Legends of Kyrgyzstan

Traditional Manas storytellerPresent-day Kyrgyzstan has been the field of complicated ethnic processes and historical events, that have scarred the conscience of Kyrgyz tribes. The places where those events took place remained in the memory of people and became surrounded by the legends, which occupy an important place in the thesaurus of Kyrgyz people folklore.

The people were born and spent their hard life in the mountains. The hopes of rest and well-being rested on water, the reason why Kyrgyz people tried so hard to water the earth. Too much depended on water. It explains why the people worshipped, respected it and attached supernatural, life-giving force to it.

Besides the yurt, there is a second, very important part of Kyrgyz culture and proud - the hero Manas: The epos that has been named after him and consists of three parts, tells the story of the hero Manas and his son and grandson, in the 10th century. He has been born in the region of Talas, in the north-west of the country, and it is said that at the age of 9, he already defeated the snake with wings - the scene can be watched in Bishkek in form of a statue at the place in front of the Philharmonia.

The epos, which is longer than Odyssee and Ilias together, has been told orally throughout the last millennium, and the first written version appeared only about 100 years ago.

The storytellers and singers (Akyn), who were able to sing this most important masterpiece of the Kyrgyz people, were very much honoured and respected people and called "Manaschi". 

The legend "Ayup Ata Bulagy" (Ayub Ata spring) says, that the prophet Ayub cured himself of leprosy and became younger in the healing water of the spring, which nowadays is situated on the territory of Djalal-Abad spa. "Proud, independent and worshipping no one, Ayub was cruelly punished. After heavy tortures his body was covered with a lot of wounds, his viscera was seriously injured, and he was expelled by the Allah into a wild and desert place, where the sun grilled mercilessly, and there was no water, no food, no shelter. For a long while wandered the obstinate Ayub in the desert and endured hardships. Worms were swarming in his stinking sores. Ayub repented. The Almighty heard his prayer and sent archangel Djabrail ordering him to kick the earth with his right foot. From the place he kicked hot water was struck, and it permanently runs till today. Having taken a bath in the spring, Ayub healed his stinking wounds. All worms that swarmed in his stinking sores were killed, except one, which turned into a silkworm, and made the mulberry tree its home.
To cure Ayub of internal diseases, the archangel ordered him to stamp the earth with left foot, so another spring arose. Ayub drank from it, and healed himself completely. He lived on this earth for a long time as a righteous man until his death".

Kyrgyz akyn - storytellerAbout fifteen versions of the legend exist about the origin of Issyk-Kul Lake, which is the sacred place and object of worship for Kirghiz people. Here is one of the legends. "There were three magic wells in a khanate. Only the Khan knew the secret of each one. He held them sacred, and ordered that they be closed very tightly with covers, so that the water would not run out. In the same khanate lived one poor girl. The Khan's son had fallen in love with her, but the Khan did not want them to be married. He ordered his servants to decapitate the girl in the presence of his son. The servants did it. The drops of blood fell upon the earth, the earth began to boil, and hot springs were struck. When the girl's head fell on the earth, one of the wells exploded, and running water flooded the whole khanate. So Issyk-Kul Lake was born."

Numerous legends are dedicated to the land. Each stone, meadow, mountain, pass of any note, and even whole settlement, were covered by legends in antiquity. Some of the legends explain names of one or another place. "Once upon the time lived a rich bay (landlord). He had seven sons. Before his death, the bay evenly divided his innumerable herds among his sons. Only seven calves were lost. After their father's death his children began to live separately. One day, those seven calves were found. They grew up, and turned into formidable bulls. A quarrel began among the brothers. Each one wanted to appropriate all the bulls, and blood was shed. To prevent fratricide, a wise wizard turned the bulls into seven red rocks. Therefore the place is called Djety-Oguz, 'seven bulls'."

There is a legend of the Kyrk-Kyz pass, which is also a sacred place for Kyrgyz people. "In remote times forty beautiful girls climbed the pass to pick flowers. But the pass was high, difficult to traverse, and there were snow clouds and storms on the ridge. As soon as the girls climbed the pass, a horrible snowstorm began. So as not to be frozen and lost, the girls hugged each other and fell asleep. The snow covered them. Next spring, the people could not find anything there. Since then old people have climbed the pass, turned to the East and prayed. There is a drifting snow on the ridge, and, now and then, it turns into ghostly forms of women. A buzz is heard from beneath the earth. It sounds like the groans of dying girls. Since that time, the place has been considered sacred. Until now, any travelers passing by say prayers from the Koran".

As a rule, many sacred places had their genius loci. One of such sacred placed was Dyunghyurme mountain in the place called Bar-Bulak (Issyk-Kul region, Ton province). An inhabitant relates: "Dyunghyurme is formed by two rocks, separated by a small river. The mountain is so-called, because in the night between Thursday and Friday buzz and noise are heard here, and there is a light here. People came here just to pray, they brought infertile women and sick people and left them for the whole night with the shaman (mystery-man). The person whose prayer was accepted by the genius loci, saw him and heard his voice. A white young camel (aktaylak) was considered to be the 'genius loci'". The most ancient of conceptions, associated with cult of nature, and, in general, with shamanism and tengrianism (cult of the sky), is the conception of the sky as the highest deity.

Alongside the deification of the sky, worshipping of the real sky as a part of nature existed among Kyrgyz people. Therefore, they often used the expression: "Kok asman koldo!" (Blue Sky, help me!). The legends draw the attention of historians, because this genre helps them to study the past, understand people's perception of the world, and carry cognitive function, which partly or in full, gives us an answer to the question on the origin or emergence of a subject of nature.

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