Aug 18, 2013

Naadam Festival

The Naadam festival takes place in nearly every town in Mongolia during the first half of July. Mongolians refer to the events as the “three manly sports” which include horse racing, wrestling, and archery. No doubt, these ancient sports date back to the early days of the Mongol empire.

Amanda and I attended the Naadam festival in the tiny northern Mongolian town of Tsaganuur or White Lake. Like the rest of Mongolia, this town is the center of a large nomadic population. Naadam is the one time each year where many of these nomadic people gather in one place to compete against each other, to sing anthems, to sell goods, and to enjoy the festivities.

Here's a brief breakdown of what we saw:

1.  Horse Racing: Any boy between the ages of 8-12 with a horse competes in the horse racing event. They race on the open grassy plain in a course that climbs hills and crosses streams. The courses are either 15km or 30km. Most of the boys ride bareback and shoeless. These races were truly impressive if only for the length of time that the horses spend in a full sprint. They last about fifteen minutes. Later in the trip we saw a second Naadam horse race where about half of the riders were young girls.

2.  Wrestling: Legend has it that at some point in history, a woman posing as a man won this event. In protest, the male wrestlers devised a costume for the following year that you see in the photos. The lack of a chest covering meant any woman would surely be exposed. There are no weight classes in Mongolian wrestling meaning it is usually the largest contender who wins. Three matches at a time are fought in the central arena the winner is of course the only competitor to not lose a match.

3.  Archery: In Tsaganuur the archery competition was too similar to a carnival booth game for me to have much information on it. I know that women can compete in it as well.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

As usual, Amanda captures the scene beautifully.