Category Archives: Travel

Sanjan Sanatorium

The newly renovated Sanjan Sanatorium managed by WZOTF is now open.

Make a reservation today for a weekend getaway with your family or a day trip with friends to enjoy the amazing food.

Please spread the word.

See you there!

LONDON TO MUMBAI – Drives Of A Lifetime

The journey started in London @ kilometer 147,524 and ended at the Gateway of India, Mumbai @ kilometer 168,981- a distance of 21,457 km. We stayed at 44 different locations over 51 days of the Drive, consuming a total of 2,503 litres of diesel and spending the approximate equivalent of Rs. 19,000/- on tolls. Only one issue with the car – Other than the radiator problem in Siberia, NO significant problems. Will need to replace one headlamp bulb which has blown a low beam filament and fix the cup holder that has jammed. Other than this, a wash and service, change of lubricants, torquing the suspension and the car feels ready to set off across the world right away. Time to start dreaming of the next Drive I guess…

Byram Dhalla, Saroosh Dinshaw and others!

Delhi Parsi Dharamshala

The Delhi Parsi Dharamshala is centrally located and offers comfortable and affordable accommodation in Delhi. Situated at Delhi Gate Metro Station, close to both the main railway stations, Connaught Place, Supreme Court, High Court and Pragati Maidan, it offers airy and spacious rooms that give you home-style comfort, equipped with modern amenities.

We also offer special attractive rates for large groups for weddings and other functions, long stay for students and working professionals.

Delhi Gate Metro Station, Gate No 1,
Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg
New Delhi – 110002

Takht-e Soleyman: Harmonious sanctuary inspired by natural context

TEHRAN – Overlooking a lake with a backdrop of a snowcapped mountain range in northwest Iran, lies the UNESCO-registered Takht-e Soleyman (“Solomon’s Throne”), an archeological and touristic site that bears testimony to various eras of the nation’s history.

Situated in the southeastern highlands of West Azarbaijan province, the property encompasses a lake roughly 80 by 120 meters and a Sassanid-era Zoroastrian temple complex dedicated to Anahita, an ancient goddess of fertility, parts of which were rebuilt in the 13th century during the Ilkhanid era.

The ensemble was established in a geologically anomalous location as the base of the temple complex sits on an oval mound roughly 350 by 550 meters.

Inspired by natural context, the rich harmonious composition draws local and foreign travelers who want even for minuets revel in its peaceful atmosphere.

According to Britannica Encyclopedia, its surrounding landscape was probably first inhabited sometime in the 1st millennium BC. Some construction on the mound itself dates from the early Achaemenian dynasty (559–330 BC), and there are traces of settlement activity from the Parthian period.

Under tourists’ eyes

In what follows, a select of comments that foreign visitors have already posted to TripAdvisor, a fairly popular travel website, has been given:

‘Off the beaten track but worth it as long as the weather holds!’

Very few Western tourists venture this far but this Zoroastrian fire temple sits in an amazing landscape. The few buildings that are left are ruins, but the site is surrounded by an ancient wall and has amazing backdrops of snowcapped mountains.

The weather is very changeable so wrap up warm when the sun goes in. (rdella from UK; reviewed May 24, 2017)

‘Beautiful site’

The place and its history are impressive and beautiful. A map of the area with English explanations is available. Entrance fee 200.000 Rials for foreign tourists. (StefanBaW235 from Germany; reviewed April 16, 2017)

‘a UNESCO site not to be missed’

What an incredible historic site. Sassanids warriors and kings, Zoroastrian fire and Anahita water goddess worshipers all co-existed here. Even when the Mongols appeared they did not destroy it, but appreciated its deep Crater Lake, and volcanoes around.

It is amazing that it is so well preserved after so long… (Miriahm D. from Colorado, the U.S.; visited May 2016)

‘This is amazing’

The site is on a volcanic vent combined with artesian well. It was covered in silt from various discharges over the centuries until early last century. The pool of water is very deep and fissures, the source of the water, go even deeper. The high mineral content helps fertilize the surrounding orchards. Intriguingly, the site was important for the Persians and then also the later Ilkhanid Mongol invaders, who modified it. The on-site guide was excellent and brought it all to life (including the 12 fortresses which surround it). This is a compelling visit, especially when you consider the full context. (PeterC489 form London; reviewed September 9, 2015)

PHOTO: A general view of Takht-e Soleyman, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its rugged landscape in northwest Iran.

A Summer’s Day at Udvada

My need to voraciously absorb all odd bits of information was the reason why I used to  be good at General Knowledge in school. Parents obviously approved and hence every Sunday night at 9.00 I was allowed to sit through Siddharth Kak-Renuka Shahane hosted Surabhi—a true blue infotainment programme which will strongly be embedded in any ’90s kid. It was here that I had first heard of Navsari and Udvada, the first ports of call for Zorastrians and Parsis into the subcontinent.

