National Geographic : 1961 Jan
Old-New Iran, Next Door to Russia youth accompanying us translated part of an inscription on the wall: "... The Garden of Our Dead." Beyond a crumbling wall on a near-by hill, another such "garden" displayed its harvest of the ,centuries. Bleached human bones lay like jackstraws across a rocky slope. "We believe the earth was given to produce crops, not to be contaminated with our bodies," explained Mr. Mehraban Goshtasb pur, a prosperous Zoroastrian landowner. "So, like our ancestors, we take our dead to the Dakhmah and leave them on the stones to be consumed by the birds." He spoke in the sun-filled courtyard of the Atash-i Varahran, the Zoroastrian fire temple in Yazd. In the court lay a heap of gnarled firewood. Inside the spotless building a white masked priest tended the eternal flame blaz ing in a bronze urn, and chanted verses from the holy writ, the Avesta (page 66). "Most people call us fire worshipers," con tinued Mr. Goshtasb-pur, eyes twinkling be hind horn-rimmed glasses. "In ancient Persia four natural fires burned without wood-in Azerbaijan, Khfzestan, Sistan, and Khorasan. "We realize now that they probably were fed by underground natural gas. All our temple fires came originally from these four, and have been kept alive for thou sands of years. But the flame to us is merely a symbol; a sign of cleanliness and purity." The prophet Zoroaster, born probably in the 6th century B.C. in Azerbaijan, preached that every human being is a bat tleground hotly contested by AngraMainyu and Spenta Mainyu, the forces of dark ness and light. For deliverance, one must follow three simple precepts: Think good, speak good, do good. Point Four: $500,000,000 Bootstrap Those who travel from Yazd, wrote Marco Polo, will find "many fine woods upon the way, such as one can easily ride through; and in them there is great sport to be had in hunting and hawking, there being partridges and quails and abundance of other game .... At the end of those seven marches over the plain you come to a fine kingdom which is called Kerman." I counted three pigeons on the entire trip - a long, uninteresting day's drive to the Point Four Guest House in Kerman. That city of 63,000 remains memorable to me for its carpets, delicious pistachios, and Huston D. Crippen. "Jim" Crippen tosses a white mane when he talks, and he talks with a conta Hands uplifted, knees on the floor, devout Moslems chant Friday midday prayers in Teh ran's Sepahsalar Mosque. Facing Mecca, the worshipers follow a prescribed ritual in which they bow foreheads toward the ground. One man, cloaked in a robelike aba, fingers prayer beads. His turbaned companion wears the bag gy shalwar so popular in rural Iran.