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Namdzhl Putaeva, About Zul and Tsagan Sar

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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


Namdzhl talks about how the Kalmyks celebrate Zul and Tsagan Sar. Namdzhl: People celebrate Zul and Tsagan Sar at home. In summer, I milk cows with this in mind. Today children do not eat home-made butter or cream anymore. For Zul I prepare a bottle of melted butter, salt it and keep it in the fridge for Zul and Tsagan Sar. Question: How do you prepare for Zul? Namdzhl: During Zul we make nasna gol, or a ‘boat of life’, from dough. Then we fill it with butter and stick straws. We also make yisn gol, or a ‘boat of life with nine straws’. We make bortsg biscuits, cook mutton, invite our neighbours, put offerings to gods, and utter well wishes. At night when the first stars appear, we light the ‘boat of life’. On this day people add a year to their life. If you are 20, you need to stick 23-24 straws on the dough boat. If you are seven, stick 10 straws to prolong your life. Question: When do people celebrate Zul? Namdzhl: When the temple determines the date, we celebrate. Usually, Zul happens in December. Question: Which bortsg do you make for Zul? Namdzhl: It does not matter which bortsg to make during Zul. But during Tsagan Sar people should make the following bortsg varieties: zhola, khorkha, kit, khuts, khutsin tolga and tselvg. I make them all. Question: Why are these bortsg called so? Namdzhl: I read somewhere that Tsagan Sar occurs on a bad day. I heard that these biscuits bless the day. Question: Could you tell us how you prepare for Tsagan Sar? Namdzhl: We tidy up our house. My daughter-in-law does the washing and changes the bedding. If we have a sheep, we kill it. If we do not have one, we buy meat at the shop. Then we put offerings to gods. Question: Do people offer fish to gods? Namdzhl: No, although those Kalmyks who live near water may do this. But we, who live in the steppe, do not. Our offerings to gods usually include tselvg bortsg, tea, candies, meat and a tibia bone.



Zul, Tsagan Sar

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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