Articles on Central Asia: Festivals and national events
Festivals of Central Asia are the reflection of the rich history of nomadic customs and traditions of the people.
Birds of prey festival, Kyrgyzstan. The festival is dedicated to golden eagles and falcons which are highly revered by Kyrgyz people. All through the ages hunters have been catching chicks of golden eagles and falcons for further treatment and train them to hunt for animals. In the past a single trained bird of prey could feed a small village. Therefore, golden eagles and falcons were highly valued and were considered as family members. This traditional event is held annually and attracts all fans of hunting. During this festival, experienced hunters demonstrate trained birds as well their skills to hunt hares, foxes and even wolfs. The owners do not lag behind their feathered helpers: they demonstrate horseback riding and bowing skills, so it still a kind of hunting competition between a bird and man. These events are held to contribute hunting traditional and nomadic lifestyle of Kyrgyz people. Today, hunters keep these birds for fun mainly and to carry traditions through generations. Festivals are usually accompanied by music of traditional instruments and dances to entertain visitors and guests.
The National Horse Games Festival is a colorful show that celebrates many vibrant aspects of Kyrgyz culture. Festival participants have an opportunity to experience traditional Kyrgyz lifestyle and enjoy competitive horse games. The event includes performances by the area’s finest musicians and offered some of the most delicious Kyrgyz meals. The Festival features traditional horse games, including “Ulak Tartysh”, “Kyz-Kuumai”, “Oodarysh”, “Tyiyin-Enmei” and others. During the event, women entrepreneurs organize an exhibition of local handicrafts. Participants of the festival have the opportunity to plunge into the traditional Kyrgyz lifestyle and watch the equestrian games.
The festival usually brings together people from all around the world from Colombia to Japan. The guests of the festival have an opportunity not only to observe how brave horsemen and women compete in their skills to control the horse, pull a rope and wrestle on yaks, but also participate in all games themselves. All guests and participants have a chance to evaluate the performances of the best musicians in the region, and also try the delicious Kyrgyz national dishes.
Horseback Riding Games
At-Chabysh (distance race)
This is one of the oldest and most popular types of horse folk sports. In the past, it was organized on various occasions, mainly on public holidays and at memorial services.
These equestrian games usually involve several known riding horses, covering a distance of 4 to 50 km. Speed and endurance are required of the horses, and the ability of the rider to accurately calculate the forces of his horse.
Ulak Tartysh (Ripping goat)
Some teams are involved in this very popular game in Kyrgyzstan. The referee places a dead, gutted goat into the center of the court without a head. At the referee's mark, the players gallop to the dead animal. One grabs it, holds it with his foot and rushes over the racetrack. He is followed by members of other teams to wrest the buck from him. The goat goes from one to the other until the victorious rider puts him in the predetermined place. There are two round circles at the end of the field, bordered by old hoops, as goals. Anyone who manages to throw the goat into the opponent's goal has won one point.
Oodarysh (Riders’ fight)
In this game, two riders try to pull each other off the horse. The competition is conducted in four weight classes: personal and personal team. The age of participants is from 19 years. The battleground should not exceed 40 m². For each fight, 10 minutes are given. If the rider has pulled his opponent off the saddle or together with the horse, then he is the winner.
Tyiyin-Enmei (Picking up the coin from the ground)
In this race, a few riders can participate. The total length of the distance from the starting point to the finish - not more than 100 meters, the participant comes to the starting line after the judge's sign. On the clean and smooth flagged ground, 50-60 meters from the starting line, there is a coin to be picked up by the rider. The participant should ride in a gallop. For each participant three rounds are allowed. The victory is awarded to the one who has picked up the coin several times from the ground.
Kyz-Kumai (Catch the girl)
Kyz-Kumai is a national riding game of Kyrgyzstan. A young single woman and a single, young man take part in this game. Both must be able to ride well because the young man on the racetrack has to catch up with the girl who galloped off some time earlier. If the young man catches her, he has a right to kiss her, in the old days he was even able to marry her. But if the awkward young man fails to catch up with the girl, then the young woman on the way back can hit him with the whip.
Kush-Saluu and Berkut-Saluu (hunting fights)
These are hunting fights with hawks or golden eagles. The trained birds hunt mountain-fowl or foxes that are brought separately, catch them and deliver them to their master.
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