Fire, the source of heat and light is not only revered in ancient Indo-Iranian rituals but also in modern day Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.
Zoroastrianism, which dominated the Sassanid Empire, is the religion ascribed to the ancient Persian prophet, Zarathushtra (Zoroaster), who lived 3500 years ago.
Fire (Atar), together with clean water (Aban), are considered agents of ritual purity in the Zoroastrian religion.
Despite the Zoroastrian respect for any form of fire, they do not worship it, rather it is used as a medium to communicate with God, whom they call Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom, the source of order and precision in the universe.
Standing before a sacred fire, Zoroastrians pay homage to a creation that represents life and the power of Ahura Mazda.
There are three kinds of sacred fires in Zoroastrianism, each standing for one sector of ancient society: Atash Dadgah, Adur Aduran, and Atash Behram.
Atash Dadgah is associated with the householder class and burns in houses and during celebrations such as weddings.
Adur Aduran is connected with the warrior class and burns constantly in fire temples. It is called the ‘Fire of Fires’ because it is made up of embers gathered from different fires belonging to different social classes, to symbolize social unity.
The highly revered Atash Behram is related to kings and the royal family. It must initially originate from lightning and is composed of embers gathered from the hearth of a thousand and one different occupations in society.
Atash Behran is called the ‘Fire of Victory’ and is kept in an undecorated temple, visible only to the worshippers.
Although there have been numerous fire temples in Iran, three are believed to have existed since the beginning of creation: Adur Burzen-Mihr, Adur Farnbag, and Adur Gushnasp, known as the ‘Royal Fires’.
The ‘Royal Fires’ were also associated with social classes: Adur Farnbag with the highest class of priesthood, Adur Gushnasp with the warrior class, and Adur Burzen-Mihr with the lowest class of herdsmen and farmers.
In the olden days, fire temples were not only places of worship but also courts, treatment and learning centers.