Pamir Region Pages:
Pamir Historical Sites
|Pamir Region of Tajikistan. Red stars indicate Zoroastrian historical sites|
It is noteworthy, that the Zoroastrian historical sites we have located in Tajikistan are all in the Pamirs. The map below is a map of the region in which the sites are located. Click on the map to open a larger map of the Pamirs.
The worship areas are also all on elevated levels. This conforms to the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi's (and the Avestan Vendidad's) description that when legendary King Jamshid developed the four professions, he "made its place of service on the mountains."
Khorugh / Khorog
|Elevated outdoor worship area at Kofir-Kala, Bogev (see below). Credit: Pamir.Org|
Khorugh (also spelt Khorog) is the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Province which includes the Pamir area. It is located on the banks of the Gunt river at its confluence with the River Panj (also spelt Pandzh, Pyanj, Pyandz) on the western slopes of the Pamirs at the meeting point of the Rushan, Shugnam and Ishkashim ranges.
The Panj river becomes the Amu Darya further west after joining with the Vakhsh river. The Panj river also forms part of Tajikistan's southern border with Afghanistan.
Khorugh / Khorog also lies on a branch of the ancient Aryan trade road (also called the Silk Road) that skirted the Pamirs from the south and passed through the Wakhan valley between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. A branch of the trade route probably ran along the banks of the Gunt river through Bogev and east into the heart of the Pamir heights.
Kofir-Kala Outdoor Worship Area at Bogev
Thirteen kilometres east of Khorog, on M41 - the road from Khorog to Bulunkul and the Pamir heights - and located on a high cliff dominating the Gunt valley and Bogev village, is the Kofir-Kala complex of ancient ruins. The ruins consist of the base of a fortress with a citadel as well as the remains of two circular outdoor worship structures (see image above right). The location of the worship center conforms to the Zoroastrian practice of worshipping on high ground.
In ancient times, this complex was a well-protected center of worship that served the Shugnan / Shugnon area - the Gunt valley and mountainous region immediately east of Khorog.
|The village of Bulunkul near Lake Yashilkul looking south|
Ritual Site at Lake Yashilkul, Pamir Heights
Further east of Bogev and the Kofir-Kala complex we find a site identified as the ruins of an ancient Zoroastrian worship area.
The site is located at Sumatash, close to the village of Bulunkul, where the estuary of the Major Marjanai river flows in to Lake Yashilkul (blue water).
The area surrounding the ruins is isolated and lies in a desolate part of the central Pamirs at an elevation of 3,700 meters or 12,200 feet. The rugged and stark beauty of the surroundings is haunting.
|Ritual site at Sumantash, Lake Yashilkul|
For an ancient worship site to be located in an area that nowadays has no immediate surrounding population, may indicate that at one time there was a community living in the around the ruins - an area could have been abandoned at some point in the distant past. A loss of population may in turn indicate that the Pamir heights were more habitable in the past and that some event caused the climate to change and the land to become less habitable. Nowadays, the summers are cool and the winters cold. There is hardly a tree in sight and the landscape is bleak. Snow can fall in the middle of summer.
To the northeast of the village Bulunkul and Lake Yashilkul lie the Murgab river and valley, where there are over 50 stone-age settlements. Petroglyphs and other rock carvings, several dating from the late Palaeolithic period (8,000 BCE), of the sun and horse carriages ascribed to a Mithraic culture can be found here.
|Lake Yashilkul (blue water) looking northeast. Credit: Pamirs.Org|
If instead of travelling east from Khorugh / Khorog, we travel south along the ancient Aryan trade road (also called the Silk Roads) that ran beside the Panj River valley, we come to Ishkashim (also spelt Iskashim) at the entrance to the Wakhan valley that runs along the base of the northern Hindu Kush mountains. The Wakhan valley is now shared between Afghanistan - a modern contrivance engineered by the Russians and British in order to provide a buffer between their empires. In the past it would have been an integral part of the Pamir-Badakhshan region. The Hindu Kush (meaning Hindu killer) was in all likelihood the border between the Zoroastrian/Iranian and Hindu Aryan lands.
