February 22, 2017


by Prof Mahir Khalifa-zadeh

azGlobalContext.org, Toronto-based Media and Analysis Center, Canada
azglobalcontext.org (Canada)
22 February, 2017


Maiden Tower (Qiz qalasi), Baku, painting, Tahir Salahov

Baku's Holy Fire Temple Tower (Qiz qalasi, Maiden Tower), reconstruction, by Davud Akhundov, 1986 
Qiz qalasi (Maiden Tower), Baku, Azerbaijan
Baku Maiden Tower (Azerbaijani: Qız qalası) is a legendary and world famous landmark in Baku, Azerbaijan. Since 2001, Baku's Maiden Tower as well as the Walled City (Old City) and the Palace of ShirvanShah are enrolled into the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The are many scientific sources which confirm that the Maiden Tower is a paramount example of Zoroastrianism and the pre-Islamic architecture in Iran and Azerbaijan. Particularly, some archeological and architectural evidences indicate that the Tower is Zoroastrians' Holy Fire Temple-Tower approximately of VIII-VII BC. Some scientists argue that the Tower had 7 fire exits on the top that possibly symbolized Zoroastrian 7 Steps, or 7 Skye to reach heaven.

Legends and mysteries
There is a huge pool of mysteries and legends related to Baku Maiden Tower. But till now, the main mystery is the Tower's design and purpose. Meanwhile, the Tower is covered by a cloud of legends or epics which are rooted to Iran's and Azerbaijan's history, religion and culture. Indeed, some legends became a subject for scenario for ballets and theatre's plays and, thus, formed a part of Azerbaijan's national heritage and identity. So the Maiden Tower ballet is a world class Azerbaijani ballet created by Afrasiyab Badalbeyli in 1940. The ballet's remake was performed in 1999.

Interestingly, there are up to 20 legends related Baku's Maiden Tower. The large part of them are connected to Baku's Medieval or Islamic period. But at least one or two legend (which reached the modern time) are rooted deep to Baku's Zoroastrian or the pre-Islamic period.

In this light, as we believe, the most impressionable story on Baku's Maiden Tower is Zoroastrian Legend of virgin girl savior with fire-colored hairs. As Legends says, she saved Baku's people from slavery.

The Legend of Fire-Color Haired Girl Savior
Once upon a time, there was an ancient town-fortress of Baku. The fortress had a Fire Temple-Tower. In a very old time of Baku, the enemy encircled the fortress. The enemy requested Baku's people to be surrendered but they refused it. So the enemy launched a siege to demolish the fortress and capture all inhabitants into the slavery. Many fortress' defenders died trying to stop enemy attacks. Meanwhile, the enemy's commander ordered to cut the water supply lines, aiming to overthrow fortress' defenders. So everybody was thirsty inside the fortress. No water no food, only blood and death. And the Supreme Magi, together with other priests, prayed to the Holy Fire in the fortress' Fire Temple-Tower, asking the God of Ahura Mazda to help the people. They prayed day and night asking Ahura Mazda to save their life and to push the enemy back. Finally, He heard their prayers. On the next day, the people saw that a large piece of the Holy Fire was fell down to the earth from the top of the Fire Temple-Tower. A beautiful girl came up from the fire. She had long and fire-colored hairs. The crowd went down on their knees and started to pray to her. She said: "Don't worry. I'll help and protect you. Give me a sword and a helmet. The enemy should not see my girl's hairs. Open a fortress' gate". Meanwhile, the enemy's commander was waiting outside for the fortress' pahlevan for one-to-one fight. If the fortress' pahlevan wins the fight, then the enemy's army will back away. But if the enemy wins, they will capture the fortress and all survived inhabitants will be slaves. The fortress' gate was opened and the enemy's commander saw that one pahlevan is coming to fight with him. The heavy battle began. In one of God's blessing moment, the fortress' pahlevan unhorsed the enemy and put a knife direct to his neck. The enemy's commander screamed: "You win! Who are you? Take your helmet off. I want to see your face, pahlevan!" He moved out the helmet and saw that the fortress' pahlevan is a beautiful girl with long and fire-colored hairs. He exclaim: "Oh, you are a girl! You are brave and beautiful girl! If girls of Baku are so brave, I'll never capture your fortress! Don't kill me, beauty!" He fell in love with her for her beauty and bravery. He asked her to marry him. Of course, the girl did not kill him. She fell in love with him too for his open heart. Finally, the enemy did not captured Baku and the local people named a tower as the Maiden tower.

