The influence of Hinduism beyond the normal borders of India has been well known. Here is an inscription from the “Fire Temple”in the Surakhani town of Azherbaijan. It is in the suburb of the capital Baku. The inscription here clearly starts with श्री गणेसाय नम:
Atesh in Persian means Fire, and Gah means bed. This area was over a natural gas – which has since been exhausted, and since natural fires would start over the natural gas crevices, it had a connection to fire. Interestingly, one finds inscriptions, both in Sanskrit and Gurumukhi. The Punjabi inscriptions are from the Adi Granth. Although there is some debate whether this place was a Zoroastrian temple or a Hindu Temple. However, many factors contribute to it being a Hindu Temple. For example:
- There is a ‘trishula’ (trident’ the symbol of Shiva clearly visible on the cupola (Source: Hormusji Dhunjishaw Darukhanawala (1939), Parsi Lustre on Indian Soil, G. Claridge)
- Yogic austerities were performed at the site as per historical records (Source: Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin’s Reise durch Russland (1771) as cited in Karl Eduard von Eichwald’s Reise in den Caucasus (Stuttgart, 1834))
- The inscriptions are clearly in Sanskrit and reflect the devotion to the Fire Goddess, Jwalaji
The physical manifestation of the Jwalaji – Goddess of Fire – is always established in a place with natural gas springs. So, as per many devotees of Jwalaji – the Ateshgah temple was known as “Greater Jwala ji”; while the temple in Jwalamukhi town of the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh state of India, is known as “smaller Jwalaji”.
An inscription from the Baku Atashgah. The first line begins: I salute Lord Ganesh (श्री गणेसाय नम), the second venerates the holy fire (जवालाजी, Jwala Ji) and dates the inscription to Samvat 1802 (संवत १८०२, or 1745-46 CE). The Persian quatrain below is the sole Persian inscription on the temple and, though ungrammatical, also refers to the fire (آتش) and dates it to 1158 (١١٥٨) Hijri, which is also 1745 CE.
Building temples dedicated to the five elements is very common Yogic practice. And, that is why it is not surprising at all that the Yogi devotees of the Fire Goddess, Jwalaji would have gone all the way to Baku to establish and consecrate a temple there for Fire Worship.