Forever Burning – Nature’s Eternal Flames


Darvaza: Darvaza
Darvaza: DarvazaCourtesy

Rituals come in all forms and are celebrated by humans the world over. Some rituals are considered more well known than others.

In fact some are even brought into the main stream whereby they are given universal acknowledgement. The rituals that involve fire are the most prominent. The first famous fire ritual would probably have to be that which surrounds the Olympic flame. This is a flame which has been ceremonially lit every four years for the last 2000 years. This is one of the reasons it is referred to as the “Eternal Flame”. This is not a ritual that is confined to a few, but rather the whole planet as we have just witnessed from the recent London 2012 games as well as the great games that have gone before.

The “Mrapen” eternal flame located in Indonesia, is a very famous naturally occurring flame which emerged from the earth. The flame is mystical in its nature and occurred as gas was ignited by the fire hundreds of years ago. There is historical evidence that the flame has been burning at least since the 15th century. It’s a flame that never goes out despite the ravages of wind and rain. Considered sacred, it is used as part of an annual Buddhist ceremony called “Waisak”. It has even been used as a torch relay flame for some Indonesian sports events.

Another flame we can point to is the one located in Turkmenistan which is aptly nicknamed “The Gates of Hell”. This flame is more of a fiery inferno than a flame since it is 38 feet wide and has been on fire for over 38 years. It is known as the Darvaza Gas Crater. This is no natural occurrence but rather a result of a 1971 Russian industrial accident. After a drilling rig dug a little too far, it culminated in the release of poisonous gases. It was set alight in order to prevent an environmental leak – with the belief being that it would burn off soon. This created a continuous fire.

Many eternal flames will be pivotal to rituals and religions across the world. The Jewish faith uses the flame as part of a ritual which occurred at the Tabernacle and now the Jerusalem Temple. It was part of a commandment that a fire should burn continously at the Outer Altar. In modern times we can see reference to the eternal flame in the form of “sanctuary lamps”which are kept in the synagogues across the world. Flames will continue to be used as a symbol of respect and sacredness as it is the only element that can convey such feelings with force and illumination.

Which phenomena make your jaw drop? Has any fire burned longer than the Mrapen?

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