Exploring the narrow lanes of Udvada on a hazy afternoon, one could find himself wondering what ferried him into town was an autorickshaw or a time machine. This pastoral enclave, which is dotted with storybook cottages, slumbering goats and whitewashed walls, seems separated by many decades.
At the heart of the town stands the Iranshah Atash Behram, the most important spiritual centre for Zoroastrians across the globe. Be it any occasion - a new business, a new car or even newly married, it is a place which brings the Parsi worshippers from across the world.
The 1282-year-old holy fire enshrined within the sacred Atash Behram, makes Udvada very protective amongst the Parsis.
After the Muslim conquest of most of the Greater Iran in the 7th Century, Zoroastrians gradually became a marginalised community and by the 10th century, the formerly Zoroastrian held territories had become largely Islamic.
A group of Zoroastrians fled from Greater Khorasan to the west coast of India in order to preserve their religious customs and beliefs. Upon landing the refugees made Sanjan their home, which is about 30 km from Udvada.
Places To See
1. Udvada Beach
The beach at Udvada is not exactly the kind of beach where you would want to get into the water, but it is a great place to take a walk and click pictures, the walk on the beach has a very charming experience especially around the sunset.
There are old houses that are spread across the coast and they provide a welcoming backdrop for some beautiful pictures. Children playing cricket, women sitting on the shore looking at sunset make sure your time is well-spent.
The beach forms a wonderful picnic spot which is built of rocky terrains and muddy brown sands.
2. Iranshah Atash Behram
Fire is a significant element of the Zoroastrian faith, it denotes all forms of energy and is therefore seen as a living embodiment and a powerful link between spiritual and material worlds. The Iranshah Atash Behram is one of the oldest fire temples in India that represents a cultural and religious link with Iran.
The holy fire was moved to India from Iran in 715 AD, following the migration of Zoroastrians. The holy fire was thereby enshrined and the first Atash Bahram was established in the town of Udvada. The temple architecture is adorned with portraits of eminent priests and religious organisations, who actively participated in the establishment of the temple.
The Iranshah Atash Behram is a large structure which is virtually hidden by the whitewashed walls and a protective ring of houses. The fire temple remains out of bounds for non-Zoroastrians, the small streets, the sandalwood sellers and the bustle in the vicinity are fascinating.
The Iranshah is said to have been created out of 16 fires, which includes the fire from a burning corpse, a shepherd's house, a goldsmith's hearth, a potter's kiln and from lightning. Instead of waiting for the lightning to strike and create a fire, it is believed that the high priest meditated for days and when the heaven cooperated, he trapped the fire and proceeded with his rituals.
Best Time To Visit
The best months to visit are from October to March, the climate remains comfortable and apt for sightseeing.