Wedding customs of nomads: traditions of the Kyrgyz
The distinctive Central Asia is rich not only in nature, but also in living traditions. The nomadic world of Kyrgyzstan is thousands of years old, and wedding ceremonies occupy a special place in it. Special Wedding Agency organized a large-scale private event here and showed guests a historical reconstruction of the life of the nomadic tribes of the region, including the traditional Kyrgyz wedding ceremonies.
Keeping the meanings
It is not an easy task to preserve the traditions of the ancients, to pay tribute to the cultural heritage, but this is exactly what we aspired to when making a project in Kyrgyzstan. In a huge gorge, where there is no electricity, no roads, or even communications, a real yurt city has emerged. The event was attended by several hundred artists, historical costumes, antique jewelry and art objects were used. All this could be realized with the full support of the government organizations of the Kyrgyz Republic and the help of the Atalar Izi Foundation, which is engaged in the preservation of cultural traditions. The guests spent the night in yurts, ate, sitting by the fire, rode horses along the mountain paths and released golden eagles to hunt. Together with the inhabitants of the nomad camp, they learned traditional crafts, erected yurts, watched how saddles were made and carpets weaved, and participated in ancient rituals. During the event, a whole life was lived, because in the mountains everything is different.
Traditionally, the Kyrgyz took marriage very seriously and tried to intermarry with noble families. Therefore, weddings and related customs are perhaps the most colorful and symbolic part of the entire ritual complex. For the first date of the future newlyweds, a yurt was specially set up and decorated. Before entering, the groom outside through a small hole had to knock off the bride’s headdress. Then games and dances were arranged. Many of them were associated with competitions and horse racing. For example, the game “catch up with the girl” was widespread, when a girl and a guy competed in the ability to stay in the saddle. If the horseman did not catch up with his chosen one and could not touch her, then she had every right to whip him with a whip.
When a girl got married, she left her family forever. After the bride arrived at the new house, her mother-in-law performed the ceremonial donning of the “elechek” wedding headdress. The wedding wish said: “May your white elechek not fall off your head.” It was a wish for long family happiness. Elechek was constantly worn, without him it was not customary to leave the yurt even to fetch water. There were many other prohibitions for daughters-in-law. She did not dare to call her husband’s relatives by name, or sit with her back to them, or directly address her elders. Despite all the prohibitions, women of the nomadic peoples were highly respected and were very strong: they rode on a horse, knew how to shoot a bow, and hunted if necessary. This was a prerequisite for survival. Many traditions that seem incomprehensible to us have a deep meaning. So, the same elechek could serve both for swaddling babies and for dressing wounds. Only by the sound of the jewelry attached to it could it be determined whether a noble woman or a commoner was approaching. The ancients did not have anything in vain. Each nation has its own sacred rituals, touching which renews and purifies us. That is why it is important to respect not only other people’s traditions, but also to know and be proud of our own.
Organizer: Special Wedding.
Photographer: Oksana Shuvalova (Bishkek).
Historical reconstruction: PF Atalar Izi (Bishkek).