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  Participation in these rites is high and serves to reaffirm identity and the traditional relationship between layman and priest. These holidays illustrate the important function of religion as it provides continuity with the past and serves to reiterate the symbol system essential for the maintenance of ethnic and cultural identity for individuals in the group.

A look at Kalmyk holiday by an American anthropologist. 
(a part of "The American Kalmyks")

By Fred Adelman (circa 1961) 

A holiday, such as the one celebrated by the Don Kalmyks puts all ethnocentric elements into effect  The celebrants are holding a dual outdoor ceremonial, traditionally held on successive days.  The first rite is called jirits, which literally means, "increase." It is a pre-Buddhist growth and fertility  ceremony combined with honoring Mader, who is better known by his Sanskrit name, Maitreya, the Buddha  who is to rule the next cycle of the universe. The second ceremonial is ovd, "cairn." While no pile of stones is  evident, the meaning of the ceremonial remains-to placate the Khan of the Dragon Spirits, whose  malicious minions come in early summer, visiting misfortune and disease upon the sentient world.  Around a table sit the priests in their robes, holding Tibetan bells, small cymbals, or"thunderbolts."Their  prayer recital, partly in Tibetan, and partly in classical Oirat, addresses itself to the development, health,  and fecundity of herds and men and to the salvation of all sentient beings under Mader, the future  Buddha. Dominating the proceedings is Mader in the form of a large Tibetan painting, framed with  multi-colored bunting and flanked on either side by a tier of umbrellas, the symbols of royalty. Mader's  emanating power is reflected in a globular mirror set in a pan on the table before the priests.  Saffron-tinted water poured over the mirror by the head of the temple from a ewer topped with peacock  feathers absorbs Mader's emanations and becomes blessed. On and around a low table in front of the  painting of Mader are foodstuffs, such as cookies, butter, and tea brought by the laity to absorb blessedness. 

TOC > Ova > A report from 1961 (part1)