Nadezhda Burukchinova and others, Matsg prayers

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Terbish, Baasanjav 

This video features ‘matsg prayers’ and rites performed by a group of six pious women. Such group prayers by women, who are middle-aged or older, are known to have taken place throughout the Soviet period. The six women in the video perform rituals at the Central Temple in Elista, without participation of lamas. ‘Matsg’ means ‘fasting’ in Kalmyk, and during these prayers the participants should abstain from meat, fish or eggs. The prayers read by the women are dedicated to various Buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities. During the recitation of certain mantras – dedicated to White Tara or Bazr-Dari – the women hold a portable drum in their hands which they pass on to their left neighbor thus securing the drum’s movement in circles clock-wise. After reading prayers dedicated to White Tara, Black Tara and ‘oglgin kuchen’ (power), the women stand up facing the altar and chant a mantra dedicated to the lama Tsongkapa. Then they sit down and read mantras while counting their rosaries. Afterwards, the rosaries are put together and wrapped in layers of colorful clothes, which resembles a doll. One of the women holds the ‘doll’ and touches with it the head and shoulders of the other women, thus giving them a blessing. She herself also receives a blessing in the same way. After the ritual, the ‘doll’ is put on the table near the altar. The women lay food on the floor in front of themselves and read more prayers. After the meal, the women collect the food leftovers to offer it to their ancestors, which they put under trees or bushes. The woman who takes the food offerings outside should abstain from talking to anybody on her way out. After returning to the room, she receives a blessing from the others. After this ritual, the women again read prayers. The ‘doll’ is once again used for bestowing blessings on the participants. The ‘doll’ is then dissembled and each woman takes her rosary back. The rosaries are put on the floor, and the women touch the rosaries with their forehead, uttering mantras. After lighting candles, the women read more mantras. All stand up, read ‘megzem’ (a special prayer to Tsongkapa) and bow to the altar.

Fasting, ritual, prayers
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