“Since the last millennium Udvada was under the rule of Dharampur State and around 16th century there was a treaty between the Portuguese and Dharampur ruler whereby Udvada came under the Portuguese rule from the beginning of the 18th century, evidences prove the same with the inscription on an old well in Udvada dated back to 1714.
In the 18th century the Marathas defeated the King of Dharampur and Udvada came under the rule of the Peshwas that is when Parsis moved into Udvada in 1742. The Peshwas sent the defeated King of Dharampur Shate Maharana Durjansingh of Mandvi to fight the Portuguese. After the victory the Maharana, as a reward, the Peshwas returned his kingdom along with Udvada.
Udvada housed the summer palace of the Madvi King at Meriwadi, as it is known till date, along with grazing grounds for his camels therefore known as Untha Wad or Unt Vada. The origin of the word Udvada could have been a derivative of the Sanskrit word Udna-vaas thereby meaning staying in sea water or part in sea water. Names like Valvada, Khervada are from earlier times whereby tidal waves may have accumulated around these places hence the names derived.
Udvada had a Parsi populaton before 1697 with surnames such as Kotkotias, Kadvas, Peshinas, Bachanas and Kumanas most of whom were agriculturalist. In 1697 a Dokhna was consecrated by the well known Dastur Darab Hormuzdiyar with their own funds and Governments help of waving the agricultural cess for two years, prior to which the corpses were taken to Valsad for Dokhmenashini. In 1830, Seth Pestonji Khurshedji Mody of Khambhat had a new Dokhma concentrated at Udvada with the hilly land gifted by Hamir Singhji the Maharan of Mandvi.
The Iranshah had remained in Navsari for about 320 years with the exception of 3 years when the fire was carried to Surat on account of political instability related to distribution of revenue generated on conducting services at the Iranshah between the Sanjana priest and the Navsari priest. Due to the infighting, controversies, quarrels and hardships faced by the Sanjana priests along with complaints made in the law courts, it was decided to move the holy fire to some place within the territorial jurisdiction of the Sanjana priest. In 1740, with the permit of the Government issued by Damaji Gaikwad, the holy fire was moved to Valsad and in 1742 to Udvada where since then the holy fire Iranshah Atash has being glowing.
The Udvada settlement exhibits a linear infill planning with a south north main spine leading from Jhanda Chowk to the Iranshah core. Two secondary accesses run parallel to the main spine namely the Sea View Street and the Merivadi Street respectively. All along the length of the settlement east west transverse lanes connect the three parallel spines. In addition to the main streets, service streets connect the long narrow plot at the rear ends, mostly used for night soil collection in the 18th and 19th century.
The historic districts exhibits strong medieval organic development, where linear access streets are meandering opening into nodes and open spaces thereby retaining an element of surprise at every short distance.
The Iranshah Atash Behram, which has developed from a humble house to its present day monumental structure, is well camouflaged and sheltered by the immediate core around it. Probably this was consciously done to fend off any form of aggression and protect the religion in the 18th century.
Other than the Iranshah Atash Behram the settlement has a number of significant religious and institutional structures such as the Petit Dar-e-Maher built by the first Baronet Sir Dinshaw Manekji Petit, in the year 1891. the Pandol Trust came up with the Pandol Adarnan-e-Iranshah built in the year 1976. the Seth Manekji Cawasji Damanwalla Charitable dispensary and P.P. Mistry High School are provided to serve all communities of the settlement. The town further has the Bhikaji Unwalla library and the Kayoji Mirza library and Memorial Hall for the service of the community.
The commercial activity related to the settlement is only a small stretch of shop lying along Moghal and Iranshah Street along with the market place at Jhanda Chowk. The other commercial activity is in the form of residential commercial hotel industry surviving due to the constant in flow of Parsis to pay homage to the Iranshah. A umber of prominent hotels such as Globe, Mek, Paradise and earlier King, Majestic and Regal (presently in which The Zoroastrian Information Centre is located) which provides lodging and boarding services to the visitors. The town further has five Dharamshalas such as the Sir J.J. Dharamshala, Sodawaterwalla Dharamshala, Dastur Baug, W.Z.O.’s Katila Stopover Lodge and Seth N.M. Wadia Dharamshala at the station.
Most of the structures in the historic district are residential belonging to the priestly families (Athornans), which are now also occupied by Zorostrian commoners (Behdins). The south western and western side of the settlement is residential dwellings belonging to the Machis, Dodiyas, Bhandaries, Hadpattis, MahiyaVanshis and Mangela communities.
The historic district is predominantly private owned with very properties, which are let out to tenants. Most of the commercial holdings are privately owned while the institutional structures belong to the trust.
The settlement dates back to the 17th century but the buildings were constructed over the existing properties a number of times. The present physical fabric of Udvada is about 80 to 150 years old.