History : Sep-Oct 2018
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 27 During this period Zoroastrian priests be gan to build fire temples to house their sacred flames. Because Ahura Mazda’s fire stood for all that was good, pure, and holy, tending the fire took on greater importance during this era. Remains of many fire temples have been found throughout Iran, most dating to the Sasanian era. One of the most significant is Takhte Soleyman (“throne of Solomon”). Built in the early to mid fifth century, it was an impressive fire temple that housed one of the great Zoroastrian fire altars. Located in a volcanic region in northwest ern Iran, the fiery geography of the land perhaps enhanced its sacred status. The temples were damaged by attacks in later centuries and even tually fell into ruin, but the temple complex and its surrounding structures were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. Zoroastrian dominance persisted for cen turies but came to a rapid end after the Arab conquests in the seventh century. M any Zoro astrians fled from Iran and Azerbaijan to India where they continued to practice their faith. Due to restrictive laws forbidding their comingling with other faiths, their enclaves grew isolated and over time the members became known as the Parsis. Zoroastrians who stayed in Persia and other areas of Central Asia faced persecu tions and discrimination, which reduced their numbers and their centers of worship. Fires Still Burning Although diminished since their peak, Zara thustra’s fires have not been extinguished. Today Zoroastrianism is practiced by communities around the world, with the largest concentra tions in Iran, India, North America, the United Kingdom, and Australasia. Many modern congregations worship at fire temples, where they learn the centuriesold cre do of Zoroastrianism: Humata, hukhta, hvarsh- ta: Good thoughts, good words, good deeds. They embrace the teachings of Zarathustra— be honest, be ethical, be compassionate—and believe the promise that Ahura Mazda will ultimately vanquish evil. JUAN ANTONIO ÁLVAREZ-PEDROSA NÚÑEZ IS A SPECIALIST IN ANCIENT INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES AT THE COMPLUTENSE UNIVERSITY, MADRID, SPAIN. KUNI TAKAHASHI/GETTY IMAGES RICHARD ASHWORTH/AGE FOTOSTOCK SANCTUARY Located in a desert cave near Yazd, Iran, the Chak-Chak shrine attracts Zoroastrians from all over the world. Worshippers remember the story of the Sasanian princess fleeing the Arab invasion. She prayed for help here and was protected by the mountain itself. PORTRAIT OF A GOD The likeness of Zoroastrianism’s supreme being, Ahura Mazda, has been found on many Persian ruins, like this relief (above) from Persepolis, an ancient capital of the Achaemenian Empire.