Udvada Parsi festival: tolerance, people-to-people contact to be highlighted

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn criticism for rising intolerance in India, but tolerance of India is expected to be highlighted when Iranshah Udvada Utsav (IUU) takes place between December 25 and 27 marking the biggest International Parsi celebration in recent years. Organisers told The Hindu, that Prime Minister Modi will be the chief speaker at the event.

It’s noteworthy that Udvada’s Iranshah Fire Temple has a special bond with Prime Minister Modi. “On 24 April 2011, Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat sought blessings of the Iranshah Fire Temple and that day I remarked that he will become India’s Prime Minister as he had been blessed by the holy fire of Iranshah,” said Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor, explaining the connect between Mr. Modi and Udvada.

Soon after being sworn in, Prime Minister Modi had invited Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor to New Delhi to discuss plans of turning Udvada into a site of global spiritual and cultural heritage for the Parsis and non-Parsis alike. According to the website dedicated to the event, the global-scale Iranshah Udvada Utsav (IUU), is indeed the brainchild of Prime Minister Modi.

Vada Dasturji said that the festival has caused a buzz in the globally scattered Parsi community and registration for the festival ended a while ago as the organisers registered a “House Full” status. “We expect participants to fly in from Germany, US, UK, Iran and other parts of the world,” said Vada Dasturji who is the chief organiser of the event.

But the star attraction at the Parsi event is expected to be a delegation of Parsis from Pakistan. In an email to The Hindu, Byram Avari, owner of the landmark Avari Hotel of Karachi informed that the Parsis of Pakistan are special as they do not face any persecution. Earlier in August, Mr Avari had held an event in honour of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ever since an impression has formed among some of the people connected with the Udvada event, that the soft corner for the Parsis forms a common chord between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan. Though the details of the Pakistani delegation is not shared by the chief organiser, Edil Katrak, a Mumbai-based relative of Mr Avari said that there will be a significant Pakistani participation in the Udvada Utsav.

The festival is expected to provide a unique platform of people to people contact, business exchange and rejuvenation for the Parsis who form a strong community in several countries that are important from the Indian point of view. The idea of Udvada festival is to showcase India’s history of tolerance as the Fire Temple at Udvada is believed to have the oldest continuously lit flame of the Parsis that was brought by the community while fleeing oppression in Persia more than 1300 years ago.

“The festival will turn Udvada into an important heritage site as the Iranshah flame of Udvada is the holiest fire that is worshipped by the Parsis from all over the world,” said Dr Shernaz Cama, of UNESCO-Parzor.

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