What Is Naadam?
Naadam is a traditional festival that dates back centuries. It is a significant event in Mongolia where people come together to celebrate their cultural heritage through various combinations of sports and arts.
An expression of nomadic culture, it is also known as ‘Eriin Gurvan Naadam’, which means ‘The 3 Manly Games’. The three games refer to wrestling, horse racing, and archery, which are the main events of the festival.
In the year 2010, the Naadam festival was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. Naadam is celebrated from July 11 - July 13 all over the country.
Here are the ‘ins and outs’ of this super cool festival that you definitely need to know about or if you’re looking for signs to decide upon your next travel destination!
What’s The History Of This Festival?
Numerous historical accounts claim that Emperor Genghis Khan regularly scouted for exceptional soldiers at organized competitions in archery, horse racing, and wrestling. Later, these planned activities came to be known as Eriin Gurvan Naadam or simply, Naadam.
When the Qing dynasty ruled over Mongolia, the festival was held by the people living in the slums. Mongolia gained independence during the 1921 revolutions and it happened to occur at the same time as the Mongolian State Flag Day when the Naadam festival was made official.
Until the influence of the Communist Soviet Union which took place in the 1930s, it was celebrated as a Buddhist or Shaman holiday. (Ironically enough, monks were banned from participating in it).
At the end of the Soviet regime, Naadam became a symbol of national unity and celebration.
The people wear sporting equipment along with unique cultural outfits. The festival also consists of special rituals and practices. Songs and poems of praise are dedicated to the participants of the event.
What Are The Main Events Like?
Local vs Countryside Naadam - Which Is Better?
Naadam festivals are larger in scale. They showcase elaborate competitions and highlight the historical and cultural significance of the festival. They also feature Mongolian music, exhibitions and various performances.
Pros: You’ll be able to explore remote regions, gain a deeper understanding of the festival, witness a wider variety of events
Cons: Less authentic since it's more tourist-focused, may be more crowded and expensive.
Naadam festivals are usually organized at the village or district level and tend to be more relaxed and informal than the former. They also feature local competitions in traditional sports.
Pros: Can have a more genuine experience of Mongolian culture, more intimate and less time-consuming for tourists who cannot venture out towards the countryside.
Cons: Fewer events to witness and on a much smaller scale.
Other Events To Look Out For
Where Is Naadam Held?
The main Naadam Festival in Mongolia is held in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The main venue for the Naadam Festival is the Central Stadium, also known as the Naadam Stadium.
However, some other popular locations are: Khovd, Bulgan, Selenge and Khentii.
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