The meaning of word “Naadam”
The root of the word Naadam in Mongolian Íààäàì comes from verb naadakh, meaning is to play and have fun. The festival is also called `Eriin gurvan naadam` meaning `three manly games`. The games are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery, and are the only ones that are held throughout the country.
History of Naadam Festival
The history of the games began centuries ago at the time of Hun Empire when hunting and other events were wilder and more primitive. The holiday has became a regular national event when all the nomad tribes would come together to show the best of their physical strength wrestling, riding and shooting, skills essential for survival of Mongol nomadic herders and hunters.
Later, during the Mongol empire the games lost some of their original glamour and impetus when the court of Kubilai khan moved to Peking and when the Mongol empire disintegrated. However in the 17th century the tribes regrouped at the Shiree Tsagaan Lake to celebrate the Danshig Naadam accompanied by Buddhist religious ceremonies. Since 1922, when Sukhbaatar ordered a naadam to mark the first anniversary of the revolution on July 11.
Opening ceremony of Naadam Festival
The opening ceremony raising 9 white banners in the presence of the president begins at 11 at the Naadam Stadium. At the stadium, a huge procession is held including hundreds of adults and children dressed in costumes representing Mongolia's numerous ethnic groups. The opening ceremony features a colorful show with folk music, song, folk and religious dance, contortions, traditional costume and parachute show and great parade with participants to festival. The first round of wrestling will start immediately thereafter.
Introduction of Festival
The festival highlights Mongolia’s three manly sports – horse racing, wrestling and archery. It continues to bring together Mongolian’s sporting men and women from remotest regions to compare at national level n Ulaanbaatar. The combination of people and events presents unforgettable spectacle to the visitor: colorful silken tunics, fresh-faced nomads, thundering hooves, flying arrows, wrestling bouts, which thrill and entertain thousands of spectators.
Outside the capital, smaller games or mini naadam festivals happen throughout the summer months. Mongolian festivals bring herders into the towns and their environs from isolated encampments to gatherings where they have the opportunity to participate in the events, to barter, flirt, mix, sing and enjoy life to the full.
Horse racing: The most impressive spectacle is surely the horse racing. The horses cover different distances according to their age. Azarga (stallions) 28km, Ikh nas (horses more than 5 years old) 30km, Soyolon(5-year olds) 25km, Khyazaalan (4-year olds) 22km, Shudlen (3-year olds) 20km and Daaga (colts to 2 years old) 15km. There are no limits on the number of horses participating; usually 200-600 horses in each race. The five winning horses are honored with a cup of mare’s milk (airag) on their neck, a khadag (respectful blue scarf) and a medal. Horses that finishes last of each race is given the title ‘’Bayan khodood’’ (full stomach), in the hope that it may be more successful next year.
Wrestling: Normally, the 512 wrestlers special year even 1024 wrestlers fight in the stadium, for the prestigious title “State Titan”. Both the “Titan” himself and the trainers, have the opportunity to choose partners during the first few rounds, thus reducing the number of less experienced wrestlers early on and creating more excitement for the final matches at the second day. The rules are very simple: The wrestling area is unrestricted; there are no weight-classes and the one who touches the ground the any part of the body, other than the feet, has lost.
The winner continues to the next round. A wrestler, who defeats 5 partners, is given the title “Nachin” (means Falcon); after next one more wins, he is promoted to “Khartsaga” (means Hawk); next round’s wins called to “Zaan” (means Elephant) and after one more wins is given the title “Garid” (means Garuda). The ultimate winner of the competition is the “Arslan” (means Lion); and a wrestler who wins the national Naadam more than once, is called “Awarga” (means Titan). At the beginning of the third, fifth and seventh rounds of the match, the trainers sing praises to the wrestlers of their group, and of the titles that they have previously won. The winning wrestler imitated the flight of an eagle, swinging his arms around and touches the muscles of his legs with his hands. The loser has to stand under the wings of the proud winner. The wrestlers wear tight pants and a small vest with arms across the shoulders, which barely cover their well-trained bodies. An old legend says that a woman once won the fight.
Archery: Mongols are almost born with the archery skills, an integral part of nomads’ lifestyle. From the very childhood such qualities as perfect eyesight, measurement, patience and strength are nourished to develop a good archer. Mongolian bows are very tight ones, so that it requires a pure strength to stretch it out. As a rule, several teams of archers compete. Each team of 5-7 archers should hit 33 leather cylinders from a distance of 75 meters.
The team, beating out first all cylinders qualifies for the next round with the number of targets sharply reduced. The last round involves only three cylinders. During the tournament, judges stand in two sides next to the target. Each time, an archer prepares for a shot; 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 cylinders were hit.
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