Khorasan & Kuhistani Khorasan
Khorasan and the Sun
Khorasan was until 2004 a north-eastern province of modern-day Iran, and the country's largest. It was broken up into three provinces: Shomali (North), Razavi and South Khorasan provinces. The capital cities are Bojnourd, Mashhad, Birjand respectively.
Khorasan is also spelt Khorassan, Khurasan or Khuresan.
The name Khorasan is a compound word Khur+san meaning Sun+land. '-san' is an older form of '-shan' and '-stan'. Most authors take this to mean land of the rising sun since Khorasan is today in the east of Iran. There are other reasons for the name. For instance, Khorasan was so named at the height of the Sassanian empire, when it was at the centre of the empire - not at its edge. When the sun was at its zenith or meridian in Khorasan, the sun shone over the rest of the empire.
Two thousand years ago, the region of Khorasan, especially the northern sections was known as Parthava (Parthia), home of the pahlavans (the strong men and heroes) of Iran.
|Map of Khorasan, Iran. Base map credit: Microsoft Encarta|
Khorasan is also home to kuhistans meaning land of the mountains and they were some of the principal kuhistans where Zoroastrians sought refugee when fleeing the Arabs. Eventually, even the last remaining Zoroastrians hiding out in the mountains of Khorasan fled, and the Iranian nation would never reach it zenith again - the sun had set over the empire and over Khorasan as well.
Khorasan & Zoroastrianism
When Khorasan was known as Parthava and home to the Parthian kings, it became the centre of the revival of the Zoroastrian faith after the devastation during Macedonian rule [for further information, see our page on Parthava (Parthia)].
Earlier yet, the land of Khorasan was part of the sixth Vendidad nation, Haroyu, later known as Aria in classical Greek literature (presumably dropping the 'h' in Haroyu makes in Aryu and then Aria).
Khorasan's & Fire Temples
Khorasan is also home to some of the oldest surviving chahr-taqi fire temples, one of which reportedly dates back to Parthava-Pahlavi (Parthian) times making it one of the oldest standing fire temples in Iran. Other surviving temples from the Sassanian era (224-649 CE) - but almost in ruins - are the Bazeh Hovar, Robat and Rivand Fire Temples.
Khorasan is known to have been home to the Neyshabur fire temple, as well as one in Geysoor in Gonbad township. Near the Gonbad temple were forts called Gabr-e-Piran Veiseh and Dokhtar-e Shurab. Another fire temple was known to have been located in Torbat Heydarieh, previously known as Zaveh, in one of Khorasan's kuhistans.
|Bazeh Khur Fire Temple, Khorasan|
Bazeh means mountain edge and khur means sun
One of the oldest Chahar-Taqi temples dating to the Parthian era (247 BCE-224 CE).
80 km s of Mashhad & at Robat Sefid Village's edge. Image credit: Ali Majdar at Flickr
|Another image of the Bazeh Khur fire temple. Image credit: www.itto.org|
|Sassanian era (224-649 CE) fire temple located near Espakhu village,|
in Maneh and Salgheman dist., on a high hill with pine and cypress treed slopes.
It is 115 k from Bojnord on the road to Golestan, & 65 k west of Ashkhaneh village.
Image credit: M-Ejaj/Bache Mahal at Trekearth
|Gabr Cemetery 100km north of Palkanlo Village.|
Gabr is a word used for Zoroastrians. Image credit: iranianpedia
Revand / Rivand / Reyvand Fire Temple(s)
|The photographer states that this site, at Reyvand mount,|
Barzanun village near Neyshabur is holy to both Zoroastrians and Muslims.
He (local tradition?) claims it to be the site of the Burzinmehr Fire.
Image credit: Elias Pirasteh at Flickr
|All that is left of the quickly disintegrating Rivand village fire temple ruins.|
Note the wire rope to assist in the last climb. The stairs have fallen apart.
See below right. Image credit: Salehyar at Panoramio
|The start of the steep climb up to the Rivand temple ruins|
|The ruins of the temple at Rivand.|
Burzen-Mehr (Adur Burzen-Mihr or Azarbuzinmehr) Fire?
The Greater Bundahishn (18.13) mentions that King Vishtasp installed the Burzen-Mehr Fire also called Adur Burzen-Mihr or Azarbuzinmehr at Mount Revand Rivand. "The fire Burzin Mihr was moving in the world and was protecting it until the reign of king Vishtasp. 14. When Zartosht of immortal soul brought the revelation, [it demonstrated many things visibly,] in order to propagate the revelation, and make men without doubt, [so that] Vishtasp and his children might stand by the revelation of God. Vishtasp established it in its proper place on Mount Revand, which one calls the 'Support of Vishtasp'." The Atash Niayesh briefly mentions Mount Raevant (Revand) in relation to a fire, but does not name the fire as does the Bundahishn. We discuss this temple in our page of Fire, as one of the Three Great Fires.
