Today Leo’s Rabbit found himself in the city of Yazd in Iran, where he visited Zoroastrian Fire Temple and experienced an immense peace and tranquillity learning about Zoroastrianism, an amazing ancient religion of the Persian people.
The day was very hot, with the temperature of over 30°C, and Rabbit looking weary and scruffy with the sticky fur and sweaty paws, was pleasantly surprised when he found a bit of shadow in a large garden with pine and cypress trees surrounding the temple. He hopped happily towards the building, but suddenly stopped terrified when he approached the entrance with an eagle-like sign on the parapet of the roof. He was told however that there are no eagles around and the sign above the entrance, called Faravahar, symbolises Zoroastrianism with its basic tenets and principles of Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.
Re-assured of his safety, Rabbit entered the building. The temple, built in 1934, peaceful and magnificent in its simplicity of design and what it represents, houses the sacred eternal flame, that has been continuously burning for over 1,500 years. The fire represents the spiritual flame within us, the divine fire of creation, and the undying ethical values: honesty, order, beneficence, fairness and justice. The fire is being looked after by a special responsible person (Fire Keeper), who feeds it several times a day with a piece of dry almond or apricot wood. Rabbit could not believe how it is possible to keep a fire going for that many years – it must have taken some 20 generations of humans (or 300 generations of healthy rabbits!). The flame, called ‘Victorious Fire’ (Atash Bahram), is the highest grade of consecrated fire used in Zoroastrian worship. Leo’s Rabbit learned that the fire originated from the flames of the Pars Karyan Fire temple in Larestan and ‘travelled’ to Aqda where it was kept burning for 700 years. In 1174 it was transferred to Ardakan, then to Yazd in 1474 and to its present site in 1940. Even after Arab conquest of Iran in 651, when most of the nation was forced to convert to Islam and became Muslims, Zoroastrianism continued to be part of Iranian culture and the very fact that the Zoroastrian sacred flame has been kept burning till now shows that the original and the true spirit of Persia is still alive. ‘Victorious Fire’ indeed – thought Rabbit!
The sacred fire is installed in the temple behind an amber tinted glass enclosure. Non-Zoroastrians can only view it from outside the glass chamber, but Rabbit, being closely related to PapaMus, who is a Zoroastrian himself, was allowed to go to the sanctum area of the fire. He cleaned his paws before entering (if you are a human, well... we would like to assume that you are – you will need to take your shoes off) and he wore a white hat when inside. He sat quietly staring at the fire and contemplating the history of ancient Persia and admiring the determination of the Zoroastrian people who kept their religion alive throughout the centuries, kept the flame of their faith burning. Watching this holy fire and listening to PapaMus read prayers from Avesta, sacred book of Zoroastrianism, provided our little Rabbit with an unforgettable spiritual experience and filled his little heart with peace and joy.
After visiting the fire, Leo's Rabbit proceeded towards the adjoining museum. It provided an introduction into the religion describing its main elements, general beliefs, rituals and its sacred book.
Rabbit learned that Zoroastrianism, often referred to as the oldest of the great world religions, was founded in 6th century BC by Zoroaster, the first prophet in the world who promulgated monotheism, with one, universal, transcendent, supreme God, Ahura Mazda (the Lord of Wisdom), the source of generosity, kindness and benefice.
Zoroaster’s followers believe in the ethical dualism, a co-existence of good and evil forces in the world. Human beings (and rabbits) are essentially divine and share the spiritual nature of God, they are all born pure, with a conscience and they are given free will to make a choice to follow either good or evil, each of which will bring its own consequences at death and will lead a soul either to the gates of heaven or to the pathway of hell. The prospects for the afterlife comforted our little Rabbit, who always strives to be kind, helpful and honest, and live his little life without harming other creatures. For a moment, he closed his eyes and imagined himself in the Rabbit Heaven, hopping in the fresh, juicy, green grass, with the warm sunshine gently touching his fur and looking over the endless carrot fields… Yes, that’s where he wants to go when his time comes! He promised himself to try even harder to be a good rabbit and follow the key ethical principles of Zoroastrianism - Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta, meaning ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds’. He thought that the pursuit of those principles will not only guarantee him a place in the Rabbit Heaven, but also will bring immediate rewards in the form of better life on earth; more friends, love, food, security, health and harmony. Rabbit believes in Karma – if you a good rabbit, good things will happen to you.
Spiritually elevated and happy Rabbit proceeded to the small photo gallery within the museum, where he explored Zoroastrians’ daily life and rituals. He liked the fact that they, same way as rabbits, live in harmony with nature and they are very careful not to pollute and destroy the environment. They work preserving the purity of God’s divine creation and respect the four elements of nature: the earth, the air, the water and the fire. Ancient Zoroastrians developed elaborate techniques to avoid polluting the environment in a harmful manner. The household and community waste was disposed in impervious stone-lined pits where it degraded naturally through exposure to the sun (sometimes aided by lime juice) without polluting the surrounding land and water; settlements were constructed away from the banks of streams; the water to perform ablutions and clothes washing was draw off from rivers not to pollute fresh running water; the dead were never placed in the ground but were either put in stone tombs above ground level, or exposed to sunshine on the top of a hill (Towers of Silence) leaving only bones to disintegrate to a harmless powder.
Learning about the simple ways of living, hard work and demanding daily activities of the people of Yazd, made little Rabbit realise how privileged he is to have an access to all the advances of the modern civilisation. He felt grateful, overwhelmed and humbled. All in the same time.
After a long and hot day, Leo's Rabbit found a small coffee shop, where he finally stretched his paws, sat down comfortably in a lovely, cool environment and while sipping his freshly made carrot juice, he reflected on his visit to the Fire Temple. It was a superb experience and one that he would recommend as essential to any visitor lucky enough to pass through Yazd. It provided Rabbit with a brief but inclusive overview of a very influential ancient religion amidst the backdrop of arguably its most sacred location.
Leo's Rabbit 'lives' in my handbag and he travels with us everywhere we go. He has pictures taken at various locations, tourist attractions and places we visit. As a part of this blog we will describe Leo's Rabbit Travels to share our personal experiences from these visits. Hopefully couple of people (apart from us :-) ) will find it interesting and may even feel encouraged to visit one of Rabbit's destinations.