Zoroastrian sites

First we went to the Fire Temple (Ateshkadeh). It houses the sacred fire. The sacred fire here is called the Atesh Behram and is the most special of all Zoroastrian sacred fires. It consists of fire taken from 16 different sources including a lightning strike and a cremation pyre! It has been burning since 470 AD and has been relocated several times. Zoroastrians come from around the world to see this Atesh Behram. For them it is a symbol of purity - one of the four natural elements along with water, wind and earth. Only a priest can enter the inner sanctum where the fire burns. Worshippers may pray facing the fire from behind a metal barrier. This area is in a part of the temple reserved for Zoroastrian ceremopnies and not open to the general public.

The Yazd Ateshkadeh. See the Fravohar symbol above the entrance.

Hannah looking at the sacred fire inside the Ateshkadeh. The fire is behind the glass window.

To the right of the window is a picture of the prophet Zoroaster. Thought to have lived around 1500 BC he was a priest of a polytheistic religion of the Aryan society he lived in. He was bathing one day in the River Arax when he had a vision of one God called the Wise Lord (Ahura Mazda). He turned against the religion of his time and taught a new religion in which the individual was part of a struggle between forces of good and evil. His new religion taught of one God, light and truth, the afterlife, heaven and hell, angels with haloes, an evil spirit and a future messiah. Eventually Zoroastrianism became the state religion of Persia under the Achamenids. Persian influence spread over the ancient Near East while the Jews were in exile in Babylon. By the time King Cyrus freed the Jews from Babylon and allowed them to rebuild Jerusalem the two faiths had much in common. These ideas survive today mainly in Christianity and Islam. Zoroastrians have been all but eliminated by centuries of persecution.

The Towers of Silence.

Zoroastrians believe that the Eath is sacred. It should not be polluted by corpses. When a Zoroastrian person dies the body is taken to the edge of town in a funeral procession. A feast is held at the base of the Tower of Silence in the company of the body which lies suspended above the ground on a metal bed. When the feasting is over the corpse is carried up to the tower and left for vultures to pick the flesh off the bones. After three days the bones would be clean and they would be placed in a hole in the ground in the centre of the tower. None of this happens anymore and Iranian law states that Zoroastrians must bury their dead. However, unlike Muslims, who are buried on their side facing Mecca Zoroastrians are buried facing up.

Hannah climbs up to the Tower of Silence. The buildings behind are where the funeral ceremonies and feasts would be held.

Ruth just outside the entrance to the tower.

Inside the tower. The big pit in the middle where the bones were put.

The processional route up the hill to the tower.

The road to Chak Chak.

Then our Zoroastrian guide took us to a special place of pilgrimage for Zoroastrians; Chak Chak. It means drip drip. Iran was a Zoroastrian state until the Arab invasions in the 7th Century. Legend says that at that time, when the Arabs were invading, a girl was being chased by Arab warriors on horseback. She was so scared and lost in the desert and she came to this mountain and could see nowhere left to go. She prayed that the mountain would open up and let her inside and hide her. It did and she has been trapped inside ever since. She missed her family so much that she cried all the time. Her tears drip out of the mountain to this day. Zoroastrians visit the mountain to comfort her. And I guess for them it is a symbol of the losses they suffered at that terrible time.

The road to Chak Chak through stunning arid wilderness.

Chak Chak. Built on a steep mountainside. It looks like a village but it is a religious complex built for the annual pilgrimage event when thousands flock here from around the world. We had to climb up a lot of steps to get to the temple at the top where the tears drip out of the rock face.

The door to the temple. There is a big tree growing through the building.

The view from inside.

Our guide catching the drips. Behind him are three flames for good thoughts, good words and good deeds. In front is a thing where you can light a candle and place it.

Hannah checking out the drips.

Outside the temple.

Stunning red mountains in the late evening sunlight.

Scenery on the way back.

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