Much has been said about the beauties of the desert night. Desert night may be the best and the most suitable place to observe the stars and see the meteor showers, but the experience of spending the night, late at night, on the eve of cold autumn, in Takht-e-Soleyman is more indescribable than the desert.
A bright sky of stars, bright of meteors that are constantly passing by, and the absolute silence of nature while all around you are walls that date back to perhaps three thousand years ago. Life was happening before us and will continue to its existence log after we are gone. The moment now is our only share of this elongated time.
In previous articles, we talked about the atmosphere that is prevalent in some places. The narration of these lands has a conscious spirit that calls others from afar. I have spent a night in sheer silence in the middle of this mythical temple and fire temple, where occasional ceremonies (Gahambars) are still held and many Zoroastrians still come there to pray. The story of this article goes beyond stone and soil.
Takht-e Soleyman is the name of a district in the province of West Azerbaijan and was the largest educational, religious, social center, and place of worship of pre-Islamic Iranians. Back in the middle Persian time, it was called Ganjak. The other name of this city was “Shiz.” It was an ancient and sacred city for Persians.
It is said that though the founder of Takht-e Soleyman was the mystical king Kay-Khosrow, after the Arab invasion, people gave the name of the great Jewish King, Soleyman to it cause what they remembered then was only religious stories. Of course, this is just a theory.
This ancient city has been the residence of tribes such as the Medes, Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanids, and Mongols in different periods, and in each of the above periods, this rejoin has been at the center of power and civilization of the time. Now, traces of this city are left in the city of Takab which reflects the glory and grandeur of this very beautiful ancient city, once you start to march toward it through the agricultural fields and apple gardens.
Perhaps the reason behind the power and magnetism of this palace and geographical land is that due to some claims which most Zoroastrians believe in, Zoroaster, the well-known prophet of ancient Iran was born there.
This is false information. Many reliable facts suggest Zoroaster was born, raised, and even started his journey as a messenger sent from Ahuramazdah, from there. In this case, historical facts are not important cause as the legends say, before Zoroaster, Kay-Khosrow, a half-blooded king who managed to bring peace between two enemies, Iran and Turan, built up a fire temple by his Khvarenah and since, all Zoroastrians respected the place and would pilgrimage from far land to this fire temple called Adur Gushnasp (the fire of a male horse).
When Kay-Khosrow razed the “Pagoda of Lake Chichester”, the fire fell on his horse, destroying the darkness and bringing back the light. So that he could bring down the pagoda. In the same place, he built a temple, Adur Gushnasp.
In the Sassanid era, Ganjak became especially sacred for this fire temple and the city became a religious complex, so that a special class of religious clerics, who are called priests in Zoroastrianism, the Magi, lived in the residential houses of the city. It was with the establishment of the Sassanid Empire in ancient Persia and the spread of the Zoroastrianism religion, that the peak of glory and the prosperity of this city began.
The building of Adur Gushnasp fire temple as a symbol of the authority of Zoroastrianism and therefore caused the growth and redevelopment of the city. This fire temple, which was reserved for kings and commanders maintained as the warriors’ fire temple and was highly respected as a symbol of the country’s unity.
Adur Gushnasp was and still is the symbol of the Sassanid government, which was strengthened by the solidarity of the people with religiosity. During difficult times, the Sassanid Kings would visit Adur Gushnasp and vow gold, wire, property, and houses there. Bahram V sent the crown jewels, which he got from conquering his battles to this fire temple. Khosrow I Anushirvan also offered this precious stone to Adur Gushnasp. Khosrow II (Parviz) promised that if he succeeded in defeating Bahram Choobin, he would send gold ornaments and wire gifts to there and he fulfilled his vow.
Based on some sources, during the reign of Kavid, father of Anushirvan, at the discretion of Mazdak, who was after a religious reform and a new sect, the number of fire temples was reduced and some were merged into others.
But the great enemy of Mazdak immerged after his father and restored Adur Gushnasp to its full glory. This fire temple gained its great importance back during the reign of Khosrow I Anushirvan.
Adur Gushnasp became a large “royal” fire temple due to the joining of two fires. The Sassanid kings valued this fire temple so much that each of the kings, after ascending the throne, rushed to visit it on foot, and after winning the war, donated a portion of the booties of war to the treasure of the fire temple.
This place was invaded many times, due to the wealth it carried within. All the Kings’ booties, golden gifts, tons of gold and silver coins. and the Magi’s properties was a good target for any foreign Army. The Roman Empire invaded Adur Gushnasp more than once and finally managed to bring the whole center down.
In 623 AD, Heraclius invaded the Caucasus with his forces through Asia Minor to prevent the advance of the conquering army of Iran and to repel them. Heraclius first conquered Armenia and then occupied the Ganjak region. Heraclius razed Adur Gushnasp to the ground, the holiest religious site of the Sassanid era, and got his revenge over Khosrow Parviz the second.
The complex of historical monuments in Takht-e Soleyman was built around a sedimentary spring. The water of this spring, which rises from a depth of more than 120 meters from the ground and flows into the surrounding lands, has a lot of salts that make it unsuitable for drinking and agriculture. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a lake and no water flows into it but the sanctity of the water remains. Especially when the Sassanid constructed a temple for Anahita the Goddess of Water and fertility near the lake.
There are many rumors around this lake. Some say when the Magi heard of Heraclius’ invasion, they throw all the treasures they had into the lake, and because of the depth of the lake and the water pressure, no one could dive in and fetch them.
According to both mythological documents and reliable historical evidence, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is highly religious. This place and land were anointed with the name of religion from the beginning.
During its prosperity, it kept one of the most enduring and sacred fires of ancient Iran. This daily effort of Zoroastrian Magi can be seen in the love of modern Zoroastrians. Gahambar is a ceremony in which, on the anniversary of the creation of the first elements of life by Ahuramazdah, the sky, a single drop of water, the earth, the plant, the cow, and human are honored. Adur Gushnasp fire Temple is a place that after all these years and despite the extinguishing of its eternal fire, still welcomes its devoting pilgrims and visitors.
To understand the general atmosphere of this fire temple, you must be at a good distance from it, you must observe from a place where the whole construction, lies in an arched shape green (season depending) plain and see the image altogether with the high mountains that surround it and guarded the fire that once destroyed darkness and became a ray of hope and light.