It is 1.30 p.m. on a bright Sunday in Udvada in Gujarat. Rohinton Irani, owner of the Irani Bakery in Udvada, gets a call on his mobile phone. He smiles broadly as his friend Arvind Golakiya, an industrialist in Vapi, tells him that he is arriving in a few minutes. With a friendship that spans three decades, they know what their next stop is going to be: a lavish lunch at Rohinton’s Heritage Home in the small town.
The coastal town of Udvada is home to the most sacred of Zoroastrian fire temples in India. The fire temple in the town draws Zoroastrian pilgrims from all parts of India and from around the world. But other tourists too visit the town for the Parsi cuisine it offers in many restaurants.
The Parsis, a Zoroastrian community, came to Gujarat from Iran following its conquest by Arab Muslims in the seventh century.
The immigrants were granted permission to stay by the local ruler, on the condition that they adopt the local language (Gujarati) and that their women adopt the local dress (the sari).
Udvada was one of the places that the Paris chose to settle in. They promised the ruler that they would mix with the local community, just like sugar in milk. Navsari, Daman, Valsad, Surat and Mumbai are some of the other towns and cities that they settled in.
Parsi heritage is clearly visible in Udvada. Every home has a traditional well. Earthen lamps are lit in most homes. The ‘Bawaji chair’, which has long arms on which a person can put up his feet to rest, is a common household item.
Solemn start: Hormazd Kumana offers traditional prayers at home in Udvada.
Meticulous craft: A museum worker displays a handcrafted religious symbol.
Ready for a ride: Paurusasp Magol with his horse.
One for the album: A family from Mumbai at the fire temple.
Cooling down: People enjoying the sea breeze in the coastal town.
Scented sticks: Firoz Dastur with his stock of sandalwood in his home-cum-shop.
Cultural delight: The main entrance of the Parsi Museum in Udvada.
Tasty enterprise: Rohinton Irani at the Irani Bakery.
Tall icon: The birthplace of Jamsedji Tata in Navsari, which is about 75 km from Udvada.