Azerbaijan – Part 3 – Ateshgah & Yanardag

Our next destination was Ateshgah. The word Atish meaning fire and word gah means home. More conveniently known as Fire Temple.

It is in a suburb of Baku, called Surakhani ( Land of Surakh, meaning holes in ground.) The journey is alongside a railway track and finally you have to cross the track to reach this place.

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It is an enclosed complex. In the center there is elevated temple, in which a fire is burning for centuries. Actually it used to be a natural fire, but due to over exploitation of natural gas, in that area by former Russia, the fire stopped burning in year 1969. A pipeline was laid underground from Baku which fuels the fire now.

As the name suggests, it used to be a temple, where Hindus, Sikh and Zoroastrian traders used to worship. They were on their way from northern India to Europe. The complex wall comprises of many small chambers, which must have been used by those traders for night stay.

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There are various items on display there, which resemble various items used by Hindus, even today.  Moreover there are inscriptions in Devnagri, Gurumukhi and Farasee scripts.

Our ex-minister for external affairs, Sushama Swaraj had visited this place, two years back.

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When we visited this place the ticket came with an almond stuck to it, with little sugar syrup. (Yup, so sweet of them, isn’t it ?)  It is very large area but kept spotlessly clean. There are no flower sellers etc, which are common in India, near any such holy place.

There are guides available. Enough information is displayed in English also. It felt so nice to hear recitals of Hindu vedic mantras at a place so far from home. The chambers are very small with a small entrance. Though you can still enter most of them, there is no ventilation. Even some underground structures are found there, which are being excavated. (I am surprised that this place had no mention at all, in our schools history or geography books.)

From the inscriptions, it is known that the place was constructed in late 17th century. The fire must have been burning there before that.

Later, when the trade route itself lost its importance, many Hindu traders deserted that place. But, again it is getting attention, it deserves. There are few shops there selling souvenirs and snacks.

Next we visited Yanardag. The word means burning mountain, and it is exactly what it is. This is not a historical place.  The burning quality of this mountain was discovered only in year 1950 by a shepherd. It has been burning since then.

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It is a base of a hill, where you can see continuous flames. The natural gas seeps thru the sandstone and fuels the fires. There are nice arrangements done around this place. There is a well-designed gallery like amphitheater.  This makes it an ideal place for concerts. The flames themselves are not dangerous and you can go quiet near to them, like you would do to a campfire. You can roast marshmallows (available there).

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There is a way to climb the hill and you can see the distant village from there. We had gone there during day time, but after dark it must be a fabulous site.

There are some streams in that area which also can be ignited. (I did not visit any.)

In next post, we will visit a manmade beauty in Baku.

To be continued.

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