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Armenian symbol of the Sun in the ground

December 28, 2013


I have already posted about Armenian ancient sun symbols but not many people know that the Armenians also have the sun symbol in the ground. That is the Armenian Tonir. From ancient times till now the Tonir was worshiped by the Armenians like other sun symbols and it is known as a symbol of Sun in the ground.

Ancient Armenians made tonirs in resemblance with the setting sun “going into the ground” (Sun being the main deity).

Armenia flatbread - Lavash in Tonir

Lavhash – traditional Armenian flatbread
Lav means good in Armenian and hash bread
Traditionally the dough is rolled out flat and slapped against the hot walls of a clay oven (Armenian tonir – which is also the symbol of sun in ancient times). While quite flexible when fresh, lavash dries out quickly and becomes brittle and hard. In villages in Armenia, the dried lavash is stacked high in layers to be used later, and when the time comes to rehydrate the bread, it is sprinkled with water to make it softer again.

The underground, clay Tonir is one of the first tools of Armenian cuisine, as an oven and as a thermal treatment tool. Everything that is made in pots and in tonirs has Armenian origin, but only Armenians had underground tonirs. It isn’t accidentally that the secret of the special taste of Armenian dishes /Kashika, Kchakhash, BBQ-Xorovats, Khorvu, Fish, Gata, Lavash/ cooked in a tonir is hidden there, where the food is made.

Other nations have borrowed the Tonir from Armenians and are using it nowadays, but only Armenians are aware of the ritual meaning of the Tonir. Armenians were already using the tonir thousand years ago. In the stage of sunworshipping, the Tonir is considered to be  the symbol of sun on the earth. Pagan Armenians have similared tonir with sunset. Every time Armenian women are baking bread or preparing food, they bent down before the Tonir, which also meant worship for deity.

Unlike other people, who also may have something like the Tonir to bake bread, the Armenian Tonir has been used for different purposes. The Armenians cooked meals in the Tonir, they used the Tonir to heat the house, moreover, it was perfect for medical purposes, for example, to warm and cure the sick and afficted.

1476397_527779280669957_67515180_nObviously, the traditional tonir has a great medicinal effect. In ancient times it has been situated in the center of the house, which was symbolizing the permanent providing of sun heat in the house. They were putting “kursi” on the Tonir, were covering it with a carpet and they were putting their feet under the ”kursi” in cold days. The Tonir had also a non bacterial effect, as they have used the cow’s dung, as a fuel, which has been famous for its medicinal traits since ancient times.

Formerly, the Tonir hasn’t only an impotant meaning in Armenian cuisine, but also in lifestyle. In traditional families the Tonir has always been identified with “home”. It is no secret, that in ancient times Armenian families have lived under one single roof, where, as a rule, in the center of the large room was a Tonir. It was the base of the Armenian family, where they were not only baking bread and preparing food, but also proceeded Armenian family’s life in good, old times around it. They were marrying, even healing near the Tonir. The members of the family were gathering around it at dinner time, or during the parties and the rest.

Armenian Ghapama from Tonir . An Armenian song about a big feast organised in the villages around a large pumpkin (Ghapama). Everyone joins in the ferstival while it is being cooked!

Armenian Ghapama from Tonir . An Armenian song about a big feast organised in the villages around a large pumpkin (Ghapama). Everyone joins in the ferstival while it is being cooked!

In the Armenian Highlands they have baked bread 3-2 milleniums before the birth of Christ. That confirms the clay ovens (tonir) and the relics of bread, which have been discovered in a variety of old places. During the excavations of Artashat city, Armenia, there have been discovered tonirs of that same period.

Though the rules of lifestyle have changed in time, the custom of baking Lavash, bread, gata and making a lot of food in a Tonir has remained unbreakable.

Smoke of  tonir is continuing to stay the symbol of peace, unification and strengthening of Armenian family and home.

Since 2012 “Tonraton” – the Food Festival has been held in Armenia. On August 11, for the Navasard holiday (the old Armenian “New Year”, which was dedicated to Armenian pagan gods), featuring dishes cooked in this forefather of the modern oven.


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  1. Looking forward to reading more. Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

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