In spite of its small size Ateshgah Temple may be considered one of the most curious and important tourist attractions of Baku. Natural phenomenon of gas self-ignition occurs rarely enough in the world, and here it is also combined with one of the most ancient world`s religion – Zoroastrianism. So, for those who are interested in the history of world religions, it will be very interesting to visit the Ateshgah Temple.
Ateshgah Temple is near Surahani. Today it’s a district of Baku located not far from the Heydar Aliyev International Airport. From the center of the city you can get to the temple only by taxi, but this will cost about 30 dollars, that’s why it would be just reasonable to visit Ateshgah Temple several hours before your flight from Baku.
Zoroastrism was founded in 8 B.C. by the prophet Zarathustra, after he had had the vision of the God Ahura Mazda. This religion was spread in Asia 2 centuries before the appearance of Buddhism, 8 centuries before the appearance of Christianity, and 1.4 thousand years before the appearance of Islam. From this point of view the historic and cultural significance of the Ateshgah Temple seems quite understandable.
According to the religious philosophy of Zarathustra, light is a visible representation of the God in the world. So, when addressing the God, Zoroastrians turn their faces to the light. And as from the earliest time fire was the source of both light and life for man, it became the main object of worship of Zoroastrians, and consequently they began to call them «fire-worshippers».
On the Absheron Peninsula (there were neither Baku nor the village Surahani at that time) there was a place where natural gas came from the ground and self-ignited. This attracted the attention of the Zoroastrians or fire-worshippers, and the peninsula became the place of their pilgrimage.
Eventually, there appeared Zoroastrian sanctuaries and temples in that place. It is believed that the first sanctuary appeared there at the beginning of Christian era, but after the spread of Islam on this territory all of them were destroyed.
The rituals of fire worship were resumed at the Ateshgah Temple only in 15 century, after the return of Zoroastrian priests from India. Ateshgah Temple acquired its today appearance by 1810. It combines local architecture features and canons of ancient fire altars.
In the middle of 19 natural gas ceased to come from the ground because of silent quakes. And then Ateshgah lost its importance for fire-worshippers. The last priests and adepts of Zoroastrianism left it in 1880.
However, considering the exceptional historic and cultural value of the Ateshgah Temple, it was restored in 1975 and gas supply was resumed. Now Ateshgah Temple look as it did at the beginning of 19 century, when it was one of the centers of Zoroastrism.