There are many sacred sites in the world and some of them still baffle us as to what their full meaning and function was and what exactly took place there. Did the site attract people to construct a sanctuary or temple because of their unusual characteristics? Each sacred site seems to have its own innate qualities.
Azar Goshnasp ( آذرگشنسپ) is located in the west of Azerbaijan. It means the Fire of the Warrior Kings where one of the three most important Zoroastrian fire was kept. The fire temple was built during the Sassanid period and partly reconstructed during the Ilkhanate. It was a place where Persian kings knelt before the royal fire (adur) and accepted their appointment which they believed was from Ahura Mazda, the creator of what was good and righteous.
After the Arab conquest the place gradually fell into disrepair and with the collapse of Sassanids and their state sponsored religion it lost its significance as an important, sacred place and a pilgrimage centre.
Gradually semitic legends superimposed themselves on what was an Iranian sacred site belonging to the Indo-European branch and their history. The name changed from Azar Goshnasp to Takhte-e-Soleyman (Solomon’s Throne) during the Timurid period (1370–1507).
According to Unesco, “The designs of the fire temple, the palace and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture.”
There is a volcano and the lake nearby (fire and water) two sacred elements in Mazdaizm and Zoroastrian rituals. ‘The lake is fed by springs hidden beneath the surface. Saturated with minerals, the water of this lake is neither drinkable nor able to support any life.’
It was during the reign of Abaqa Khan, (r. 1265–1282) the second Mongol ruler of the Ilkhanate that a summer palace was constructed on the foundation of the site. New structures were reconstructed and some ruined ones restored.The palace which was mainly for the women of the Ilkhanate court had inscription from Shahnameh written on many of its tiles.
Today some Zoroastrians have returned to perform their rituals around this sacred site again. And many tourists come to visit and appreciate its multifaceted significance and glorious past.