Imagine living on a land that could kill you in a moment’s notice while also providing you with all of the riches you could dream of. This is what the people of Azerbaijan’s Absheron Peninsula must heed on daily basis. Just north of the peninsula lie the capital, Baku, where a sacred fire once burned eternally – The Ategash of Baku. Due to exploitation, the flame is no longer able to burn on its own. The fire is still there and is fueled manually for tourists and visits by the locals.
The Ategash of Baku has been around for thousands of years. It has served as a place of worship for believers in Zoroastrianism. Earth’s elements made up the core of their beliefs with fire being the most pure and symbolizing their god. This practice is emphasized and extends on their belief of keeping thoughts, words, and actions pure through prayer and ritual.
Do All Fires Burn Out Or Is The Energy Transferred?
What was once one of the most powerful monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism is now one of the world’s smallest. According to NY Times, there are approximately 190,000 believers worldwide. A practice that once ruled the Persian empire and is said to have influenced the practice of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is now on it’s last flicker as it dwindles to thrive. As believers continue to intermarry, many fear that the religion will die out within the coming centuries. Zoroastrians aren’t sure whether or not they will accept converts as it takes away from its purity.
Just as faith in the religion’s future dwindles, the Ategash of Baku also had it’s moment of truth. Once the elements that allowed it to burn naturally and on its own were exploited for oil extraction the temple was converted to a museum. Not all fires burn out and nothing ever truly dies.
One of most basic laws of science is the Law of the Conservation of Energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. Whether Zoroastrianism is preserved or not, the impact it has had on it’s people and on following religions is enough to light up a thousand eternal fires. Although the eternal flame that once lit the Ategash of Baku was exploited for selfish gain, it is still being fueled manually and continues to burn. The symbolism still lives and shall forever continue to flicker.