The religion predates Christianity and Islam and was dominant in Persia before the Arab conquest

Adherents of the Zoroastrian religion from around the world gathered at a mountain shrine in central Iran this week to celebrate their Persian roots, praying in remembrance of a princess who fled the seventh century Arab invasion.

At Chak Chak, some 600 km southeast of the capital Tehran, believers gathered to remember Nikbanou, a heroine of the faith who according to tradition took shelter in the mountain and prayed for help. Miraculously, the mountain was said to have opened up and given protection to the princess, the youngest daughter of the last king of the Persian Sassanian empire. A spring slowly drips from the ceiling of the shrine, built into a cliff-side cave, giving the site its name, which means “drip drip” in Persian.

Tradition says the spring is the mountain shedding tears in remembrance of Nikbanou. An immense tree stands nearby, which is said to have grown from Nikbanou’s cane. "We’ve all gathered here to remember Nikbanou and celebrate our deep Persian roots,” said priest Ardeshir Khorshidian who was dressed in white to symbolise purity.

Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion predating Christianity and Islam founded some 3,800 years ago by Zoroaster. It was the dominant religion in Persia before the Arab conquest.

Thousands of Zoroastrians migrated under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of social restrictions and a worsening economy. But now a dozen have returned to live in Iran this past year, the government said.

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