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.