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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee




Zoroastrian Pilgrimage

Yazd, Iran Pilgrimage Sites - Pirs

The Six Pirs and Pilgrimage Calendar

Age of the Pirs

Responsibility for the Pirs

Associated Legends

Stories of Hidden Treasure & Vandalism

The Six Yazdi (Iran) Pirs

Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak

Seti Pir

Pir-e Naraki

Pir-e Banu

Pir-e Narestaneh

Pir-e Herisht

Cypress at Abarkuh / Abarqu


Udvada (Udwada)

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Pir-e Herisht

Inside the shrine at Pir-e Banu
Pir-e Herisht. Image credit: Vaheeshta Goleh at Panoramio

The first part of the directions to Pir-e Herisht are the same as that for Pir-e Sabz. On the Road to Pir-e Sabz, close of the Zoroastrian village of Sharifabad, is the turn-off of the road to Khor / Khvor (in Isfahan and the Dasht-e Kavir desert). Pir-e Herisht lies about fourteen kilometres north of Sharifabad close to a small farm and spring called Howz-e Gowr meaning Zoroastrian pool.

Pir-e Herisht is dedicated to the royal Yazdegird governess Morvarid (also spelt Murvarid). As with all the others, each of whom had split up and fled in different directions, Morvarid's attempt to flee came to an end in the mountains north of Sharifabad. There, as with the others, when capture was imminent, she prayed to be spared that fate and the mountain face miraculously opened enabling her to escape the clutches of her potential captors. That was on Ashtad day in the month of Aban.

It was a passing traveller who built the first shrine. A man passing by the site with his family stopped to rest. When the parents were not looking, their child wandered away. When the parents noticed that their daughter was nowhere to be seen, the father set out to look for her. Daylight was fading and if the child was not found soon, she might not survive the cold night. Deeply worried, the anxious father soon came upon the child safe and unharmed. The child related that a kindly woman had found her, introduced herself as Morvarid the royal governess, and led her back to where her father was looking for her only to disappear when the father came into view. The grateful father built a shrine to Morvarid at that spot.

Road to Pir-e Herisht
Road to Pir-e Herisht. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots
Entrance to Pir-e Herisht complex
Entrance to Pir-e Herisht complex. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots

Steps to Pir-e Herisht shrine
Steps to Pir-e Herisht shrine. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots
Pir-e Herisht shrine side view
Pir-e Herisht shrine side view. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots

Pir-e Herisht sanctuary hall
Pir-e Herisht sanctuary hall. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots
Pir-e Herisht sanctuary
Pir-e Herisht sanctuary. Image credit: Khodadad at Webshots

Cypress at Abarkuh / Abarqu

4,500 year-old sacred cypress (sarv) Park at Abarkuh
4,500 year-old sacred cypress (sarv) Park at Abarkuh. Image Credit: Mary Hodder at Flickr
Periodic watering of 4,500 year-old sacred cypress (sarv). Note white ribbon hanging
Periodic watering of 4,500 year-old sacred cypress (sarv). Note white ribbon hanging

Caravanserai ruins outside Abarkuh. Note grafitti damage.
Caravanserai ruins outside Abarkuh. Note graffiti damage. Image credit: Brian McMorrow

While not a pir, the Cypress of Abarkuh is nevertheless a quasi-pilgrimage destination. Abarkuh (also spelt Abarqu, Abarku, Abarkouh, Abarkooh, Abarghoo, Abarkooyeh, and Abarghooyeh) is a small town on the border between the Iranian provinces of Pars and Yazd. The town is placed as being in Pars on many maps while many writers place it within Yazd province, the main township of Abarkuh district. It sits at an altitude of 1509 metres (4954 feet) and is some 140 kilometres (87 miles) to the west of the city of Yazd, and about 300 km north-east of Shiraz, on the main road that connects Yazd to Shiraz via Persepolis.

Abarku is home to a 4,500 year old cypress (Persian, sarv) tree that stands some 25 metres tall. Its trunk has a diameter of about 4.5 metres and a circumference of about 11.5 metres. Many Zoroastrians revere this ancient tree as sacred. Some tie ribbons on its branches and make a wish. When the wish is fulfilled, they return to untie the ribbon. Dates of the age of the tree range from 4,000 (reportedly estimated by a Russian scientist) to 8,000 years old (reportedly estimated by a Japanese scientist).

For Zoroastrians, the cypress (Persian, sarv) is rich with symbolism. It is a symbol of life - a tree of life. As an evergreen that can seemingly live forever, it is the symbol of Amertat, agelessness and longevity - of the triumph of life over forces that have shortened the lifespan of other forms of life. It stands resolute as a symbol of freedom and liberty and justice. Its stands upright as a symbol of truthfulness, fairness and justice.

The tree and its park are next to a mosque which built over a Zoroastrian chahar-taqi temple. Local folklore claims that the tree was planted by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) himself.

On the outskirts of the city are the ruins of an old caravanserai, a testament to Abarku once being a rest-stop on a branch of the ancient Aryan trade roads, also called the Silk Roads. Two old citadels, the Rabat and Shahrasb fortresses, an old-style, cone-shaped, baked mud (adobe) ice-house called a yak-chawl, as well as the ruins of an ancient settlement can also be seen in and around the town.

The name of the town is thought to have evolved from 'Bare-Kuh' meaning 'by the mountain' and there are reports that at one stage the town was called Dar-e-Kuh (Dare-Kooh) and even Bar-ghuh (Barghooh).

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Pilgrimage pages:

» Pilgrimage start page

» Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak

» Seti Pir. Pir-e Naraki

» Pir-e Banu. Pir-e Narestaneh

» Pir-e Herisht. Abarkuh

» Udvada