Sunday, November 15, 2009

Niasar Fire Temple

The Niasar Fire Temple (called Chahar Tagh) (چهارتاقی نیاسر) is a structure with a dome over a rock at the highest point of Niasar village, located 28 kilometers west of Kashan. The Fire Temple can be seen from quite a distance and has remained relatively intact since the time of Sassanid dynasty. It is accessible via a road going towards the stone mine goes past the fire temple. This stretch of road has become rugged and bumpy as a result of the transport of heavy duty mining equipment to the region.  

The Fire Temple is 14 by 14 meter building which contains a chamber with a dome over it. There are no walls on the four sides of the chamber. The fire temple has been made of stones put together with a mortar of plaster. The stones used in the lower part of the building are normal and those used in the arches and in the upper parts are square-shaped, looking like big bricks. The lower parts of the building have been coated with plaster in recent years. All walls surrounding the fire temple are likely to have been decorated with stucco carvings in the past.  

The main dome of the fire temple had previously collapsed. During the Shah’s era, the dome was reconstructed thanks to the efforts of Colonel Bahonar from the Ministry of Culture and Art. However, the dome of the temple has been modeled on Islamic era domes while according to the famous French archaeologist Andre Godar, the main dome had been like an egg. There is an interesting point in the structure of the fire temple and that is some of the stones used in the building has an older and different cut than others. This stones had been quarried from a cave down the temple for use in the construction of the fire temple. This reveals the fact that the Niasar cave is older than the fire temple.  

Generally there would be a number of other premises around fire temples where Zoroastrian monks gathered together for worship. Although it is not known whether this building was used for this purpose, there are rows of stones laid together near the fire temple which are remnants of a building belonging to the Sassanid era. Since the fire over the Niasar penthouse could be seen from distance, the building might have had a symbolic role.  

Magnificent premises used to surround the fire temple of which only some small pieces of stone can now be seen on the ground. A few meter down the fire temple, a spring of cool and clear waters flows through the Talar mosque and goes on to the village. It is surprising that running waters exit beside many other fire temples. Some of them bear signs of worshiping Anahita, the goddess of cultivation and fertility. 

In year 2000, Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi forwarded a theory about the function of the Niasar Fire Temple, as a calendrical monument that works with sunlight. According to him, in each season the sunrays protrude from different angles and with them one can tell the time of the year.  

In keeping with the Iranian tradition, each year Niasar Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department organizes a ceremony for Iranian pilgrims to mark the observance of sun’s birth in the early days of the two seasons.  

In 2007 construction of an observatory for University of Kashan at a distance of only 50 meters from the domed monument of Niasar not only intruded the cultural landscape of this historic monument, but also destroyed parts of the cladding of this Sassanid monument. The Research Center of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Niasar repeatedly voiced its objections the construction of this observatory, however, the University ignored all these objections and continued its construction at a close distance to the Sassanid monument. Moreover, since the architectural style used in construction of the observatory is remotely different from that of Niasar monument, the building has blemished the historic texture of Niasar.  

The activities of Iran’s Mines and Industries Ministry are another threat to the Niasar Fire Temple. The jolts created as a result of exploiting stone from a nearby query have caused cracks to appear on this monument. Experts have warned that nothing would remain from this historic monument in a few years should construction activities continue in the region. 

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