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 a 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, the 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 the 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 a 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.
Azerbaijan is historically called the Land of Fire, and it is not for the sake of a witty remark. At a whim of nature, the land of this Caucasian country located on the picturesque coast of the Caspian Sea is replete with underground sources of oil and gas that long for blowing out. Natural gas in the Azerbaijan bowels is so much that it comes to the surface over and over again. In some places, a match dropped accidentally or deliberately, a torch, or any spark can ignite the gas, which will keep on burning until it fully exhausts. In times of old, Azerbaijan was a country of fire-worshipers, followers of the Zoroastrian cult. People believed that fire sources were the manifestation of divine power, they worshiped them, building altars and temples.
One of the most famous and popular tourist places of the "eternal flame” in Azerbaijan is the mountain of Yanar Dag. Actually, it is rather a hill than a mountain, with natural gas burning on its slope from ancient times. Meter-long tongues of fire are licking the stratified earth approximately 10 m in width, searing those who approached too close. People occupy the benches to watch the blazing hill in the evening when its sight is most effective.
Yanar Dag is located 25 km to the north from Baku, in Mehemmedi village. There are buses running to it from the city, so you can get there fairly cheap and easy. From the year 2007 Yanar Dag is declared a state-protected conservation area.