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Alexandra Sanzheeva, About the Lama Ulanov

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Alexander talks about the life of Sandzhi Ulanov who was a famous Kalmyk lama:I met Sandzhi Ulanov only after I got married. Sandzhi Ulanov was born in 1904. In the 1930s, when the clergy was persecuted, he was still studying at a temple. After spending time in a Magadan camp, he returned to Kalmykia in 1958 or 1959. He went straight to Gorodovikovsk to see his relatives and then to the Rostov region. Having lived there for a while, Sandzhi returned to the village of Dogzmakin which is his parental place. Now that village is located to the west of where it used to be before the war. The village had a temple back then. In Dogzmakin, Sandzhi lived with his relative, Erdni Muzrayev. Sandzhi lama always thanked my in-laws for looking after his parents in times of food shortage. Sandzhi lama was literate, he always wore neat, clean clothes, and a straw hat on his head. I remember he smoked, but did not drink alcohol at all. He only ate lamb, and no other meat. Often he came to talk to me, because I worked as a teacher at school, and he really wanted to talk to educated people. It was in the 1980s, and there were almost no clergymen left in Kalmykia. But people still wanted to know which days were auspicious for marriage or for performing certain rituals. Since Sandzhi lama lived opposite of our house, his clients often stayed with us. Sandzhi lama told me that he would teach me prayers and show me how to perform certain rites. He taught me the mantra ‘Om tare tut tare ture suukha’, and said that I should read it 7, 49 or 100 times. If I did that, I would not have problems, fears and other obstacles in my life. After reading this mantra, people, I was told, can prolong their life by performing a special ritual. Once in 12 years people experience a difficult year. Kalmyks have four special days in a year during which they should abstain from saying or doing bad things. These days are the first day of Tsagan Sar, the 15th day of Ur(s) Sar, the 4th day of the month of the hen, and the 22nd day of the month of the mouse. A rite to prolong one’s life has to be carried on the 22nd day of the month of the hen. On this day, people should get up early, wash their hands, face and legs, and clean the collar of their shirt. Then they should cut the nails from their feet and hands and throw the nails into a cup, spit three times, pray and pour the water into a place where nobody walks. Also, I remember, Sandzhi lama told me about how to choose a bride according to traditional astrology. Since not all years are compatible with each other, it was important to know the date of birth of the groom and the bride, the idea being that their years had to be compatible. If we return to Sandzhi lama’s life, later he went to live with Bata Okonov in a state farm named after Delikov. Afterwards, he came to Elista and lived with Alexandra Delikova. Alexandra Ochirovna worked at that time as a teacher, and one day when she was on her way home from work she saw Sandzhi Ulanov sitting on a bench near her house. He asked her whether he could stay with her, and he lived with her family for a long time. Soon Alexandra Ochirovna married a man with whom she moved to Khar-Buluk, taking with them Sandzhi lama who lived in the new place for a year and a half, after which he died on 2 September. He was buried in the territory of the Arshanskiy temple, and when a large stupa was erected near his burial place, his ashes were transferred there.



Lama, Sandzhi Ulanov

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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