Azerbaijan’s Relationship with Fire

Relations between India and Azerbaijan extend back to ancient times; however, they were particularly strong in the Middle Ages. Historically, the celebration of Baku as the city of “sacred fires” was a significant feature of Indian-Azerbaijani relations. It is known that Azerbaijan practiced fire-worship and Christianity before the Arab invasion and there were many religious centers or shrines. One of the main centers of fire-worship was ancient Baku. It is widely known that in the early Middle Ages, Baku was already being mentioned as the location of eternal fires. The first such reference was made by a Byzantine author of the 5th century. This information surely refers to Baku’s eternal flames, to the seashore and, it seems, to the fires at Surakhani and on Pirallahi Island. Writers in the Middle Ages and later mentioned the displays of combustible gas on the Absheron Peninsula – on Pirallahi Island, in Surakhani village, in Baku Bay, and on Shubani Mountain. The strongest gas vents were in Surakhani village. Atesh-I Bhagavan was mentioned by Gevond in the 8th century as Ateshi-Baguan, which means “fires of Bhagavan”, “fires of the city of God” and which was located in the area around Baku. Absheron, bursting with oil and streams of combustible gas, was also included in the province of Paytakaran. The name Ateshi-Bhagavan may have been connected with the sanctuaries and ancient temples of fire-worshippers, which existed in the Baku area or on Absheron in ancient times.