Sangadzhi Kononov, About Zul
The Kalmyks count one’s age from the time that a person was conceived. Hence during the holiday of Zul Kalmyks add a year to a person’s actual age. Zul is the Kalmyk equivalent of New Year. Zul also has a religious significance. It was on this day that Tsongkapa, the founder of Gelug school, is believed to have attained enlightenment. In this sense, Zul is a double holiday – New Year and the day when the spiritual leader of the Kalmyks attained enlightenment. In the morning of Zul, the Kalmyks make traditional tea, light candles, cook meat and biscuits and offer food to the gods. The head of the household offers freshly made tea to the ‘master of the year’ (jilin ezn) by sprinkling the offer to the sky. While doing so he should stand with his right leg outside his house and with his left leg inside. On this day people wear new, clean clothes and pay a visit to their relatives. In the evening Kalmyks perform a ritual to prolong one’s life (nasn uttulgn) which is done as follows. First small vessels are prepared which are made from dough and resemble a boat. Then candlewicks are put vertically inside these vessels. The number of vessels should be at least two, depending on whether the family has children. The first vessel is dedicated to the clan protectors (syakusn). The second is dedicated to the spouses (the husband and the wife). The third boat is dedicated to their children. The number of candlewicks should correspond to the age of the family members plus two candles for each person. For example, if the spouses are 30 each, the number of the candlewicks on the second vessel should be 64 (30+2+30+2). These two additional candlewicks symbolize that the life of the person in the ritual has been prolonged. When the candlewicks are erected, the vessels are filled with butter and then the candlewicks are lit. The next day when the candlewicks are already burnt out, the dough from the vessels is used for making pancakes that have to be shared by all members of the family. The ritual of prolonging one’s life is not performed for people over 60 or for those who have great-grandchildren. When Zul finishes the next three days are dedicated to smoking the house with incense. In a fortnight ‘the new master of the year’ is believed to pay a visit to the Kalmyks, while the old one leaves. During this period the interior of houses should be kept clean and without dust, for ‘the new master of the year’ may not see clearly in the dust and skip the offenders without bestowing on them his kishg or merit.