The Nadaam Festival of Manly Sports


Nadaam, the `manly games´ or suur-kharbaan as it is called in Buryatya is a festival of the three mayor traditional sports in Mongolia: wrestling, horse racing and archery [8] . It is the biggest event in Mongolia´s public life. All over the countryside small Nadaams are celebrated and in the first part of July (11, 12 and 13) the national Nadaam in Ulaanbaatar is celebrated. This event lasts for three days of which the first is mainly reserved for the competitions and the third is dedicated to merry-making. The origin of this festival should go back centuries as an annual sacrificial ritual honouring various mountain gods or to celebrate a community endeavour (CSEN).



Humphrey describes how suur-kharbaan, the Buryat equivalent of nadaam, was very much secularised by the communist. At first being a ritualised archery competition, accompanied by other the other main traditional sports wrestling and horse racing, being held near an ovoo, it is reshaped into a `combination…of sports day and prizegiving´ (Humphrey 1983: 380).

Also within Buryatya there was a great variety of practises. In some regions the festival would have very much been under Lamaist influence, while in other parts it would be more of `a local affair´ (Humphrey 1983: 381).

Since 1924 the festival has been held every year on the first Sunday in July as a commemoration of the founding of the Buryat republic. Like in the Mongolian republic there is one big celebration in the stadium of the capital, being Ulan Ude and smaller versions in the country. But in Buryatya these are simultaneously, while in the other Mongolian regions they are sometimes held on different times (Humphrey 1983: 381). With the Daur Mongolians there might also at other occasions held a festival of  “manly games”, for instance after a large ovoo ritual was performed (Humphrey & Onon  1996: 148).



Humphrey refers also to the study of Kabzinska-Stawarz on `manly games´ among Khalkha Mongolians. This study supports the idea that the `manly games´ and with that the ovoo rituals where to support the tie between man and there land. In some behaviour of the wrestlers this is shown. The earth is touched before and after a fight, and even rubbed to gain strength from it. The winner throws milk foods towards the spectators, the ovoo, the mountains and the sky after he first has touched it with his forehead. In this with way he share the victory with them, and it is said it would give the whole population strength (Humphrey & Onon 1996: 151). According  Kabzinska-Stawarz games always had a purpose and where never just leisure. Even a kid’s game with the ankle-bones of an animal, was symbolizing the milking of different animals and thus increasing the amount of dairy products and wealth.



Taken from: A Fire On The Steppes: Religion and public celebrations of Greater Mongolia.


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