Friday, March 21, 2014

Final taste of Mongolian culture, Nauryz, down to the wire activities

Dashchoylin Monastery (photograph by Karl Shuler)
 Dashchoylin monastery.  Elder Stewart, Ulziika and ourselves visited the Dashchoylin monastery. There were three main worship centers. 

Photography was not permitted inside. We were able to watch a full-fledged Buddhist ceremonial worship service. 

It was everything you would expect and more – clanging cymbals, drums, gongs, and other percussion sounds interspersed between or over the constant din of chanting prayers. We watched for about 20 minutes and then they started a ceremony.

A group of four monks donned ceremonial shawls and stood under a special canopy. There was a ritual of layering sand/dirt and money on trays and then offering a small portion of the dirt to each of the chanting monks offering ritual prayers while seated along two rows flanking the center aisle. 
Note the symbol on the chest of the Buddha. Hitler adopted this Mongolian symbol and reversed it to form the infamous swasticka
Ten of the 30 or so worshipers who had their own special prayer service off to one side joined the main ceremony by grasping on to a rope stringing from the canopy to the end of the center aisle.

The monks then removed their shawls and took the canopy to its normal resting spot. The worshipers went to the front the altar and bowed and prayed to the many images of Buddhist gods. Some of them then went and offered fresh, crisp money to the chanting monks. 

We described this ceremony to our English class and they were familiar with what we had watched. This was an other-worldly Mongolian/Tibetan Buddhist experience we won’t forget.

Celebrating Kazakh Nauryz. This is a special Kazakh Muslim holiday that goes back to about 100 B.C.  It is quite similar to how Tsaagan Car is celebrated in Mongolia. 
There was a mixture of Mongolian and Kazakh dancers and singers performing
There was a parade of Kazakh young men and women in traditional costumes

Happy to be there
Naurzyz is a celebration of a renewal and spring for having survived the harsh winter with their flocks and animal stock intact. It is a time for cleaning, merry-making, family visits, friendship and love. Wars and fights should stop.
Front row seating for the children and the elderly
About 10 percent of Mongolia’s population is Kazakh with the majority in Bayan-Ulgii Province. A lot of Kazakhs have come to Ulaanbaatar for education and work. 
Percussion band
The government sponsors a public celebration for the Kazakh community on the day before Nauryz to promote good relationships between the Mongols and the Kazakhs. 
From my backstage location, I had the best view
There was a special cultural program at Sukhbaatar Square with Kazakh music, dancing, and Kazakh crafts for sale. 
Last chance to hold an eagle in Mongolia
Up close and personal with another eagle
Darlene had a last minute phone call for asking for help on Family History so she couldn’t join me.

Here are photos of some of the program I was able to see. 
Wrestlers about to demonstrate their take down moves

In Mongolia, they love wrestling almost as much as basketball
Or is it boxing?
Dress up day for Kazakh children
AK treated me to hamburger and fries
I was doing some photography when a friend from the Unur Ward pulled me aside. He goes by AK, is at least 6’ 8”, speaks great English, and interprets for us at church. He is Kazakh and was on the organizing committee for Kazakh celebration. 

He showed me a museum that had been set up for the day. The artist J. Oilan was exhibiting his work. There was also a display of a new Buddha Maidar being constructed and to be completed in Ulaanbaatar by 2025.
Mock up of the Maidar buddha and setting
The head of Maidar is already completed and on display
Улaaн цaxирмаа - 2012

Khovskul sea - 2012
Then we went to have cheeseburgers at the Central Tower which overlooks Sukhbaatar Square. 

Kazakh festivities from above

AK took a picture of his American style-hamburger
Other happenings. We celebrated Elder Stewart’s birthday with a cake and birthday wishes.
A very young 69 - he is hard to keep up with
Elder Palmer drew two sketches and gave them to him as a birthday present.

We had our last English class on Thursday. 
Our last hurrah in the classroom
A few of the students hung around afterward and wanted their picture taken with me.
Part of our after class "Shoot the bull" group
A visit to Ukraine Nara's home. Ukraine Nara (called that because she served a mission to the Ukraine and to distinguish her from all of the other Naras in the church) invited us, the Stewarts, Moogie and her friend to her home for a meal. Great visit and food!

We’ve been cleaning, packing and weighing suitcases. We have two suitcases weighing 50 lbs. each packed and ready to go.
Scenes you don't expect to see in Mongolia
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
We’ve got our presentation to the National Archives ready to go. I’ll discuss how it went in our next blog. I am making a Status of Family History in Mongolia report for President Benson prior to our departure. 
Wait a minute, this is Mongolia, isn't it?


  1. My goodness! What an amazing time you had this week! I am so in love with Mongolian children! Thank you for posting Nicholas's picture - he loves to draw. I hope you have a great final last few days in UB - I am going to miss this soooooo much!

  2. One more week! I can't believe it! I'm going to miss this blog too, but I think it will be better to have you home. :)