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الأحد، 10 مارس، 2013

Iran - People of the Flames Zoroastrians




Iran - People of the Flames Zoroastrians







In the heart of an ancient nation, a sacred fire burns. It hasn’t been extinguished for over 2,000 years. Its mysteries inspired the faith of millions and lie at the very root of what Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in today. This journey covers two and a half thousand miles and takes us behind the veil of Islamic fundamentalism to a place where time and history began.

Iran is not strictly at the “ends of the earth” but because it’s been effectively off limits to many Westerners for so long, it is still a land shrouded in mystery. This journey begins in modern day Iran, a much-misunderstood country at the centre of a troubled region. In the capital, Tehran, there are still signs that some Western visitors remain unwelcome. Graffiti on the walls of what was the United States’ Embassy, serves as a reminder of the capture of 52 American hostages held by revolutionaries for over a year in the same building. The graffiti proclaims Iran’s hatred of America, a country they call the “Great Satan” and everywhere the face of Ayatollah Khomeini, father of the Islamic revolution, is to be seen. While Islamic law can still jail a woman that forgets to cover her head or a man that drinks a beer, it is now being observed less strictly.

The old Iran is re-emerging from behind the fundamentalist veil, an ancient land with roots reaching right back to the beginning of time. Centuries before Jesus, a man was born here whose vision still shapes our world. His name was Zarathustra, but he’s also known as Zoroaster. Fire was his fascination. In its flickering mystery, he saw things which few had seen before; a single supreme being, a heaven for the good and a hell for the wicked, a divine saviour and a last judgement. Jews and Christians have long embraced versions of these beliefs, which are still very much at the centre of our civilisation today. This journey is as much spiritual as physical as we head into Iran’s remotest corners in search of Zoroaster’s eternal flame.

The route takes us northwest deep into the Elburz Mountains, on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. This is one of the greatest barrier ranges of Central Asia with peaks over 10,000 feet high. For many centuries, the Elburz have been a refuge for those who wanted to remain independent of cities on the plains. They have also been used as a sanctuary for anyone wanting to hide from the authorities or simply wanting to be different. These mountains have also been a place from which to plot mayhem. Our route leads us to the lair of the Assassins and the fortress of a very dangerous man.

Alamut Mountain, which means, “eagle’s teaching”, is a rocky skyscraper thrusting 3,000 feet into the air. Maybe it’s just the extraordinary shape, but toiling up its slopes, you begin to understand why some people believe that certain spots on Earth possess uncanny powers. A challenge for the toughest of climbers, for an army it is mission impossible. It must have been even tougher for travellers in the middle ages climbing these mountains while wearing full-body armour. This precaution was due to the man who lived at the top of the mountain, reputedly the most feared man in the Middle East and beyond. His name was Hasan-e Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountains, and from the fortress of Alamut he launched a reign of terror.

Back in the 12th Century, the Turks ruled Iran and the Crusaders held Jerusalem. To battle these invaders, Hasan invented a new weapon, political murder. His followers killed princes, generals and grand viziers, even a Crusader king. No one was safe from Hasan-e Sabbah. Tradition has it that he acquired such powers over his followers by drugging them with hashish. As a result, a new word entered the English language. In Arabic, they were called hashisheen, we call them assassins. And there is another story. If Hasan-e Sabbah wanted to impress a visitor, he had only to say the word, and fanatical assassins would leap from Alamut to their death on the rocks below.

In the evening we build a fire in a cave from which it is said that Hasan-e Sabbah once directed his campaigns of terror. There are songs about the mountains and as darkness falls, our singing keeps the ghosts of Alamut at bay. Gazing into the fire, I remember why I’m here. Tomorrow I return to the source of a fiery mystery and a place where Zoroaster first kindled his sacred flames.

Further on, into northwestern Iran, the snows from Central Asia sweep across the mountains as the winter temperatures plunge below zero. Our next stop is a place called Tahkt-e Suleiman, Solomon’s throne. Legend has it that it was here that King Solomon struck the ground with his staff. Instantly, steaming water poured from the Earth, and the Queen of Sheba was able to have a hot bath. But there’s another legend. Also beside this thermal lake, I find the ruins of a Zoroastrian temple. This is one of the places where the great mystic, Zoroaster, is supposed to have been born. In this pit, some of the most sacred fires of Zoroastrianism once burned. Eternal flames tended by priests called Magis. This is the source of the word magic and these magical flames were never to be extinguished. And it is here, at the throne of the Jewish king, which the myths of four religions merge. It is believed that 2,000 years ago three magis set off from this very place in search of a newborn child guided by a star. The star took them to Bethlehem and there they found a Christian Son of God and a great prophet of Islam – Jesus.

Further up the road, we go back in time by another thousand years to the biblical Land of Nod where Cain went after he killed Abel and God cast him out of Eden. And so we move on to the beginning of time itself. A small valley running from east to west between Lake Urumiye and the Land of Nod is one of the supposed sites of the Garden of Eden. Expecting a glimpse of paradise, first appearances are disappointing. There is no sign of the garden where Adam and Eve once frolicked in a perfect world, only a barren windswept wilderness. But overlooking this valley is Moun Kue-e Sahand and perching above the snowline is Kandovan. This tiny village carved from rock is home to Iranian troglodytes. Eons ago, these bizarre conical shapes were formed by lava spewed from an erupting volcano. Out of these rocks local people carved their homes, which is why it’s called Kandovan. The word means, “the place that is dug”. This unlikely looking paradise is like something out of a Spielberg film, the last place you’d expect to find a Garden of Eden. But there is an entrancing, fairy tale feeling to the place.

for more information check this:http://www.davidadamsfilms.com.au/projects/journeys/iran-people-of-the-flame/

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