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Friday, 29-Sep-2006 02:34 Email | Share | Bookmark
Atashgah - Fire temple

Marabin fire, Isfahan

At the city of Isfahan was a deserted but largely intact fire-temple, locally known as the Atash Kadah or Atash Gah. This deserted shrine stood atop of a hill which rises about 700 feet sharply above the plain, at a distance of perhaps 3 miles from Isfahan. One ascended the hill by a winding path with a series of natural stone steps. The ruined temple was on the very crest of the hill; it was about 14 feet high and 15 feet in diameter, octagonal in form, and composed of large unburnt bricks. The roof was once domed, but most of it had collapsed by the time that Professor Jackson visited it. In the walls were eight doorways looking out toward different points of the compass; that is, this building had eight sides, in each of which was a door. Brick and stucco columns framed the doorways and supported the roof, giving a pillared effect. There was no artificial foundation beneath the temple; its floor was living rock, evidently unsmoothed, since Jackson remarked that part of it thrust itself upward into the middle of the shrine.
Over the inner side of each doorway was a sunken niche, whose lines curved up to give an arched appearance to the doors. Traces of brownish plaster clung in these niches, but no clue to the original finish of the walls remained. There were no inscriptions, just a few graffiti of modern Persian names scrawled in corners. The sanctuary floor was 13 feet 6 inches in diameter, almost circular in shape, and in the center of it was a curved outline, probably of the mortar base upon which a fire-altar rested. There were ashes in the debris.
Other ruined buildings stood on the same hill, surrounding the shrine at the summit. These stand a little below the shrine and probably formed a temple precinct. Jackson wrote "The design and arrangement reminded me of the ruined sanctuary of fire which I noticed near Abarkuh on my journey to Yezd." He also described a series of arched recesses or cells inset in the slope of the hill itself, partly constructed of sun-dried bricks.
Arab geographers called this place the fire-temple of Marabin or Maras. Masudi in Meadows of Gold said the temple was originally devoted to idol-worship (that is, worship of the sun, moon and five principal stars) and it was made into a fire-temple by King Vishtaspa, Zoroaster's original patron.
According to local tradition at Isfahan, the temple went back to the time of the Achaemenian king Artaxerxes, who reigned BC 465-425. An annal written by one Hamzah of Isfahan (eleventh century AD) enlarged on this tradition: "He founded in one day three fire-temples in the Province of Isfahan. The first was in the east, the second in the west, and the third in the middle. The first of these is situated near the citadel of Marin and is the Fire of Shahr Ardashir, the word Shahr signifying district, and Ardashir being a name of Bahman ; the second is the Fire of Zervan Ardashir, located in the territory of Darak called Barkah; and the third is the Fire of Mihr Ardashir, located in the territory of Ardistan of the same name." Artaxerxes is credited with spreading the Zoroastrian religion widely across Persia. (In persian)

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