Ten years in Mumbai was enough to make my resolve strong to visit Udvada made it a bucket list entry. The plan was put in motion some time last year, but it wasn’t until April this year that the road trip materialised and the calendars of our motley crew of four finally synced and off we went.

I always thought I grew up in a sleepy little town, but Udvada is smaller and sleepier still. As a matter of fact, for most parts it is still just a village but generously sprinkled with mansions and bungalows built by Parsis, thanks to their expedient enterprises. What drew them then and draws them even now is the Iran Shah, a fire temple with oldest continuous fire in the world. Parsi rigidity about their religion forbade us to step inside, we, very happily, made peace with the quaintness.

The highlight, of course, was the food and as luck would have it, it was Bengali New Year and a mighty meal was only fair. Let me be clear, we did not go pillar to post trying out all the famed eateries trying out Parsi fare; we stuck to one place, for both the meals—Cafe Farohar at Sohrabji Jamshedji Sodawaterwalla Dharamshala. We were there only for the day and wanted to go exploring as well.

Parsi food has been on my mind ever since my first taste of Parsi Akoori at Kyani & Co in Kalbadevi. It has been a personal mission to savour as much as possible of the cuisine. Many of these experiences were simply fortuitous, like when I was invited to Anjuman I Islam’s hotel management college to attend a Parsi wedding-themed F&B promotion hosted by their students. The meal was as lavish and as-original-it-could-get and involved my first taste of Patrani Macchi and Lagan Nu Custard. Then there was a wine pairing exercise with Perzen Patel’s The Bawi Bride, which was the beginning of my love affair with Talera Boomla.

Cafe Farohar will be another indelible memory in my annals of Parsi food. Amongst the four of us, the table was full with food. Everything from Chicken Farcha to Boi Fry was ordered and washed down by local Sunta Raspberry Soda. As we devoured our Mutton Pulao Dar and Prawn Dhandar Patio we mourned that we couldn’t order more. Instinctively and unanimously, it was decided that we were coming back here for dinner. Our luck also favoured us as a local sancha ice-cream seller in his rickety autorickshaw dropped by, serving the most amazing hand-churned mango ice cream.

As a hardcore pescatarian, it was the Boi Fry that stole my heart. Indian White Mullet, locally called Boi, fresh from the shores, was lathered in Parsi masala mix, the secret to which omni-present Auntie Hilla wouldn’t part with (she and her son, Shehzad, run the cafe and manage the Dharamshala), and the delicate meat cooked to flaky perfection. Finishing that fish, head to tail, was the most satisfying part of the meal!

As we roamed around the little lanes of Udvada, we came across an old lady selling fresh Parsi chai masala—peppermint, mint, lemongrass and lemon. I picked up a bundle of peppermint; using it in tea seemed far-fetched so I made a batch of peppermint bitters, now my Udvada memory will last while longer. Next stop was Irani Bakery, selling freshly baked Mawa Cakes, desi version of macaroons and coconut biscuits, a batch of these were also picked up.


The gallivanting came to an end with the sunset. We parked ourselves on a parapet to watch the big red ball of fire sink into the Arabian Sea. We would’ve continued sitting there, extrapolating the deeper meaning of life, if our stomachs hadn’t ever so slightly grumbled. That sign was more than enough for us to look forward to the dinner. Frankly, dinner was on the back of my mind ever since lunch got over. Typical!

Dinner was supposed to be light since we were driving back. It involved was croquettes and shrimps and mutton and chicken and custard, that’s all. This is one of those times I realised there is safety in numbers when you want to try out so much, but there is only so much space in that stomach. Generously divided in four people, both meals led to happy tummies.

The drive back was a discussion about the amazing food splattered by our observations on Udvada, its quaintness and its people. A good day trip indeed.

Iran’s Yazd City Inscribed on World Heritage List

The historical city of Yazd in central Iran has become the country’s 22nd world heritage site after the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of its inscription on Sunday during the committee’s 41st session in Krakow, Poland.

Almost 200 hectares of the city’s 2,270-hectare historical texture now boast world heritage status.

Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people still live. It is also believed to be the world’s largest inhabited adobe city.

Registering the site on the coveted list was a tougher task than Iranian officials had hoped. The ancient city’s dossier was supposed to be considered for inscription last year but was deemed incomplete by UNESCO’s assessors who gave Iran a long list of shortcomings that had to be redressed to improve the city’s chances of inscription on the coveted list.

Cultural heritage authorities have envisioned a buffer zone of around 665.93 hectares for the designated area.

Yazd is home to UNESCO-listed ancient Persian qanats as well as Dolat Abad Garden, which is one of nine Iranian gardens inscribed collectively on the World Heritage List as “the Persian Gardens”.

