9 Altar Fires of Victory

“Since the Islamic suppression of Zoroastrianism in its homeland of Iran, just nine temples were left to maintain the Atash Behram—the Fire of Victory that must be continuously tended. The Atash Behram is the third and highest grade of fire, above the Atash Dadgah and the Atash Adaran, and can only be created by merging sixteen different sources of fire (including that incubated by a lightning bolt) in a long ceremony that requires the participation of thirty-two priests. Eight of the nine altars are now located in India, though one remains in the Iranian homeland, at Yazd, where it was inaugurated by a Sassanian Shah in 470 AD.

The symbolism of the number 9 embedded in the number of Atash Behram evolved over the last couple of hundred years but seems well established. The number is also manifest in the nine priestly families of Sanjan who collectively form a high priesthood, as well as the Zoroastrian belief in the ninth day of the ninth month as propitious.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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