Thursday, February 10, 2005

Mongolia | New Year Celebration

According to the Tibeto-Mongolian calendar the New Year begin at 6:29 am on the morning of February 9. This was the exact moment of the New Moon. The temperature at this hour was a frosty 42 degrees below 0 F.

The Mongolian New Year, known as Tsagaan Sar (White Month) is the biggest holiday of the year in Mongolia, kind of like Western Christmas and New Year’s combined on one day. The day before I had been to the Dalai Eej (Oceanic Mother) Supermarket and encountered one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen there. Everyone was out shopping in anticipation of the big day. What was surprising was the number of people with long shopping lists. I had never before seen people in Mongolia with shopping lists, at least not in grocery stores.

The next morning, February 9, I took a taxi out to Dambadarjaa Monastery in the the suburb of Dambadarjaa, north of the city proper. Dambadarjaa Monastery was completed in 1765 and dedicated to the memory of the Second Bogd Gegen of Mongolia , the successor to Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegen of Mongolia.

The Second Bogd Gegen Luvsandambiidomen was born in 1724. His mother was Bayart, the queen of Tusheet Khan Dondovdorj. Dondovdorj’s second wife was Princess Amgalan, the daughter of the Qing Emperor. She is buried at Gunjin Sum.

Dambadarjaa Monastery was closed down by the communists in 1934 and 107 of the monks in residence there received the death penalty. The monastery was reopened after the fall of communist and has recently been refurbished. The monastery now has its own Website (donations accepted by PayPal or major credit card).

Each day for the week around Tsagaan Sar the monks performed the prayer ceremony known as Tsogchin, which was written by Zanabazar, in the ger temple to the side of the main temple.

Ger Temple, with Mount Zonkhova in the background

Stupa near the Main Temple

Stupa at the base of Mount Zonkhova

On New Year’s morning hundreds of people were climbing Mount Zonkhova (Zhonkhova is Mongolian for Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect of Buddhism).

Mount Zonkhova, directly behind the Monastery

The first summit of Mount Zonkhova

At the ovoo on the first summit many people were making offerings of khadags (prayer scarves), butter, airag, and incense made of artz, a species of wild juniper that grows in the mountains of Mongolia.

Ovoo on the first summit

Second ovoo on Mount Zonkhova

View of the suburb of Dambadarjaa from the first summit of Mount Zonkhova

View of Chingelt Khairkhan Mountain from Mount Zonkhova. Chingelt Khairkhan Mountain is one of the Four Sacred Mountains which surround the city of Ulaan Baatar.

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