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Atar, Atash, or Azar (Avestan 𐬁𐬙𐬀𐬭 ātar) is the Zoroastrian concept of holy fire, sometimes described in abstract terms as "burning and unburning fire" or "visible and invisible fire" (Mirza, 1987:389). It is considered to be the visible presence of Ahura Mazda and his Asha through the eponymous Yazata. The rituals for purifying a fire are performed 1,128 times a year.

In the Avestan language, ātar is an attribute of sources of heat and light, of which the nominative singular form is ātarš, source of Persian ātaš (fire). It is etymologically related to the Avestan 𐬁𐬚𐬭𐬀𐬎𐬎𐬀𐬥‎ āθrauuan / aθaurun (Vedic अथर्वन् atharvan), a type of priest. It was later copied by the Latin ater (black) and possibly a cognate of Albanian vatër, Romanian vatră and Serbo-Croatian vatra (fire).[1]

In later Zoroastrianism, ātar (Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭲𐭥𐭥𐭩 ādar or ādur) is iconographically conflated with fire itself, which in Middle Persian is 𐭠𐭲𐭧𐭱 ātaxsh, one of the primary objects of Zoroastrian symbolism.

A Parsi-Zoroastrian Jashan ceremony (here the blessing of a home in Pune, India)

As a divinity

During the late Achaemenid era, adar—as the quintessence of the Yazata Adar—was incorporated in the Zoroastrian hierarchy of divinities. In tha

During the late Achaemenid era, adar—as the quintessence of the Yazata Adar—was incorporated in the Zoroastrian hierarchy of divinities. In that position, Adar aids Asha Vahishta (Avestan, middle Persian: Ardvahisht), the Amesha Spenta responsible for the luminaries. From among the flowers associated with the Yazatas, Adar's is the marigold (calendula) (Bundahishn 27.24).

The importance of the divinity Adar is evident from a dedication to the entity in the Zoroastrian calendar: Adar is one of the only five Yazatas that have a month-name dedication. Additionally, Adar is the name of the ninth day of the month in the Zoroastrian religious calendar, and the ninth month of the year of the civil Iranian calendar of 1925 (modern Persian: Azar) which has month-names derived from those used by the Zoroastrian calendar.

In Zoroastrian cosmogony, Adar was the seventh of the seven creations of the material universe. It is only with Adar's assistance, who serves as the life-force, that the other six creations begin their work (Bundahishn 3.7–8; more logically explained in Zatspram 3.77–83).

The cult of fire

Although Zoroastrians revere fire in any form, the temple fire is not literally for the reverence of fire, but together with clean water (see Aban), is an agent of ritual purity. Clean, white "ash for the purification ceremonies [is] regarded as the

The importance of the divinity Adar is evident from a dedication to the entity in the Zoroastrian calendar: Adar is one of the only five Yazatas that have a month-name dedication. Additionally, Adar is the name of the ninth day of the month in the Zoroastrian religious calendar, and the ninth month of the year of the civil Iranian calendar of 1925 (modern Persian: Azar) which has month-names derived from those used by the Zoroastrian calendar.

In Zoroastrian cosmogony, Adar was the seventh of the seven creations of the material universe. It is only with Adar's assistance, who serves as the life-force, that the other six creations begin their work (Bundahishn 3.7–8; more logically explained in Zatspram 3.77–83).

Although Zoroastrians revere fire in any form, the temple fire is not literally for the reverence of fire, but together with clean water (see Aban), is an agent of ritual purity. Clean, white "ash for the purification ceremonies [is] regarded as the basis of ritual life", which "are essentially the rites proper to the tending of a domestic fire, for the temple cult is that of the hearth fire raised to a new solemnity" (Boyce, 1975:455). For, "the man who sacrifices unto fire with fuel in his hand, with the Baresman in his hand, with milk in his hand, with the mortar for crushing the branches of the sacred Haoma in his hand, is given happiness" (Yasna 62.1; Nyashes 5.7)

The Zoroastrian cult of fire is apparently much younger than Zoroastrianism itself and appears at approximately the same time as the shrine cult, first evident in the 4th century BCE (roughly contemporaneous with the introduction of Adar as a divinity). There is no allusion to a temple cult of fire in the Av

The Zoroastrian cult of fire is apparently much younger than Zoroastrianism itself and appears at approximately the same time as the shrine cult, first evident in the 4th century BCE (roughly contemporaneous with the introduction of Adar as a divinity). There is no allusion to a temple cult of fire in the Avesta proper, nor is there any old Persian language word for one. Moreover, Boyce suggests that the temple cult of fire was instituted in opposition to the image/shrine cult and "no actual ruins of a fire temple have been identified from before the Parthian period" (Boyce, 1975:454).

That the cult of fire was a doctrinal modification and absent from early Zoroastrianism is still evident in the later Atash Nyash: in the oldest passages of that liturgy, it is the hearth fire that speaks to "all those for whom it cooks the evening and morning meal", which Boyce observes is not consistent with sanctified fire. The temple cult is an even later development: From Herodotus it is known that in the mid-5th century BCE the Zoroastrians worshipped to the open sky, ascending mounds to light their fires (The Histories, i.131). Strabo confirms this, noting that in the 6th century, the sanctuary at Zela in Cappadocia was an artificial mound, walled in, but open to the sky (Geographica XI.8.4.512).

