The History of the Kerakhach, the Armenian Swastika

The History of the Kerakhach, the Armenian SwastikaA variation of the winged crosses – swastikas is the Armenian Kerakhach. It symbolized the patronage of the dragon fighter, the fearless, courageous, and the victorious hero Vahagn.

In the end, Kerakhach became his victorious symbol personifying struggle and victory. In the Armenian epic “Sasuntsi David”, Kerakhach is denoted “paterazma khach” (“pa” – father, “ter” – ruler, Lord), meaning that it is a symbol of the patronage and the victory of Vahagn, who battled against the evil dragon not for life but for death. As a symbol of fearlessness, chivalrous courage, and strength, Kerakhach was used until the 20th century.

The story of the motif of the battle of Vahagn against the dragon (“History of Armenia”, M. Khorenatsi, 4th century) served as a prototype for the motifs of Indo-European mythologies and played a huge role in art, culture, and the development of world religions. Its influence was so strong that that pagan symbol passed into Christian motifs and legends.

The theme of the battle between Vahagn and the dragon was transformed into another motif of the battle of St. George the Victorious against the dragon as well as several depictions of the latter. Those images were used by Islam and can be seen in the heraldry of many countries and cities, for example, in the coat of arms of the city of Moscow.

Archetypes of swastikas in rock carvings of Armenia:

Crosses and swastikas from rock carvings in Armenia.
(a) Archetypes of crosses and swastikas from Armenian rock carvings; (b) swastikas in relief images of Christian churches in Armenia; (c) ornamentation with swastikas and encircled crosses at the Church of St. Karapet, Tsakhac Kar, Armenia (1041).
(a) A part of a carpet with an image of a swastika from the Artik (Aragatsotn province, Armenia) burial grounds, pre-Urartian period; (b) an image of Arevakhach; (c) an image with a swastika on ceramics from Shengavit, 5-4 millennia BC; (d) an image with a swastika on an artifact from Shankhor, 4-3 millenia BC; (e) swastikas on ceramics from Kanaker, Armenia, 2 millennia BC.
4. Swastikas on medieval artifacts – (a) on a khachkar, (b) on a column in the church of Deghdzut, (c) in an ornamentation of the dome of a church, (d) in Etchmiadzin, over the gates of Ani, (e) on pottery from Samarra (Iraq) displayed in Berlin, 4 millennia BC, (f) in various Christian manuscripts from Armenia.

Like the Vedic Aryans, in Armenia, the swastika was the embodiment of light in the broadest theological sense. The above figures (3b and 4b) depict stylized forms of “karatev” swastikas in the form of the so-called Arevakhach, the “solar cross”.

They have eight or six beams, which make them look like an eight-pointed cross or star. Another Armenian name for the swastika is “Vardan” (from the Proto-Armenian “rotating”).

An example of swastika can be found on the main gate, the Lion Gate, of the medieval capital of Armenia Ani (4d).

Arevakhach symbolized the divine light, the sun, the movement of life, prosperity, glory, eternity, and luck. Arevakhach in ancient Armenia was depicted on weapons, items of everyday use, carpets, clothes, tribal banners and coats of arms, and khachkars.

The above pictures show fragments of the most diverse swastika images illustrating the transformation of its styles and forms from the era of the rock carvings to the period of medieval ceramics and manuscripts.

Sourse: © Vaganian G. A, Vaganian V. G – 2013

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