Chak chak yazd province

Chak Chak: The Most Sacred shrine of Zoroastrianism

Chak Chak…at first the name may sound weird, but let’s take a deeper look into its meaning. Chak, Chak is the sound of the water drops pouring down on a surface. Literally, you can consider it as Drip-drip. So, why they call the most sacred temple of Zoroastrianism Chak Chak? The place, its history and the myths and legends surrounding it, all have old, interesting stories behind them. So, if you are interested to know more, we invite you to join us in this article to discover this sacred place together.

Where is Chak Chak?

Chak chak is located in Yazd province, one of the oldest cities in Iran and the world. This mountainous shrine is in a village with the same name in Ardakan county. The wonderous ever-dripping spring located at this mountain is the main reason why they call it Chak Chak. The water coming from this spring has turned this mountain to a green place in comparison to the desert area surrounding it. The temple is constructed right where the drops are coming from. The Zoroastrians consider them as sacred and collect them as blessings.

The place is also known as Pir-e Sabz (Green Pir). Pir in Persian refers to a site of pilgrimage, normally one of the Zoroastrian faith. Pirs range from localized devotional sites to major centers of worship.

There is an ancient old tree here as well which is considered sacred by Zoroastrians. This tree has been grown right in the middle of a rock.  Its emergence from a place where only there are stones and rocks is a natural wonder. For this reason, many legend and stories have been formed around the tree as well as the mountain.

The legend of Chak Chak

The story behind this sacred place is very interesting. It is believed that the mountain still holds Nikbanou, second daughter of the last pre-Islamic Persian ruler, Yazdegerd III of the Sassanid Empire and the water drops are her tears soaking the earth. Besides, they believe that the sacred tree has grown where her cane split the earth apart.

According to historians, during the reign of Yazdgerd III, the last Sassanid king, the Arabs invaded the palace of Madaen or Taq’e Kasra. So, the king was forced to seek a way to save his family. Therefore, he, along with his wife Katayoun, his sons Hormuzan and Ardashir and his daughters Shahrbano, Parsbanu, Mehrbanou, Nazbanou and Nickbanou headed toward Yazd to stay safe.

The Sasanian king also ordered to construct a city with towers and defensive walls to protect him and his family from his enemies. He then starts a war with the Arabs but fails and escapes to Khorasan. On his way, he is killed by a miller. When his family hears about the death of Yazdgerd, each member escapes to a different part of the Yazd.

Hormuz and Shahrbanou (Yazdgerd’s eldest son and daughter) are sent to Saudi Arabia as captives. Mehrabanou dies from hardship and severe hunger and is buried in a garden which today is known as the Mehr Farm (Zoroastrians living there light candles as a memorial of her death).

But the last daughter of Yazdgerd, Nickbanou, takes refuge in the Ardakan Mountains on the hillsides near Ardakan when she saw the Arab corps. She climbs a tall, dry mountain as she saw them approaching her and she asks the mountain to embrace her like a loving mother. In response to Nikbanou’s pleadings, the mountain miraculously opens up and shelters her from the invaders. There are legends that say a piece of Nikbanou’s clothes was also visible in the rocks, although pilgrims have removed it as they considered it a blessed object.

The actual temple of Chak Chak

The actual temple is a man-made grotto which has two large bronze doors. The interior part of the shrine is like a cave crater. You will also see the old tree trunk here. There is a drawing showing the figure of the Zoroastrian elders which adds to the beauty of the temple. The floor of the shrine is covered with marble, and you can see drops of water dripping from the roof and wetting the ground. The roof of the shrine is made of stone. Zoroastrians lit candles in here and there is also a place for burning incense and sacred woods. The guard of the temple is in charge of keeping the fire burning all year long.

Religious ceremonies of Zoroastrians

Each year from 14–18 June Zoroastrians from all over Iran and the world gather in this sacred temple to celebrate and pray. Entering this sacred place also has certain customs, like all other religious shrines. Pilgrims have to stop riding the moment they catch sight of the temple and complete the last steps of their journey on foot. It is also necessary to enter this place and pay tribute, wear a hat and remove the shoes. Besides, people who are not clean (haven’t done their physical cleansing) will not be allowed to enter the temple.