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Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak
|Praying at the shrine in the grotto at Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak|
Image credit: Daylife
|The buildings at Pir-e Sabz nestled in the rock face.|
At the top-left of the buildings is the plane tree next to the Pir-e Sabz sanctuary and shrine
Image credit: Jez, Rani & Amrita at Flickr
Pir-e Sabz, also called Chak-Chak, is perhaps the best known of all the pirs as it is frequented by non-Zoroastrians and is part of tourist itineraries. We understand that while the grounds are open to all, the shrine itself is open to Zoroastrians only - though given the number of photographs on the internet, it does appear that non-Zoroastrians are gaining entry.
Sabz means green and the alternative name, Chak-Chak, is said to be derived from the sound of dripping water in the cave which contains the shrine.
Pir-e Sabz is located in a shallow cave (called a grotto-shrine here) on the side of a barren mountain. If travelling from Yazd city, the usually method of access is by driving 60 km north northwest towards the outskirts of Ardakan, and then driving an additional 40 km east by taking the road past Sharifabad, a turn-off to Pir-e Herisht to the ancient town Kharanaq. A branch of this road terminates at the base of the Chak-Chak (or chekchek) mountain, after which visitors and pilgrims walk up a trail and flight of steps past some buildings to the shrine itself. An alternative route is to drive about 60 km north northeast from Yazd city to Kharanaq (via Anjireh) and then driving 25 km west in the direction of Ardakan. Some travellers will make the trip as a loop. Determined pilgrims use some of the older dirt roads and start the walk to the shrine as soon as it comes into sight.
The simply beauty of life clinging to the side of an otherwise barren cliff face surrounded by the southern reaches of the great Dasht-e Kavir desert. Visitors who ascend the rock face are rewarded with breathtaking vistas.
The grotto-shrine at Pir-e Sabz is dedicated to the royal princess Nikbanu (also spelt Nikbanoo, banu meaning lady). The princess was the daughter of the last Sassanian king Yazdegird III and queen Hastbadan. According to legend, after the fleeing royal party had split up in an effort to avoid capture by the invading Arab horde, princess Nikbanu fled to Pir-e Sabz. The Arabs caught up with her and now trapped, she prayed devoutly and a cleft in the mountain parted taking the princess into its womb. The rock face closed before the eyes of the bewildered Arabs, but not before a piece of her garment was trapped in the cleft of closed rock face. The piece of cloth petrified as a piece of coloured rock and was visible until recently. The waters that now emerge from the rocks and drip along the 'cheeks' of the cave walls are the princess' tears of grief. The course of the trickling water is lined with wisps of par-e siavoshoun or maidenhair fern, symbolic of the princess' hair.
The spring and waters are known as ab-e Hayat meaning the water of life. The allusion here is also to the archangel Armaiti, guardian of the earth, and the angel Anahita, guardian of the waters. The waters gather in a small pool and support a patch of greenery - greenery, sabz, that gives its name to the site - that includes an old plane tree as well as an old drooping willow. Legend has it that the plane tree grew out of the cane Nikbanu used to help her ascend the cliff-face. The tree is said to catch fire and miraculously renew itself every thousand years. The willow is stooped with age and its branches droop down and across the pool before spreading across the terrace.
Today, pilgrimage gather at the site to share in the princess' grief, remember her and the lost Aryan empire, and pray in hope of a better future. After they visited the shrine, some pilgrims choose to prepare a meal, play music and dance in general merriment, for it is their dedication and joy that gives strength to the hope for a joyous future.
The site was discovered and associated with Nikbanu through a vision received in dream by a shepherd. The shepherd had spent the day looking for lost sheep. Exhausted, he came upon the cave, drank some of its water and fell asleep. That day was the day of Ashtad in the month of Bahman. Then in a dream, the vision of a beautiful maiden appeared informing him about what had transpired on these hallowed grounds. She also entrusted the shepherd with a sacred duty to build in the cave a shrine of remembrance and pilgrimage. She also told him that his quest to find his lost sheep had led him to this cave and upon awakening he would find his sheep waiting for him.
The cave itself has recently been cleaned and renovated. Before the renovation, it had a brass door, marble floors and its walls were blackened by soot. Inside is a multi-petal candle holder that also holds plates of food offerings. Various buildings called kheileh have been constructed in the vicinity as places for gathering, rest and accommodation.
|Wide-angled lens view of the grotto-shrine at Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak|
Image credit: A.Min Programmer
|Structure surrounding the grotto-shrine hidden behind the trees at the top left. Trees in the|
background include plane, willow and cypress tress, Foreground: visitors' shelters, kheileh
Image credit: Ninara at Flickr
|The walls of grotto-shrine can now be seen in the centre-top of the kheileh buildings|
(visitors' shelters). Lights can be seen glowing through a window in the wall
Image credit: Brian McMorrow
|The drooping branches of the old willow outside the shrine|
Image credit: Papillon Web
|A view of the two access roads from the upper terrace at Pir-e Sabz.|
The left (east) Kharanaq road. The right (west) Ardakan road
Image credit: Ninara at Flickr
|A view from the ledge outside the grotto-shrine framed by branches of the plane & willow|
The road is the left/east branch, to Kharanaq, of the two access roads
Image credit: Presttun
|Satellite image of the terrain surrounding Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak|
Image credit: Google Earth