A long time ago, even before our era, Hindu Brahmanites and Persians-Zoroastrians heard that in the country called Absheron there are places where a pure flame bursts out of the earth. For those who consider fire to be a beginning less and endless divine power, this information, of course, was significant. Pilgrims confirmed that yes, in this place there really are such sources of natural flame, and on the largest of them a temple was erected. They named it Ateshgah.
Not far from this temple, several roads of the Great Silk Road crossed, so the temple began to serve not only for a religious cult, but also as a caravanserai. Traders from all over the world became the main reason why Ateshgah began and continued to flourish for many centuries. The merchants supplied the place with money.
The merchants of that time were not particularly religious. You can even ruthlessly say that they remembered God only when they felt bad. And it was always bad for them during the caravan route. The job of a merchant was dangerous, and sometimes half a year’s travels brought all kinds of road burdens and stress. Therefore, the merchants turned to the founders of the temple, the Hindu and Zoroastrian ascetic hermits, to pray for them to their fiery gods. They asked to pray in the mornings and evenings, and as a reward for these prayers they paid generously.
The ascetics themselves were not interested in wealth. All they needed within the walls of this temple was solitude, in which they looked for the path to Nirvana, Paradise on earth and after death – as to the highest merit on the path of numerous earthly incarnations.
It was believed that the gods would rather accept the prayers of hermits than the prayers of mundane merchants. And everyone won: the hermits were approaching holiness by prayer, the merchants were filled with confidence, and the temple flourished. And for a long time it was one of the largest centers of Zoroastrianism in the Middle East.
For more than a century and a half this place has ceased to exist as a religious and cult place. In the middle of the 9th century, an oil boom came to Azerbaijan. Everything was literally dug by wells, and an imbalance in the gas pressure occurred in the ground under the Ateshgah temple. The sacred fire was extinguished. The hermits did not think about the reasons for the disappearance of the fire, for them it became a sign that it was time to leave this place.
Since then, Ateshgah has turned into a museum and has become one of the symbols of the rich cultural and religious historical heritage of Azerbaijan.
The guests of Azerbaijan will be able to visit Ateshgah Museum-Reserve as part of the Gobustan-Absheron tour organized by Azerbaijan Travel International.