In Search of an Ancient Hindu Temple in Azerbaijan

Posted on May 20, 2007

By way of Coming Anarchy, I happened upon this very interesting account of a Zoroastrian (Parsee) account of the search for a fire temple that leads to the remains of an ancient Hindu temple in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Baku's Fire Temple

Turns out the search for a Parsee fire temple led to a Hindu temple, where they worshipped the fire. The fire was kept lit by the natural gas emanating from the ground. How the Hindus got there is a different story – back in the past, in the days of silk-route trade, a lot of Indians used to travel far and wide, and some of them must have ended up in Baku, and set up the temple there. The “Jwalaajee” in Baku is supplemented by another, minor, jwala:

When I visited the Kangra Valley in the Himalaya Mountains some 25 years ago (1900 A. D.), I was told that the current Aatash Kadeh was considered as a Hindu Temple by the Hindu friends I met there. In the year 1900 A. D., I was not well from the after effects of the Cholera I contracted years ago. Hence, I traveled with my relative, Jamshedjee Eruchjee Modi, to the hill town of Dharamshalla in Punjab as guests of his relatives Faraamroj and his brother Naadirshaw Khajooree, for rest and change of climate. After a few days of rest and relaxation, we visited the valleys of Kangra and Kulu by the way of Paalanpoor and Baeznaath. That time I heard that there is a village called Jwaalaajee where at one place natural gas emits from earth, night and day, and the Hindu worshippers throw clarified butter (Ghee) on it so that the fire lights up like a huge fire ball. I went there after hearing about it and saw the place of this burning substance (Jwaalaajee). Talking to the Hindus there, they call this Small Jwaalaajee and stated that their Big Jwaalaajee is in Baku, Aazerbaizaan.

Also, from the story we learn that the name Azerbaijan might have derived from Parsee words:

The origin of this country’s name, Azerbaijan, is from our own word “Aazar” or “Aatar” meaning fire, because in ancient times, there were a number of Aatash Kadehs in this country similar to the natural gas fire in Baku and in other places.

It saddens me greatly that the Parsee religion and way of life is slowly being lost to the world, they are fascinating.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on Baku calls the same temple structure the “Maiden Tower“, and has no mention of it having been a Hindu temple, or a Fire temple in the past. How could it be lost on everyone, especially seeing as the inscriptions in Sankrit/Devanagiri over the entrance? However, the Maiden Tower is widely known in Azerbaijan as a national symbol – found on Currency Notes and other official papers.

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34 Comments so far
  1. Shahalad Jhoomer June 7, 2007 12:19 pm

    Namaste.

    Congratulations on your excellent web site! A lot of knowledge on the greatest civilization in the world. I did, however, notice one flaw. No yoga section. Keep up the good work!

    Om Shanti

    Shahalad

  2. Syama July 30, 2007 2:50 am

    Nice website, i noticed your last update is from may, will we get more?

  3. Sundararajan November 14, 2007 7:19 pm

    Actually the Maiden Tower represents a structure as that of a Shiva Lingam whereby the center which has a fire pit burning is the Lingam representing the god Shiva. This very much represents that the religion of Hinduism was present and prevalent in the Central Asian regions including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

    Thus it is such so that still there is time for people to realize that the religion of Hinduism is very strong and its influence had more effect than that of any other religion.

  4. Faik Goulamov November 24, 2007 4:41 pm

    Of course, there is a Hindu-Parsee fire temple found in Baku. That is located in Surakhani area and called Atesh Kade or Atesh Gah, which was visited by the hindu piligrims up to 20 century.
    However the Baku Maiden Tower notwithstanding the nonsense speculations, has nothing to do with nor Hinduism neither with other religions.
    The Tower,s real name was Khansar Tower and served as the main Watch Tower in order to control routine life activities in the city.
    After the invasion of Baku in 1812 the russians reconstructed and renamed the tower into the “Maiden Tower”.

  5. Karmachari January 18, 2008 1:32 pm

    From my research I found out the Vedas was the basis of Hinduism. The four Vedas are full of knowledge presented, Hindus believe, by the Divinity for human race for its progression.

    Worshipping fire and water is one of the Vedic rituals, fundamental for life sustenance. In ancient times even Jews worshipped fire and water. One research shows the Zoroastrians (Parsees) is a misspelling of King Dhrutarashtra who was A Hindu King from India whose kingdom spread right up to Iraq.

  6. Elchin July 27, 2008 3:05 pm

    Greatings,

    Who are you and why do you consider the so called Maiden Tower to be a hindu tower. It was designed, built and used by Azeries all over the history. Are you sure in what you have written in your article. If not, please give it a published correction.

