The Khevsur National Heroes | KHEVSURETI

The Khevsur National Heroes

Historical and heroic narratives have a special place in Khevsur oral tradition. of martial spirit residing in the mountains of the Caucasus venerated their heroes, men of exceptional bravery, strenght and character. Often they were deificated, described with mythic attributes. Among the national heroes of medieval Khevsureti the most distinguished was Torgva Dzagani, who put an end to the plundering raids of neighbor tribes and built a fortress-village, Mutso, with its impregnable stronghold towers. His strength and deeds made him so famous that folk storytellers represented him as a mythical hero and deity. A legend has it that Torgva was born with visible marks of the sun, moon and cross on his shoulders that was considered to be a token of his supernatural strength and celestiality. In the first half of the 17th century the freedom-loving, Khevsuris had to struggle simultaneously with the North-Caucasian wandering tribes and with feudal abuse from the south. The power-loving eristavis (“eristavi”, i.e. a head (prince) or local feudal lord) of the valley Aragvi had an ambitious design to subjugate free Khevsureti. The bloody battles waged for more than ten years and ended in a victory by the Khevsurs. The warfare brought fame to many of the Khevsurs, such as Khirchila Baburauli (Arabuli), Martia Misurauli (Gogochuri), Berdia Mamukauri (Gigauri), Mamuka Qalundauri (Gogochuri)… According to a legend, Mamuka Qalundauri, who fought against the Aragvi eristavis, was followed by a ray of light and had a miraculous sword, which would move itself out of the sheathe giving the sign to the master that it was time to start fighting. Qalundauri defeated the eristavi and erected a stone monument as a symbol of the victory on Beghengori in the vicinity of the village of Gudani. Along with the male defenders of the native land, the Khevsur women also took part in warfare against the enemy. Oral traditions preserved the names of two distinguished female warriors – Buba Basilauri and Tamarul Chincharauli. According to a narrative, the squadrons of Lekis (Avars) took part in a plundering raid on the villages of Khevsureti. The locals had to shelter themselves in the fortress-towers and resist the enemy from there. Tamarul failed to keep up with the others and tried to fortify herself in the house. In an unequal skirmish she killed seven assailants. A special ritual dedicated to Tamarul Chincharauli was performed in commemoration of this brave feat in Gudanis Jvari. Buba Basilauri, wearing her father’s chain mail and armed with a broadsword, mounted her horse and entered the battle. The assailants found out that they had been fighting with a woman, when Buba fell from the horse and her long hair could be seen from under the helmet. Here is an example of stoicism characteristic to a Khevsuri woman: One of the towers in the village of Shatili bears the following inscription in token of defeat of Akhverdi Mahmud’s strong army: “By the supreme order, in reward to Shatilians for defeating Akhverdi Mahmud’s hosts. 1843.” At the height of the fighting the bullet shot by the enemy ricocheted on the tower’s wall, flew through the window opening into the dwelling and hit the baby lying in the cradle. The baby’s mother noticed blood on the little one, covered the cradle with a blanket and continued giving ammunition to her husband. When the fighting ended, the husband said: «The baby has been sleeping for a long time… Wake him up!» «The poor thing will never wake up», – sorrowfully said the wife and removed the blanket from the cradle. The wife concealed the baby’s death from her husband not to upset him, so that he could shoot the enemy without missing.