The city is known for its adobe architecture, Zoroastrian fire temples and tall structures known as badgirs, or wind-catchers, which in ancient times functioned as natural ventilation in large buildings.

With 22 world heritage sites, Iran is ranked first in the Middle East and eleventh worldwide.



And here we were on the road again on a different quest, to visit the Zoroastrian sacred places in Yazd. We left early morning direction Chak Chak to visit the Zoroastrian temple of Pir-e Sabz. It is considered the most sacred Zoroastrian Fire Temple.

The scenery was stunning with mountain ranges and little vegetation. The harsh environment made you wonder why such a place was chosen for a sacred temple.



To understand why, we need to go back about 3500 years, when Zoroastrianism was established as a new religion. A new religion which brought a big change.

From the worship of a multitude of Gods to the worship of a monotheistic God. A spiritual, invisible God, Ahura Mazda, who embodied all wisdom. A god who had created the universe to defeat evil. Zoroastrians believe there is a negative force or evil spirit that needs to be defeated. By seeking the truth and righteous path, you can defeat evil. Each individual can make his own destiny by choosing a good or evil path. At the end of time you will be judged and will either go to paradise or to hell.

When Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the prophet who had come from a family of priests, introduced the new religion, he was met with great resistance, in particular from the class of the Magi, the priesthood. Some concepts were regarded as dangerous. In particular the one that stated mankind was all equal and that at the day of judgement rich and poor would be judged equally .

These are principles we can all relate to in our faiths. As one of the oldest monotheistic religion, historians believe Zoroastrianism has greatly influenced the three major monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

We don’t know exactly when Zoroastrianism was adopted as a state religion. We do know that by the time of the Persian Achaemenid empire, with Cyrus the Great (600 -530 BC), Ahura Mazda was already mentioned as the one true God. Zoroastrianism remained the official religion until the 7th century when the Arab invaders introduced Islam to Persia.

Which brings me back to the sanctuary. Legend says that a Sassanid princess, daughter of the last pre-islamic ruler Yazdgerd III had gone into this arid hills trying to escape the arab army that approached. As they were getting closer, she started to cry and begged Ahura Mazda for help. Suddenly a gap opened in the mountains and she disappeared into it. The army left confused and from that moment on water started to drip from the mountains symbolizing her tears. Water that continuously quenched the thirst of those who passed by.

One day a shepherd who had lost his flock and couldn’t find it, came by to quench his thirst and being very tired, fell asleep. He dreamt that his flock were with a woman who told him to build a shelter there and tell others to come. When he woke up his flock was back. Grateful and with the help of the Zoroastrians he built this sacred fire temple.

I’m not going to lie to you and say it is easy to climb all those steps from the bottom of the mountain to the sanctuary.


But it is well worth the climb to see this very special Zoroastrian fire temple. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about fire temples and their meaning. Some going as far as labelling Zoroastrians as fire worshippers which is incorrect. Fire for the Zoroastrians is a symbol of purification like holy water or the cross are symbols associated with Christians. It represents God’s light or wisdom so they always pray towards the fire or light.

Every year in June, thousands of Zoroastrians come here to perform their annual pilgrimage not only from different provinces in Iran but also from other places in the world.

The moment pilgrims get the first glimpse of the shrine, they are supposed to abandon their vehicles and walk the rest of the way. I wish I could witness the pilgrimage one day but outsiders are not always allowed to be present.

Click Here for the full story with interesting pics

Udvada – Firmly guarding a tradition

An aura of antiquity envelopes the coastal town of Udvada in Gujarat, which houses the holiest fire of the Parsis