By the Parthian era (250 BCE–226 CE), Zoroastrianism had in fact two kinds of places of worship: One, apparently called bagin or ayazan, sanctuaries dedicated to a specific divinity, constructed in honor of the patron Yazata of an individual or family and included an icon or effigy of the honored. The second were the atroshan, the "places of burning fire", which as Boyce (1997:ch. 3) notes, became more and more prevalent as the iconoclastic movement gained support. Following the rise of the Sassanid dynasty, the shrines to the Yazatas continued to exist, with the statues—by law—either being abandoned as empty sanctuaries, or being replaced by fire altars (so also the popular shrines to Meher/Mithra which retained the name Darb-e Mehr—Mithra's Gate—that is today one of the Zoroastrian technical terms for a fire temple).

Also, as Schippman observed (loc. Cit. Boyce, 1975:462), even during the Sassanid era (226–650 CE) there is no evidence that the fires were categorized according to their sanctity. "It seems probable that there were virtually only two, namely the Atash-i Vahram [literally: "victorious fire", later misunderstood to be the Fire of Bahram, see Gnoli, 2002:512] and the lesser Atash-i Adaran, or 'Fire of Fires', a parish fire, as it were, serving a village or town quarter" (Boyce, 1975:462; Boyce 1966:63). Apparently, it was only in the Atash-i Vahram that fire was kept continuously burning, with the Adaran fires being annually relit. While the fires themselves had special names, the structures did not, and it has been suggested that "the prosaic nature of the middle Persian names (kadag, man, and xanag are all words for an ordinary house) perhaps reflect a desire on the part of those who fostered the temple-cult [...] to keep it as close as possible in character to the age-old cult of the hearth-fire, and to discourage elaboration" (Boyce, 2002:9).

The Indian Parsi-Zoroastrian practice of rendering the term athornan (derived from the Avestan language "athravan") as "fire-priest" in the English language is based on the mistaken assumption that the athra* prefix derives from atar (Boyce, 2002:16–17). The term athravan does not appear in the Gathas, where a priest is a zaotar, and in its oldest attested use (Yasna 42.6) the term appears to be synonymous with "missionary". In the later Yasht 13.94, Zoroaster himself is said to have been an athravan, which in this context could not be a reference to atar if a cult of fire and its associated priesthood did not yet exist in Zoroaster's time. Thus, in all probability, "the word athravan has a different derivation" (Boyce, 2002:17) Compare this however with the Sanskrit अथर्वन् (atharvan), and the content of Atharva-véda.

In Vendidad 1, Adar battles Aži Dahāka, the great dragon of the sky.

In Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Hoshang, the grandson of the first man Gayomard, discovers fire in a rock. He recognize

In Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Hoshang, the grandson of the first man Gayomard, discovers fire in a rock. He recognizes it as the divine glory of Ahura Mazda, offers homage to it, and instructs his people to so as well. Also in the Shahnameh is the legend of Sevavash, who passes through "the unburning fire" as proof of his innocence.

During the Sassanid era (226–650 CE), the symbol of Fire plays much the same role that the winged sun Faravahar did during the Achaemenid period (648–330 BCE). Beginning with Ardashir I, the founder of the Sassanid Empire, many of the kings of the dynasty issued one or more coins with a symbol of Fire on the verso, and seals and bullae with the fire symbol were common.

The first silver coins of the empire have helmeted busts of Ardashir I (r. 226–241) or his father Papak on the obverse (a figure of the ruling monarch on the obverse is consistent throughout the dynasty), with a representation of a fire altar, accompanied by the legend atash i artakhshir, "Fire of Ardeshir", on the reverse. Ardashir's son, Shapur I (r. 241–272), has much the same image but adds two attendants at the fire altar. On the coins of Hormizd I (also known as Ardashir II, r. 272–273), the emperor himself tends the fire with the help of an attendant. Bahram II (276–293) also appears himself, accompanied by what may be his queen and son. Narseh (r. 293–303) also attends the fire himself, this time alone. On the coins of Shapur III (r. 283–388), a divinity appears to be emerging from the fire. The shape of the fire altar in the coins of Yazdegerd II (r. 438–457) are similar to those in present-day fire temples. The legend introduced under Ardeshir yields to a mint mark and year o

The first silver coins of the empire have helmeted busts of Ardashir I (r. 226–241) or his father Papak on the obverse (a figure of the ruling monarch on the obverse is consistent throughout the dynasty), with a representation of a fire altar, accompanied by the legend atash i artakhshir, "Fire of Ardeshir", on the reverse. Ardashir's son, Shapur I (r. 241–272), has much the same image but adds two attendants at the fire altar. On the coins of Hormizd I (also known as Ardashir II, r. 272–273), the emperor himself tends the fire with the help of an attendant. Bahram II (276–293) also appears himself, accompanied by what may be his queen and son. Narseh (r. 293–303) also attends the fire himself, this time alone. On the coins of Shapur III (r. 283–388), a divinity appears to be emerging from the fire. The shape of the fire altar in the coins of Yazdegerd II (r. 438–457) are similar to those in present-day fire temples. The legend introduced under Ardeshir yields to a mint mark and year of issue under Peroz (r. 457–484), a feature evident in all the coins of the remaining dynasty.

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