THINGS TO DO‎ > ‎

MONGOLIAN FESTIVALS


MONGOLIA FESTIVALS

THE THREE MANLY SPORTS OF THE NAADAM FESTIVAL
Every July, Mongolians gather in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city for the Naadam festival featuring wrestling, horse racing, archery, dances and many other things. During this time it is celebrated as a National Holiday. People enjoy to drink fermented mare’s milk and to eat mutton during the three days of games and tests of courage which are a part of festival and is almost as old as the Olympic Games. Playing an important role in this tradition are the singers and musicians, both professional, and amateur, praising athletes and the horses they ride. While the official start date in the capital is July, 11th Naadam is celebrated throughout the countryside, within the month of July.
Naadam is accurately known as “Eriyn Gurvan Naadam”, after three "main sports" wrestling, archery and horse racing.

1. WRESTLING
Mongolian wrestling is similar to wrestling that is found in other places, with the exception that there are no weight categories, therefore the biggest wrestlers (and they are big!) often win and are the best. Mongolian wrestling also has no term; wrestling will continue with short breaks, it will end only when the first fighter falls, or when something, except soles of the feet or open palms touch the ground. Before each elimination bout, wrestlers limber up and honour the judges and their individual attendants (zasuul) with a short dance called a devekh, or 'eagle dance'.
After the wrestling the loser has to execute “takhimaa ogokh” walking under the right arm of the winner, who then does a lap of honor around the flag on a pedestal and does some more eagle dancing.
This gesture means peace between two wrestlers. Wrestlers wear heavy boots which are called gutal.. The tight, unflattering trousers are called shuudag, and the small waistcoat worn over the shoulders is zodog.
The open-fronted waistcoat was allegedly introduced after one Amazonian-sized female wrestler floored all the male wrestlers, when it was discovered she was a woman the waistcoat was introduced to ensure that women would no longer take part in bouts (and defeat the men!). Winners are granted a nice name depending on how many rounds they win. These names can be Nachin (falcon) - five rounds; zaan (elephant) - seven rounds, and Arslan (lion) –given to the winner of tournament. When they are awarded Arslan or a lion, a victory on end it becomes two years avarga, or champion.
You will see plenty of wrestling if you are in Mongolia during the Naadam Festival or during the Ikh Sorilgo (Major Test) tournaments in the weeks before Naadam.

2. HORSE RACING
There are usually six categories of races, depending on the age of horses: for example, the two-year-old horse called shudlen, there will be a race for 15 km, and six and seven-year-old Azraga (Stallion) and Ikh-nas horses race for up to 30 km
There are no tracks or courses; it is just open countryside, which leaves great scope for cheating. Jockeys - boys and girls aged from 5 to 13 years -prepare within several months for special races, especially at Naadam. Horses are fed a special diet for weeks beforehand.
The competition is not without its dangers: in 1999 a young rider was tragically killed during one of the horse races. Before the race, the audience all wear traditional dresses, and often sing traditional songs.
Young horsemen sing an anthem known as traditional Giin-goo before the race, and scream 'goog' at the horses during the race.
After the race, the winner will be declared “Tumnii Ekh” leader of ten thousand. Riders and spectators rush to comb the sweat off a winning horse with a scraper traditionally made from a pelican's beak.
The winning five horses are given the title”Airgiin Tav” and will be respected and admired by people and traditional poems are read out extolling the virtues of the riders and trainers. The jockeys must drink some special mare’s fermented milk known as airag, which is then often sprinkled on the riders' heads and on the horses' backsides. During Naadam, a song is also sung to the two-year-old horse that ends in the last place.

3. ARCHERY
Like horse racing, the sport of archery originates from the war epoch near the 11 century. Archers use a bent composite bow which is made from layered horns, barks and wood. As a rule, arrows are made of willow and feathers from vultures and other birds of prey. Traditionally dressed, men archers stand 75m from the target while women archers stand 60m. The target is a line of up to 360-round gray, red and/or yellow leather rings (known as sur) on the ground.
Usually there are only about 20 or 30 rings. After each shot, special judges, who stand near the target (but amazingly never to be injured) let out a short shout which is called Uukhai, and raise their hands in the air to specify the quality of the shot. The winner who hits the target in most cases is recognized as the best archer, or Mergen. Classic Mongolia Naadam Trip