The Story of Chak Chak: The Zoroastrian Pilgrimage

28 May, 2016 Zahra Roghaniha Iran Destinations Guide 2409 Views 30 Shares 1 Comments
The Story of Chak Chak: The Zoroastrian Pilgrimage

Chak Chak may be difficult to reach but it's well worth the trip if you have the time and means. Perhaps the remote location of the the Zoroastrian Pilgrimage surrounded by picturesque mountains and beautiful bowls of fields is what gives most appeal.



Story of Chak Chak: The Pir-e-Sabz Fire Temple


Once there climb the steep cliff with over 300 steps, to reach the Pir-e-Sabz Fire Temple (the Green Pir), the most sacred of the Zoroastrian mountain shrines. 

Inside the grotto there is a constant dripping from the roof. Legend has it that Nikbanou, the second daughter of the last pre-Islamic Persian ruler, the Sassanian Emperor Yazdegerd III of Persia, was cornered by the invading Arab army in 640 CE. Fearing capture Nikbanou prayed to Ahura Mazda to protect her from her enemies, and struck her stick into the side of the mountain. In response the mountain opened up and Nikbanou disappeared inside. The constant dripping made the stick grow roots and turn into the ancient tree that still exists today. Hence the name Chak Chak meaning "Drip Drip" in Persian, referring to the constant dripping around the walls and ceiling.  Legend has it that these drops are tears of grief that the mountain sheds in remembrance of Nikbanou.



Nikbanou's ancient tree growing growing from her cane. Try to listen to the "Drip Drip."



Zoroastrian rituals of the sacred elements. Air, water, earth, and fire at Pir-e Sabz Temple.



Zoroastrian Pilgrimage

Once you reach the actual temple of Chak Chak there is a man-made grotto sheltered by two large bronze doors. The shrine enclosure is floored with marble and its walls are darkened by fires that have been kept eternally burning in the sanctuary. You'll be greeted by the caretaker who'll let you inside. 



Pir-e Sabz bronze doors with traditional Iranian art.



Gazing over the mountainside from the top of Pir-e Sabz Temple.


Getting There

Unfortunately you'll need a private car, bus, or a bicycle to get to Chak Chak from Yazd or elsewhere. There is only one caretaker that lives at the top of the temple doing the rotation every few weeks, and he has a motorbike. So without regular locals being transported there, there are no public buses or other ways of reaching Chak Chak. The town of Chak Chak is a rather non-event; there are just a few shelters and basic infrastructure (water, electricity). However what it lacks in accessibility it makes up for in charm and serenity. So feel free to hire a guide, a private driver, or just cycle or drive there if you have your own wheels in Iran. 

When traveling to Chak Chak traditionally pilgrims are supposed to stop the moment they see the sight of the temple, then continue the rest of the way on foot. The resembles the Buddhist pilgrim circuits on the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau between Songpan and Lhasa, or perhaps the Catholic circuits between Northern Europe and Santiago Compostela in Galica. Yet they say Zoroastrianism is older from 1500 BC and believed to be the first monotheistic religion (aka single God).

Once climbing to the top you'll find a great peaceful view outside the Pir-e Sabz temple. 



Asia 2000 is recommended by Lonely Planet and offers a day tour, Chak Chak, Kharanagh And Meybod Tourwhich costs from $36, excluding lunch. Departs weekly from Yazd city.


Where to Stay

Each year from June 14-18 thousands of Zoroastrians flock to Chak Chak for pilgrimage. There are several roofed pavilions constructed to accommodate pilgrims in the cliffs below the shrine. So there is plenty of space (and quiet) if you feel like meditating or praying over the serene mountain landscape. To stay overnight arrange it beforehand at the Zoroastrian Society or contact a travel agency in Yazd.




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About Author

Zahra Roghaniha

Tehran Travel Consultant

Zahra has broad experiences in writing, translation, film making, tourism, and handicrafts. She is a registered Iranian tour guide with the Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO). She was a Travel Documentary Presenter for Tina Rahavard and Press TV, has volunteered for several Iranian organisations to reduce homelessness, and supported the Iran cheetah conservation program for World Cup 2014.

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