Parsis protest Metro line alignment, cutting through an ancient Fire Temple

61052600MUMBAI: Contractors of the underground Metro III rail project on Thursday morning arrived to inspect the 187-year-old Wadia fire temple (Atash Behram) at Princess Street in south Mumbai. However, they were met by a group of protesting Parsis, who did not allow them to take any measurements.

On Monday, TOI had reported the alignment map showed major portion of the tunnel passing below the sanctum sanctorum, the room where the consecrated fire is placed.

“The contractors came without any written authorization and no metro officials accompanied them,” said Hanoz Mistry, a community activist.

“I explained to them that the Atash Behram is not just the holy fire, but the entire complex commencing from the boundary wall. Hence, the distant from the fire is irrelevant,” he said, adding that the contractors must consider the boundary wall as the point of reference.

Aspi Deboo, another concerned Parsi who was present when the contractors arrived, said, “There is something very sinister going on and the community needs to be extra vigilant. The centre line of the metro will be three metres inside the compound and thereafter another 3.5 metres will be the tunnel. It means the entire Kusti area (the place where ablutions are done by devotees) right up to where the wall of the ‘kebla’ where holy fire is enthroned will be affected. In short, it will virtually destroy the Wadia Atash Behram.”

Structural engineer Jamshed Shukhadwalla, who first raised the red flag about the Metro III line damaging landmark buildings, said, “”Since major portion of the tunnel will pass below the sanctum sanctorum, it will break the continuous contact of the sacred fire with earth and break the magnetic circuits established by religious ceremonies performed during the consecration of the fire. This is against the tenets and practices of our religion.”

An online petition addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already garnered over 7,500 signatures within a day. “The major cause of angst is on account of the proposed Metro-III line which is going to pass through Jagannath Sunkersett Road, on which are located two of our holy Fire Temples viz. Wadiaji Atash Behram and Anjuman Atash Behram. One line of the Metro will partially pass under both the above Fire Temples. In case of Wadiaji Fire Temple, part of the tunnel will actually pass under the sanctum sanctorum where the holy Fire is enthroned. Both these holy fires are consecrated entities; living vibrant beings who are intermediaries between God and mankind,” it said.

Metro rail officials had last week told TOI they would have to check where the sacred fire is enthroned. “This is the tunnel portion which will progress from CST side and proceed towards Girgaum/Grant Road deep inside 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, director (projects) of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC).

Published on Times of India

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