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The National Festival

The National Festival Naadam

The Naadam festival celebrated each summer, originated many centuries ago as a test of courage , strength, daring , horsemanship, all necessary for a nomadic people and warriors. The largest celebration is held in Ulaanbaatar beginning on July 11. Herdsmen, many from distant places, converge on the city to view and take part in horse races, wrestling and archery competitions, the three manly sport.

  • Mongolian wrestling

Mongolian national wrestling has specific features of its own: the engagements are not limited in time, there are no weight categories, the area of the arena is not fixed and many pairs of wrestlers meet simultaneously. All this makes it possible to conduct a contest of numerous opponents within a comparatively short time. The Naadam opens with the contests of 16 pairs of wrestlers and lasts 14–15 hours. Within that time a total of 512 or 1024 wrestlers take part. Their wrestling apparel consists of national boots, a short jacket with long sleeves, tight-fitting across the back and with the chest open (zodog), and short trunks (shudag). The material, often top quality silk, is extremely durable. The methods used in Mongolian wrestling are not limited and include a variety of dashes, holds, strikes, throws over the hip, shoulder and back, and many other kinds of attack. Before the beginning of the engagement the wrestlers perform a kind of dance that reminds one of an eagle’s flight. This serves, on the one hand, as a limbering up exercise, and on the other, to show off the wrestlers fine build.

  • Archery contest

Archery contest continue a tradition dating from the time of Chinggis Khan when they were intended to sharpen military skills. Contestants use compound bows fashioned from sinew, wood, horn and bamboo, strung with bull tendon. Men fire 40 arrows made from willow branches and griffin vulture feathers from a distance of 75 meters and women deliver 20 arrows from 60 meters at a target consisting of 360 small leather rings fitted to a wall. In accordance with ancient custom, several men stand on either side of the target singing a folk song ( ukhai ) to cheer the contestants and then use hand signals to indicate the results.

  • Horse racing

Horse racing is the favorite sport of the herders who bring their best horses from great distances. The races, which take place on the steppe over distance of from 15 to 30 kilometers, are a test of endurance for the horses and riders, boys and girls aged between four and twelve years old. The races are organized according to the age of the horses. The five horses which come in first are led to the central stand and are arranged there in order of the places held. Traditionally the winning horse is honored with odes and songs which in fact praise the toiling stock breeders, his love for animals, his knowledge of their habits, and his tireless work for his people and country.

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