Thursday, June 24, 2010

Attractions in Northern Mongolia

Lake Huvsgul. This majestic clear-watered lake contains 65% of all the fresh water of Mongolia and furthermore, 1% of the world’s fresh water supply. Nine species of fish inhabit the lake, including Siberian grayling and lenok. Nearby taiga forest, forest steppe, moun tains, and the lake itself provide habitat for 68 species of mammals, including argali, ibex, elk, reindeer, musk deer, brown bear, lynx, marten, beaver, wolf, and moose, 244 species of birds, and 750 species of plants, including 60 with medicinal importance.

Khuvsgul is the land of the TSAATAN REINDEER HERDSMEN, a branch of the Turkic-speaking Tuvinian or Dukha ethnic group. This small group of 42 families possesses a social and material culture which has remained unchanged since the Ice Age. Shamanistic or totemic rituals and symbolism are central to the social organization of the Tsaatan. Shamanistic rituals of healing rely on rare medicinal plants and animals unique to this landscape. The Tsaatan are an archaic and ethnographically interesting nomadic groups to be found on the Eurasian continent their lifestyles are both ancestral to all the nomadic herding cultures of Central Asia and are reminiscent of a way of life which was widespread across Europe, Asia and North America 10,000 years ago. Darkhad and Tuva people have coexisted peacefully with the Tsaatan reindeer herders sharing respect for KHUVSGUL LAKE, The Dalai Eej or Mother Sea for sustaining their livelihoods for centuries. The area is a perfect destination for vacationing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, trekking, sport fishing, and bird watching.

Uran uul volcano lies west of Bulgan city en route to Khuvsgul area.
Selenge Province. The rich vegetation and fertile soil of Selenge aimag position the aimag as the breadbasket of Mongolia. Selenge aimag produces 40-56 percent of the grain of the country. In the aimag, there are timber, match, cement, chalk, spirit, wood plants, gold and coal mines and power stations. In the south-east, the open-pit coal mine at Sharyn Gol produces about two million tons of coal each year to provide electricity for the Erdenet mine in Bulgan aimag.

The Amarbayasgalant Monastery is considered the second most important in Mongolia after Erdene Zuu Khiid in Kharkhorin and the most intact architectural complex in Mongolia located in a valley 360 km from Ulaanbaatar. The monastery was built between 1727 and 1737 by the Manchu emperor Yongzheng and dedicated to the great Mongolian Buddhist and sculptor, Zanabazar, whose mummified body was moved here in 1779. The valley is covered throughout its extent with Turkic-era graves of various geometric shapes dating to 3rd century. The area holds sacred associations for the people. In 1996 it was nominated by UNESCO as a Heritage Site. After 65 years the lamas organized “Tsam” religious dance for the first time in Amarbayasgalant monastery in 2002.

Spiritual Mongolia
Mongolians are very spiritual people. Shamanism in Mongolia originated some 5000- 6000 years ago reaching its peak during the 3rd century BC. Shamanism derives from respect and worship of the nature. For centuries shamanism determined the nomads’ attitude and behavior towards nature. The respect for nature still lives in the custom of worshipping and erecting ovoo (stone piles with offerings on top of mountains). The Mongolian shamanism reveres the three totems: father of heavens, mother of the earth, and spirits of the ancestors. Shamans perform divinations wearing special costumes and use special ritualistic instruments. Nowadays, shamanism is still practiced among the Tsaatan, Tuva, and Buriad ethnic groups who live in Khuvsgul area and eastern part of Mongolia.

Buddhism spread in Mongolia in three great waves. The first wave was brought by the Silk Road trade, a section of which ran through the southern part of Mongolia. The second wave came during the ruling of Khubilai Khan. The last one started in 16th century by Under Gegeen Zanabazar, the first Bogdo or theocratic leader of Mongolia, a direct descendant of Chinggis Khan. He designed Lamaist rituals, etiquette for lamas to creating attributes and musical instruments for religious rituals and public worship services. Buddhism in Mongolia belongs to Mahayana, the Great wheel teachings. Between 16th-i 8th centuries some 800 monasteries and temple complexes were built on the territory of Mongolia the majority of which got destroyed during the 1930s religious persecution by Communists. Nowadays, Buddhism is experiencing a revival with more than 100 monasteries and temples being restored and a return of freedom to believe and worship to Mongolians.

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