Indiana Daily Student

Naadam celebration observes Mongolian culture, wrestling

Seongyeon Ko and Connor Sweeny participate in a traditional Mongolian wrestling match Saturday at the Mongolian Naadam Celebration.  The winner is determined when the opponent’s knee, elbow, or back touches the ground.
Seongyeon Ko and Connor Sweeny participate in a traditional Mongolian wrestling match Saturday at the Mongolian Naadam Celebration. The winner is determined when the opponent’s knee, elbow, or back touches the ground.

For a short while Saturday afternoon, Winslow Woods Park was filled with music, fresh food and Mongolian wrestling.

Participants gathered at the park as part of the IU Mongolia Society’s celebration of the Mongolian holiday Naadam.

Naadam is one of Mongolia’s two biggest holidays and is celebrated from July 11 to 14 in honor of the country’s revolution against the Soviet Union.

The celebration opened with words from Department Chair of Central Eurasian Studies Chris Atwood.

“I’d like to say it’s our 10th, 20th, 30th year, but it’s been so many that I’ve forgotten,” he said.

Naadam is generally celebrated through three sports: horse racing, archery and Mongolian wrestling, said Tserenchunt Legden, a professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.

“These sports have been popular since ancient times, the Genghis Khan times,” she said. “And now, these sports are celebrated as a celebration of the Mongolian revolution of 1921.”

Attendees had the opportunity to participate in Mongolian wrestling, as well as other traditional games such as Shagai, at the festival.

Shagai is a game similar to dice, but instead of dice, participants use the anklebones of sheep. Each side of the anklebone is shaped differently and represents a different animal. The object of the game is to roll four anklebones and have each land on a different side.

In addition to the games, sophomore Delgerbat Uvsh and Bloomington resident Ochmaa Escue played native Mongolian music and folk songs. Uvsh played the Mongolian national anthem on the horse-head fiddle, a box-shaped violin-like instrument that is played like a cello. Escue accompanied Uvsh on a yatga, a 13-string lap-harp.

Several first-year Mongolian students taking part in an intensive eight-week course through the Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages program sang at the festival.

Two members of this group, University of Georgia student Hunter Causey and Monterey Institute of International Studies student Rhiannon Bramer, will be traveling to Mongolia at the end of the program as a Fulbright Scholar and a Boren Fellow, respectively.

Atwood attributes some of the success of IU’s Mongolian program to outside activities like the Naadam celebration.

“There’s a Mongolian community in Bloomington, and they also participate in these events. There’s another holiday — the lunar new year, Tsagaan Sar — during the year, with even more people.

“I think it’s the best program in the United States,” he said. “It’s a nice environment to see. People are very friendly, and they welcome people who study Mongolian and those who aren’t.”

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