Danshig Religious Festival - Highlight of August In Mongolia

As experienced Mongolian photo tour operator, we annually organize two day trip to Danshig Naadam religious and cultural festival which has been symbolizing solidarity of Mongolia for a hundred years. As this tradition, our photo team made a tour to Danshig Naadam and Khuree Tsam festival 2018.
If you are planning to travel Mongolia in August for the upcoming years, please do not forget to eyewitness this religious festival and add to your travel list. Hope you have a great time with our photos and event news about Danshig Festival.

The Danshig Naadam and Khuree Tsam Festival

The Danshig Naadam and Khuree Tsam festival is one of the biggest and ancient religious and cultural festivals of Mongolia. Originally, Danshig (Tibetan- Tenshuk) is related to the enthronement ceremony of His Holiness Zanabazar(1635-1722), the spiritual head of Mongolian Buddhism and also a direct descendant of Great Chinggis Khan. The word Danshig can be translated in to ‘Firm existence’. The tradition of celebrating Danshig Naadam was forgotten for nearly a hundred years and this year is the fourth year since Danshig Naadam’s re-celebration since 2015 and also 383rd birthday of His Holiness Zanabazar.

The Danshig Naadam and Khuree Tsam festival is one of the biggest and ancient religious and cultural festivals of Mongolia.


Mandala Offering Ceremony at Danshig Festival

At the beginning of the two-day festival, Mandala ceremony took place in honor of His Holiness Zanabazar. First Bogd Gegeen sits in his elegant monk’s robes, with his legs folded beneath them. Mandala is a Tibetan word which means Essence or taking essence. There are more than thirty different kinds of Mandala offerings in Buddhist ritual.  According to the tradition, when you perform offering, you do not hold empty hands, put some grains, blue scarf or whatever, in your hands first and pray for what you desire.

Mandala is a Tibetan word which means Essence.  There are more than thirty different kinds of Mandala offerings in Buddhist ritual.


Rising of the Soyombo Banner at Danshig 

The ceremony of bringing state flag or Soyombot Tug to the Khui Doloo Khudag was held and actually, his Holiness Zanabazar created Soyombo script and later was depicted on the flag of Mongolia. This special character became a national symbol of the country. If you want to explore more about him and his masterpieces, you should go to Zanazabar Museum in the center of Ulaanbaatar. 

Statue of Under Gegeen Zanabazar holds two attributes -raising the Thunderbolt symbol-Dorje up to his chest with his right hand and bell in his left hand toward his stomach. 

Worshipping Vajrapani- Deity Ochirvaani

The unique part of the Khuree Tsam is the noble presence of Ochirvaani -Vajrapani and the deity is believed to be a special protector for Mongolia. Huge Thangka-Buddhist paint representing the supreme deity Vajrapani was displayed at the southern end of the festival square. He is called the Master of Unfathomable Mysteries who upholds truth even in adversities of darkness and ignorance.

Deity Vajrapani –Ochirvaani protects Buddha and manifests all Buddha’s power. 

Khuree Tsam Dance 

The Tsam is one of the five minor subjects of Buddhism –Choreography. The first tsam performance in Mongolia was performed in Erdene-Zuu monastery in 1786. The Tsam dance which is the perfect combination of song, dance, music, decorative art, and folk arts hold various types of ritual subjects and wearing mask indicating their respective roles and perform various motions of hands, legs, and body.

The tsam has two common meanings as the dance of Buddha and subduing negative mental afflictions by emptiness.


Tsam Masks and Costumes

You can see through the photos that the tsam dresses are specially designated with wide triangle sleeves or cave sleeve and also ornamented with bone decorations. Tsam mask is big as twice as a human head and the dancers see their way through their mouth. That’s why tsam masks are made out of paper mache, painted or inlaid with coral beads of different sizes.

The costumes of tsam dancers consist of robes decorated in an applique manner, worn with decorative aprons and bibs with ivory ornaments and crocodile-toed boots. 


Sor Zalakh - Ceremony of Burning of all Negatives

The ceremony of the burning of the Sor aims to remove all bad effects, contagious diseases, and other negative phenomena. If one attends with great devotion in this ceremony, it is believed to get rid of all one’s bad and dirtiness. 

