Showing posts with label Zoroastrians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zoroastrians. Show all posts

Friday, October 15, 2021

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Nukus | Fifty Forts Region


From Khiva I wandered on down the Amu Darya River (also known as the Oxus)  to the city of Nukus. Actually I did not want to go to Nukus. I was much more interesting in the ruins of the old Silk Road cities and fortresses scattered along the north bank of the Amu Darya, but my driver insisted that all tourists who come this way go to Nukus to visit the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art. Unfortunately he did not point out why all tourists go to the Karakalpakstan State Museum. It turns out, according to A Recent Story In The New York Times, that this “museum in the parched hinterland of Uzbekistan . . . is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Russian avant-garde art.”

I did not know this at the time. I did peek through a few doorways into galleries containing what looked like avant-garde art, but of course I did not go in, since I have not the slightest interest in anything avant-garde and indeed little interest in any art created since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. I did spend an enjoyable couple of hours examining the museum’s fair to middling collection of Zoroastrian Ossuaries, which were especially interesting to me since I had just recently visited a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence, also on the banks of the Amu Darya, where human corpses were stripped of their flesh so their bones could be collected and placed in funeral urns like these. I also drooled over the museum’s small but mouth-wateringly delectable collection of antique Turkmen Carpets.  

But enough of that. From Nukus we proceeded eastward along the northern bank of the Amu Darya through what is known as the Ellik Kala, or Fifty Forts Region. The area is dotted with ruins of cities and forts dating from perhaps the third or fourth century BC to the seventh century AD. At one time many of these settlements would have served as important way-stations on the Silk Road between Bukhara and Samarkand to the east and Kunya Urgench, farther on down the Amu Darya. 
 Kyzyl Kala (Fortress)
 Ruins of Toprak Kala, dating to about 2000 years ago
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
Aerial view of the ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala. Built sometime in the 4th–7th centuries AD, the fortress may have been destroyed during the Mongol Invasion of Khorezm in the 1220s (see Enlargement). The ruins of the old city can be seen to the left of the fortress. 
Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
 Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
Just north of the Lower Fortress on a higher summit is another larger fortress dating back to the 4th century BCE.

Aerial View of Upper Fortress (see Enlargement)
 Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala
 Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala
Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Uzbekistan | Khoresm | Zoroastrians | Tower of Silence

Zoroastrianism, founded in Persia in perhaps the 6th century BC by the mysterious character known as Zoroaster, a.k.a Zarathustra of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” fame, is probably the world’s oldest “revealed” religion, and as such Zoroastrians are even regarded as “People of the Book”, along with Christians and Jews, by at least some Muslims (sorry, Buddhists remain garden-variety Idolators). The major premise of Zoroastrianism, as you no doubt know, is the vast cosmic struggle between Ahura Mazdah, the God of Light (very roughly speaking), and Ahriman, the principal of Darkness and Evil. Zoroastrianism was very widespread in the Transoxiania and Khorezm regions before the arrival of the Islam in the eight and ninth centuries. For an utterly titillating account of Zoroastrianism see In Search of Zarathustra. For still more see Magi

Zoroastrian Burial Practices are of special interest. Bodies were placed on high hills or man-made summits and exposed to scavengers who soon stripped the bones clean. The bones were then preserved in containers known as ossuaries. A high place where the bodies were laid out was known as a Tower of Silence. One such Tower of Silence is located on the right bank of the Amu Darya River northeast of Khiva. After my stay in Khiva I wandered by this Tower of Silence.
Tower of Silence on the north bank of the Amu Darya 
This particular Tower of Silence a man-made structure on top of a natural hill
Closer view of the man-made platform at the top of the hill
The south side of the platform
View south from the entranceway
The flat top of the burial platform with the Amu Darya in the distance
Another view of the flat top of the platform. Bodies were left here to be stripped down to the bones by vultures.
Irrigated lands next to the Amu Darya
Another view of irrigated lands next to the Amu Darya
The Amu Darya from the top of the Tower of Silence

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Iran | Yazd | Zoroastrian Fire Temple

After visiting the Towers of Silence in Yazd I wandered by the Zoroastrian Fire Temple. Zoroastrianism is still practised in Iran and may be experiencing a Revival in Iraq.  A dozen or more people came to worship at the Yazd temple while I was there. 
The Fire Temple Grounds (click on photos for enlargements)
The Fire Temple
Faravahar, shown above on roof of the temple porch is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism. Below is an Explanation of the symbol: 

1. The figure inside is that of an old man, representing wisdom of age. 2. There are two wings in two sides of the picture, which have three main feathers. These main feathers indicate three symbols of "good thoughts, good words, and good deeds," which are at the same time the motive of flight and advancement. 3. The lower part of the Faravahar consists of three parts, representing "bad reflection, bad words and bad deeds" which causes misery and misfortune for human beings. 4. There are two loops at the two sides of the Faravahar, which represent positive forces and negative forces.  The former is directed toward the face and the latter is located at the back. This also indicates that we have to proceed toward the good and turn away from bad. 5. The ring in the center symbolizes the eternity of universe or the eternal nature of the soul. As a circle, it has no beginning and no end. 6. One of the hands points upwards, indicating that there is only one direction to choose in life and that is forward. The other hand holds a ring and some interpreters consider that as the ring of covenant and used in wedding ceremonies representing loyalty and faithfulness which is the basis of Zartosht's philosophy. This means when a true Iranian gives a promise, it is like a ring and it cannot be broken. 
Meanwhile, the American rapper, Roaster, and serial stoner Snoop Dogg has managed to Seriously Annoy Zoroastrians by appropriating this symbol. Also see Parsis Miffed. They claim Snoop is “insensitive towards the religious beliefs of one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world.” Snoop Dogg being insensitive toward religions, imagine that! This is a guy who says he celebrates “Bong Kippur”. 
Snoop chillin’ with Faravahar. And I thought he was a Rastafarian!
The Sacred Flame in the temple. Reportedly it has been burning continuously since A.D 470, although not always at this location. It is behind glass, so it is difficult to get a photo without reflections. That’s me taking the photo.
The Sacred Flame
Inside the small museum attached to the temple is an artist’s rendering of Zoroaster, founder of Zoroastriansim (no one knows what he really looked like) with the holy texts of Zoroastrianism below. 
One of the tenets of Zoroastrianism

Iran | Yazd | Towers of Silence

My main reason for wandering by Yazd was to visit the two Towers of Silence, located on the southern edge of the city. These towers, known in Persian as Dachmas, were places where Zoroastrians disposed of their dead. I have also visited a Tower of Silence in Uzbekistan. Since I was a Zoroastrian before I transmigrated to this current Vale of Tears this subject is of some interest to me. 

When Zoroastrians died their bodies were taken up into a Tower of Silent and exposed to the elements. Vultures and other carrion-eating birds were allowed to strip all of the flesh off the corpses. The bones were then dried and bleached in the sun. In Uzbekistan the bones were places in ossuaries and preserved, but here in Iran the dried bones were placed in a pit in the middle of the Tower of Silent platform where they were allowed to disintegrate into dust. 
 One of the two Towers of Silence near Yazd (click on photos for enlargments)
 Tower of Silence
  Tower of Silence
 Entrance to the Tower of Silence
Interior of the Tower of Silence with pit in the middle
The pit where dried bones were placed