The Holy Pirs of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of Persia and other empires in modern-day Iran.  The prophet Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, lived between 1500-1200 BCE in ancient Iran and was the founder of the religion.  He disliked the class-based social structure of Bronze-Age Iranians because it broke apart the commoners and allowed them to be controlled by the priests.  Zoroastrianism revolves around a single god, Ahura Mazda, who gave his sacred rules and writings to his prophet Zoroaster.  One teaching that was handed down was the use of holy sites for pilgrimages to observe holy fire, fire being a dominant part of Zoroastrianism.  These sites are known as Pir and were located all around Persia and ancient Iran.

The main purpose of a Pir was to hold the sacred fires of worship.  Early believers used a simple hearth in their own homes for worship but as the religion grew sacred sites became more popular.  These so-called fire temples were spread across Iran but the main concentration was in Yazd province.  The six main Pirs are located in the mountains above the desert in Yadz.  Each one had a different schedule for pilgrimages so that travelers could enjoy festivals at each site without missing the next one.  Most pilgrimages took place during the summer months and were part of the fire festivals.

zoroastrian-temple-chak-chak-500

Pir-e Sabz or Chak Chak, Yadz (Zoroastrian Sacred Sites)

            Each Pir was constructed differently but they had many similarities.  Each one had an altar for worship and then an inner grotto for greater religious purposes.  The inner grottos were enclosed by large bronze doors with engraved images of Ahura Mazda or Zoroaster.  These inner areas were for specific Zoroastrian members but the outer parts of the fire temple could be enjoyed by all.  Each Pir also had a legend or story that accompanied its founding or location.  For example, the famous Pir-E Sabz is located on the mountain where a Sassanid’s daughter fled from Arab invaders and Ahura Mazda opened the mountain to give her a place to hide.  The fire temple was built in this grotto as a marker of Ahura Mazda’s blessing upon the young girl.  Other Pirs have similar origin stories and small festivals are often held to commemorate these events.  These holy sites are still popular tourist locations and each summer Zoroastrians from all over Asia travel the pilgrimage routes to give devotion to Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster.

Works Cited

“Chak Chak, Yazd.” Wikipedia. April 26, 2014. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chak_Chak,_Yazd&oldid=605877689.

Eduljee, K.E. “Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak, Pilgrimage in Zoroastrianism.” Zoroastrian Heritage. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/worship/piresabz.htm.

Green, Nile. “The Survival of Zoroastrianism in Yazd.” Iran 38:115-22. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4300587.

Grey, Martin. “Zoroastrian Sacred Sites.” Places of Peace and Power. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://sacredsites.com/middle_east/iran/zoroastrian_sacred_sites.html.

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