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Mongolia National Naadam Festival
HomeMongolia travel destinationsMongolia National Naadam FestivalUpdated 2017 March


Mongolian National Naadam Festival
Mongolian National Naadam Festival
Naadam is a Mongolian National Festival celebrated every year from 11 to 13 July throughout the country with the biggest processions in Ulaanbaatar, that the Mongolian people wait for round the year. In 2011 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Mongolia's biggest holiday festival, Naadam, as intangible cultural heritage. Naadam in Mongolian language usually terms as "Eriin Gurvan Naadam", which means "Three Games of Men". In other words men compete in traditional wrestling, race their horses and contest in archery. Mongolian wrestling, Horse racing and Archery tournaments are held throughout the country during the festival. The wrestling and horse racing became the main play festival and archery was left behind them somehow.
Usually, the official opening ceremony of the Naadam starts at 11 am at the Ulaanbaatars Central Stadium where "Yesun Khult Tsagaan Tug" or Nine White Banners of Mongol State are transferred from the Government House by nine horse riders and located  in the center of the stadium while the President of Mongolia delivered a greeting speech to all celebrants of National Naadam. Also, opening ceremony features amazing activities including Mongolian folk and traditional music, song, dance and historical show, performance of acrobatics, gymnastics and huge mosaic animations.
The rituals and customs of Mongolian Naadam also accentuate respect for nature and the environment.


Mongolian Traditional Wrestling
Mongolian National Naadam Festival: Traditional Wrestling
The most interesting event of the Naadam is Traditional Wrestling, one of the three manly traditional sports with the most number of audiences in Mongolia. Usually 1,024 wrestlers from Mongolian aimags and cities are competing in a tournament that lasts nine rounds. There are no weight classes and only men compete in Mongolian wrestling. Wrestlers ranks can only be attained during the Naadam festival: Giant (Avarga), Lion (Arslan), Garuda (Garid), Elephant (Zaan), Hawk (Hartsaga), Falcon (Nachin). The number of rounds won by each wrestler determines rank.
Also, Mongolian Traditional Wrestling was recorded in the 2011 Guinness World Book of Records with participation of 6,002 wrestlers on September 25, 2011.
Mongolian National Naadam Festival: Traditional Wrestling
6002 wrestlers have been registered into the Guinness World Book of Records


Horse racing
Mongolian National Naadam Festival: Horse racing
Mongolians have tradition for horse racing sport from over hundreds of years. The place of "one of three games of men" of the Naadam Festival is Khui Doloo Khudag, for the horse racing. Young jockeys between the ages of 5 and 12 (girls and boys) race horses over distances ranging from 10km to 26km. Traditionally, Naadam horse races usually organized in 6-age categories and start annually with Khyazaalan (four-year old) and Shudlen (three-year old) horse racing competitions on July 10th:

Categories Horse age Racing distance
Daaga 2 year 10-12 km
Shudlen 3 year 12-14 km
Khyazaalan 4 year 17-19 km
Soyolon 5 year 22-24 km
Azarga more than 5 years 22-24 km
Ikh Nas more than 5 years 25-26 km

Also, the first ever 60 km long distance horse racing competition namely “Grand Race” will be organized on July 10, 2014 starting from 04:00 pm at Khui Doloon Khudag valley, with starting line from Baga Tsagaan Khutul area to Altan Uul destination of 30 km and to have a rest of 30 minutes there and to return to starting line.


National Archery
Mongolian National Naadam Festival: Archery
Nowadays National Archery competition is a popular sport widely throughout the nation as involving women’s participation and the State Archery Tournament is being held officially in both Men’s and Women’s categories. Traditionally, the archery competition in Mongolia was being organized in Uriankhai, Buriad and Khalkh ethnic groups, but the State Archery Tournament is conducted under Khalkh category. Moreover, Archery Tournament among Children organizes specifically. Around 350 archers from the country attends the festival and competes in both categories. Mongolian archery is unique for having dozens of surs as targets. Each sur is a small woven or wooden cylinder.


Knucklebones shooting
Mongolian National Naadam Festival: Anklebone shooting
Traditional game called Shagain Kharvaa (shooting with knucklebones) or knucklebone/anklebone shooting, is popular as part of Naadam festival. Knucklebone Shooting is very popular nationwide in Mongolia. Specially polished to shine knucklebones are shot in the straight downwards direction in the angle of about 30-45 degrees into the target zone named as ''Zurkhai'' by flicking 30 domino-like shooting tablets of marble named ''Khasaa'' laid on a lined smooth wooden surface from a distance of 9 elbows (4.72 meters) towards a target of sheep and goat ankle bones that are arranged to the given orders of the current game rule. Its technique demands high accuracy and precision and might seem somewhat similar to bowling, with the object being to knock down more of the ankle bones than your opponent.
In 2014 Mongolian National Knucklebone Shooting is registered on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
By the way, Mongolians have honored their stock’s anklebones since ancient times, and that keeping Shagais, collecting them is believed to bring balance, happiness and goodluck in life. The bones are collected and widely used for traditional and fortune-telling games in Mongolia. For more see the Mongolian National Knucklebone Shooting.
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