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.