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Yuriy Sangadzhiev, About Altars



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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


In this video Yuriy explains the altar in his yurt-museum in Elista. This is his story: Every yurt has an altar where people put candles (zul), statues of gods such as Buddha Shakyamuni, Green Tara, etc. Green Tara helps people who are in a precarious situation. One of her legs is lowered, which symbolizes her readiness to quickly come to one’s help. On this altar is a picture of Chingis Khan. Each Mongolian family has one. Offerings to gods include a cup with water, flowers, a shell, incense, fruits, dairy products and sweets. There is a rosary and the Diamond Sutra on this altar. The altar also has an image of Tsagan Aav, who is a pre-Buddhist deity. Kalmyks widely respect Tsagan Aav who is believed to bestow wellbeing and longevity on both humans and animals, as well as to protect nature. There is also a picture of lama Tsongkapa, who was born in Amdo, near Kukunor. Before his birth a rainbow appeared in the sky and the water raised, which were signs that a great teacher was coming to this world. Lama Tsongkapa reformed Buddhism and founded Gelugpa school, which spread among various Mongol groups. Another person that is revered among Kalmyks is Zaya Pandita. Baibagas Khan adopted Zaya from the Khoshuds and sent him to study in Tibet. Upon his return to Kalmykia, Zaya Pandita created the Todo bichig or ‘Clear script’ based on the Mongolian script and translated many Buddhist texts into Kalmyk. He also reconciled various warring nobles. In Kalmykia it was compulsory to educate boys. Those families that did not comply had to pay fines.



Altars, yurt, gods

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