About this collection
For Kalmyks, Zul is equivalent to New Year's Day in that it marks the first day of a new year according to Kalmyk lunar calendar. In Kalmyk 'zul' means a candle. On this day people make a number of candlewicks (zulyn gol) according to their age and stick them on small boat-shaped candles made of dough. The candles are lit up when the first stars appear in the sky. On this day Kalmyks add a year to their age.
During Zul people are encouraged to perform good deeds, wish each other well, and abstain from alcohol and meat products. In the morning Kalmyks brew traditional tea (jomba) and bake traditional biscuits (bortsg). Before partaking of food, fresh tea and some biscuits are placed on the altar as an offering to gods and ancestors. It is believed that the aroma of the biscuits drives all the bad and negative things from the house and brings good luck and prosperity.
Given Buddhism is intertwined with every aspect of the life of Kalmyks, Zul is also a holiday to commemorate the birth, life and ascent of Tsongkapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelugpa school of Buddhism, to nirvana. Before Zul the Kalmyks go to monasteries for a special ritual called nas uttullgn to prolong life. On the day of Zul itself monasteries carry out prayers, including those dedicated to Tsongkapa, and light candles as an offering to the great Buddhist teacher.