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The New Fire Temple of Kerman [i]


















Fire temple as an institution for housing a constantly burning fire goes back to the time of legendary Pishdadian king, Houshang (Hoshang).

Ferdowsi’s ShahNameh (Epic of kings) relates how for the first time a man made fire came to be in times of antiquity. Thereby the early man that Houshang’s generation represented found a source of heat and light that empowered them to have more control over their environment.  Without any means of readily producing it (in ancient times), a fire was kept at a central location constantly ablaze.  From that central fire households would draw the fire they needed for cooking or heating their homes, and so the institution of fire temple came to be, dating back to early Indo-Iranians.  In time fire temples came to serve as libraries, hostels, and even as medical centers, and the people who maintained the fire temples came to wield great influence, respect and to possess knowledge.

The tradition of fire temple was already well woven into the social fabric of the Iranian branch of Indo-Europeans by the time of Zarathushtra.  Fire temples were adapted into the Zoroastrian religion, and served as center of most religion activities.  In some areas of the land with warmer climate, open air fire temples were in use. 

When the Achaeminians established world’s first empire over the near East, southern Europe and North Africa, the median priesthood, known as Magi, was absorbed into Zoroastrianism and in time came to have a defining influence Zoroastrian priesthood.  Much of the purity laws governing, the fire temples was due to the influence of the Magi. 

The institution of fire temple and the ritual fire it houses has since become an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion practices.  Fire temples could be found all over ancient Iran, most of them fueled by wood. However, there are traces of ancient fires that used natural gas as fuel. One notable example was the Azar Goshnāsp temple located in the Azerbaijan province of Iran, that served as a site of pilgrimage for the Sassanian royalty.[ii]

With the fall of Iran to Arab invaders forcing their religion at the edge of the sword, and as that religion take hold in Iran, many of the fire temples were forcefully and often violently converted to mosques. Coming down to the 21st century, only a small number of fire temples still stand in the land that gave rise to them.

The current site housing the fire temple of Kerman used by less than 2000 remaining adherents of the Zoroastrian religion in that ancient Iranian city was dedicated for that purpose in early 20th century. [iii]  An older temple built at that site houses a wood burning fire.

In early 21st century a new temple was inaugurated in the same complex where the older temple is located.  The two temples are within 350 meters of each other.  The new fire temple is fueled by natural gas, and came about as a result of a generous donation by a Kermani Zartoshty.  The structure was built with Kermani marble stones. The new temple was inaugurated with great festivity as Zoroastrians from all over Iran merged on Kerman to be a part of that event.

Entrance to the New Fire Temple

Enclosure housing the fire shrine inside the temple

Mobed "priest" attending the sacred fire in the old temple as he recites verses from the Avesta

View from the audience chamber of the upper level

Audience chamber on the upper floor

Entrance to the old temple

Benefactor of the new temple, Mr. Hormuzd Oshidari

[i] This article was posted on Dec. 9, 2004

[ii] Eslami, Pouran, Āzar Goshnāsp – An ancient Zoroastrian  city and temple (Western Azarbaijan, Iran), ĀTAŠ-E Dorun: The Fire Within -  Jamshid Soroush Soroushian Memorial Volume II, 1stBooks Library Publishers, Indiana, 2003, pps. 163-170.

[iii] Soroushian, Jamshid, ‘History of Zoroastrians of Kerman’ (Farsi language book),  Aalmi va farhangi Publishers, Kerman, Iran, 1991, pps. 132-133.