Mongolian Buddhist worshippers highly believe the power of this specific ritual.

Intense music of Tsam was quite deep and there were religious and ritual sounds such as Bell ringing, pellet drums and sounds of smashing and striking which made it more attractive.

Monks performing Tibet horn and performing spiritual readings and rituals for the wellbeing of Mongolians.

Open Tent at the Center of Open Space

Same as ancient ritual, Danshig Naadam ‘s Khuree Tsam was held in open space which seven concentric circles were drawn in chalk inside clearly marked square.

According to the tradition, an open tent was erected in the center of these circles.

Tsam dance traditionally started with two Sitipati- two figures wearing skull masks and skeleton costumes. They represent Lord of charnel ground.

Through dance perform, rituals and mantras they repeat, the ceremony square and objects enshrined in it transformed into mystic Charnel Ground.

Inner most-circle is reserved for Master of dance and the dances were accompanied by a small orchestra consisting of wind and percussion instruments.

Groups of characters wearing demonic masks performed dance for banishing all evil by driving it into the lingka.


The Tsam dance performances can be varied and classified by its meaning such as the dance of heroes, dance of heroines, dance of wrathful ones,dance of pacifying, inner dance, secret dance, dance of emptiness, dance of fiercely control, dance of wrathful laughter and dance of the most wrathful beings

The shanaga-only participants in the ritual not to wear masks and they are some kind of shamanistic characteristics still remain in harmony with this dance.

Tsam dance by Four Guardians of Spirits of four sacred mountains surrounded by Ulaanbaatar. Garuda, Pig, Dog and Black Old’s performance

The climax of the Tsam- Erlig Nomun Khan

The final character to appear in the Tsam was Yama, God of the Realm of Death and Supreme Judge of the dead – Mongolians call Erlig Nomun Khan. It is the climax of the ritual.

He appeared with wearing Buffalo mask, with lasso for catching souls in one hand and skeleton –shaped scepter in the other hand.


Balin – Torma Making Competition 

One interesting competition among monks during Danshig Naadam was balin competition which you can see photos below. Balin is barley that is pre-prepared to be shaped and it is special feeding to the deities only made by monks and Buddhist figures. After making balins, it is put on the altar which is some way of showing the food specially served and dedicated to the Buddha and deities. 

Various and skilled monks challenged in this unique competition for Best Balich Monks.

Showcase - art of balin making to the believers and spectators of the festival.

Monks’ Competitions 

Traditional competitions among monks such as Unzad-chanting masters, Golch lamas- assistant chanting masters and debating on the Buddhist logic were memorable and worth listening moments of the festival.

Monks debating both in Tibet and Mongolian language.

Wrestling at Danshig Festival

It is said that in the first Danshig Naadam, Buddhist monk won wrestling contests. Thereafter he was called Buh Lama- wrestling monk. Danshig Naadam has its own titles for wrestlers, archers and horse trainers.

Wrestler D.Purevdavga from Akhangai province claimed his victory for the 4th time and earned the title of Undefeated Giant of Danshig.

Horse Race at Danshig Festival 

Totally 104 horses, above the age of five, raced in Danshig Naadam. The winning horse came from Kharkhorin village where the first place of Danshig Naadam was held. Also, horse trainers’ full name was Batbayar Zanabazar which his father’s name the same as holiness Zanabazar. Mongolians and Buddhist people accept this as Blessing.  Winner Jockey kid’s race number was 108 which is considered sacred and significant number in Buddhism.  Mongolians and Buddhist people accept all these numbers and occasions as Blessing and Auspicious way in Danshig Festival. 

Totally 104 horses above the age of five raced in Danshig Naadam.


Mongolians believe that if a person would attend the Tsam and he will be motivated or inspired to remove his five mental afflictions such as attachment, anger, and ignorance, pride and jealousy. Moreover, if one attends the Tsam with great devotion, there are boundless benefits can occur and change one’s life.  Gongor Bumba ceremony in Amarbayasgalant monastery is also another big religious festival which also takes place in mid of August.  Even if you’re not true religious follower, you will be captivated through these rituals and occasions only found in Mongolia.

May all be in Peace




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