Udvada is a town in Gujarat
, renowned for its Zoroastrian Atash Behram. This place of worship is the oldest still-functioning example of its kind, and has established Udvada as a pilgrimage center for Zoroastrians the World
over.Udvada is a coastal town 200 km north of Mumbai, around 8 km off the national highway, NH8.The typical Parsi homes here with their high ceilings, sloped roofs with ornamental skirting, and double otlas (porches) are over a century old, and considered worth preserving.
The Atash Behram:
The importance of Udvada in Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) history and religion centres around the Atash Behram (from Middle Persian Atash Warharan for "Victorious Fire", the highest grade of ritual fire of the Zoroastrians) housed in the fire temple there.The Udvada Atash Behram is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian fire temples in India
and the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world. The Udvada Atash Behram is one of nine Atash Behrams worldwide, eight of which are in western India (four in Mumbai, two in Surat
, one in Navsari
, and the one in Udvada), and one of which is in Yazd, in central Iran
Ceremonial anniversary celebrations are held at the Atash Behram on the day of its founding. The ceremonies in Udvada are held on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Shahenshahi (imperial) version of the Zoroastrian calendar (which, in 2006, was on 25 April). Pilgrims from all over the world visit the temple on that day. Special ceremonies are also held on the 20th day of each month. In the Zoroastrian calendar, that day is dedicated to the divinity Verethragna (Avestan, Middle Persian Waharam, hence Behram), hypostasis of victory.
According to tradition and later as a result of legal verdict, nine priestly families of Sanjan
and their heirs are the sole lawful guardians of the fire and its temple.They alone have the right to enjoy its income. The position of high priest passes in turn from the head of one family to the head of another.
Udvada is also the religious centre of the Ilm-e-Kshnoom, a very small Zoroastrian sect based on a mystic and esoteric interpretation of religious texts.
Udvada also hosts a Zoroastrian heritage museum, sponsored by the Government of Gujarat.