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Udvada festival celebrates Parsi tradition, religion

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Nearly 2,000 people from around the world had gathered in Udvada, a town in Gujarat, to celebrate the three-day Iranshah Udvada Utsav.

The festival, which had everything from a fashion show of traditional Parsi attire to a thought-provoking speech by Farokh Udwadia about that past, present and future of the community, concluded on Monday. On Sunday, Union Minister Smriti Irani inaugurated a decorative gate with large pillars at the entrance of the sleepy town.

Dinshaw Tamboly, managing trustee of the Foundation for Development of Udvada, which organises the festival, said, “The festival has been extremely well received. We had a variety of talks, devotional songs and traditional dances and panel discussions on how our religion can be made relevant without changing it in any way. All the dignitaries have spoken highly of the community, and Ms. Irani and Dr. Udwadia received standing ovations.”

Debate on faith
Dr. Udwadia, during his speech, triggered a discussion by questioning if any individual or association has the moral, legal or ethical right to deny anyone the right to practice the faith he or she wants.

On the first day, the festival paid a musical tribute to Queen singer Freddie Mercury, who is of Parsi descent. “The performance was put together beautifully, with great amount of glitz and glamour. I am not a Freddie Mercury, fan but I really enjoyed it,” said Farrokh Jijina, senior editor of community magazine Parsiana.

The crowd appreciated the performance, but a section of the community criticised the decision to celebrate the “controversial” singer.

Streamers stir up trouble
The debate was further extended after a picture of the colourful streamers put up for the festival at Udvada were said to resemble the rainbow flag that is used in LGBT pride marches.

“The theme of the festival this year is ‘threads of continuity’. To depict the message, lovely colourful streamers have been put up in the town. I don’t think there is a need to interpret anything here. The festival has got the community together, and one should just enjoy and bond instead of drawing conclusions,” said Mr. Jijina.

Parsiana’s editor Jehangir Patel said the tribute to Mercury was worthwhile. “Whether he publicly acknowledged his Parsi roots or not, he was one of us. And he was a great artiste and performer,” Mr. Patel said.

Published on The Hindu