The Ancient Zoroastrian Temple Ateshgah – “Fire Temple”
The Temple of Eternal Fire – Ateshgah – is an authentic Azerbaijani exotic. It is well-known practically all over the world. It is located 30 km from the center of Baku in the suburb of Surakhany. This territory is known for such unique natural phenomenon as burning natural gas outlets (underground gas coming onto surface contacts oxygen and lights up). The temple in its present state was constructed in the 17th-18th centuries. It was built by the Baku-based Hindu community related to Sikhs.
However, the history of the Temple is even longer. From times immemorial this was the holy place of Zoroastrians- fire worshippers (approximately beginning of our era). They attributed mystical significance to the inextinguishable fire and came there to worship the relic.
After the introduction of Islam Zoroastrian temple was destroyed. Many Zoroastrians left to India and there continued their worship. But in the 15th -17th centuries the Hindus-fire worshippers who came to Absheron with trading caravans began to make pilgrimages to Surakhany. The Indian merchants started erection of the temple. The earliest temple part is dated 1713. The latest – the central temple-altar was built with the support of merchant Kanchangar in 1810. During the 18th century chapels, cells, a caravanserai were added to the central part of the temple. On у can find carved inscriptions in Indian lettering there.
In the early 19th century the Temple acquired its present-day appearance. Ateshgah is a pentagonal structure with a castellation and entrance portal. In the center of a yard the altar-sanctuary executed in the form of a stone bower on which angles some more centers are located towers. In the center of an altar – a well from which beat “eternally” burning gas.
Above the entrance portal is a traditional guest room or “balakhane”. Near the temple there is big pit where they used to burn bodies of dead Hindus in the sacred fire.
In the mid-19th century due to the movement of the surface the natural gas yield ceased. Pilgrims interpreted it as the punishment from the gods and left. Ateshgah as a place of worship existed until 1880. Today this ancient Zoroastrian temple has been opened for tourists attracting them with artificial fires.