By Samvel Sevada
В южных областях страны с Вардаваром совмещали день благословения винограда – в эту пору лоза достигала полной зрелости. Праздник сопровождался песнями-плясками, дарением роз в храме Астхик. Влюбленные юноши выпускали в небо голубей. Если птица совершала три круга над кровлей дома любимой девушки, осенью ее выдавали замуж. Люди обливали друг друга холодной водой, разыгрывая символический обряд внутреннего очищения, обновления и вызывания дождя в засушливое время года. Веря в плодоносящую силу воды, бесплодные женщины ходили в пещеру Цахкаванк на горе Аралер, где стояли под капающей со сталактитов водой, прося богиню послать им дитя.
One of the most precious treasures of the Armenian nation is the collection of ancient manuscripts. There are around 30,000 ancient Armenian manuscripts in the world and the majority of them (about 17,000 manuscripts) are preserved in Yerevan. They can be found in Matenadaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, named after Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian Alphabet. Other major collections of Armenian manuscripts are preserved in library of Armenian Patriarchy in Jerusalem (about 4000 manuscripts) the Mkhitarian Brotherhood in Venice (about 4000 manuscripts), and in Vienna (about 2500 manuscripts).
The art of making Armenian manuscripts has ancient traditions; the manuscripts are unique and are of great esthetic value.
Armenian manuscripts are shaped like books and have been called “matyan” or “girk”. There have been no rolled Armenian manuscripts discovered. Up to the tenth century, manuscripts were written on sheets of parchment, later, starting from the tenth century, paper was used. The parchment was made mainly from the leather of domestic animals (lamb, calf), while paper was imported. The process of making books had a few stages: preparation of the parchment and the ink, letters (calligraphy and spelling), illuminations, stitching and interlacing. It required involvement of a large group of specialists and a few workshops. Hard cover bindings protected the books from damage and served as an external design.Up to the XIV century, Armenian books were handwritten. The first printed Armenian books were made in 1512. Handwritten manuscripts were completely replaced by printed books in the XIX century.
Calligraphy was a well-established practice in medieval Armenia, with a calligrapher typically in possession of a wide assembly of tools. Arab writers and calligraphers often used and praised Armenian colors, especially “vordan karmir – որդան կարմիր” known in Europe as “Armenian red”, and in the Arab world as “kirmiz” – a deep crimson dye (RGB 220, 20, 60) extracted from an insect (Pseudococcus) common to the Ararat Valley.
During its long history the Armenian people created thousands of manuscripts regarding history, art, science, religion and mundane topics.
Ancient Armenian manuscripts have suffered the same tragic history as the Armenians. These manuscripts have always been considered to be sacred. They were protected and saved from aggressors, they were bought back as prisoners of war, and in many inscriptions the manuscripts are talked about as if it’s a living creature. There are many stories about common people who have risked their lives to save these nationally valued manuscripts that have become crystallized in time and space. These heroes would save historical manuscripts instead of attempting to save their own property that they had earned throughout decades. This was the main characteristic of the national identity of Armenians, who lived under a foreign yoke for many centuries.
The story of the largest Armenian manuscript “Msho Charantir” (“Homilies of Mush”), which is currently exhibited in Matenadaran, is a animated example of this. The manuscript was written in Avag Monastery in Yrznka city. Three years of hard work (from 1200 to 1202) was necessary to complete the manuscript. It was written on a parchment with 604 sheets and 1208 pages. Each of these sheets was made of leather from a month old calf. Each sheet of the manuscript is 55.5 cm wide and 70 cm long. The manuscript weighs 28 kg. It was written by the order of a man, Astvatsatur. In 1203, during the Mongolian-Tatar invasion, Astvatsatur was killed and all his belongings were seized. The Turkish judge in Khlat City, privatized the manuscript claiming that Astvatsatur owed him money. In 1206, the priests of St. Arakelots Church in Mush, found out that the judge was selling the manuscript and purchased the manuscript with 4000 barats (silver coins) after about a year-long negotiation.
The smallest Armenian Manuscript weighs 19 grams. It is a Church Calendar and is under the number 7728. It was written in Kafa. The scriber is Avgsent and the receiver is Hakob. It is 3x4cm. Its 104 sheets are on parchment with one column on each page. The writing is minuscule and the binding is stamped leather with a board as an inset
In the XIX century, the Mkhitarian brothers from the Island of St. Lazar, took 17 sheets of this manuscript with them as relics after, a pilgrimage to St. Arakelots Church. In 1915, during the Armenian Genocide, in Osmanic Turkey, two women found the manuscript from the ruins of the monastery and in order to save it, they divided it into two parts, each woman took a piece. Both women started off for Eastern Armenia. The first went all the way to St. Echmiadzin, the spiritual and clerical center of the Armenian apostolic church, and handed the manuscript to the monastery and the second woman passed away on her journey. Before her death she buried the second part of the manuscript in the yard of the monastery in Erzrum City. The manuscript was later found by a Russian officer who took the manuscript with him to Tiflis and delivered it to the Armenian community. During the 1920s the manuscript was transferred to Armenia where both its parts are preserved in Matenadaran.
