In the cliff of Agravakar near the city of Van in Western Armenia (modern Turkey), there is a unique wall with a gate carved into the rock, which is popularly called “the door of Mher” (also Mihr or Mitra) or “the gates of God”. As it is known, the wall was carved with the purpose of worshiping the gods of the Kingdom of Van during the reign of King Ishpuini (828-810 BC).
Near the city of Van are the remains of the ancient capital of Kingdom of Van Rusakhinili. The city was founded by king Rusa I at the end of the 8th century BC, hence its name. On the territory of this monument, there is a separately standing cliff, in the wall of which the gate is carved.
From the pre-Christian times, in Armenia, which at that time was a part of the Achaemenid empire, people worshiped the god of the Sun and justice Mihra / Mitra (Mher).
This door or gate is mentioned in Armenian spiritual songs, in the ancient Armenian calendar, where the 7th and 8th months are called “Megeki” and “Mihr”, and in the legendary epic “Sasna Tsrer” (also known as David of Sassoun). In the epic, there is a character named Mher (similar to name Mihr), who is the son of David of Sassoun and Khandut-khatun.
According to the Armenian mythological traditions, Mher has been in constant wanderings, fighting with evil forces and performing feats in order to save the world from the forces of evil and injustice.
In his struggle, Mher even battled against his father and defeated him, not even realizing that he was fighting against his own father, for which David cursed his son and imprisoned him in a prison with a rock. Since then, Mher could come out of the rock to see if justice had come in the world only once a year.
According to some versions, the stone prison of Mher had an eternal candle and a rotating charkhi-falak (“wheel of fate”) in it. And upon the stop of the wheel, Mher would be able to come out of prison and destroy the unjust world.
In one of the works of Academician I. Orbeli, it is said that a wall carved in a vertical rock with a cuneiform inscription is a kind of an altar, which was used for sacrificial rituals. In addition to this cliff, there also was the main temple of worship of the god Mihre in the pagan temple of Garni (formerly known as Bagaharich).
A very interesting legend is also associated with this place. Some say that in ancient times, an old shepherd grazed his sheep near the cliff of Agravakar (Crow’s Rock). The shepherd got tired, laid down at the foot of the rock, and fell asleep.
He had a prophetic dream, in which a good spirit revealed to him the mystery of a door in on a rock. The shepherd woke up, found the door, uttered the magic words, and the entrance in the rock in front of him swung open, revealing a large cave with untold riches.
Having stuffed bags with gold and precious stones, the shepherd left the cave, forgetting his staff in it. After coming back to the cave and taking his staff, the old man discovered that he had forgotten the magic words that unlocked the door, which rendered him unable to leave the cave. Since then, people assure that they heard the screams and cries of the shepherd from within the rock.