What is Naadam?
At Yavar, we come from two separate walks of life. Uyanga is Mongolian, and Josh is Canadian. Throughout our relationship, we have learned a lot about each other's cultures. People shine brightest when they are exchanging knowledge and experiences. In this spirit of exchange, we introduce you to the Naadam Festival of Mongolia!
Naadam is from from July 11-13 every year. Naadam focuses around the three traditional sports: Archery, Horse Racing, and Wrestling. Performances like Khöömei overtone singing, Bie biyelgee dance, and Morin khuur fiddle are very common. While you're enjoying the sights and sounds, you can also take the time to sample khushuur! Khushuur is a meat filled fried pastry that is an explosion of flavour on the first bite!
A Morin khuur fiddle performance. These are popular instruments to find within Mongolia!
To start our Naadam celebration, we're going to explore its historical foundations and also diver deeper into traditions surrounding wrestling in Mongolia!
History of Naadam
The history of Naadam is an interesting one, and it has evolved quite a bit over its long history. It is a festival that connects to the nomadic lifestyle of Mongolians. It originates in the 12th and 13th-century. Naadam festivals occurred several times a year for military parades and celebrations. Also, it was also a chance for Mongolian soldiers to display their skills and talents to remain the best. From the 17th century, the festival was for religious holidays. So it has only been since 1922 that Naadam occurs only on the anniversary of the People's Revolutions.
To summarize, Naadam centred around showcasing military prowess and training soldiers. Hand-to-hand combat was a very important and valued skill. Mongolians gained a fearsome reputation for combat and conquering nations under Genghis Khan. Under his reign, no army could compete against his legions. Mongolian warriors were some of the most feared warriors of their time.
Naadam Festival Wrestling
Wrestling comes from this proud warrior tradition that goes back almost 7000 years! It is the most popular of the three sports of Naadam and is the central competition to witness. The competition is unique because there are no age categories or weight classes! This means that a child could have to face off against an adult! It is about who is the strongest and most cunning wrestler!
Wrestlers wear leather boots, a tight-fitting loincloth, sleeves, and a pointed velvet cap. The wrestler’s outfits are all symbols of their strength. As time went on, they became more elegant. First, the jacket and briefs give the wrestler a chance at holding onto each other. The hat is a symbol of strong men who tested the brave deeds of ancient Mongolian warriors. Finally, the boots rise to mid-shin to protect the wrestler from slipping and tripping.
Two opponents squaring off in what is sure to be an awesome match!
The competition will have either 512 or 1024 competitors. To win, you have to force your opponent's knee or elbow to touch the ground. The competition is elimination based and you continue to fight as long as you keep winning! As you win more matches, you receive various titles. They are as follows:
- Republican Falcon (5 wins)
- Elephant (7 wins)
- Lion (9 wins)
- Giant (winner two years in a row)
- National (winner three years)
- Invincible (4 Naadam Wins)
The main prize of winning a Naadam wrestling competition is recognition and fame! Interested in seeing some wrestling action? Check out these highlights from previous Naadam wrestling matches!
Final Thoughts about the Naadam Festival
To sum up, Naadam is such an important part of Mongolian culture and identity because of its rich traditions and history. So we are so excited to share Naadam with you this year! Be sure to stay tuned for our Part 2 blog post on July 12th about the Archery competitions!