|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.
at Kalmyk holiday by an American anthropologist.
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)|