The Parsi community here is celebrating the centenary of the fire temple at Royapuram here where the flame has never been extinguished.

When Master Jal, the young son of philanthropist Phiroj M. Clubwala died, the grieving family decided to get a fire temple constructed in his memory in 1909. Designed by Hormusji Nowroji, a civil engineer, it was consecrated on August 7, 1910, says Zarin C. Mistry, honorary secretary of the Madras Parsi Association.

The first Parsis had come a century earlier in 1809 from Coorg when the ruling King's brother sent a deputation to the Governor of Fort St. George to deliver a picture.

Mr. Hirijibhai Maneckji Kharas was the first Parsi to land in the city. He was accompanied by five other Parsis and two priests who bought land at Royapuram opposite the Catholic Church, says Ms. Mistry, a chronicler of the community in the city.

While the Parsis of the 1900s were generally a prosperous lot, dealing in cars, cycles, perfumes and dyes, the first Iranis, who are also Zoroastrians, came to Madras around 1900 and soon became famous for their Irani cafes and also established or managed theatres.

There was no official priest in the community for over 100 years till 1906. And there a place of worship till Mr. Clubwala got the fire temple built.

“When the German warship SMS Emden bombed the Madras High Court premises during World War I, everyone in the city wanted to evacuate. Peshotan-t-daji, the priest at the temple refused to leave as the fire would be extinguished,” says Ms. Mistry.

Priests tend to the fire five times a day during prayers where only Parsis and Zoroastrian Iranis are admitted into the sanctum sanctorum.

Apart from her own research, Ms. Mistry has sourced the community's history in the city from the records of Dilla Jal Nalla Daroo, historian and poet. Historians S. Muthiah and V. Sriram have inspired her to do in-depth research.

On Saturday, former President A.PJ. Abdul Kalam inaugurated the centenary celebrations, Jal Phiroj Clubwala Dar-E-Meher, organised by the Madras Parsi Association and the Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman.

Keywords: fire temple

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