Mongolian Naadam Festival is the highlight of all these festivals and events that the country holds. It takes place on the 11-12th July annually. The Naadam festival, or eriyn gurvan nadaam, is the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians.
The word “nadaam” means game or competition in Mongolian. Competitions take place days on the first two and merry-making is reserved for the third. The Naadam festival has been held for centuries as a form of memorial celebration, as an annual sacrificial ritual honoring various mountain gods or to celebrate a community endeavor.
The festivities kick off with a colorful parade of athletes, monks, soldiers marching in perfect uniformity, musicians performing powerful military tunes, and Mongolians dressed in Chinggis-style warrior uniforms. It is the most widely watched festival in the country, and is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another.
Some colourful pictures of this event for your viewing!
Naadam is the most widely watched festival in Inner mongolia, and is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another. Naadam has its origin in the activities, such as military parades and sporting competitions such as archery, horse riding and wrestling, that followed the celebration of various occasions.
Wrestlers compete on the green field of the State Central Stadium where 512 wrestlers meet in a single-elimination tournament that lasts nine or ten rounds. In this competition, there is no time limit, no weight category. Wrestler lose if they touch the ground.
Wrestlers wear two-piece costumes consisting of a tight shoulder vest (zodog) and shorts (shuudag). Only men are allowed to play. Each wrestler has an “encourager” called a zasuul, whose task is to take minute care of every detail during a tournament. The zasuul sings a song of praise for the winning wrestler after rounds 3, 5, and 7.
Winners of the 7th, 8th and 9th stage earn the title of zann which means elephants. The winner of the 9th or 10th stage, is called arslan, “lion”. In the final competition, all the “zasuuls” drop in the wake of each wrestler as they take steps toward each other. Two time arslans are called the champions, or the “avrag”.
It’s impossible to imagine the Mongolians without their horses as they have a high regard for horses since, for centuries, they have relied on them for transport, sustenance, and companionship.
There are 6 different categories of Mongol national horse racing depending on the age of horses. The riders, both boys and girls are aged between 5-12 and the distance of the race ranges from 15-30 km. Horses race on natural track and natural barriers. The training of horses takes several months. A key to endurance are an empty stomach and the capacity to dissipate heat. For the first, horses are kept on a sophisticated diet while for the latter they have to gallop miles up-hill covered with woolen blankets etc.
After the races, the top five horses in each class earn the title of “airgiyn tav” and the top three are given gold, silver, and bronze medals. In addition, the losing two-year-old horse is is given a top-five award, in the belief that that horse will do better in the next race and is allotted special attention by being serenaded with a song. Music is very important before the race too, as the audience sings traditional songs and the the jockeys sing a pre-race song called a gingo.
A day at the races is very much a feast. If it is a Naadam in the countryside, people will usually enjoy quantities of fresh white cheese, tea with milk and salt, sometimes accompanied by various kinds of doughnuts. The winning horses get their share, too. They are decorated and sprinkled with koumyss, a kind of fermented mare’s milk, while the very last horse gets to hear a song wishing more luck in the following year.
Archery, originating from time immemorial, is the oldest sport of the Mongols. Traditionally, this was only men’s sport but nowadays both men and women compete in separate divisions. Male archers shoot on a 75m range while female archers shoot on a 60 m range.
The sport of archery originated around the 11th century, during the time of Khanate warfare. Contestants dress in traditional costumes and use a bent bow constructed of horn, bark, and wood. The arrows, made from willow branches and vulture feathers are shot at round, leather targets with grey, yellow or red rings. Bows and arrows have remained much the same over centuries, are made of natural materials and do not have any of the technical features now popular among marksmen in western countries.
The winners of the contest are granted the titles of “National marksman” and “National markswoman”. Age counts positively since it is not force but experience and eyesight that make winners. It is no wonder, then, that many participants are men in their 40s and 50s.
The Naadam Festival is the major Mongolian holiday and a wonderful time to experience the culture and people of this amazing land. The festival has its roots in the nomad wedding assemblies and hunting extravaganzas of the Mongol Army.
The opening ceremony features marches and music from soldiers, monks and athletes before the real fun begins! In the Naadam Stadium the three sporting passions of Mongolians, horse racing, wrestling and archery, are played out over 2 days. But if you don’t want to watch sport all the time, there’s plenty to see and do outside – food, music, crafts or just people watching.
Once you have had your fill of the sports, people watching and local food and culture, you can go to the Gobi desert to visit sand dunes and the land of dinosaurs with some of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever see. This is the best time to see the Mongolian people and soak up the party atmosphere!
Travel to Mongolia and see Great Naadam festival of Mongolia!