"Nearing the fire-temple, he glanced through the gate at the compound, and the little garden at its centre. He found himself envying those able to enjoy the serenity within. So could he, he reminded himself - all he had to do was to put on a prayer cap and enter..." (From Rohinton Mistry, Family Matters)
Since ancient times Zoroastrian religious observance involved offerings to fire and water and to the gods, and these rites formed part of the priestly act of worship. Traditionally, Zoroastrians pray five times in the 24 hours, facing a source of light. This can be the fire in the hearth, or in a lamp that is kept alight continuously in the home, the sun or the moon - the idea being that fire represents truth and righteousness or asha.
There are many festive occasions when a Zoroastrian visits a fire temple. Before entering, the worshippers cover their heads and go to the ablution area to wash their face and hands and perform the padyab kusti, the ritual tying and untying of the sacred cord which is worn by Zoroastrians from the time of their initiation to the faith around the age of 10 to 12. Before entering the prayer hall the worshipper buys some sticks of sandalwood and then proceeds to light an oil lamp, divo, kept ready in an adjoining room. The sandalwood is offered to the fire by the serving priest, the only person allowed to enter the inner sanctum where the fire is enthroned. After this the worshipper begins his or her obligatory prayers, reciting either by heart or from a prayer book available in Roman, Persian or Gujarati scripts.
Worshippers also pay their respects to the water divinity, Aban, by going to the well which services the ritual needs of a fire temple.
The 'inner' rituals of the faith, such as the yasna, are performed by priests usually in a ritual precinct adjoining the fire temple.