Parsis from across the country and globe gathered to celebrate Iranshah Udvada Utsav and offer prayers in the holy town of Udvada, but few know that the holy fire was once protected by the guards of erstwhile state of Baroda. The royal Gaekwad family not just offered support to the Parsi community but also safeguarded the holy fire for centuries together.
“It was in the early 18th century that members of the Parsi community approached Maharaja Pilajirao Gaekwad and sought protection. The Gaekwad family offered them security and since then the holy fire has been guarded by the regiments of erstwhile state of Baroda,” said Jeetendrasingh Gaekwad, who has been conducting research on Relation of Gaekwad State with the Parsi community.
“The royal Gaekwads, in fact, formed four separate contingent named ‘Bawaji ni Paltan’ for protecting the holy fire and the Parsi community. The contingents protected the community and in Navsari, Valsad and even Udvada. Apart from the Marathi community, the Gaekwads also picked up brave Parsis in the contingents as they knew about the Parsi traditions and the importance of the holy fire,” Gaekwad added.
He said that the maximum concentration of Parsis was in Baroda state and Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad had high respect for the community. “Despite facing several battles, the royal Gaekwads never withdrew the guards meant to protect Parsi community that were often harassed by invaders,” Gaekwad said.
The royal Gaekwads offered high posts to Parsis including the likes of distinguished Parsi officer Erach Daboo, who was both an ICS as well as IPS.
Maharaja Sayajirao had once said, ‘The word of promise given by a Parsi is as precious to me as My Own Gaekwari ‘Rupaayaa’ currency. It is bound to be honoured’.