The next Legend indicates Zoroastrian roots as well:

The Legend of Why Baku Tower's Fires Stop To Flame
Once upon a time, an enemy besieged fortress of Baku. However, Baku's people refused the enemy's request to be surrendered. They decided to fight and defend their lives and fortress. So Baku's people fought with great bravery but the situation inside the fortress became more and more worse. The enemy launched a tight siege to overthrow defenders. The enemy cut the water supply. With no water and food, the defenders did not have any chance to survive. Meanwhile, Supreme Magi with other priests prayed in the fortress' Holy Fire Temple-Tower. All together, they prayed to God of Ahura Mazda asking him to protect and help the people. After several days of non-stop praying, He heard priests' blessings and prayers. A strong and devastating earthquake was occurred. Thousand enemies were perished by this catastrophe and some of them, who survived, ran away. Thus, the people of Baku escaped the slavery but the Holy Fires stopped flaming on the top of the Fire Temple-Tower.

Why Baku's Tower is named as the Maiden Tower?
Except of legendary background, till now, it is difficult to find historical explanation or archaeological and written evidences that why the tower is named as the Maiden tower. In addition to epical backgrounds, it is very believable that the word "maiden" means that the tower/temple was not destroyed by any enemy that means (from the religious viewpoint) that it was never desecrate (touched) by evil (Ahriman, Angra Mainyu) and stills to be "virgin" (untouched) or maiden temple-tower of God of Ahura Mazda.

1- Baku's Maiden Tower Legendary Monument of Mystery, Azerbaijan International, Los Angeles Office Box 5217, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413, USA, http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/42_folder/42_articles/42_maidentower.html

2- Maiden Tower Secrets of the Maiden Tower: What They Reveal about Early Man's Beliefs, Azerbaijan International, Los Angeles Office Box 5217, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413, USA , http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/ai143_folder/143_articles/143_mt_secrets.html

3- Sara Ashurbeyli, New evidences on the history of Baku and the Maiden Tower, in Azerbaijani, Journal of Arts, N2 (14), Azerneshr publishing house, 1972, Ашурбейли С. Б. Новые изыскания по истории Баку и Девичьей башни. Гобустан. Альманах искусств №2(14). Азернешр, 1972 (на азерб. языке)

4- Davud A.Akhundov, The Architecture of Ancient And Early Medieval Azerbaijan, In Russian, Baku, 1986, ISBN 5-94628-118-6, Azerneshr publishing house, pp-311, Ахундов Д. А. Архитектура древнего и раннесредневекового Азербайджана. Баку, Азернешр, 1986, ISBN 5-94628-118-6, стр-311, http://www.ebooks.az/book_0NetTl4d.html#

5- Hassan Hassanov, Baku's Maiden Tower. A Pagan Monument of Baku, in Russian, ISBN 9789952273793, Baku, 2014, Гасан Гасанов, Девичья башня : Бакинская Девичья Башня; Языческий комплекс Баку, 2014, стр 487, ISBN 9789952273793

6- Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair, The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture, Oxford University Press, 2009, Vol N2. ISBN 9780195309911, page-239, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195309911.001.0001/acref-9780195309911

7- Azerbaijan. Pre-Islamic History, Encyclopedia Iranica, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/azerbaijan-iii

8- Mahir Khalifa-zadeh, On the Problem of Ancient Baku's Location, edited by Prof Ziya Bunyatov, Newspaper Bakinsky Rabochiy, in Russian, Baku, Nov 24, 1988, https://ca.linkedin.com/in/prof-mahir-khalifa-zadeh-02a43844

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