Parsis question plan for Metro under fire temple

parsi-fire-templeMUMBAI: Sections of the Zoroastrian community have raised concerns about the alignment of the Metro III underground line (Colaba-Seepz) which will pass under the 187-yearold Wadia Parsi fire temple (Atash Behram) at Princess Street junction in south Mumbai.
The Wadia fire temple is one of eight such Atash Behrams (where a consecrated fire burns) in India.

Metro rail officials said the heritage temple building will not be affected, but documents procured under RTI suggest that the central line of a tunnel will pass parallel to the eastern wall of the temple and would run 3.5 metres within and under its premises.

“The alignment map clearly indicates that the major portion of the tunnel will pass below the sanctum sanctorum, the room where the consecrated fire is enthroned. It will vitiate the sanctity of the temple,” said structural engineer Jamshed Shukhadwalla, a Girgaum resident, who obtained the information under RTI. According to Sukhadwalla, the presence of the tunnel near the sanctum sanctorum will affect the sanctity of religious ceremonies.

The H B Wadia Atash Behram was established in November 1830 when the total Parsi population in Bombay was 10,738.

“I have to check where the sacred fire is enthroned,” said S K Gupta, director (projects) of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC). He said there would be no impact on the surface.

“This is the tunnel portion which will progress from CST side and proceed towards Girgaum/Grant Road deep inside the ground. No portion of the heritage temple will be affected because of our work. We will not require shifting or relocating even the boundary wall which is the closest structure of the temple,” said Gupta.

He said the building condition survey report was shared with the Wadia temple authorities. “They should also check the report,” said Gupta.

Community activist Hanoz Mistry said Parsis have only a handful of religious places. “It is grossly incorrect on the part of metro authorities to harm these institutions and hurt the community’s religious sentiments. The trustees of this Fire Temple and the Parsee member of the National Commission for Minorities need to act before it is too late,” he added.

A Wadia temple trustee said they would collect facts about the project and its impact on the property. “We have asked for certified plans,” he said.

Published on Times of India