Vedic Past and Present in Azerbaijan

Hinduism in Azerbaijan has been tied to cultural diffusion on the Silk Road. One of the remnants of once dominant Hindu and Buddhist culture in Caucasus is Surakhani, the site of Atashgah.

During the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, Hindu traders visited present-day Azerbaijan for Silk Road trade. The area was traversed by Hindu traders coming mostly from Multan and Sindh (Pakistan). The Atashgah (in Surakhani) was used by those traders to worship while in the area. Most of the traders left around the advent of the British Raj. The ceremonies were officiated by a Punjabi pandit.According to historical sources, the local people also worshipped at Atashgah because of the "seven holes with burning flame". And thus the name "Surakhani" - holes with burning fountains.

ceremonies performed there.
In the 1880s the Czar of Russia, Alexander III went to Azerbaijan to witness one of the last Hindu ceremonies performed there. After the 1890s nearly all of the original Hindu merchants in Azerbaijan had died or left for South Asia.

In Modern Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijan Daily Digest states that very few Azeri people have become Hare Krishnaand they are mostly represented by members of ISKCON.

Hindu Community in Azerbaijan
There are over 500-600 Indians in Azerbaijan, and since 80% of India is Hindu, it is likely that at least some of the Indian residents are Hindus.

A few Indians are former students now engaged in trading, running catering and restaurant business. Indian Association Azerbaijan is a unique forum for all Indian citizens, people of Indian origin and all other communities, cultures and civilisations across the world residing in Azerbaijan to come together. Mr. Sobi T. Abraham is the President of the Indian Association Azerbaijan. The First Indo-Azeri festival was organised under the chairmanship of Mr. Sobi T. Abraham and the event was organised at the boulevard on 10 July 2004.

Recently, about 36 Indian students have enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine at the Khazar University, a private University

ISKCON in Azerbaijan
Members of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), also known as the Hare Krishnas, are registered in Baku.

Members of the Hare Krishna community have a registered a private room for a temple in Baku but nowhere else in Azerbaijan.

In October 2002, authorities returned 20,000 of the 35,000 books seized in 1996 from the Baku Society of Krishna Consciousness.
Rare Hindu temple
Rare Hindu temple

In an old settlement of oil workers situated 30 km from this Azerbaijani capital is a rare Hindu temple dedicated to `Jwalaji or the goddess of fire, forgotten for decades but now catching the attention of tourists.
The temple, called the `Atishgah, in this predominantly Muslim republic of the former Soviet Union is a typical Hindu shrine with an iron `trishul' on its roof with a dome.

Encircled by a stone wall, the Jwalaji temple stands in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by cells for pilgrims coming all the way from India to worship the Fire Goddess in its hey day.

Built in 1713, a stone plaque in Hindi on the portal of the main gate says that this gate was built by Ram Datt in 1866.

On the carved entrances of cells are stone plaques describing who built them and in which year. In all there are over 20 stone plaques, of which 18 are in Devanagri, one in Gurumukhi and one in Farsi (Persian), text on which begins in Hindu tradition with "Om Shri Ganeshaye Namah."

The temple was built on the spot where subterranean gas leaking out of the rocky ground used to burn day-and-night.

Local records say that it was built by a prominent Hindu traders community living in Baku and its construction coincided with the fall of the dynasty of Shirwanshahs and annexation by Russian Empire following Russo-Iranian war.

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 word

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.

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