Indigenous Marriage of Tsaatan Tribe in Mongolian Wild Taiga
I traveled to Mongolia with some of my like-minded photographer friends, we did not just take a photo tour to Mongolia, but also we were invited to the Tsaatan tribal wedding in the remote Taiga Mountains, a home to nomadic reindeer herding people. I was excited that the young couples were riding white gorgeous horses instead of cool black vehicle even I imagined how different it is from western wedding ceremony.
It was an indescribable cultural and adventurous experience of our lifetime, we started our trip from the capital city of Mongolia meeting with our Mongolian photography guide and adventurous team. The next day, we flied to Murun city, the administrative center of Khovsgol province. I was wowed when I first saw the Russian 4WD minivans at the local airport and it was felt like something wild and adventurous thing would be waiting for us for the next days.
Riding Through the Taiga Mountains - North Mongolia
The next day we packed our photography equipment and all our belongings on horseback, even the reindeer is main transport of the Tsaatan people, / due to the reindeer cannot be used as transport in summer time/ then we saddled up the horses and found ourselves in the Taiga Mountains of northern Mongolia. We arrived at the Tsaatan tribe in East Taiga, there were some teepees/tipi/, reindeers, Tsaatan people and their children were playing around… We expected the reindeer herders that they would look like more tribal, may be like American Indians. But they are Mongolian tsaatan, Dukha people who have been keeping their ancient traditions and still living the primitive life in the deep taiga mountains.
Riding through the taiga mountains of Mongolia is one of the happiest moments for me
These adorable children gather from the village when summer holiday starts
How gorgeous they are. Kids are healthy, happy and active in the deep Taiga Mountains and away from the technology
The Indigenous Wedding Ceremony - The Unique Experience in Mongolia
The big day, I scanned all around, from preparations to the end of this reindeer herding nomads’ marriage ceremony. Batdalai, 20-year-old fiancé, and his young engaged is 18, their big day starts with many guests and relatives. Tsaatan people follow natural law to live, in the harsh living condition of high mountains, they do not have enough chance to meet their relatives. But today is the special day that all relatives, children and other visitors to gather.
Oh, the ladies.. the wedding guest dress code, the traditional costume, and the color is so romantic
Taiga kids living so close to nature and spending their most of time on reindeer
We are in the bride’s teepee/tipi/, the elders have to sit in the north, it is kind of cultural elements that they are respecting older ones. Groom’s father has to ask the bride’s father to let his son marry with his daughter-this is another element of the wedding tradition. It was strange that if the bride’s father agrees to this marriage and the wedding will start in official. Another exciting tradition is the bride’s father did not agree easily, he is acting that he does not like to let his daughter marry.
"Let my son marry with your daughter " - the unique marriage tradition of the Mongols
Finally, after a long time of begging his daughter, the father agreed and take his silk scarf to express his agreement. Congratulations new young couples! Everything in the teepee has symbolic meanings, the wedding table, and the food too, traditional meal, huushuur has to be offered very first, then other meals and beverages are followed. They are talking about the future life of the young couples, including how many reindeersthey will own, what to do in case of the parents will be sick and much more things for the future that is why they are living the remote harsh mountains without any modernization.
Reindeer- The main life source of the Tsaatan people
The great hospitality and warm talks, the groom and his relatives started to pack all belongings and loaded them on white horses. There were nine white horses outside the teepee, the color white is symbolizing without dirtiness or anything bad spirits, and it represents happiness, luckiness or generally all the good fortune. It was like a fairy tale that fiancé comes to his loved woman on a white horse. The bride’s belongings are too minimal compared to westerns, but there were all the necessary things to live in the mountains.
The gorgeous horses - the wedding transport of Tsaatan tribe
They don't just wear beautiful costumes but also use elegant saddles with silver ornaments
The bride and the groom, their parents and relatives were riding those white horses and heading to the New Teepee / new home/ of the couple. They rounded their teepee three times while they were offered reindeer milk to the spirit of nature earth, kind of shamanic elements and the living tradition of the Mongols. After this ritual, all guests entered the new home, and the hospitality was continued. The oldest man has to touch the main lamb dish on the table and then he offered a small piece of mutton to all visitors.
New life, new home, new couples- everything is new and lovely
Finally, they come home after the long traditional rituals
They had to be turning around the Teepee three times and keep offering milk to the earth and sky - another important ritual
Incredible wedding table I've never seen - boiled mutton and traditional pancake. Groom and bride brought it from their home and then offered to all guests
The wedding was continued with the wrestling champion, all guys wrestled, the visitors enjoyed the wrestling and had fun. After this, they are invited to the teepee again and the young couples had changed their clothes which says something deep meaning that they now officially own their new home and it is time to settle down. Now they are at home and the bride became a wife, so she has to offer meals to the guests. Visitors gave wedding gifts to the couples and the strange thing was hanging Mongolian tugriks/ money/ as a gift. It is the indigenous marriage, especially mysterious Tsaatan people’s wedding.
The couples that are “meant to be” are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than before
Wrestling on wedding is not the regular thing - But this is kind of way to have fun for nomadic Mongols, even for the Tsaatan people
The wedding gift
Wonderful tonight - time to take stunning photos of nature, reindeer and the people
The big day was over, we headed back to the Lake Khovsgol, the second the second most voluminous fresh water lake in Asia, locals call it “Blue Pearl of Mongolia”. It was an incredible way to experience Mongolia’s culture, ethnic tribe’s lifestyle, and wedding, discover the remotest corner, the wild taiga region and photograph all of them was unbelievable. I would like to express my gratitude to the team of Ayan Travel to arrange our photographic adventure in Mongolia.
Camping in the wild Taiga and spending time perfectly with the local travel crew
Northern Taiga is the best photographic destinations in Mongolia especially for the portraits
It's a long road but it's worth it
As I looked over all the pictures of our Mongolia trip, I realized we did see the "Best of Mongolia" This trip was on my "bucket list" and it far exceeded my expectations. We photographed and participated in so many unique experience.