before clicking. But the moment the other two guys left, he invited us inside and told us they were the owners, hence gave us that reaction. The place was stuffed with old antiques and decorative things that were used during the festival held in December 2015. The place was previously a Hotel known as Majestic Hotel, completely ruined now.
Unlike cities, where we cannot walk on the streets without facing unnecessary honking or noise, here there was no disturbance. We walked hours exploring each and every house probably twice or even more. End of day we almost got familiar to this tiny village.
Some bungalows were very old, and so ruined, that bushes and trees grew all over the house.
While taking a rickshaw back to the Station, as I really wanted to know why there were few people in the village, I popped the question to rickshaw wallah to which he responded – “Most of the Parsis are rich and have mostly settled in Mumbai doing business there. They come to visit the Fire Temple on weekends and leave back home.”
While leaving the village, I really hoped that Udvada doesn’t lose its shine.