There are various sites in Khorasan identified as temple ruins and further identified as being the location where the great Burzin-Mehr fire was housed. There are also several geographical features and settlements that bear variations of the name including as entire mountain range. We discuss some of them below.
Ruins near Foshtanq Village
There is in Khorasan Razavi, an area called Rivand containing ruins of a fire temple on top of a high hill are known as the Rivand Fire Temple. Locally, it is also called Khone-ye Div or Khan-Div - a very strange name since 'div' means 'devil' or 'demon' for Zoroastrians. It is 13 km north of Rivand village, 5 km north of Foshtanq village, and overlooks the Rivand mountain stream which originates close by. The ancient structure is quickly deteriorating.
The Rivand Fire Temple ruins near Foshtanq village ruins are that of a chahar-taqi structure. The temple is set on top of a high hill. Access to the temple require a strenuous climb. Carrying building and construction materials to the top must have been a feat in itself. Keeping an ever-burning fire supplied with a continuous supply of wood, would have been an even greater challenge and presumably ever visitor would have carried up a supply of wood as well as supplies for the keeper of the flame. During the winter, the challenge would have required strong faith.
As part of a joint Iranian-Polish team, the archaeological team from the University of Warsaw that visited the site states, "Only one arch remains of the upper part of temple. Slabs falling from a gradually disintegrating dome destroyed the temple interior. The poor preservation of the structure is due not only to the natural process of erosion but also to the collapse of the superstructure, which left the walls disjointed and unstable. The process of deterioration seems to have accelerated in recent years. Several years ago, two of the four arches were still standing, and the rock-cut stairs facilitating access to the temple are said to have fallen into ruin a mere 40 years ago." They further state that the temple was, "built of stones bonded with gypsum mortar... . Inside the chahar-taq, two white-plastered stone platforms were discovered. They have parallels in other fire temples. There may have once been four such platforms symmetrically arranged around a central altar." Further, "remnants of a sizeable water reservoir (were) unearthed north of the temple." "It is highly probable that there were some Zoroastrian structures not only on top of the rocky spur, but also at its foot. This assumption seems to be corroborated by local villagers' claims regarding stone structures apparently emerging from the ground by the stream bank and ancient coins being flushed out by the gushing stream during rainy months."
CIAS cite an Iranian member of the team Abdollahzadeh-Sani as saying that "previously the fire temple was thought to be a free-standing structure, but our survey shows the Chahar Taqi was part of a large fire-temple complex."
The dispute to the claim that this was once the Burzinmehr temples is also noted in the CIAS note: "They believe the lost Sasanian fire temple should be in a village known as Jonbad (ancient Gonbad), in the rural district of Kidhqaan of the Shehshtmad district of Sabzevar." Sheshtmad is a village some 30 km south-southeast of Sabzevar.
Unfortunately, the reports we have from the Polish and Iranian members of the team are not precise and conflicting as to the location and even the images. The Polish team locates the site near the village of Foshtonogh (Foshtanq) which is 35 km west of Sabzevar, while the CIAS article locates the site in "rural district of Baashtin, 40 kilometres northeast of city of Sabzevar." The use of 'northeast' might be an error. The writer might mean west or northwest. To add to the confusion, in the maps we possess, Gonbad is considerably south of Sheshtmad. If the same name is used for several places, it is incumbent on the writer to specify the location with other identifiers such as coordinates.
There is a town/village called Bashtin village 11 km south-southeast of Rivand village (Rivand village is 30 km east of Sabzevar), a village that might have given its name to the district. The area has the ruins of an interesting village and the Castle of Sarbedaran.
There is yet another location, a shrine at Barzanun village (see image by Elias Pirasteh at Flickr above) at the foot of Reyvand mountain northeast of Sabzevar, midway on the road to Quchan, in Neyshabur area or district. Barzanun village is about 75 km. northeast of Sabzevar.
Revand / Kopet Dag Mountains
Another name for the Kopet Dag mountains in the north of Khorasan is the Revand Heights. The heights consist of two parallel ridges running in a south-easterly direction from the Caspian Sea to the borders of Afghanistan where they join the Paropamisus Mountains. The Revand forms a bridge between the high Alborz Mountains to the west and the Hindu-Kush massif to the east. The Revand / Kopet Dag may be considered the eastern third of the Alborz. The Revand / Kopet Dag mountains stretch to the very edge of a kingdom that the Greeks identify as Aria. The Paropamisus Mountains run through the old kingdom of Balkh, Bactria, the reputed home of King Vishtasp, installer of the Burzin-Mehr fire.
Unfortunately, our sources are imprecise and given to making conflicting and unsubstantiated claims. They also contort words while transliterating Persian words into English making any digital search for cross-references a nightmare. What we are left with is at least two and possibly four sites around Sabzevar and this denotes fairly high Zoroastrian activity in the region. The entire area is steeped in history and we trust its residents will help in the protection and preservation of these remnants of a glorious past.
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