Our group moved towards Hounot
canyon from the Ancient cemetery. Our aim was the shootings of the
caverns, included in the defense system of the canyon at the beginning
of the 18th century. From those caverns, Shoushi Sghnakh, headed
by commander Avan in autumn of 1726, fought for 8 days against 40000
army and won. As the teller, catholicos of Gandzasar, political leader
of Artsakh liberation movement, Yesaji Hasan-Dgalalyan, writes: Turkish
army “crossed the two-day
way in one day”. Karkar rivulet flows in the unfathomable canyon.
It was a drought year, and the rivulet withered. The ruins of Hounot
village appeared. The row of the houses leaned against the cliffs,
one edge of which goes down inclining to the rivulet. I entered one
of the arched houses and through the ruins I noticed the mulberry-trees
and members of the shooting group appearing among them. I already imagined
the restored Hounot village. It will be transformed into camping hotels
from the arched houses, while being included in the tourism complex
A little later the men appeared under the ancient one-arched bridge.
The stones of the arch fell down, and it seemed that it would break
down now. The mills were not far from the bridge, which during 1000
years provided flour to the town-fortress and the surrounding villages.
Osmanians in 1726 didn’t manage to take the mills from Rostomian
brothers from Shosh village. After going some way up the river flow,
we reached Karkar waterfall, which was a real surprise for us. The
sewage created a thick layer of green color on the roof of the caves
with an interesting structure. While flowing through them, the waters
in the entire width of the opening of the cave created a spurting veil.
Water, while falling to the cliff, flew into the river. We crossed
the river by a wooden bridge and entered the forest. I imagined how
the commander Avan enjoyed this unusual and sole waterfall every time
he crossed this place with his soldiers, and he thought that just because
of this miracle it was worth fighting and defending the native land.
Avan gathered approximately 50 thousand horses and the same quantity
of cows in this canyon, getting ready to meet the Russian army with
dignity, which didn’t come to help Artsakh people in the end.
The canyon had a unique microclimate, and both in summer and in winter,
the animals could find abundant food here. Finally, we again crossed
the river to the left bank and by the hardly seen path we moved up
the cliff. The sharp inclination was a serious examination for our
group. The ballasts, while rolling, pushed us down together with them,
and one moment we appeared in the role of Sisyphean toil, which had
to take the stone which was rolling down from the mount all the time.
But we learned to overcome this obstacle by grasping the bushes. Our
guide showed in the middle of vertical parts the big black crevice,
which was situated 200 m high from us, Avani karan (cavern), where
our group had to scramble.
- What do you think, can we reach there? - I asked.
- Of course, - calmly answered Ashot.
From the bottom of the canyon and till Dgdrdouz (Persian word which
means tent robber), the perpendicularly stretching cliff, in reality,
had unnoticed, having stairs and on this created path we had to reach
the cave. At the time of the creation of the canyon, the nature as
if taking into account the problem of security provision for local
Armenian population, by moving the cliffs, created a passage, which
by a unique zigzag reached Avan cavern. By separating from the group,
I went forward enough, aiming at finding connection in my mind with
long ago people living here 300 years ago, as well as with commander
Avan. But I didn’t manage to do it by any means, as the grass
growing on the sloping path, became dry and I was stumbling over very
often, so I had to think about somehow escaping this notable hell and
staying alive. Finally, the cavern was very close, about 30 meters
above me. But to reach it, I had to cross the stairs for some 400 meters,
the road full of dangers. Down the cavern stone layings were seen.
According to the written sources, Avan rebuilt palaces of princes in
the Citadel of the town-fortress. Scientist Sarkissov from Baku says
that there were Armenian scriptures at the entrance of the palace in
1711. Traces of stone laying at the beginning of upper stairs leading
to the cavern were seen there. And to the right of cavern entrance,
there was a tower of round planning with embrasure left since time-period
of Avan. We appeared in Avan’s cavern by passing under the waters
dropping from the ceilings. In the left side the water was falling
from the ceiling into the tub made by the cliff. The height of the
cavern is about 15 meter. The earth was filled in on the entire floor
of the cavern. We met a young man from Karintak with a rifle and with
ammunition belt in the cavern. He was waiting for the dark here to
start his night hunting in the canyon with the help of the lantern.
He said that from this cliff one can see another cavern of the same
- Are the caverns interconnected? - I asked.
This cavern has about 200 meter depth, - said the
director of the museum, maybe the stones fell down because of the
earthquake, thus closing the roads leading to other caverns.
In the opposite vertical cliff of the canyon, cave crevices were opened
as well. The stairs leading to the cave were filled with stone laying
in numerous places. But for a person observing from Shoushi, no road
leading to the cave, was seen. When a rider, as if flying over the
precipice, rushed towards the cave, it seemed as if a miracle or imagination
to the observer. In fact, while seeing it all, right now I understood
that it was impossible to expect a military success over Armenian army,
which had such a defense system. It is not in vain that the best Turkish
army on its way of attacking Russian army, which conquered the western
shore of the Caspian, stood against refractory Artsakh and was destructively
defeated under Shoushi.
Now we had to go by another road, by scrambling the cliffs to reach
Vranagogh (Dgdrdouz). I have read in ancient written sources that in
one cavern 40 steps led to the depth of the grotto, where there was
drinking water. So now we are going up the natural huge stairs, which
include many 40 steps. Tradition says that the grotto opens to the
palace of Prince Shahnazar the Second.
After a one-hour ascent, to my surprise, we appeared on the terrain
of Vranagogh, from which the visitors to Shoushi like to observe the
remarkable and tremendous Hounot canyon.
To be continued