Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nauryz : Kazakh New Year

Nauryz is a non-religious Kazakh folk celebration of the spring – I am wondering if it is the same festival as that of cherry blossom festival in japan. Nauryz is mostly celebrated in the west and central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. It is celebrated on spring equinox. The central theme of Nauryz is renewal, cleansing, the coming of spring, and the birth of new life. During the course of history Nauryz has become a symbolic New Year in many cultures. Nauryz is one of the most ancient, respected and favorite holidays in that part of the world.

My university has about 70 Kazakh students and I got invited by few of my Kazakh friends to celebrate their celebration. It started at 5:00 pm but I could reach the spot only at 6:00 pm since we got lost. By the time we reached there, few girls – wearing their traditional attire – were dancing to a traditional music tune. A Turkish student performed Kanun – it looks like our Yangchen – and the small crowd added their own clapping sound to the music. Two Kazakh students performed Dombra (it looked just like a Dramgyen except it has only two strings and no animal head decorations) quite skillfully. They performed few traditional dances from different countries and few of them sang some songs – which I think might be a song to which people will dance when they are drunk. They showed us a short documentary about Kazakhstan. It looks great in that documentary but I also know they showed only the good things in that documentary. As the show is getting closer to end, few girls dressed in traditional attire threw sweets and chocolates in the crowd (I had fun jumping and catching those chocolates).

After the show is over, they served us their traditional food. I forgot their names but they are basically fried rice and breads. I interacted with few performers and friends – including strangers – and talked about their performance and their significance. A girl showed me a landscape which has a beautiful legend associated with it; she was proud hat her home is near that place. Well basically, there is a lake near a mountain and rock in a lake. She said that the rock looks like a young girl with her hair cascading in the wind from one side of the lake and looks like a old woman from the other side. It is believed that once a girl was wooed by men all over the country. As a test, her father made her stand on that mountain with a scarf and all her wooers were made to shot arrow at the scarf. Anyone who can pierce the scarf will get her as price. Unfortunately, the person who pierced the scarf happened to be the son of her father's arch rival. So, she jumped from the mountain into the lake and turned into a stone. Ohhhh.... what a tragedy!

They had a huge wallpaper where people were racing on horseback. I thought it is just a horse race. It is an ancient Kazakh game called kyz kuu (chase the girl). Basically, a guy and a girl will have to ride a horse and run towards a finish line. The guy can start galloping only after the girl passed his position. If the guy can overtake the girl, he can reach out to her and STEAL a kiss. If he could not overtake the girl, they will reverse the direction and the girl will chase the guy. If the girl can overtake the the guy before he reaches his starting position, he will get whipped with her whip. Seriously! what can be more fun than that? I am seriously considering to introduce this game in Bhutan .....

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