Fire temple | Atar-Atash is same as Azar and Fire in Farsi
To this day, the fire has been the center of Hindu and Zoroastrian rituals and at the same time it is both earthly and divine. Hindus believe that fire is the mediator between man and the gods, because this is where the two worlds come together. The element of fire is also scattered all over the world: It is in the sun which is in the sublime sky; it is ignited in a storm cloud and it lands on the earth in the form of lighting and here is constantly being reborn by the people.
Symbol of Ahura Mazda
In the religion of Zoroaster, fire is a symbol of Ahura Mazda and the center of their daily worship. It is considered to be the son of Ahura Mazda, its visible presence and the symbol of its true discipline. One of the contemporary Parsees wrote:
“What more than a pure, immaculate flame can truly represent the supreme nature of God, which is eternal light?”
Fire is directly addressed In Zoroastrian rituals and Mobad sacrifices for it.
In the prayer of fire, Mobad recites the followings:
I pray for worship, godliness and prayer, good sacrifice,A desirable sacrifice, a praiseworthy sacrifice, for you, o’ the Fire,The son of Ahura Mazda (sacrifices). You deserve praise, you deserve prayer, May you be worthy of praise, worthy of prayer,In people’s houses,Good luck to the man who really worships you. (Dalla, Prayers, p. 155)
In the contemporary Zoroastrian religion, fire is so sacred that neither the sunlight should be allowed to fall on it, nor should the infidel’s eyes see it. This may not have always been the case. Because in ancient times, fire pots were built on the mountains, and this shows that the Zoroastrians worshiped in the mountains.
Four elements of fire
At the time of our predecessors, the universe was created by the synergy and combination of the four elements of fire, water, wind and earth, and the creation has become stable. . Therefore, great importance was given to these four elements, and that place was considered the place of worship of the one and only God, in order to protect them from any impurity.
So, many ancient fire temples was built like chahartaq having four arches, each arch symbolize for one element, its ceiling represent the sublime sky and the firebox inside is the symbol of the sun in the sky.
Three of the most famous Zoroastrian fires dating back to the early history of this religion includes:
- Adur Faranbagh fire
- Adur Gushnasp fire
- Adur Barzin Mehr fire
Each fire is associated with one of the three classes of society:
- Faranbagh with Mobads
- Gushnasp with warriors
- Barzin Mehr with farmers
Adur Gushnasp Fire Temple along with Adur Faranbagh and Adur Barzin Mehr fire temples were three important fire temples of the Sassanid era. This fire has maintained the position of the army and has been highly respected as a symbol of the unity of the country.
Adur Gushnasp’s name was chosen because according to Iranian mythology, when Kay Khosrow Shah was opening Bahman Castle at the daylight he was confronted with the darkness of the night that demons had created with magic. Suddenly a fire shone on his horse’s mane and lit everywhere. After the victory of Kay Khosrow Shah and opening of Bahman Castle, he place a fire temple there thanks to this assistance of Ahura and this Ahura gifted fire and named this fire as Adur Gushnasp which means the fire of male horse.
There are three fire groups associated with rituals:
- Atash Bahram (which is one of the holiest fires)
- Atash Adaran
- Atash Dadgah
Atash Bahram is the victorious king of fires. They call this fire in the name of Ahura Mazda for the help and ask the fire to strengthen them against the forces of darkness because its splendor fights against lies and is in fact a symbol of honesty.
Atash Bahram is one of the three most glorious fires of the Sassanid era and was called Bahram (victory) due to its higher reputation. According to historical accounts, this fire was called Azar Faranbagh and was held in Darabgerd of Fars Province. It was transferred to Kariyan of Fars during the monarchy of Khosrow I and sovereignized in a fire temple with the same name.
This fire was brought to Yazd in the 10th century AD to protect it from foreigners and was kept in the caves and Zoroastrian villages of Yazd to be protected from being robbed. Currently, his fire is settled in Yazd fire place and is considered as the holy fire of the Zoroastrians of Iran. This fire is more than 1500 years old and you can see it in Yazd Fire Temple.
From ancient times the fire temples have been simple and unpretentious buildings and usually do not have any decorations. Yazd Fire Temple has followed the same rule and its construction has been inspired by the architecture of the Parsian Fire Temple building in India and the Achaemenid architecture, especially Persepolis. The main building of the fire temple is located and designed in such a way that it can benefit the most from sunlight and as a result, a lot of energy remains in it.
The fire is held in a large bronze container and a glass container and is located somewhere higher than the ground. . The sacred fire is in a large room away from the sun, and rooms have been set up for the prayer service.
One person is responsible for keeping the fire and known as “Hirbod”. He keeps the fire by adding a piece of dry and more resistant wood than other woods such as almond and apricot wood and do it several times of each day. The resulted ash is worthless and is discharged when needed.
The visitors can see the fire from behind the glass because human breaths should not come into contact with the pure fire. Keeping the fire lit is attractive to all tourists. As they see the fire from behind the glass, they inhale some of its smell.
Sovereignizing the fire?
It is better to say that the fire is placed like a king than to say that they put it in its place and they put the wood in the shape of a throne. On top of it a crown hangs as a sign of the kingdom of the strong fire.
When they sit the fire on the throne, four Mobads carry it like a king with victory, while others have taken a canopy over it. They move in front of and behind of it by “Mehr” swords and rods in the form of the king’s bodyguards. When the fire is sovereignized, only those Mobads have gone through the most difficult rituals of purification can take care of it. Except for them, no one can enter the special shrine of the fire, even they have to wear white gloves and take care of it. The reason for its sanctity is its long and difficult purification process. Sixteen fires are collected from various sources, and then they are purified 1128 times, and this process lasts for a year and the cost is huge. Therefore, it is not surprising that such a fire is rarely placed on the throne.
Matters relating to Adaran and Dadgah fire are of much less importance. Non-spiritual people can also take care of Dadgah fire, however, both are being placed by military ceremonies, because the sacred fires are the symbol of clear and true spiritual rule in the battle against the forces of darkness and this is the battle that the believers, with the cooperation of God and His Son, fire, are involved.
The purification of fires belonging to all classes is a reminder that the man also must be purified like these fires. This fire reminds the man that just as firewood (for the purification of fire) is collected from all classes of society, so all human beings, regardless of their social class, are equal for God if they go through the stage of purification.
When one of the Parsis (Zoroastrians) approaches the fire, he puts ashes on his forehead as a sign to remind him that he will eventually turn to dust and recite this prayer:
“Let me try to smell goodness and good deeds before I die and to guide the light of piety and knowledge to others” (Madi, Parsis religious rites, P. 217).
* Written by Hanie Farati and Translated by Saeed Zaroori.