The BMC has stumbled upon an unexpected hurdle on the way to constructing the coastal road. After securing the heritage committee’s clearance for taking a kilometre of Marine Drive for the project, it has discovered that a structure of religious significance to the Parsis lies on the stretch.
Parsi Gate, which members of the community use to reach a narrow strip of beach to offer prayers to water, is at a spot opposite Taraporevala Aquarium where the coastal road’s north-bound tunnel is planned. The BMC plans to shift the structure temporarily so that work on the project can proceed. A civic official said the BMC has sought the heritage committee’s permission to do so.
Parsi Gate’s style is said to be based on ancient Persian architecture. “It was constructed over a hundred years ago. Parsis pray there on certain days. It is one of the few sites where our community offers prayers in the open,” said Hanoz Mistry, a community activist. Once a year, during the Festival of Ava, celebrated to revere the ‘divinity of water’, the gate witnesses a significant gathering of Parsis.
Heritage committee officials said they had received the BMC’s request and will discuss it at their next meeting.
A civic official said, “We need the portion on which the gate is for tunnel construction. We will restore the gate, which is on BMC property, after the work. Since it’s related to religious sentiments, we have sought help from experts before we touch it for coastal road work.”
Mistry said the gate is of sentimental value to the Parsi community. “Our sentiment doesn’t matter much to government authorities and they will anyway replace the gate for the coastal road project. But we will be happy if they restore it after work so that we can continue using it to walk up to the water for prayers.”
An expert said it remains to be seen how the BMC plans to restore the structure without shifting its location, as once the coastal road tunnel is constructed on the planned alignment, access to the sea from there would be a challenge.
Source: The Times of India