    Kind regards,
    Elchin

    P.S. I do respect Hindus and their history. Indeed we have certain cultural connections, but we do have many things done by ourselves and under the influence of Persian, Arab and Turkish worlds, even if some facts are lost over the course of time, mainly due to the adverse events like the division of Azerbaijan into North and South (currently in Iran). E.g. many persons mentioned in differet sources as being Penrisan or Iranian, are certainly Azerbaijan, but just leave in Southern Azerbaijan.

  7. Shahrbaraz July 31, 2008 10:30 am

    Greetings,

    1)
    of course the word ‘Azarbaijan’ is a Persian word. it is Arabicized of Azarbaygan or Azarpadgan. one theory is that the name ‘Azarbaijan’ is derived from ‘Azar’+pad+gan= place of protecting fire. the other theory is that it’s derived from an Iranian governor called Aturpatakan. again ‘Atur’ being the same as Azar or fire.

    HOWEVER, you should notice that the real Azarbaijan is in Iran and south of the Aras (Araxes) River. The northern part was known as Albania or Arran until Russian invaded and occupied it and renamed it to Azarbaijan after they separated that area from Iran in 19th century to later make claim on the real Azarbaijan.

    2)
    I think since that area was part of Iran from the ancient time and during the time that Iranians were Zoroastrian, the script you mention must be in Avestan (Din-Dabiri = religious script) not Sanskri. Of course these two languages are related and from the same family.

  8. eroram August 10, 2008 1:02 am

    Insofar as Hinduism is concerned, it is the oldest surviving religion with the oldest cultural facts of human being. The remnants and ruins from Khmer kingdoms to Indonesia to Tibet to Central Asia suggests the fact that hinduism is the mother religion of all other. Atehsagh, no doubt represents the same spirit, and further enquiries into distant past and civilizations will further elucidate how strong hinduism was in the past.

  9. Arun Tikoo November 12, 2008 8:29 am

    Hinduism is the oldest religon in the world and i truly belive that the whole world was once big hindu family.Just turn the pages of history and we will find ancient civilizations from peru to bali hinduism is every were ,forms may be different

    Om Namah shivia

  10. AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR July 6, 2009 11:10 am

    nice web site,i’m well knowen philatelist and
    historian,i’d like to have some snail friends in azerbaijan,to,those who are intrested in my
    historical country,are invite to correspond with me,i’m sure to reply all,write to me:
    MR.AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR,
    A-35,SARASWATI LOK,DELHI ROAD,
    MEERUT CITY-250002.(U.P.)INDIA.
    OM NAMEHY SHIVAYE!

  11. AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR July 6, 2009 11:13 am

    NICE WEB SITE,EVERY INDIAN MUST BE SEE THIS
    HOLY TEMPLE,DEDICATED TO LORD SHIVA.
    —————ARVIND KUMAR AGGARWAL.
    MEERUT CITY.(U.P.) INDIA
    JULY-07-2009

  12. AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR July 6, 2009 11:14 am

    NICW WEB SITE,EVERY HINDU MUST SEE THIS TEMPLE
    DEDICATED TO LORD SHIVA.—-ARVIND,MEERUT.INDIA

  13. AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR July 6, 2009 11:16 am

    NICE WEB SITE EVERY HINDU MUST BE SEE THIS SITE DADECATED TO LORD SHIVA.

  14. AGGARWAL ARVIND KUMAR July 6, 2009 11:18 am

    greetings from hindustan,
    nice site,i’ll pass this site id to my friends.om namehy shivaye

  15. narender piplani September 17, 2009 1:17 pm

    origion place of human is India not Africa . Look at Deathofhistory
    Jaihind,

    Narender Piplani

  16. Narender Piplani November 15, 2009 6:59 am

    origin place of human is India not Africa.

    Look at http://www.deathofhistory.net
    Jai Ind,
    Narender Piplani

  17. Arup Kumar Das November 15, 2009 10:19 pm

    It is very important for all hindus in the world to know that our religion and culture are very old and all the present hidus should feel proud that we remain in this oldest belief because we haven’t change our belief in any condition and also our religion. belief, culture is our own not to export from any country or any cruel ruller.We should protect our belief.

  18. Gaurav Seksaria December 1, 2009 9:51 am

    If I tell anyone about this no one believe. I have been having dreams since childhood that I was someone who was from a place where both hindus and muslims shared the same cremation ground and there was a mandir and always felt that oil was beneath my house as I grew older I was always dreaming that I am someone from Caspian sea region and always loved Iran God Knows why. If any one said something against Iran I could not tolerate. Can anyone seeing this tell me wether near this temple or area a hindu cremation ground and a muslim burial ground exists.

  19. Rohit February 12, 2010 8:23 am

    Jai Hind!! This article proves the far reaching arm of the great religion Hinduism. This proves that Hindu is the greatest religion of all time.

