It was a rekindling of the ‘Parsis of Bhavnagar’, reconnecting to their roots in the historic, royal city of Bhavnagar, thanks to the invitation extended by Princess Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil – the convenor of Nilambaug Palace as well as INTACH – Bhavnagar.
(History: The Parsis’ arrived in Bhavnagar, in abundance from South-Gujarat, over 130 years ago, upon the invite from the then King, who wished to lure them to this city. Many Parsis took the invite, as this was the geo-political era, which marked the downfall of the then economic capital – Surat.)
Shri Kersi Deboo (VC – National Commission for Minorities GOI) was the Chief Guest for the event. He threw light with good humor on the individual tales from the history of Bhavnagar Royalty and Parsis, before India’s Independence… tales from philanthropy to Bhavnagar’s cricket team which constituted of a Parsi majority in those days. He spoke of Seth Bamanji, Mancherji and Mahervanji Bhavnagari, the Umrigar Brothers, Bai Dinbai Vakil, and Seth Pirojsha Mirza.
The highlight of the event was the restoration of Zoroastrian frames, by Asia’s conservation expert – Anupam Sah, at the behest of PARZOR Foundation, which is committed to the ‘Preservation of Parsi Zoroastrian Culture and Heritage’. PARZOR Foundation led from the front in creating awareness of the age-old co-existence of cultures through research and the revival of India’s multicultural heritage, by funding the conservation and gifting of the frames back to Bhavnagar Parsi Anjuman. The Anjuman’s secretary – Homi Patel received the frames presented by Maharani Samyukta Kumari Gohil, in the presence of the Maharajah Vijayraj Singh Gohil, daughter-in-law Kritiranjan Gohil, INTACH Bhavnagar’s Convenor – Princess Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil, and member of INTACH Bhavnagar.
Others present included PARZORs expert architect – Prof. Kavas Kapadia, INTACH’s Gujarat State Convenor, Architect Ravindra Vasavda and Dr. Shernaz Cama, who added great value to the event, by presenting to the audience the values of the Foundation as a sustainable conservation ally in this modernized world. Ruzbeh Umrigar, Project Support Coordinator – PARZOR and INTACH – Navsari, is known for having created a showcase of multiple Heritage Walks within Navsari. He took the guests back in time into Bhavnagar’s first Parsiwada Heritage Walk, through the corridors of the first plaque (which stands as an official record) invite from the then Bhavnagar Maharaja – Takhtasinhji’s benevolence and foresightedness for his state, as well as his respect for the Parsi community, continued by his descendants through their patronage of the Parsis of Bhavnagar.
During the walk Shri Kersi Deboo shared the story of the promises the Parsis made to the then Hindu king – Jadi Rana, for attaining community refuge. He also answered various questions from the crowd as regards the numerous rituals and cultural aspects of Zoroastrianism. Though no Zoroastrian priest is currently tending to the Bhavnagar Fire Temple, the sacred-fire room was kept locked from the common area. The Heritage walk progressed through the gallery room of the temple to the Dharamshala building, which completes 100 years in 2023.
Thus, now PARZOR and INTACH have added yet another Heritage Walk to proudly showcase the Bhavnagar Parsiwada! PARZOR extends gratitude to Princess Brijeshwari Kumari Goel, the Nilambaug Palace Hotel, the INTACH Bhavnagar Chapter, for hosting this initiative; as well as to young Parsis in Bhavnagar for their support, especially the Patel Brothers.