Faith accompli: A Parsi woman comes out of the fire temple
Udvada is a pretty small heritage town with lanes and bylanes lined with traditional Parsi row houses, made of teakwood and bricks. The laidback coastal town in Gujarat houses the holiest fire of the Parsis that is supposed to be burning for almost 1,296 years now. The ethnic group from Persia (Iran) first landed in Sanjan nearly 1,300 years ago. They were granted asylum by the noble King Jadi Rana. Within a few years, they consecrated the Holy Fire and built a fire temple. However, their fight for survival and protecting their religion is a constant saga of their history. Intermittent threats from Islamic invaders made them move from one place to another till with the help of the rulers Durjansinghji, the Gaekwads and the Peshwas, the Holy Fire found its destination at Udvada.Inline image 3
The streets of Udvada wear a desolate look
The once-thriving town now appears to be desolate since most of the Parsis have migrated to Mumbai or abroad. The otla (porches) of the century-old houses have become a place to laze around by the aging owners. The crumbling houses and locked doors might disappoint but an aura of antiquity envelopes them. If you care to pause and ponder, each house appears to tell a tale of its glorious past and a way of life interwoven with the faith of its residents. Each house has a symbol or pictures of Zoroastrianism. The Holy Fire, the picture of Prophet Zarathushtra, who propagated the teachings of one supreme God, Ahura Mazda, and the symbol of Iranshah with two wings are on the walls and inside the Parsi homes. Water holds sanctity and each house has a well since all religious ceremonies require fresh water.As you walk down the paved roads admiring the architecture, the intricate designs on wrought-iron railings and creaking gates on every porch of a Parsi home, you might just discover the fire temple bathed in white emerging from a street full of residential houses. It appears to be camouflaged. Perhaps it is to protect it from an attack way back in the 18th century. The Iranshah Atash Behram (fire temple) houses the Holy Fire that was enthroned here in 1742. Zoroastrians from all over the worldcome here to pay homage to fire. “Homage unto Thee Oh Fire of Ahura Mazda” written on the gate of the temple extol the virtue of fire or light, which is so integral to Zoroastrianism.The month of May, Adar Mahino, is dedicated to fire. The pilgrims buy small logs of wood and sticks of sandalwood to pay homage to the burning fire. The men wear typical Parsi caps called sola topis and the women cover their heads with scarves.Non-Parsis are not allowed inside the temple but the state Government Zoroastrian Information Centre, which is housed in a restored bungalow set in sylvan surroundings, is a great place to acquaint yourself with this ancient religion.Various rooms are assigned to the aspect of history of Parsis, culture, religion, renowned Indian Parsi personalities and detail about typical customs like navjote ceremony (initiation of young Parsi into religion), wedding and disposal of the dead in dakhma (Tower of Silence) where it is naturally decomposed by vultures. You are also enlightened by the teachings of Zoroastrianism. The three principal codes of conduct followed by Parsis are humata, hukhta and huvarshta that is good thought, good word and good deed. The religion could be a revelation for many. One is saddened to know that this minuscule community is sadly dwindling.  However, after loading yourself with all the knowledge, don’t forget to load yourself with bottles of Sunta raspberry soda from the cafeteria, a speciality drink unique to Udvada. Udvada is also a haven for Parsi cuisine lovers.Inline image 2
A local Parsi vendor Photos by the writerEven the Atash Behram premises have much activities among local vendors. Local women hang around selling sarias (sago wafers) spiked with herbs and spices. Some lay their stuff on roadsides like lemon grass and fresh mint leaves. Parsi love their lili chai (green tea) infused with these flavours. The Bharat bakery handcart lured visitors with its nankhatais, khari, butter biscuits, and even dried fried bits of fish packed in tiny plastic pouches. According to third generation owner Nilesh, Parsis love fish, and if Udvada is a holy place for prayers, it is also a perfect place for feasting on Parsi cuisines.With many Parsi dharamshalas, restaurants and dhabas offering delicacies like egg bhurji (scrambles eggs), dhansak, sali par eedu (fried eggs over potato slices), fried boi (white mullet fish), surmai fish curry, chicken pakora, homemade ice-creams and custard among other scrumptious dishes; even non-Parsis would have a good time. Strolling in the streets in the morning you could have doodh na puff (a glass of milk froth) from local women moving with glasses on tray, then head for the rocky beach to relax sitting on a rocky perch and amble around large weathered bungalows to build an appetite to go for a big hearty Parsi meal.

  • Fact File 
    getting there: Nearest airport: Surat.
  • One can also drive from Mumbai and Vadodara (both have airports). 
  • Nearest railway station: Udvada Railway station. 
  • moving around: Udvada is a small town so you can walk around or hire a rickshaw. 
  • where to eat: Ahura (it is on Mumbai Surat NH8 at Amboli), Globe Hotel serves generous portions of Parsi food, Ashishvangh Hotel, Dastoor Baug Dharamshala are known for their homemade ice-creams and meals, Parsi da dhaba (at NH8). There is Irani bakery and Bharat bakery hand cart for nankhatais and biscuits.
  • You could purchase dhansak masala, chutneys and pickles from veranda shops near Atash Behram. Methiya nu achaar (spicy raw mango pickle), Libu nu achaar (tangy, fresh lime pickle) and keri ni chutney (sweet-spicy mango pickle) are Parsi specialities.
  • Shop for sandalwood sticks that range from Rs 50-Rs 1000 and all are pure. 
  • Some dos and don’ts: Non-Parsis are not allowed to enter the fire temple, so respect their religious custom. Dress modestly and maintain the sanctity of the holy town.   
  • Thus goes the folklore  The Parsis had braved a terrible storm and had promised to build Atash Behram (fire temple) if they landed safely. They sought asylum from King Jadi Rana. The king sent a bowl full of milk to the brim signifying there’s no place for immigrants in his kingdom. The wise Dustur added sugar to the milk with a promise of never being disruptive and indicating they would blend in just as sugar adds sweetness to milk. Parsis never went back on their promise.
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