Naadam


Mongolia's National holiday - The Three manly games

Every nation has its national holiday. In many nations, it is independence day. For Mongolians, the national holiday- Naadam, is a celebration of cultural sports, celebrated over three days beginning on July 11. This is the main national holiday in Mongolia. During the three days competitions for the three manly games, horseracing, wrestling and archery, are held. Since 1921, Naadam is held in consunction with the National Holiday or Day of the People's Revolution on July 11th marking the events that led to Mongolia's independence. Naadam begins with the state guards of honor carrying the nine white standards of Chinggis Khan from the government house to the Central Stadium after which the President of Mongolia opens the ceremony.

2500 years of Mongolian wrestling

Wrestling is the most popular game of Naadam. This unique form of wrestling originated during the period of waring clans when Mongolia was not an independent country and has since been maintained as a national classic sport, combining both physical strength and art.Mongolian wrestling follows strict regulations that define a fall as when any part of wrestler's body, except his hand or feet, touches the ground. There are no weight and age divisions. A small wrestler can be pitted against someone many times his weight and can win. The unpredictable nature of this wrestling is one of its main attractions.Usually a total of 512 wrestlers square off in elimination matches during Naadam. Sometimes up to 1024 wrestlers compete during special events,Titles are given to winners of a number of rounds: Falcon to those winning five rounds, Hawk for six rounds, Elephant for seven rounds,Garuda bird for eight rounds, Lion for nine rounds, and Champion to the Lion who wins the whole tournament. The titles are given according to the decree of the President. The wrestler with the higher title chooses or challenges his opponent.Wrestlers wear small open vests called zodog, and snug shorts called shuudag. The heavy, traditional boots are called gutuls. According to Mongolian legend, the vests are open to ensure only men compete in the wrestling competition. This became necessary after a national Naadam champion was found to be a woman disguised as a man.Each wrestler has a partner who proclaims the title of the wrestler before rounds 3, 5, and7. This prodamation is a challenge to the wrestlers opponents and encourages the wrestler to win.

Mongolian horseracing

During the Naadam festival, many racehorse trainers from the farthest reaches of Mongolia migrate to the capital to test their horse's skills. Children from the ages of 5-12 are chosen as jockeys for the horserace. The race is called a "hard lesson" for jockeys to test their skill, courage, and endurance.During the race, over 400 horses can be chosen to compete. The horse races are broken down into 6 categories based on the age of horses. Each of the divisions including stallions, and age groups from seven to two, race different distances, up to 35 km.The winning horse is praised with the title "leader of ten thousand" and the top five horses receive similar titles. Winning racehorse trainers are awarded titles such as "The best racehorse trainer" according to the decree of the President.Mongolians believe that if they are covered by the dust or touch the sweat of the winning horse, they will succeed that year. Even the national emblem of Mongolia is a horse, reflecting the deep connection between Mongolians and their magnificent horses.

Archery

Mongolia's top archers, called erkhii mergen or skilled archers, compete every year at the Naadam festival.A unique feature of Mongolian national archery is that the targets are leather rings set out as wall on the ground. The wall is a line of 360' leather rings which run 4 m wide and 40-50 cm high. Men shoot 40 arrows at a distance of 75 meters and women shoot 20 arrows from 60 meters. Mongolian bows have no sight. Arrows, made of young willow sticks and vulture feathers, consist of a body and fork that are tipped with huge hexahedral ends made of roughly-carved bone. The strings are made of tough and taut roebuck neck skin.Archers are ranked according to the score of the targets they shoot and the winning archers are given the title of "Top archer" and "State archer" by decree of the President.