Living in a city like Mumbai (Bombay) can be exciting. It also saps most of your energy. There’s too much competition, endless traffic snarls and ever growing inflation. I work as a freelance Web Designer, which means I can take a holiday when I please. My wife R, a practicing artist, tries to get me away from my computer as often as she can. Last Friday she suggested we drive out to a village in Gujarat, about 200 kilometers north, to visit a fellow artist at his makeshift studio. I quickly looked online for all possible places on the route which we could visit post meeting her friend.

peacock udwada

peacock udwada

Udwada was 10 minutes away from where we were to be put up for the night. I jumped at the idea of being able to delve through some historic past of the first Iranian settlers in India. The importance of Udvada in Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) history and religion centres around the Atash Behram (from Middle Persian Atash Warharan for “Victorious Fire”, the highest grade of ritual fire of the Zoroastrians) housed in the fire temple there.

udwada beach

udwada beach

The Parsi’s, as they are referred to India, came to India in the 1400s and settled on the west coast. The exodus from Iran after the Muslim conquest brought them to friendly India. Over the next centuries they spread to other parts of Gujarat. The British Rule termed them as traders from the west and an army of various entrepreneurs made Udwada their home.  Various other towns on the west coast flourished due to the hard working enterprising settlers  from Persia. To identify different families with their trades, they were given last names depicting their wares. Thus came names like Bottlewalla, Boxwalla, Rangwalla, Furniturewalla and so on. As time passed they migrated to bigger cities and eventually made Bombay their home.

sleepy town udwada

sleepy town udwada

Not much has changed in sleepy town Udwada since the last 150 years. Large houses, once built around the holy fire temple, lie vacant and dilapidated. The typical Parsi homes with high ceilings, sloped roofs with ornamental skirting, and wide porches are over a century old, and are worth preserving or being declared as heritage properties.

dastoor baug diner and homestay

dastoor baug diner and homestay

We walked into a “homestay” (Dastoor Baug) where one can get 3 meals and a bed for as less as Rs. 450 ($10). R quickly realized why I so readily agreed to come along. It was the Parsi authentic cuisine which is hard to find back home. We strolled through the village with our aim and shoot camera trying to capture some history with those old homes.

udwada residents

udwada residents

Mrs. Unwala, an elderly woman with immaculate English invited us into her palatial crumbling home. The gesture was heartwarming. She complained how Udwada was now forgotten and not many people come by to the sea-touching village anymore.

heritage homes

heritage homes

Great stories of the golden days were shared and it all seemed like a story so unreal. R was almost about to cry when we took our leave, promising to come visit her again. We walked into Rustomjis rooftop Parsi diner with a sea view. (Hotel Aatash’s website) After a hearty meal of steamed fish in banana leaf (patra nu macchai) and lamb curry with crispy wafers (salli ghost), we decided to call it a day. We stopped by at the Irani bakery downstairs and got some fabulous samosa khaari and dhansak masalas. The drive back to the city was a different one – Silent and contemplative.