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Heritage

First fire
Save Parsi site from extinction

By Noshirwan Mistry
May 22, 2003
The Iranian

The World Zarathushti Cultural Foundation (WZCF) is an organisation which is trying to help conserve Parsi history before it is completely lost. We are very anxious that the furture generations of Parsis and Indians remember us and our achievements in this adopted land of the Praia--India.

Amongst our many activities, we are working on the preservation and conservation or the Bahrot caves, situated about12 km from Sanjan, where our sacred Iran Shah (the first Holy Fire to be consecrated in India at Sanjan) to safety from the attack of the Tughlak generals at the end of the 14th century >>> Photos

The caves are in a very bad shape and need repair and maintenance. Zoroastrian groups go up a very diffilcult path to offer their reverence and perform jashan ceremonies throughout the year.We have prevailed on the Government of India to  declare the cavea a protected monument, to prevent further deterioration.

We have now to work towards its preservation and maintenance, so that this very important event in our history is not forgotten, but will remain as a permanent heritage of India.We need financial help to allow us tocontinue working on this project.

We appeal to all those interested in keeping alive the Parsi heritage to generously donate to this cause. We are also working in Sanjan with the Indian Archeological Society  on sites to find out positive facts about  the arrival of Parsis in Sanjan.

So far there was no concrete evidence to show that we settled here. Last season we excavated a trench there and have found substantial evidence that the Zoraostrians from Persia did indeed settle here.

We have found pottery, glass ware, coins dating back to the Sassanian period in Iran (the last Zoroastrian dynasty). It proves the thesis of historians that the Iranian Zoaroastrians
had close trading connections wlith the Gujerat coast, and that Sanjan was a well known and prosperous port  with whom the Iranians had close connections.

This  was the reason for the Parsis to seek refuge there and also why they received such a warm welcome. They did not com to Sanjan as total strangers, but were familiar with each others language and customs.

These findings now add substance to Dastur Boman's Kisse-i-Sanjan and proves the report to be historically correct. We are starting another  leg of the excavation this month and we are sure we will find sdubstantial material to add to our knowledge of Parsi
history.

For this work we need substantial financial help. A great deal of infrastructure has to be
provided, such as housing the workers, payments, travelling , designing, analysing the findings, dating correctly and many  other allied arrrangements.

We are also thinking of putting up a museum nearby to exhibit our finding so that they
will become a permannet record of Parsi history. We appeal to you to contrribute as much as you can-big or small to help keep the Parsi Heritage and History alive. 

***

Sanjan
Sanjan ranks among the earliest settlements of the Zoroastrians who fled from Iran in the 7th - 8th centuries A.D. Zoroastrians settled and prospered here till the end of the 14th century when it was invaded by Alafkhan, a general of Mahmud Tughlaq in 1393.

What proof have we of all this except the Kisse-i-Sanjan? The WZCF team with the Archaeological Survey of India is attempting to unravel facts of our past.

Excavations carried out recently have re vealed that Sanjan was a thriving urban port having close trade connections with Iran and the Persian Gulf area. The pottery and glassware are distinctly of Sassanian origin.

This proves the historical premise that traders from coastal Gujarat and Iran were
familiar with each other and therefore the Zoroastrians fleeing Iran chose to land on the Gujarat coast and for the same reason we re made welcome.

Further excavations will be carried out to unearth more evidence about the Zoroastrians. There is a proposal to set up an archaeological museum of Parsi heritage at Sanjan.
Excavated material at Sanjan

Bahrot Caves
The Zoroastrians after the attack on Sanjan by Alaf Khan took the sacred Iranshah, the first fire to be consecrated in India to the nearby caves on Bahrot hills. They stayed there for twelve years protecting the fire in most adverse conditions after which it was sheltered at Bansda.

Today the Iranshah is safely enshrined at Udwada. The Bahrot caves are sacred to the Zoroastrians and they often flock there to pay re ve rence, perform Jashans, etc. Today the caves are in a precarious condition and in some places show signs of disintegration.

Cracks and fissures are apparent everywhere. There is an urgent need to conserve the caves for posterity without delay or else this sacred heritage will be lost forever. There is no proper pathway to the caves and devout Zooastrians have to struggle through 6 km of forest to reach them.

An exhaustive survey of the caves and its precincts has been completed by conservation experts to enable us to take-up concrete conservation measures. A plan for a proper pathway has been pre p a red to enable the devotees to have comfortable access
upto the caves. The WZCF there f o re requests your generous help to complete these two projects.

Parsis desperately need to preserve the richness of their cultural identity and history for future generations. This is precisely why the World Zarthushti Cultural Foundation was established in 1998.

Other activities of the WZCF are documenting Parsi history, preserving Avesta - Pahlavi manuscripts, re-printing valuable books, conducting Gujarati classes, holding Kusti weaving classes, preservation of Zarthusti devotional songs, etc.

The total cost in rupees approximately amounts to:

1) Sanjan excavations 2002-2003......... 04 Lakhs
2) Proposed Archaeological Museum at Sanjan......... 20 Lakhs
3) Conservation of the caves......... 05 Lakhs
4) Proposed 6 km Pathway and maintenance......... 25 Lakhs
TOTAL......... 54 Lakhs

We have applied to the Government for permission to receive foreign donations. All donations are exempted under section 80-G of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (in India). We are grateful for any financial assistance you can provide for our projects. As you know sponsorship is crucial for the preservation of our heritage >>> Photos

At present donations can be sent to:

The World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust
Shanti Building 5th floor
6 Banaji St reet
Mumbai 400 001
India

President
Dr. Homi Dhalla

Trustees
Mr. Nadir Modi
Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly
Project Co-ordinators
Dr. Mani Kamerkar
Mr. Kurush Dalal
Ms. Meher Mistry
Photo Credits:
Mr. Kurush Dalal
Mr. Pankaj Joshi
Mr. Noshirwan Mistry

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