Naadam Festival

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The biggest event and national pride of the year for Mongolians is the well known Naadam Festival, occurs at the height of summer in July. The festival is also called “Eriin Gurvan Naadam,” meaning “Three Manly Games”. It is a true test of manhood in such traditional games as horse racing, archery and wrestling. This ancient festival dates back many centuries and was originally created as a celebration during weddings or spiritual gatherings. After 1921, the Naadam Festival became an official celebration of the National Revolution Victory. On July 11 the revolutionaries mounted a successful attack, Urguu, a capital city, and expelled Chinese military garrison.

Wrestling – The tournanment is the focal point of the festival. Altogether 512-1024 wrestlers step onto the arena at the start of the wrestling tournament. Wrestlers come up slowly and imitating the flight of mythical Phoenix bird. Wrestlers then divide into two groups on two sides of the arena. After a signal they converge in a fierce battle. After half an hour the weakest ones are knocked out and the winners of the first round emerge, proudly waving their hands imitating eagle’s flights. The tournament lasts for two days and after eight matches only the strongest ones remain to wrestle for the title of a Titan, the highest rank. Each Mongolian wrestlers has a title of his own; Lion, Elephant and Falcon.

Horse racing – Naadam festival’s horse race opens with a parade of all participants, and young jockeys sing Tumnii Ekh or Leader of Ten Thousand Horses.The number of horses to race is not limited, and some two thousands horses race for 30 km in five age groups. Though, young, two-year-old colts run for shorter, only 15km distance. As for riders, only children aged 4-12 are allowed to be jockeys. The racing takes place not on a special track but across a rugged terrain. The first five winning horses are called airag ones according to old tradition. A young jockey is given cup of airag, some of which is poured over the horse’s head and back.

Archery – Archery was an inseparable part of Mongolian history. Mongolian bows are very tight ones, so that it requires a pure strength to stretch. The team of 5-7 archers should hit 33 leather fist-sized basket targets from a distance of 75 meters. During the game, judges stand in two sides next to the target. Each time archer prepares for a short, they would start slowly the so called Uukhai song. As soon as the arrow hits the target, the song’s melody changes and an experienced archer immediately learns about how many targets were hit. The winning archer is titled mergen, meaning sharpshooter, the one who hits the targets the most times.