The Ateshgyakh Fire-Worshippers' Temple
Fire-Worshippers' Temple(18th century) is located within Greater Baku in the village
of Surakhany (15 km from Baku). The historical roots of the monument go back to the hoary
past, to the days when Azerbaijan statehood was only taking shape and establishing itself
and Zoroastrianism, the central part in whose ritual is played by fire, was the dominant
religion in the country. The flaming torches of gas escaping from under the ground and
burning in many places all over the Apsheron Peninsula were believed to have miraculous
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fire, seeking its protection against adversity and oppression and begging it for happiness
and well being. These ancient fires are believed to have given Azerbaijan its name, which
is thought by some researchers to mean "a land of fires".
Centuries passed. Islam was adopted as the country's official
religion. Medieval Azerbaijan carried on trade and exchanged cultural values with many
countries. One of them was India. Indian trades- people brought to their home- land, where
fire today is still regarded sacred, the news about the ever-burning Apsheron fires. From
then on the merchant caravans were followed by pilgrims flocking to the "sacred
flames". Merchants, busy about their trade, did not stay long here.
paid money to the local ruler for the right to build cells, prayer rooms, stables, and a
guestroom (balakhane) at the temple. Thus it happened that these structures were built one
after another for a century and a half, from the late 17th to the mid-19th century. That
is why the Ateshgyakh Temple looks not unlike a regular town caravanserai - a kind of inn
with a large central court, where caravans stopped for the night.
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distinct from caravanserais, however, the temple has the altar in its center with tiny
cells for the temple's attendants - Indian ascetics who devoted themselves to the cult of
fire - and for pilgrims lining the walls.
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|The inscriptions on
stones set in the walls, made in Sanskrit and Hindi, testify to the Indian origin of the
fire-worshippers' temple at Surakhany. In the course of time, the "eternal
fires" of Apsheron ceased to be viewed as divine. The heat they give has been placed
at the service of the people, and today gas serves people economic and every day needs.
And only the place where the fires used to burn still remains in the memory of the people
under the name of Ateshgyakh (home of fire). Today the temple is a unique monument of