Levon Arakelyan’s Divine Cave
A simple request to create a potato cellar turned into a lifelong commitment of creating a stunning network of caves for Levon Arakelyan.
Witnessing the series of caves in Arinj one would be amazed to find out that it’s a work of one man. In 1985, Tosya Gharibyan asked her husband to dig a potato storehouse for her. Having worked as a builder his whole life, Levon Arakelyan had no issue working with tools and soon enough found himself unable to stop digging. Not even a layer of rock, described by villagers as impenetrable, stopped Arakelyan as he dug deeper and deeper with each passing day. For 23 years, until his death, he committed to his vision which has now turned into a museum often visited by curious travelers.
Arakelyan claimed that he had visions in his dreams which he tried to bring to life by recreating them down to exact measurements. He ended up creating a masterpiece that goes 21 meters down into the earth. The cave includes 6 rooms that are interconnected by a maze of stairs and corridors. His vision stretched over 74 rooms, yet he passed away before being able to realize it fully. He was working on the day he died.
His wife Tosya Gharibyan runs the museum now, displaying the tools, pictures and other items that capture Arakelyan’s journey. Levon didn’t use any modern tools or equipment; only a hammer and chisel.
His passion wasn’t simply limited to digging. Arakelyan’s mosaics and stoneworks are displayed in the courtyard. Throughout the caves visitors are greeted by different carvings and sculptures that he made in the process of expanding the cave. It is hard to believe that one man could manage to create such a masterpiece, yet Arakelyan claimed throughout his life that he wasn’t alone on this journey; a spirit guided him all throughout.
Photo credits: atlasobscura