Anahita Temple - Bishapur

Anahita Temple

The most beautiful and important part of the city is the Anahita temple, a figure of the divinity of the Water and its power of fertility, healing, and pureness. Anahita is the Old Persian name of an Iranian goddess of water. The Zoroastrians highly respect the water and treat it as a living element guarded by the guardian angel Ava, also known as Anahita. For that belief, Zoroastrians built many water temples, the most important of which is the Anahita Temple. The early Sasanian kings never ignored the practice of the Zoroastrian doctrine that pleased Ahura Mazda (the Creator) and attracted the hearts of the people to build temples and sanctuaries for Anahita, who was considered an angel of their victories and successors.

Located next to the Shapur Palace, Anahita Temple is built about 6 meters below the surface of its surrounding terrain. Only 8 meters of its 14-meter height is visible above the natural surface of the surrounding area. The rest of the structure is deep in the ground, including a basin with a capacity of 60 cubic meters, and a platform made of large carved pieces of 140*47 cm molded stone for performing religious ceremonies. In the middle of each entrance, a water duct is embedded in the rocks under the floor to guide water into the temple on all three sides of the building when necessary (possibly at festivals and religious ceremonies). The floor was paved with black marble slabs, with a mosaic border. The main entrance to the temple is a stairway in front of the palace. The cubic structure of Anahita Temple was built with clean-cut stones attached with metal staples inspired by Achaemenid architecture in the Sassanid period.

Another fascinating feature of the city is the water canal. Being an architectural and engineering masterpiece of Sassanid, the water from Shapour River was skilfully canaled and guided some 250 meters into an underground canal to the floor of the temple. The remains of the waterway to the temple testify its magnificent engineering. The flow of water then continues to feed the town of Bishapour next to the complex.

The water outlet is a 4-meter deep well excavated from a square area of 180 cm in length. The well is covered with four pieces of stone so that the outlet is completely hidden. The water entering and exiting the temple was subject to a special regularity to make it as pure and fresh as possible. As the water entered from each side, it gradually and undetected descended through the three canals. The careful observance of such a subjective for water circulation demonstrates the religious significance, importance, and respect for Anahita at that time. The Zoroastrians believe that fire, water, air, and earth are the pure element and must be preserved.