Fire and fire temple

Fire and its coming to existence is one of the diving gifts, which were offered to man. By the nature, and is recorded as the biggest discovery of man. The people all over the world, regardless of their race or nationality respect fire, this eternal source of light and warmth.

In “ Avesta” the holy and literary book of Zoroastrians in Iran , it is said that Izad Azar acts as a link between the higher world and the people in need, and flames of fire work as the courier that takes the prayers of man to kingdom of heaven and so creates the basis of closeness  of man to God.

Iranians believe that Hooshange Pishdadi, a mythical ling, was the discoverer of fire. Fire in ancient Farsi language was called “Atra”. In Pahlavi language was called “Atur” and in “Avesta” there are names such as “ Atar” “ Atter” and ”Atre” . all of them referring to light. Warmth, brightness and heat.

Wherever this divine gift appears, wherever the flames of this symbol of light and enlightenment appears, people respect it. Ancient Iranians used to swear on fire. And they believed fire had brought security and peace for man and had made him free from fear of darkness, and had become the basis for inventions. The oldest symbol of worship of fire in Near East are shown on the cylindrical seals belonging to prehistoric era which have been found in excavations done in Mesopotermia and Shush. On these, there could be seen symbols of fire stand with pillar or cone like legs showing fire flames on the top of them.

The first trace of worshipping fire in the history of Iran has been in relief of “ Corangon” in Fars, which is belonging to Elamite era. In this relief one can see the flames of fire, carved on stone, other works of this era are cone-shaped stones that served as fire stands. They were found in different places in Iran especially in southwest and west of the country. All of these fireplaces had been constructed in open space. Later, during the Achaemenian period, worshipping fire in an open area became more widespread. This itself was characteristic of the faith of Mazde-e-Yasna among the Iranian of that period.

They worshiped fire in an open area which was contrary to Zoroaster’s instructions. Fire stands like Naqsh-e-Rostam, Pulpit-like fire places in Passargad, fire places in Bishaboor,  in Qal’e Dokhtar and the tower of Firooz Abad, the Deyni Mill building fire stand, all are manifestations of the faith of Mazd-e Yasna and worshipping fire in an open area.

With the appearance of Zoroaster in the first millennium B.C. there was a rule to keep the holy fire under a shelter so it would not be exposed to sunlight and would not be extinguished  by rain. So there were covered buildings designed and built, in which the holy fire was kept and worshiped. This kind of fire temple is known in Iran as Atashkadeh or Atashgah.

Remnants of this kind of Fire temple belonging to Medes period were found for the first time in archaeological excavations in Nooshijan located between Malayer and Hamedan. It is worth to note that in this area they also found the remains of two fire temples, one as a hidden temple belonging to pre –Zoroastrian era and one was an open temple belonging to the time when Zoroastrain religion became the official religion. This temple was separated by a wall from a rectangular room which was connected to each other by a door.

In northwest of the cross-shaped room the altar for fire is made in the shape of steps over which a fireplace was discovered with charcoal and ashes.

This shows that, many religious festivals and ceremonies of Zoroastrian religion had been held there. Archeological studies proved that this place was active as late as 600 B.C.

The fire altar of this temple is similar to the fireplace shown in stone carving on a tomb called Qiz Qapan.

Qiz Qapan tomb is a characteristic crypt without any grave inside it and belongs to Medean period. It has no place for burying the corpse, and it was used as “ Stoodan”( a place to keep the Bones). Archeological discoveries in Nooshijan, a place which dates back to 700 B.C, show us the architecture of fire temple which was followed then in constructing fire temples.

The Zoroastrian temples were designed and constructed with minor difference on the scheme and plan of this sacred place of Medes.

The form and shape of fire temples of Zoroastrians from the beginning of establishment up to the end of Sassanid period were divided into three characteristic groups:

A.      Chahar Taqi , these kinds of fire temples have square-shaped space consisting of four piers in its four corners joined by a joining arch. The style of this building is of traditional Sassanid architecture. Some example of this kind are Chahar Taqis of Kazeroon, Jarreh, Khairabad, Niasar, Tange Chec Chec, Khark Island and Natanz.

In this form of Chahar taqis the altar of fire is built kike steps and located in the middle. When there was any religious ceremony the worshipers would watch the flames from outside of Chahar Taquis, without approaching the fire.

B.       Cross-shaped temples. This form of construction is similar to Chahar-Taqis. Examples of this kind of temples are fire temples of Abdol Abad in Bam, Chahar Zebar in Mahidasht in Kermanshah, Khorram Dasht in Kashan and Bashoor in Khorasan.

C.      The third form of fire temples are either Chahar Taqis or cross-shaped temples with portico or passageway around it for circumambulation. Most of the big fire temples of Sassanid era are constructed in such style of architecture. Examples of this kind of fire temoles are Azargoshasb, Azarbarzinmehr, Qasr-e-Shirin and Farash Band temple

Most of these temples were constructed in crowded residential areas, and keeping their fire always on was not so hard. But some temples were constructed far from cities or the suburb, and just on the occasion of festivals and ceremonies people used to gather together and after finishing the ceremony, and leaving the place, they had to keep the fire in a surrounded place, so in such temples, there were found a separate Chahar Taqi dome in which the fire was kept out of wind and storm by a custodian. The fire could be transported from the square dome to the main area again in ceremonies and festivals. Examples of this kind of temples are Chec Chec and Kenar Siah temples.

Among all of fire temples , there were three which have been more important than others, each belonging to special cast during Sassanid dynasty:

1-      Azargoshasb fire temple, which was the fire of monarchs and commanders and was located in Shiz ( today’s Takht-e-Soleyman) in west Azarbaijan, the remains of which are discovered through archeological excavations.

The Sassanid kings respected this temple so much that they used to come on foot from Tisfoon to this temple. This temple was destroyed by Herakhius of Rome in 624 A.D.

2-      Azar Farnabagh fire temple or the fire belonging to the clergy and priests, supposed to be located in fars but whose real location has not been found yet.

3-      Azarbarzin Mehr fire temple which belonged to the farmers was built on Rivand Mountains in Sabzevar in a valley close to Sabzevar desert. The remains of this temple were discovered through archeological excavations.

Among the important fire temples we can name the following:

Azargoshasb, Khajeh temple Bazhoor, Azarbarzin Mehr , Naqsh-e-Rostam fireplace, Bishaboor fireplace , Bishabour fire temple.

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