“Black city” of Akunin – it is about Baku, a city of oil, secrets, secrets, and dangers. Thoroughly imbued with the mood of this book and try to imagine the life of the Azerbaijani capital and its environs of the early 20th century can only be in Surakhani. The village, located just 30 km north-east of the capital, has been keeping its “oil” history since the middle of the 19th century. From the Tat language, Surakhani translates as “hothouse” since the village has long been famous for its abundance of oil wells.
1850 – the starting point of the new history of the village, when Surakhan touched the oil boom and oilmen from all over the Empire began to gather here. Here everything was “spinning” around the oil, even the children were “sick” in the oil business, and each new field was met with enthusiastic shouts and envious glances. And already in 1857, at the initiative of entrepreneur Vasiliy Kokorev, the world’s first oil refinery was built here.
But walking through the dusty streets of Surakhan, in the vicinity of which oil rigs stick up here and there, is only part of an exotic excursion. The main goal of tourists here, of course, is the Zoroastrian temple of fire worshipers Ateshgah. Built on the site of a flammable gas out of the ground (the locals call it “eternal fire”), the temple has for centuries attracted pilgrims from all over the world with its unquenchable flame: years and centuries pass, the world changes, and the temple still stands in its place, illuminating the suffering path to God.
For centuries, the Zoroastrian temple of Atashgah attracted pilgrims from all over the world with its unquenchable flame: years and centuries pass, the world changes, and the temple still stands in its place, illuminating the suffering people to the path to God.
At various times, this sanctuary was revered by both Zoroastrians, and Hindus, and Sikhs. However, of course, most of the servants of Ateshgah belonged to the Hindu faith. The form of the temple – “Chahar-tag,” is a structure consisting of four arches facing the four sides of the world. The creation of Ateshgah dates back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. N e., the period of domination of Zoroastrians in Azerbaijan.
As the population adopted Islam, the temples of fire began to become empty and neglected, and Ateshgah would suffer the same fate. The Great Silk Road passing through the territory of Azerbaijan saved the situation. It was for him that pilgrims from Persia, India and other eastern countries began to flock to the temple of fire worshipers. In November 1858, Alexander Dumas visited Atashgyg, who in his memoirs mentioned church servants as “Parsi” (Persians), “Hebros” and “Madji” (i.e., magicians).
Above the entrances to some of the cells of Ateshgah, one can see plates, today there are 17 of them – one Persian (Zoroastrian), two Six and 12 Hindu.
In the middle of the 19th century, a real catastrophe occurred for the temple of fire – the layers of the earth shifted, closing the exit of natural gas in this place. The pilgrims took it as a sign – the punishment of the gods: Ateshgah became empty, in 1880 the last Hindu, left alone in the walls of the temple, left him and went to India. Only in 1975, after the restoration works, Ateshgah was again opened to the public, becoming a museum complex, which was taken under the protection of UNESCO.
Temple of fire worshipers near Baku
Entrance to the temple grounds next to the bus stop. The first temple of fire worship was founded on the territory of Azerbaijan in the III century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, near the village of Surakhani, this temple was restored and used as a Hindu and Sikh shrine.
The literal translation of Ateshgah is “House of Fire.” Earlier, underground gas burst out here and, when it met oxygen, it began to burn naturally. Actually, for this reason, the fire worshipers lived in these places.
Then, when oil deposits were discovered in 1855, Russian industrialists came to the area.
There was no serfdom, and the land belonged to the peasants. The enterprising businessman bought the property from the peasants and built a plant for the extraction and processing of oil near the temple. Because of this, the earth was losing resources; the lights of the temple began to weaken gradually. The pilgrims grieved. We decided that this is a curse of heaven and progressively left Atashgah. In 1880, the last Hindu, who lived in Ateshgah, went to India, and in 1902 the previous fire went out.
Several years ago, the temple was restored, held a special pipe through which gas flows.
The lights are on again. Now there is an interesting museum in Ateshgah, wax cells in the cells show scenes from the life of fire worshipers.
In one of the cells from the columns comes the mantra Om Namah Shivaya.
In the middle of the square, a heart burns, on the right, there is a stone for sacrifices.
Along the perimeter are small rooms. In some places, the life of the priests is recreated, and in others, the objects of everyday life are simply displayed.
Immediately make a reservation that the “stone for sacrifices” only sounds so menacing. In fact, the fruit was sacrificed, most often grenades.
Well, let’s not get ahead. Built on the site of an exit from the ground of combustible gas (locals call it “eternal fire”), the temple has attracted pilgrims from all over the world for centuries. At various times, the sanctuary was worshiped by Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Sikhs.
Zoroastrianism is a fascinating religion, spread across the territory of Greater Iran.
At the heart of the teachings of Zarathustra is a free moral choice by a person of good thoughts, right words, and good deeds. As Islam adopted by the population of Azerbaijan, other religions began to be gradually crowded out. The sad fate of Ateshgah was also awaited, but the situation was saved by the Great Silk Road. According to him, pilgrims from eastern countries flocked to the temple.
Basically, monks lived in the temple. Their cells were located around the “eternal flame”.
How to get to Ateshgah
In Baku, at the Koroglu / Koroогlu metro station, if you have come from the center, we go against the train, then go along the underpass following the signs “Avtobus.”
We leave from the subway, 200 meters see the bus station.
Find bus 184, sent from sector 5
Price – 0.3 manat
On the way 30-40 minutes one way, buses run every 15 minutes.
Go to the final stop, then go through the railway path.
Schedule 2-2.5 hours to inspect the temple and the museum, taking into account the travel time.
Worth visiting Ateshgah?
In the pictures, the place is not particularly impressive, but it is fantastic.
Hire a guide on site (5 manats or so) to understand what Indians are doing in their cells, what the inscriptions in Persian, Punjabi and Hindi mean.
Excursions from Baku
It is effortless to come to the temple on your own by bus or taxi and take a guide on the spot. If you go on an excursion from Baku, then go to Gobustan mud volcanoes or the Agate mountains of Khizi.
It is harder and longer to get to those places without a car, and according to impressions, there is an entirely different level, if you like nature.