There are ruins of a number of fortresses along the north bank of the Panj guarding the trade road, the valley below, and the southern flank of the Badakhshan-Pamir region. According to the locals, the fortresses were occupied by Zoroastrian armies and even housed fire temples. One of the fortresses at Yamchun is called Zamr-i-Atish-Parast, or Fortress of the Fire Worshippers.
If the area and its fortresses were conquered and occupied by Alexander of Macedonia, the fortresses would probably have reverted back to Zoroastrian rule in the 2nd century BCE.
About seventeen kilometres east of Ishkashim / Iskashim, close the village of Namadgut / Namadguti, is a fourth century BCE citadel called Khakhka.
Khakha (Khakhka) Fortress
Travelling along the north (Tajik) bank of the Panj past the town of Ishkashim lies the village of Namadgut / Namadguti. Close to the village are situated the ruins of Khakha (also spelt Khakhka) fortress. Said to have been built in the 3rd century BCE, the ruins have now been reduced to a collection of crumbling jagged stone walls. As with most ruins in the Wakhan valley, the ruins were previously unprotected and at the mercy of locals, their herds and souvenir hunters. Now, reportedly, armed 'soldiers' crop up from behind the ruins and rob travellers of their money at gunpoint.
|Remains of Khakha (Khakhka) Fortress' walls overlooking the road east from Ishkashim|
|Zamr-i-Atish-Parast, or Fortress of the Fire Worshippers at Yamchun looking south. The Hindu Kush mountains are in the background. Credit: Pamirs.Org|
|View from the fortress at Yamchun over-looking the Wakhan valley and Panj river and across into Afghanistan. Credit: Pamirs.Org|
|Close up of the Zamr-i-Atish-Parast, or Fortress of the Fire Worshippers, at Yamchun|
Continuing our travel east from Ishkashim, we come to the imposing fortress at the village of Yamchun.
Located on the slopes above the village, we will have travelled some seventy-two kilometres east from Ishkashim along a branch of the ancient Aryan trade road (also called the Silk Road).
The fortress at Yamchun once stood guard over the trade route and the immediate stretch north bank of Panj river's Wakhan valley.
Like Khakha fortress, Yamchun fortress is also dated to the 3rd century BCE, though age estimates in the literature vary greatly.
The fortress is known locally as Zamr-i Atish-Parast meaning 'fortress of the fire worshippers'. While Zoroastrians are incorrectly referred to as fire worshippers, what this name does is to confirm that the Badakhshan-Pamir area was an ancient Zoroastrian stronghold. The fortress is said to have housed a fire temple.
The fortress could have housed the rulers or governors from the time of the last Achaemenian kings of Persia.
Vrang Outdoor Worship Platform
Just east of the village of Yamchun is the village of Vrang. On the slopes of the mountains north of the village and overlooking the Panj is another Zoroastrian worship platform.
In the photographs above and to the left, the mountains in the background, that is, to the south, are the Hindu Kush or the Hindu Killer. The foothills are in present-day Afghanistan, while the snow covered peaks are the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan.
On the other side of the Hindu Kush mountains lies the northern reaches of the Indus, the Hindu as it was called by the Iranians. More specifically, the upper reaches of the Indus which included Kashmir and the Punjab were called Hapta Hindu, the seven Indus (rivers and tributaries). After a schism between the Indo-Iranians, the Hindu Kush would have formed the first line, the river Panj the second line, and the fortress at Yamchun, the third line of defence against any invading armies from the south.
|Looking south-east from the worship platform.|
The village of Vrang is immediately below.
The river Panj flows at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains
|The worship platform above Vrang looking south-west towards Yamchun|
|View north-east from the Vrang worship platform.|
The Wakhan valley, Panj river and Hindu Kush mountains are seen to the right of the image
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