Naadam Festival

Naadam means “Festival or feast of sports”. As well as, the festival is locally termed  “Eriin Gurvan Naadam” means “Three manly sports”.

The three sports are: Horse racing, wrestling and archery. Origin of the festival dates back to the great warriors’ period or great Genghis Khaan’s period of the 13th century that the Mongolian great kings and military generals used to train their warriors and the warriors’ main battle tool horses while competing and feasting those three manly traditional sports have been generating for centuries and being enriched by more traditional sports and games. During the festival, Mongolians dress in colorful and distinctive traditional clothes and ride their most beautiful horses. Official festival celebration takes place through the country between 11 and 13th July annually.  Even though, some of the administrative units celebrate their festival on different dates depends on special celebrity occasions or anniversaries may held certain periods. This is not only festival and holiday for Mongolians; this is a day proud of their tradition and unique way of nomadic culture.

Horse race: Horses competing in the races are trained for at least a month before the festival. There are six racing categories according to the age of the horses, starting from two-years-old horses to fully-grown horses and stallions. The horse races held outside Ulaanbaatar in the open fields. The two-year old horses race a distance of 15 km whereas the fully-grown horses race 30 km. The races are performed by small (child) jockeys.  They prefer to race without saddles to be as light and therefore as fast as possible.

Wrestling: Wrestlers wear special clothes to show the beauty and strength of their bodies. There is no categorization according to weight. The basic rule of the wrestling is the number of wrestlers must be equal: 512 or as many as 1024 during special anniversaries. The higher-ranking wrestlers choose from lower ranking wrestlers as their competitors. The winners remain for the next round whilst the loser leaves the competition. The competition will continue in this manner until the very last round. Depending on which round the wrestlers win and also depending on their previous title, they receive a new title. The wrestlers’ titles named after prey of birds and strong animals; falcon, elephant, hawk, garuda, lion and champion. The wrestlers’ imitations of the animals’ gesture are of an interest as well.

Archery: Over the years, there are some changes for the Naadam festival rule. Nowadays, women can attend most competitions and games except for wrestling. This competition is open to women, who draw 20 arrows at a 60 meters target, while men shoot 40 arrows at a 75 meters target.

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