  20. Dr.Shriharsha Sharma August 16, 2010 4:19 am

    Scholars must do justice to our common heritage so that human race can read the true history.

  21. Fred Harbin August 25, 2010 12:28 pm

    I just finished visiting the Maiden Tower in Baku and have come to the conclusion that it was a Tower of Silence for the burial of Zoroastrians. Exaiming it several things become obvious. It was never designed for defense or for habitation. It was originally built near or on the sea. Subsequent urban fill has caused it to be several hundreds of meters from the sea today. The base of the tower has not been fully excavated, with its doorway at a much higher level than the original structure. It has been modified over time to first add height (see beginning of the crenulated block pattern) and secondly to floor in the multiple levels for probable use as secure storage facility at a much later date (post Zoroastrian use). Finally, later excavations around its base have discovered that the area was used as burial grounds for muslims. The biggest clue is that excavations uncovered and then reconstructed a Fire Temple just south of the tower, roughly 20-30 meters from the Tower. The presence of the Fire Temple provides another explanation for the tower having a “flying wing” to its design. It is my opinion that the flying wing was originally designed as a wind break for the all important Fire Temple situated to it’s immediate south (likely originally a gas fed flame within a pool of water). It was the presence of the fire, most likely in water, that identified the area as divine to Zoroastrians. The flying wing has no other possible purpose. It seem obvious as the town of Baku began crowding the tower, the need to extend its height to reduce the smell of corpses to the locals became evident.

    The following description of a Tower of Silence is provided from Wiki:

    “The towers, which are fairly uniform in their construction, have an almost flat roof, with the perimeter being slightly higher than the center. The roof is divided into three concentric rings: The bodies of men are arranged around the outer ring, women in the second circle, and children in the innermost ring. Once the bones have been bleached by the sun and wind, which can take as long as a year, they are collected in an ossuary pit at the center of the tower, where—assisted by lime—they gradually disintegrate and the remaining material—with run-off rainwater—runs through multiple coal and sand filters before being eventually washed out to sea. The ritual precinct may be entered only by a special class of pallbearers, called nasellars, a contraction of nasa.salar, caretaker (-salar) of potential pollutants (nasa-).”

    Climbing through the tower, it is very easy to see how they closed in the different levels to form stone floors. Interesting, they left the center of each floor open at its center, most likely to aid in air circulation.

    I believe if they fully excavated the base of the tower, they would find the drains to the sea. This would conclusively prove the tower as a Tower of Silence.

  22. Milind Mahadev kaulapure May 11, 2011 9:57 pm

    I think this temple is the a representation of Indo-iranian culture which was combined in the very ancient time. The aryas were lived for some times ago and they had built this agni mandir(fire temple).Lord Shiva might be a god of that aryas’ group. \\Om namah Shivay\\

  23. swonna July 28, 2011 12:33 am

    ??? ????????? ??????? ? ????????????? ?????????? ????????? ??? ???????????? ????? ???????? ?? ????? ?????? ???????? ????? ????? ???????? ??????????? ??? ??? ????????????????????? ?????? ??? ?????????????? ????? 7????? ????????? ??????????? ????????? ??? ???????? ??????? ??? ????? ?????????????? ???????? ???????????? ?????????? ????? ???????? ????????? ????????? ????????????.??? ?????????? ????????? ??????????? ??? ???? ?????? ??????????? 20 ?????????????????? ?? ????? ????? ??????????? ???????? ? ??????????? ????????? ??????? ??? ?????????????? ??????? ????????????? ?????????? ?? ??????? ???? ????? ????????????

  24. Surender November 1, 2011 11:56 pm

    This temple proves that religion of hindus was the religion of the world before the advent of christianity and islam. People all over the world worshipped hindu gods. The hindu/vedic religion was established in india after a great deluge by Manu deva(a descendent of sun). He established his first kingdom in Ayodhya and from there hindus spread through out the world. During this migration various tribes were separated and different languages were formed through out the world. This is also the reason why Hindu religion is still present in India after so many millineium had passed.

  25. MGT December 3, 2011 10:48 am

    Zoroastrian religion is a ancient form of Hinduism practised by the Indo-Iranian people of Iran and Azerbaijan. Hinduism was prevalent in some or the other forms and practised by people of Aryan race in Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. Even Lord RAMA is a Aryaputra. This is an interesting and thought provoking article.

  26. vishesh sinha January 28, 2012 2:04 pm

    as we are going thru this site and article we can follow that hinduism dominated from russia in north to indonesia and europe in west. it has been proved from time to time this fact. we shud be proud of our culture and our race.

  27. Sandeep Sharma April 3, 2012 8:51 am

    Thanks. This is very usefull to all of us.

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