Sunday 27 July 2008
Parsis across Bombay (Mumbai) were cheering on Thursday when, after a long battle that has lasted over six years, their sacred fire temples including the four Atash Behrams have been proposed for receiving heritage status, which will safeguard these beautiful century-old structures from the eyes of builders.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has listed 47 Parsi structures to be included in the city’s Heritage list. While 17 of these structures were already on the list of protected structures, they were pegged as Grade 3. These have now been upgraded to 2A, which will protect the structures and come under stricter controls of heritage rules.
Heritage activist Dr Anahita Pundole, a Parsi herself, said that the move although delayed is great news. «The Parsi community is elated about the news as all the fire temples will now be protected», she said.
The list will be open for suggestions and objections from citizens and after a hearing, a final notification will be published.
Co-editor of the book Zoroastrian Tapestry, Firoza Punthakey Mistree, said members of the community had met various ministers and even municipal commissioners over the years for the structures to be included in the heritage list. «Even now, five structures of importance have not been included in the list. But we are glad that the heritage tag will prevent builders from touching these sacred structures which represent the Parsi community in the city», she said.
Director (engineering services and projects), BMC, Dr S. Vishwanath, said there has been a demand from the Parsi community for the fire temples to be protected under the heritage list. «After the Hill Road, Bandra, Agiary issue (which faced demolition during road widening), there was opposition from residents and demand from the Parsi community to protect these structures. This Agiary along with others have now been included in the heritage list», he said.
Apart from fire temples and Tower of Silence, the list also includes the Atash Behrams — these house the fire of the highest order.
There are 10 Atash Behrams across the world: two in Iran, four in Mumbai and the remaining four in other parts of the country. The fire is created by an amalgamation of fire from 16 different sources (house of a goldsmith, house of a soldier, fire from lightning, etc). The Atash Behrams are instituted after a process of prayers and rituals that last almost a year.
Heritage conservationist Dr Pankaj Joshi said the list includes structures which represent a fabric of the city that does not exist any longer. «These are beautiful structures which give you a reminder of how the old Bombay was. The list will safeguard very important aspect of the city and its framework.»