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    Zoroastrian Pilgrimage, Part 1

    Iran - Zoroastrian Pilgrimage, Part 1


    A pilgrimage is a journey made for religious reasons. There are various sites in Iran and India that are destinations for Zoroastrians making a journey for various religious related reasons. These range from the desire to visit a site considered to be particularly holy and auspicious, to the remembrance of a deceased individual, to celebrating a jashne or gahanbar / gahambar festival, to fulfilling a custom such as a nearly wed couple visiting a shrine, or the desire to be part of a tradition.

    In India, a pilgrimage destination is the cathedral fire temple that houses the Iranshah Atash Behram, located in the small town of Udvada in the west coast province of Gujarat.

    In Iran, there are several pilgrimage sites or destinations called pirs in several provinces, though the most familiar ones are in the province of Yazd. In addition to the traditional Yazdi shrines, new sites may be in the process of becoming pilgrimage destinations. The ruins are the ruins of ancient fire temples. One such site is the ruin of the Sassanian era Azargoshasb Fire Temple in Iran's Azarbaijan Province. Other sites are the ruins of (fire temples) at Rey, south of the capital Tehran, and the Firouzabad ruins sixty kilometres south of Shiraz in the province of Pars.



    In general, historical sites that have some connection to the Zoroastrian religions and legendary fire temples are pilgrimage destination candidates, and only time will tell if they become destination sites. To become established as a true place of pilgrimage, the site will need an infrastructure to enable and support the pilgrim's visit, the principle elements being traveled to, boarding and lodging facilities.

    A quasi-pilgrimage Iranian site popular with tourists, if not pilgrims, is the 4,500 year old cypress (Persian, sarv) tree in Abarkuh (also spelt Abarqu, Abarku, Abarkouh and Abarkooh), on the border between the Iranian provinces of Pars and Yazd. More and more, Iranians in general are taking to calling the tree sacred, perhaps because the tree has seen so much history passed by, perhaps because it is a symbol of longevity and steadfastness and perhaps because the cypress is so closely connected with the legends surrounding Zarathushtra and the establishing of the Zoroastrian faith - the taking root of Zoroastrianism if you will.



    Yazd Pilgrimage Sites - Pirs

    Many Yazdi pilgrimage sites bear the suffix 'pir' meaning old or aged. Pir is likely short for 'pirangah' meaning an old place. The name also carries the connotation of age-old wisdom, wisdom that comes with age and wisdom carried by these age-old sites.

    There are sites nestled in the mountains and urban sites as well. In days before the coming of metalled roads and vehicles, the sites in the mountains would have been considered remote, even secretive. Fifth century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, wrote in his Histories, "It is not their (Persian) custom to make and set up statues and temples and altars but they offer sacrifices on the highest peaks of the mountains." Even those urban sites that are located underground below a non-descript house, seem to follow this hidden or secretive tradition. For instance, Pir-e Ma-Siti located in a northeast Yazd city suburb, is situated below ground in a cave-like setting. The mountain sites have (or had) an associated spring or source of water. The urban sites have a well. The articles that are worship focus points and few.



    According to Parviz Varjavand in an article at fravahar.org there are around sixty pir sites around Yazd in various states of repair or disrepair because of vandalism. These include Pir-e Shah Morad, Pir-e Shah Fereydoun, Pir-e Shah Mehr Izad, Pir-e Shah Ashtad Izad, and Pir-e Shah Tistar Izad. Pir-e Morad is situated near Qasemabad.

    From amongst the numerous Yazdi pilgrimage sites, there are six major pirs. More information will be presented at part 2.

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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.