Vardavar (Vartavar) allows people to enjoy the madness of the summer for a whole day. Just imagine if everyone is allowed to drench water on others. In many countries people would probably call police in such cases, but not in Armenia.
The craziest holiday of summer, Vardavar (Vartavar), is a favorite of almost every Armenian. Just imagine that you are allowed to pour water on whoever you want, wherever you want and how much you want. Isn’t it fun?
It can be a policeman, a politician, old man, or just a child. They can be standing outside, watching from the window, driving a car, or sitting in the bus, doesn’t matter where, you can pour water on them. No one will be punished and no one will complain.
So, let’s find out more about this wonderful celebration…
The Origin of Vardavar (Vartavar)
Vardavar is usually celebrated 14 weeks after Armenian Easter. In many regions of Armenia, it is also called Vartavar. This tradition may probably sound strange to a lot of foreigners, but definitely not boring. It’s a festival where everyone is allowed to drench water on each other, or strangers.
Vardavar is a national religious holiday. But its has roots go back to pagan times, when Christianity did not exist. According to pagan symbolism, goddess of love, named Astghik, poured rosewater from the sky. She spread love in such way to the land of Armenia.
There are many paganists who believe that it was also the symbol of love God Vahagn, who was the lover of Goddess Astghik. This is where the name of the festival comes from, because “Vard” in Armenian means rose.
During pagan times people used to celebrate Vartavar in August. The reason for this was that the Old Armenian calendar marked new year in the month of “Navasard”, which is August. It was the month when residents of Armenia paid their respect to goddess Astghik by pouring water with roses on one another.
Why roses? According to the legend Astghik always covered herself with roses. This is also visible in literature and architecture. If one explores pagan Armenian symbolism, in all paintings and sculptures Goddess Astghik was covered with roses.
The Biblical Legend about the Origin of Vardavar (Vartavar)
There is also another legend about the origin of Vardavar. According to the biblical legend, after the great flood Noah’s Ark landed on Mt Ararat. When the flood was over Noah settled in the area of Nakhichevan.
Noah and his sons are considered to be the first inhabitants of Nakhijevan. After the settlement Noah ordered his sons to drench water on each other as way of commemoration of the Great Flood. They did this annually on the same day.
Many people believe that this legend can totally be true, since the area of Nakhijevan is full of alkaline soil, which is explained to be left after the salty flood water.
Where is Vardavar Festival Celebrated?
Over many centuries people celebrated Vardavar as a holiday, or ritual. But today it is celebrated as a festival, too. It’s hard to say that Vardavar festivals are held in all Armenian cities and towns. Mostly, in those places where there is festival held, Vardavar stays as a ritual.
Nevertheless, the Capital Yerevan is a place where all kind of festivals are welcome. Vardavar is not an exception.
Vardavar fest venue #1: The Swan Lake
The biggest festival is held near the Swan Lake, or perhaps in the Swan Lake. The municipality of Yerevan arranges everything beforehand, there are DJs who play fun music, there are special water canons for pouring water on everybody.
The festival is open air, so no registration or tickets are required. Everyone can take an empty bottle and go the Swan Lake, where amazing adventures are awaiting them.
Vardavar fest venue #2: TUMO Park
The next place of the Vardavar festival is the garden of TUMO. It is located on the Halabyan street, next to the Kievian bridge. It’s one of the best gardens in Yerevan. Just like Swan Lake, no registration is required and no tickets.
Mostly younger people and children gather in this garden. There are even special games organized as well as the best DJs play music. Interestingly, the program for every year is different. They try to make the festival interesting, that’s why games and other parts of the program change from year to year.
Vardavar fest venue #3: Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple
This festival is an international one. This festival is organized by Federation of Youth Clubs in Armenia. There are 120 young people from all around the world involved. The festival takes place in two locations.
The Christian part of the Vardavar Festival
The first part takes place in Geghard monastery, it’s a traditional ritual. First there is a liturgy in church, later priests release doves. This is the important part of the ritual. And then some traditional singing, dancing is performed. This is the Christian part of the festival, because Vardavar is also an adopted Christian holiday.
The Pagan part of the Vartavar Festival
The second part of the festival takes place in Gari pagan temple. This is the original part of the festival, because the tradition originates from pagan culture. There is a special theatrical play staged, which lasts about an hour.
During the whole festival there are regional exhibitions presented near the entrance of the temple. Every region of Armenia has its space and they demonstrate cultural traditional features of their own region. In the end, of course comes the most awaited part: the water fight. There is plenty of water in Temple territory, because there are drinking fountains nearby.
Groups of young people from different parts of the world have their special performance. Each of them performs some folk singing and dancing of their own countries. Later, some of them come together and perform Armenian folk songs and dances.
Since the festival takes place in Garni, there are special buses that arrange the transfer of those who want to get from Yerevan to Garni and back. The cost of the transfer is about 5-6$, it also includes lunch.
For those who can reach Garni themselves, the entrance of the temple and also Geghard monastery is free. Everyone can become a part of this beautiful festival.
So, what are you waiting for?
Many people may think that this holiday is too childish and mature people may not enjoy it. But that’s not true in case of Armenia. Vardavar is one of the most beloved and awaited holidays in Armenia both by young people and adults.
Of course, it is natural that children enjoy this holiday much more and they are not the only ones, visitors of the city seem to like it as well. As it is extremely hot in Armenia during that time of the year this is the most fun and ideal way of escaping the heat and turning a regular Sunday to a festival. So, if you plan your trip to Armenia in summer and want to be part of Armenian festivals, you should definitely be present at Vardavar! This is a MUST experience for every visitor.
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