Buddhism – main belief of Mongols
Mongolia used to be the second, after Tibet , stronghold of Buddhist religion. The Mongols came into contact with Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam. Mongolia was converted to Tibetian Buddhism twice, first by the example of Khubilai Khaan, the grandson of Chingis Khaan, who adopted it as the state religion in 13th century, and again in 16th century, when Altan Khan took buddhist vows.
In the turn of 20th century each and every family was obliged to send one of their children to a monastery to become monk. In seven decades of Communism Buddhism was almost eradicated as more than 30,000 monks and priests were executed and another 70,000 exiled or imprisoned. But the liberalization of 1990 allowed its peaceful revival. Now more than 140 Buddhist monasteries have been set up as a new.
Today, most tourist attracting Mongolian Buddhist temples and monasteries are Gandan Monastery, Erdene Zuu Monastery, Amarbayasgalant Monastery and Tuvkhun Monastery.
Under this newly found freedom of belief, other religions flocked in, including more than 30, mostly Christian, churches and cults.
Another popular religion is Islam practiced by a 60,000 strong Kazakh minority in Bayan Ulgii province.
Shamanism – religious belief from ancient roots
Shamanism is the oldest religious practice in Mongolia and centers on beliefs and rituals associated with shaman, a man or a woman regarded as having access to the “spirit world”. Shamanism is a faith without books.
All teaching and instruction has been given orally, passed from shaman to shaman over the centuries, and its traditions learned by heart.
Mongolian shamans enter an ecstatic trance state in which the shaman is empowered to engage with the spirits I order to protect and heal members of the community, to guide souls and cure illnesses. The shaman might wear a headdress to resemble a bird, with the tail of pheasant and the body costume of a fish. Drums are used to help the shaman enter the trance-like state, as chanting begins and the shaman “transcends”into another world while the body dances, swirls or totters with jerky movements.
Shamanism went underground during the former communist period , but has been revived recently.
In Northern Mongolia, Darkhad Valley of Khuvsgul province is one of the stronghold of True Shamanism.
There is a small community of Dukha people lives in tribal way in Khuvsgul Taiga region with reindeers and keeps their ancestor's traditional belief - Shamanism.
Mongolians call them as a Reindeer Herders or Darkhad Tribe, which is one of the Mongolian ethnic groups.