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Nomad Burials- a letter from Gansukh (posted 4/10/04)

I always find the stories from my good Mongolian friend 'Gansukh' fascinating. I just had to put this email of his up in regards to how Mongolians bury their dead. Kathrin and I were fascinated by the way of life of the nomad. All of their rituals point to the transcience of life on the steppe. "Hi Tim You asked me about nomads how they bury the bodies. I just want to tell you about that. In Mongolia traditionally we have many different ways to do that, almost all different types known in other cultures. Originally Mongols were shamans, and since 16th centuries been Buddhist. So through Buddism, Mongols have few more different ways to bury the dead bodies. I don't know right words about those, sorry. The most common way today is digging ground and bury them, because the most people live in towns today.(65% population) Before strong comunist influens, 1950's The Mongols mostly did sky buriels like Tibetians. It's originally Tibetan tradition came to Mongolia with Buddhism. The difference is Tibetians cut the dead body in to pieces and feed Vulture's. But Mongols just leave the bodies on the top of the hills. We belive if the body is eaten by fox, wolf and birds in three days is very good. Then that person had innocent life, if that guy had a lot's of sins and wasn't good person the body stays longer in bad condition and smell, which is very sad. Also Mongols have a tradition to make Mummy, this is only for very high ranked Princes or Buddhist Monks. There are kind of Mouselems (temple) with mummies in Erdenezuu monastery in Kharakhorum, Choijinlama temple in Ulanbator. Also Mongols burn the bodies like Hindu's, this tradition also came with Buddhism. Only very high ranked Monks are done with this. Some parts in Mongolia there is a tradition called LOSING. They put the body in a bag with clothes, food and other things belong to dead person. Then hung that from the horse or yak wagon, and go for the small journey till it fells to the ground. And they explain that spirit chooses the buriel land itself. Usually this is belong to small children. Let me tell you a story. Which is quite common. Two truck drivers were driving to the far western Mongolia, and found a big bag. It wasn't break time, so they had very short stop, took the bag and put it on the truck. After few hours drive, they stopped for meals, they had a fire, hot tea and meals with vodka. After the meals they opened the bag, first they found sweets, some biscuits and other snacky food. They had a some, and they guy put the arm down, suddenly shouted, he just pulled the arm out. And other guy took everythings out,in the bottom there was dead 2 year old kid. They both vomited, and very quickly drove away."