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Friday, May 30, 2008

Chak Chak, the Zoroastrian centre of pilgrimage

Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Iran. Founded 2500 years ago by Zoroaster, this was one of the first religions of the world that proposes the concept of a single god, a concept later adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Zoroastrians worship the fire as the symbol of their god, and an eternal flame is always kept burning in their temples, sometimes known as fire temples. The religion if often represented by layers of wings of a bird, which means purity of thought, word and action. They believe in the purity of elements, hence the dead must never pollute the sacred soil or the atmosphere. As a result, they neither bury nor cremate their dead. Instead, the dead are brought to "towers of silence" where they were eaten by vultures, a practice that is seldom practiced today. Most Zoroastrians bury their dead today, in graves lined with concrete, to prevent contaminating the soil.
Zoroastrianism used to be the state religion of Iran, until the Islamic armies of Arabia conquered the region. Today, 150,000 people continue to worship this ancient religion, of which a small number still reside in Iran (mostly around Yazd). Over half the followers live in Mumbai, India, where they call themselves Parsees. A few Parsee families live in Singapore where they are wealthy businessmen. The Parsees were descendants of Zoroastrian refugees who fled Iran for India when the Arabs invaded Iran, bringing Islam along. Today, the Parsees face a formidable challenge of overturning a drastic decline in their numbers, the result of their ancient rules of marriage, which discourages marriage with non-Parsees.
Chak Chak is an important Zoroastrian shrine 50km northwest of Yazd. Located in the mountains bordering the Dasht-e Lut desert, the setting of the shrine and its surrounding desert plains is spectacularly breathtaking. It is certainly a location that inspires the religious about the creation of the omnipotent almighty.

2 comments:

Paolo said...

The date of Zoroastrian religion is established by linguists and ethnohistorians around 1500 BCE and not 2500 years as you have stated. The Zoroaster's date of 500 BCE was early 19th century misconception, which is now corrected. If you visit The Circle of ancient Iranian Studies website you'll be able to obtain further info about the religion and its date.

However, nice article, and lovely pictures.

Thanks
Paolo

Katayun said...

I was searching for the reason while Muslims lined their graves with concrete after watching an article on the news which spoke of it. I wasn't expecting to find something out about my own religion (Zoroastrianism)!