Aguline Tatoulian. During the Armenian Genocide, she shaved off her hair and dressed herself up in men’s fatigues in order to protect herself and defend her city of 35,000, which was being raped and pillaged by the Turks. She was shot in her left rib and lived with that bullet for 67 years. She was 1 of 9 women who survived the massacres of Hadjin in 1918. A coule of months after she surivived, she wrote and staged a play to raise relief funds for survivors. Before she died in 1985, she requested she not be buried with a Turkish bullet -it sits in a museum in Armenia.
Tsitsernakaberd (Swallow’s fortress) is a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide; it is located on a hill overlooking Yerevan, Armenia. Every year on April 24, hundreds of thousands of Armenians gather here to remember the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide that took place in the Ottoman Empire carried out by the Turkish government.
The memorial sits on one of three hills along the Hrazdan River that carry the name Tsitsernakaberd, and was the site of what was once an Iron Age fortress. Most of the above ground traces at this peak have since disappeared, but upon the smaller hill are still traces of a castle. Archaeological surveys took place in 2007, and excavations uncovered a wall that is hundreds of meters long and may still be seen in many places above ground. An altar cut from stone sits in the middle of a square at the edge of one of the hills, and large stones that weigh approximately two tons are still visible that cover graves from the second millennium BC. Apartments were later built along the hills during Roman times, and were built over with other structures during medieval years. Nearby are also the remains of a very large building with a cave.
“Здание Отчизны не может быть воздвигнуто на скале ненависти к другим народам. Да, это так, но до скончания веков армяне не должны простить туркам. Даже если это кровожадное племя, ограбившее и убившее половину нашего безоружного народа, в один прекрасный день превратится в горсть бесславного пепла, даже этот пепел надо призвать к суду, даже если это будет в Судный день”. Гарегин НЖДЕ
Paintings by Sevada Grigoryan
Potrait of Hripsime Artsrunyan , 1977
They say that on the last day of summer an extraordinary contest took place in the sparkling luxurious palace of the father-god Aramazd. It brought together all the fruits and berries in Armenian land: grape, apricot, peach, apple, pear, cherry, plum, and quince. The contest was judged by the powerful pagan gods, seated on diamond thrones: Aramazd, Tir, Anahit, Nane, Mihr and Vanatur. They all decided that the one who would surprise them the most should be declared the winner of the competition. Many fruits and berries got on stage to demonstrate their exceptional qualities. Some tried to impress with their rounded shape, others with an abundance of fruit on golden platters, others yet with their peculiar taste. All of them were proud and pleased with themselves until the pomegranate entered the hall in a modest dress, adorned with scarlet flowers. Everyone fell silent as the unsurpassed beauty of the pomegranate tree attracted everyone’s attention. Then came jealous spiteful whispers:
“What impudence! What disrespect for others!” exclaimed the other plants.
The pomegranate tree came to the tournament with a single fruit hanging on the tree all by itself.
“Is it trying to make the judges feel sorry for itself?” fumed the contestants.
The pomegranate tree approached the gods and put a single pomegranate fruit on the platter in front of them. Then the fruit burst and its juicy seeds scattered in different directions. There were so many of them that they covered everyone in ruby-red drops and decorated the magnificent walls. A sigh of delight burst from the lips of the judges and guests. The pomegranate tree was declared the winner of the contest. And from that day on, pomegranate became a symbol of victory, celebration, and abundance.
Говорят, что в последний день лета в блистающем роскошью дворце бога-отца Арамазда произошло необыкновенное состязание. На него собрались все фрукты и ягоды земли Армянской – виноград, абрикос, персик, яблоко, груша, черешня, слива, айва. А судьями были могучие языческие боги, восседавшие на алмазных тронах: Арамазд, Тир, Анаит, Нанэ, Мигр и Ванатур. Они решили: кто из состязавшихся удивит их больше, тот и будет объявлен победителем. И вот фрукты и ягоды стали по очереди демонстрировать свои исключительные качества. Одни пытались ошеломить округлостью форм, другие – изобилием плодов на золотистых подносах, третьи – своеобразием вкуса. Все были горды и довольны собой до тех пор, пока в залу не вошло гранатовое дерево, одетое в скромное платье, украшенное алыми цветами. Наступила тишина. Несравненная красота гранатового дерева приковала к себе всеобщее внимание. Но скоро участники состязания стали злословить:
– Какая неслыханная дерзость! Какое неуважение к окружающим!
Гранатовое дерево явилось на соревнование всего лишь с единственным плодом, одиноко висящим на ветке.
– Как будто этим оно хочет разжалобить судей!
А гранатовое дерево подошло к богам и положило на блюдо свой единственный плод. Гранат лопнул, и его сочные зернышки разлетелись в разные стороны. Да в таком количестве, что покрыли рубиновыми капельками все плоды и разукрасили роскошные стены. Вздох восторга вырвался из уст судей и гостей. Гранатовое дерево признали победителем состязания. И с этого дня гранат стал символом победы, торжества и изобилия.