The King Has Returned

Iranshah, the Spiritual Monarch of the community, returned to His duly repaired and renovated abode, on 14th December, 2021. The Holy Fire was re-enthroned in the re-consecrated sanctum sanctorum on Roj Hormuzd (dedicated to the Supreme Divinity) of Mah Amardad (dedicated to the Divinity of Eternity). May Ahura Mazda’s Blessings continue to be showered through Iranshah on the entire community and this world till eternity.

According to Qissa-e Sanjan, this first Fire of Victory (Atash Behram) on Indian soil was installed on day nine of the ninth month, Samvat 777 or 721 AC. However, some historians believe that it was more likely 941 AC, or five years after the arrival of Parsis at Sanjan.

Why is the holy fire addressed as ‘Iranshah’?

The Atash Bahram was named Iranshah or ‘King of Iran’, most probably because our ancestors were without a monarch after the fall of the Sasanian empire in Iran. Away from their original motherland in Iran, they came to recognize this fire of victory as their Spiritual Sovereign.

Also, the Alat or ritual requisites for consecrating the Atash Behram are believed to have been brought to India from Khorasan (Iran) by road (horseback and by foot), and thus Iranshah Atash Bahram which was installed at Sanjan had a direct ritual connect with Khorasan’s Atash Bahram.

One can imagine how challenging the task of bringing the Alat from Iran to India must have been, over a thousand years ago… taking months of planning to traverse through the rugged, cold and often treacherous mountain terrain.

Why Iranshah Is So Special

Sixteen types of fires used in various professions (e.g., brick kiln, mint, distillery etc.) are required to consecrate an Atash Behram, including the fire of lightening (i.e., lightening naturally striking a tree and which event should have been witnessed by two Zoroastrians). In the case of Iranshah, oral tradition tells us that the fire of lightening was induced with the power of prayers. Various ceremonies are performed over all sixteen fires, after which they are all ritually merged and ceremonially enthroned.

The Exodus: After Iranshah was duly installed, Parsis lived peacefully in Sanjan for about three hundred and twenty-four years. However, when Sultan Mahmud (Mahmud Begdo) attacked Sanjan with an army of thirty thousand soldiers led by General Alfkhan, the Governor of Sanjan asked the Parsis to join his army in battle, after annulling the treaty between the Parsis and his ancestor, Vajjadevrai, that they would not bear weapons.

One thousand four hundred Parsi men enlisted themselves in the army and General Ardashir led them in battle. They fought for three days and Ardashir emerged victorious in the first round. However, Alfkhan returned with a bigger army and Ardashir and several men in his army were killed. Sanjan fell into the hands of Alfkhan.

Even as the battle was being fought, the Sanjana Priests, fearing desecration of the Holy Fire, carried Iranshah away to safety in a cave on Mount Bahrot.  For twelve long years, the priests kept Iranshah safe and secure at Bahrot, from desecration at the hands of the invaders.

From one Mountain to Another: From mount Bahrot, Iranshah was moved to mount Ajmalgadh in Vansda for fourteen years. This, once again, was a mountain and forest area and one can only imagine the hardship our priests must have endured. Parsis across Gujarat and Navsari in particular, would pay homage to Iranshah in Vansda. But as Vansda was a forest area, pilgrimage to Ajmalgadh posed enormous hardships and danger.

Iranshah at Navsari: Interestingly, Iranshah has blessed the community from Navsari for more years than from Udwada. It was at the request of an influential Behdin, Changa Asa, that Iranshah was brought to Navsari from Vansda in 1469. Iranshah remained in Navsari for three hundred and fourteen years. But, due to growing threats from Pindaras (ruthless bandits), Iranshah was moved to Surat for two years and then back to Navsari for another three. Later, a major dispute arose between Navsari’s Sanjana Priests and Bhagaria priests over Panthak or ritual rights. As the dispute escalated, the Sanjana priests decided to take Iranshah to Bulsar, where the Iranshah blazed for two years. But since Bulsar/Valsad was still within the jurisdiction of Bhagaria priests, they moved Iranshah to Udwada, which many believed was a temporary stop.

Probable Return To Sanjan: The Sanjana priests probably wanted to take Iranshah back to Sanjan where the Holy Fire was originally consecrated. However, Udwada (originally Untwada or place of camel grazing) is today regarded as Iranshah’s permanent abode. Thus, the Holiest of Holy Iranshah was consecrated on Indian soil, at Sanjan, more than a thousand years ago or perhaps twelve hundred years ago, if one goes by the Qissa-e Sanjan.

The First And Oldest: Iranshah is not just the first and oldest consecrated Atash Behram in India but, also a spiritual link with Iran – the spiritual motherland of all Zoroastrians. Historically, Iranshah has been housed in mountain caves, forests and humble abodes of pious priests. It has been moved on numerous occasions to several territories across South Gujarat and blessed thousands of devotees over a millennium. Today, Iranshah is enthroned in a grand building in Udwada, built in 1894 by the pious and philanthropic Bai Motlibai Maneckji Wadia and has now been magnificently repaired and renovated by the Shapoorji Pallonji group.

The majestic gate, Zoroastrian motifs which adorn the exterior facade and grand Achaemenian style columns, all gladden the eye and instill a sense of awe before paying obeisance to the Spiritual King of Kings – the Holy Iranshah! We conclude our humble tribute to Iranshah with a verse from the Atash Niayesh (litany to the fire):

“Yasnemcha vahmemcha huberetimcha
Ushta-beretimcha, vanta-beretimcha, afrinami,
Tava Atarshputhra AhuraheMazdao, yesnyo
Ahi vahmyo, yesnyo buyao vahmyo
Nmanahumashyakanam ushta buyat
Ahmainaire, yase-thwabadha
Frayazaite, aesmo-zasto, baresmo-zasto
Gao-zasto, havano-zasto.”


O Fire, the purifier (of all things) pertaining to Ahura Mazda!
I praise Thy worship, invocation, good health-giving and friendly gift.
(O Fire), thou art worthy of worship and invocation,
May thou be worthy of worship and invocation in the abodes of the devout!
May there be greatness (or happiness) unto that person
Who shall always worship thee with fuel, Baresman, milk and mortar in hand!

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