Repository logo

Maria Kamandzhaeva, How to Celebrate Zul

Change log


Churyumov, Anton 


Maria says that the lama Tsongkapa was born in 1357. His parents were respectable and smart people. From the ages of 2 to 16 Tsongkapa was in Tibet, and at 24 he finished his religious education. In the past, people prepared for Zul in advance. They collected grasses, dried them, and cut them so that they were 4 fingers long. Then the grass stems were wrapped clockwise with cotton and hot butter was poured on top of them. The number of grass stems on each candle should have been more than the actual age of the dedicatee by 1 or 2 stems. The candles were lit at night. Especially those who were 12, 24, 36 or 48 were supposed to perform this ritual. These birthday candles were supposed to be made by men only. Women were permitted to do only one kind of candle – an extra candle with 9 grass stems dedicated to gods. During Zul people also made offerings to gods in the form of biscuits, sweets and tea. On this day, it was compulsory to fry biscuits so that the house was filled with biscuit smoke. The candle with 9 grass stems should be lit as follows. While standing indoors, put your right leg outside the house and hold the candle in your right hand. Light the candle, lower your head and pray to god: ‘Let the lives of our children be long and healthy/ Let our life roads be clear and without obstacles/ Let all people live in peace and harmony’. One should stay in this position until the candle burns. Give what remains from the candle to birds. There is a legend according to which one day the lama Tsongkapa fell ill. His doctor prescribed him Kalmyk tea (with salt, milk and butter). The lama drank the tea for 7 days and recovered. Since then the Kalmyks celebrate Zul and drink Kalmyk tea. There is a belief that after 3 to 5 days following Zul, the Master of the Year migrates. During this period, it is forbidden to quarrel or take out rubbish.



Zul, grass, candle, legend, tea, Tsongkapa

Is Part Of


Publisher DOI

Publisher URL

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