Holy fire row moves to court

A pause has been put on the plans to move the 700-year-old holy fire from a Parsi fire temple in Bharuch to Navi Mumbai, as two members of the community approached the Bharuch district court for a stay on the relocation.

Mid-day had earlier reported how the attempt to shift the holy fire to an under-construction temple at Kopar Khairane has divided the community. While many said that the move would benefit the sizeable Parsi population in Navi Mumbai, traditionalists are staunchly against the relocation, despite a go-ahead from the high priests or vada dasturjis of the community.

3-1Percy Hansotia and Kaizad Sethna, two residents of Ankleshwar, a small town in Bharuch, petitioned that relocating the fire is against Zoroastrianism. They also claimed that if the holy fire is moved, the trustees of the Bharuch agiary will sell the land that currently houses it. The agiary in question — Pestonji Aslaji Doongaji Agiary — is run by the Doongaji Trust, represented by Cyrus Doongaji, from the Mumbai-based business family.

The court admitted the case and a hearing was held on February 17, and the petitioners and the Doongaji trust filed their replies on Saturday. The next hearing is slated for February 29, and the court has ordered that the fire cannot be moved till then.

“There are no worshippers at the Bharuch agiary and it remains closed most of the times. There is personal vested interest in the opposition to the fire’s relocation. We have filed our reply to the court. There are more than 400 people waiting to worship the holy fire in Navi Mumbai,” said Cyrus Doongaji. Rubbishing claims that the land housing the fire will sold, Doongaji said that a small fire or dadgi would continue to burn at the temple.

On the other hand, the petitioners alleged that rumours were being spread to play down the historical significance of the agiary. “The trust is trying to spread false rumours that the fire in the Doongaji agiary is only 300 years old and that it is neglected. A new fire can be created for the fire temple in Navi Mumbai, instead of relocating the one at Bharuch,” said Hansotia.

Apart from the petitioners, some priests serving in Bharuch and Ankleshwar wrote to the Parsi periodical — Jam-e-Jamshed — to clarify that despite being an old priestly family of Bharuch, the trustees of Bharuch Anjuman had not informed them about the tharav (sanctioning the shifting of the holy fire).

The New Bombay Zoroastrian Association Charitable Trust is almost done constructing the new fire temple, along with a community centre, at sector 9, Kopar Khairane, but the relocation plans hang in the balance until the court case is resolved. Sources in the community said a similar attempt was made 25 years ago to shift the holy fire to the agiary at Godrej Baug in Malabar Hill, but it was challenged in court and stayed.

Meanwhile, residents of Navi Mumbai, who are eagerly awaiting the new fire temple, are dejected. Farmroze Patel, a 72 year-old resident of Vashi, said, “There are close to 70 families in Navi Mumbai who were looking forward to the fire temple, which is almost ready. The fire in Bharuch is very old and pious, with no one to pray before it. I hope to pray at this new temple before I die.” –

Published on Mid-Day

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