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Valentina Bovaeva, about my clan

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Valentina talks about her lineage, clan, clan deities, and Tsagan Aav: The Khoshud aimak (or clan) consists of 15 arvns (or lineages). I'm from the arvan of Chonakhn. My father was born in 1914. We are called Chonakhn (i.e. wolves) because in our lineage we had a white wolf. We treat this animal with respect. I am very afraid of dogs. My father and older brother always asked me: ‘Why are you afraid of dogs? You’re a wolf person, aren’t you?’ My grandfather used to say that no wolf would ever harm us. The ribbons of our clan are of red and white color. These ribbon are used during weddings. Once, a girl from our arvn got married. But she was not asked by the groom’s side to bring her ribbons. The girl gave birth to daughters only. It was not until she took her clan ribbons to her new house that she gave birth to a boy. All Khoshuds venerate ‘two yellow Buddhas’. They are two statues made from gold. Following the Bolshevik revolution, 125 temples were destroyed in the Kalmyk steppe. My mother used to tell me that at that time the whole steppe was covered with statues and texts from destroyed temples. Not only did the ‘two yellow Buddhas’ evade confiscation but they survived Siberia (i.e. exile). Today they are kept in the village of Sarpa which is the land of the Khoshuds. The people from Sarpa lived close to each other in Siberia and returned home to Kalmykia without many casualties. My mother always sent butter to fill the candles dedicated to the ‘two yellow Buddhas’. During fasting days, we all went to visit the statues. Today the statues are kept by Azaeva Klavdiya Mandzhievna from Sarpa who is also a Chonakhn woman. Before that, the keeper of the statues was an old man called Khulkhach, and after him his children. The Buddhas ended up in Azaeva Klavdiya’s house because she happens to be a descendant of the first keeper of these statues. No celebration among the Khoshuds is held without praying to these two statues. I know that one of the statues is the Buddha Aryabala. Also, all Kalmyks venerate Tsagan Aav. During a ritual of worshipping land, the first deity that worshippers mention is Tsagan Aav because he is the Master of the Universe. My parents used to tell me that in the past people did not kill saigak antelopes no matter how hungry or needy they were. They are the animals that Tsagan Aav rides on. Every place has its spiritual protector or master. These protectors may take the form of a snake or the sandy wind. For them people perform special rituals.



lineage, clan, clan deities, Tsagan Aav

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin