Eternal Flame: How Azerbaijan became a “land of fire”

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(CNN)- “This fire has been burning for 4000 years and never stops,” says Aliyeva Rahila. “The rain, snow, and even the wind that comes here will not continue to burn.”

In front, tall flames dance restlessly across the hillside of 10 meters, making hot days even hotter.

This is Yanar Dag-meaning “burning hillside”- AzerbaijanAbsheron Peninsula where Rahira works as a tour guide.

A side effect of the country’s abundant natural gas reserves that sometimes leak to the surface, Yanar Dag is one of several spontaneous fires that have fascinated and scared travelers to Azerbaijan for thousands of years.

Venetian explorer Marco Polo writes about the mysterious phenomenon of passing through the country in the 13th century.Other Silk Road merchants brought the news of fire as they do Travell To another land.

Therefore, this country has gained the nickname “Country of Fire”.

Ancient religion

Such fires used to occur frequently in Azerbaijan, but most of them were extinguished as underground gas pressures dropped and commercial gas mining was hindered.

Yanar Dag is one of the few remaining examples and is probably the most impressive.

Once founded in Iran, they played an important role in the ancient Zoroastrianism that flourished in Azerbaijan in the 1st millennium BC.

For Zoroastrians, fire is the connection between humans and the supernatural world, through which spiritual insight and wisdom can be gained. It is an important part of purifying, sustaining life and worship.

Today, most visitors arriving at the plain Yarnardag Visitor Center come in search of sight, not religious fulfillment.

The experience is most impressive at night or in winter. When it snows, the flakes melt into the air without touching the ground, says Rahira.

Despite allegations of the ancient flames of Janardag (some claim that this particular fire may have ignited only in the 1950s), about a 30-minute drive north of central Baku. It is at the place. There is only a small cafe in the center and not many others.

Temple of Ateshuga Fire

To gain a deeper understanding of the history of Azerbaijan’s flame worship, visitors should head to the Temple of Ateshga Fire, east of Baku.

“Since ancient times, they have [their] God is here, “says our guide. It is time for us to enter the pentagonal complex built in the 17th and 18th centuries by Indian settlers in Baku.

The fire ritual at this place dates back to the 10th century. The name Ateshgah comes from the Persian word “House of Fire”, and the centerpiece of the complex is a cupola-covered altar shrine built on a spout of natural gas.

Here, until 1969, the eternal flames of nature were burning on the central altar, but nowadays they are fired from Baku’s main gas source, and only visitors are igniting.

The temple is associated with Zoroastrianism, but its history is better documented in Hindu places of worship.

Merchants and asceticists

Built like a caravanserai-style tourist inn, this complex features 24 cells and a walled courtyard surrounded by rooms.

These were used in various ways by pilgrims, pass-by merchants (donations were an important source of income), and resident asceticists. At the end.

The temple was no longer used as a place of worship in the late 19th century. At that time, the development of the surrounding oil fields increased the worship of Mammon.

The complex became a museum in 1975 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and now welcomes approximately 15,000 visitors annually.

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