About this collection
The main purpose of clan and communal rituals is to consolidate, protect and secure the wellbeing of close-knit groups of people who may or may not be related through kinship. These rituals include gal tyalgn (fire ritual), gazr takilgn (worship of land), us takilgn (worship of water sources) and usn-arshan (water ritual). Whilst all these rituals are performed differently by different groups in different places, a general consensus among Kalmyks is that whereas gal tyalgn is a ritual that is done by patrilineal relatives, the other three rituals usually involve people who live together or see themselves as belonging to the same locality.
The rituals of gal tyalgn, gazr takilgn and us takilgn involve fire, which is believed not only to have cleansing quality but also serves as a medium by which food offerings are delivered to the realm of the supernatural, inhabited by ancestors, Tsagan Aav, the spiritual masters of land or water sources, protectors of various Kalmyk clans, Buddhas and bodhisattvas. As the goddess of fire, Okn Tengr is also an important recipient of fire offerings. These three rituals are usually directed by Buddhist monks or ritual specialists who read prayers and perform rites. Usn-arshan, by contrast, is simpler in form and involves the bathing of people in rivers or lakes, tossing coins into the water, reading prayers and partaking of consecrated water.