Ancient Armenian Calendar Structure

Ancient Armenian calendar (“Hin Haykakan Tomar”) starts from the victory of Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the Patriarch) over Babylonian king Bel in 2,492 BC, thus marking birth of the Armenian nation.

The Armenian History Museum preserves a unique bronze belt dated late 2000s – early 1000s BC with engravings of the Sun, the Moon, different animals, and dots. This belt served as a solar-lunar calendar and included 12 lunar months. Periodically additional month was added to fit the beginning of the year with the day of spring solstice. Days of the week had their names after the Sun, the Moon, and 5 planets, known back then.

Ancient Armenian Calendar Structure

In pagan times each cycle of the Armenian calendar lasted 1,460 years. A year had 12 months with 30 days each. In addition, 5 or 6 days left were united in a short month, called Avelyats (from Armenian “residual”). During those days people stopped all works and vastly celebrated the end of the year.

Each month had its own name according to the weather, harvest, or names of ancient gods. Even each hour of the day had its own name after gods, mountains, or time. For example, the first day of each month was called Areg after the god of the Sun.

Afterward Armenians started using 7-day weeks and names of the weekdays lost their ancient meaning. Now they mean just their number.

The new year started with the month Navasard (from Armenian “New Year”) on August 11, according to the modern calendar. Navasard celebrations included Navasard Games in honor of the goddess Anahit.

Certainly, Navasard Games were similar to the Olympics and included athletics competitions, like running, jumping, horse riding, etc. However, it was not only a sports festival. On Navasard people competed in singing, dancing, music, recitations, and other forms of art. These were also days of hunting and special sacrifices to gods.

Unique Astronomical Phenomenon Behind Navasard

There is a deeper meaning behind the date of August 11. According to Vazgen Gevorgyan, an independent researcher, the Orion constellation comes out of its hidden zone during its annual cycle right on August 11. On the same day the highest star of Orion belt reaches the celestial equator.

Above all, the Orion constellation reaches such climax once in 25,920 years, thus dividing the old and the new cosmic eras. Ancient scientists calculated time and calendar with astronomical precision with the help of this very point on the celestial equator.

Armenian culture pays particular importance to the Orion constellation. In Armenia it is called the constellation of Hayk after Hayk Nahapet, the patriarch of the Armenian nation. Similarly, for the same reason Armenians call themselves “hay”.

That is to say, the Armenian era and calendar begin in 2,492 BC when Hayk held the victory over Babylonian king Bel, shown on star maps as the constellation of Taurus.

With Armenia accepting Christianity as the state religion in 301 AD, the new Julan calendar came to replace the ancient pagan calendar. Subsequently, each year started on January the 1st.

Even though many pagan holidays, like Vardavar or Trndez were adopted and included in the Christian calendar, Navasard fell into oblivion for reasons now unknown.

Eugenia Evoyan

Photos of this gallery were provided by Nana Heruni

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