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Nadvid Ubushiev, Legends About Gyunktn (Solong Donru) and Zhizhetn Bagshi

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Nadvid recounts two legends about Gyunktn (Solong Donru) and Zhizhetn bagshi. Question: Could you tell us about Dundu Khurul? How were the Ik, Dundu and Bag Khurul temples built? Nadvid: People from these three khurul were all subjects of lord Chitrt who had two sons, Avdzha and Gyunktn. Gyunktn is his later name when he became famous, but his original name was Solong Donru. According to a story, it was predicted that Solong Donru would defeat three evils, including a black wolf, a black castle and a black snake. This prediction was fulfilled. After his last victory over the black snake, he was on his way home, accompanied by 12 warriors. Solong Donru ordered that his warriors galloped ahead, saying that he would catch up with them later. Left behind, Solong Donru, however, died from the snake’s poison. Worried, the next day the warriors sent one of them back to find their lord. When the warrior arrived at the place where they had previously left Solong Donru, he saw a house, and inside there was a boy sitting on the floor playing with ankle bones. That boy, in fact, was the reincarnation of Solong Donru. The moment the warrior looked at the boy, he disappeared without a trace. Unable to complete his reincarnation, thus Solong Donru died forever, and with him the name of his clan died out. All this happened because Solong Donru’s warriors did not listen to him, and interrupted his reincarnation process. Solong Donru’s older brother Avdzha was a rather simple man. Despite this, he received from his father many people, while Solong Donru, when he was still alive, received only 10 households. Solong Donru became cross with his father. Pretending to be sick, one day his father called Solong Donru and asked his son to cook soup from the frozen leg of a bull. When Solong Donru broke the leg into small pieces with his bare hand, his father said: ‘You see, you are such a strong man, which your older brother is not. People will follow you’. As it was predicted, soon eight arvns, consisting of about 200 people, followed Solong Donru. Dundu Khurul has 16 arvns, Ik Khurul has 8 arvns. I also heard people refer to Ik Khurul as ‘Akh Khurul’ or ‘Etsk Khurul’ (meaning ‘older brother or father Khurul’). Question: Could you tell us about places where people perform clan rituals? How did settlements come about? Nadvid: Dund Khurul was founded by a powerful Khambo Lama (who educated 300 lamas). The Khambo Lama allocated land among people and appointed elders/heads (akh) to each nomadic settlement. The head of our arvn, called Lamyn arvn, was an old man, Muuzra Lavtsanov, whom I knew. Today there is no one from his family. His last descendant was a woman who was the mother-in-law of Vaska Tsebekov. Dundu Khurul, as I said, consists of 16 arvns. There was one wise lama called Zhizhetn bagshi who was from Dundu Khurul. He wanted Shemnr arvn people to live separately from the others. When Zhizhetn was 16, he was among the 30-people strong Kalmyk delegation that set off to Tibet. Since he was the youngest lama of the getsul rank, he walked at the very end of the delegation and ate the leftovers. When the delegation entered Tibet, they saw a white house whose owner was the grandfather of the Dalai Lama. The delegation spent the night in that house, and the next day continued on their journey to the capital of Tibet. In the morning, the Dalai Lama’s grandfather sent off his guest, but asked Zhizhetn to stay in the house. When the rest of the Kalmyks had gone, the grandfather gave Zhizhetn his white horse to ride it to Lhasa. On this horse Zhizhetn reached Lhasa a week earlier than the rest of his delegation. In Lhasa, the Dalai Lama was duly informed of the appearance of a foreigner riding the horse that belonged to his grandfather. During his audience with the Dalai Lama, Zhizhetn told him his story. Zhizhetn spent about six years studying in Tibet, becoming a lama. One hot summer he and his classmates set out on a trip across Tibet. They became thirsty, and entered a house where they were offered tea by a couple of girls. As the students drank tea, the small teapot would get replenished by itself. Then one of the girls handed over her cup with tea to Zhizhetn, to which he angrily commented: ‘I have never drunk leftover tea from other men’s cups, let alone from women’s cups’. The girl only said: ‘Study well and you will become a great teacher, but because of a woman one day you will lose your position’. Zhizhetn only waved away at her. Upon his return to Kalmykia, Zhizhetn was appointed as abbot of the Dundu Khurul Temple and started to build new temples. One day a group of people, including Zhizhetn, went to pay their respects to one Kalmyk lord. Since the lord held Zhizhetn in high regard, he invited the lama to sleep in his own tent. At night Zhizhetn woke up to see a snake crawling towards the lord’s wife who was sleeping on the floor in front of her husband’s bed. Seeing that the snake bit the woman, Zhizhetn jumped off his bed and set out sucking the poison out of the woman’s cheek with his mouth. The lord soon woke up to see the lama, as it seemed to him, kiss his wife. Although his wife explained the situation, the lord refused to believe her and ordered that the lama be executed. Zhizhetn dashed out of the tent. He died on the run, and was buried in Khomutnikovo. The two girls who offered tea to Zhizhetn and his classmates in Tibet were White and Green Tara.




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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