Nikokh-Tui, wedding, is the most solemn and large Uzbek ceremony. Traditionally Uzbek people celebrate weddings very richly and cheerfully with peculiar splendor and abundance of guests. Immediate and remote relatives, neighbors, friends and co-workers are invited to this wedding ceremony.
The festivities begin since the early morning with a festal wedding pilaf prepared in the houses of the groom and bride. Today the morning pilaf is more frequently prepared in cafes or choykhanas: it is more comfortable and less troublesome for the hosts.
After the morning pilaf the groom with friends and relatives, musicians and dancers come to the house of the bride. The bride in the wedding clothes, today usually in the European white dress, is waiting in the special room, where only mullahs (priests) can come in. They ask her marital consent and then read the prayer – “nikokh”, which effects a marriage.
The second part of the wedding ceremony is the farewell with parents and the home. Friends of the groom ship the bride’s dowry and the bride say goodbye to her parents and leaves the house accompanied with her friends and relatives, who sing farewell songs.
In the husband’s house women welcome the bride, singing traditional wedding songs. In front of the door there is the white track, payandoz, by which the bride enters the house. She stops before the door and makes “ostona salom”, the bow to the new house. Women strew her with flowers, sweets, money wishing her beautiful and rich life.
After the evening part of the wedding the groom goes with the bride to their new room. The bride is met by yanga, her relative or close friend. She changes bride’s clothes. After this the groom comes in the room and “pays a ransom” for the bride to yanga and then the newlyweds are left alone for each other.
Early in the morning after the wedding party the holiday is continued with the ceremony of Kelin salom (speech of welcome of the bride). Young wife should welcome every guest, bowing from the waist to everyone, and guests should give her gifts and greetings.
Early in the morning the “Kelin Salomi” ceremony (“Bride’s Greeting”) starts. By the beginning of the ceremony the groom’s parents, all close relatives, friends and close neighbors gather in the yard. Everybody approaches the bride by turn with their wishes, gifts and blessings. Bride is obliged to greet each of them by bowing lowly.
Thus the celebration finishes and family life begins.
One of the old and binding ceremonies is morning plov. The big plov is cooked for hundred of guests when a child is born, during a circumcision event, in honor of a man returning from the military service, in the early morning of a wedding day, when one turns the age of the Prophet (63 years old), funeral repast and many other major evetns. The day of the morning plov is fixed in advance and organizers disseminate invites to their relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
On the eve of plov ceremony there is a rite ‘sabzi tugrar’ which means carrot chopping. Carrot is one of the main ingredients of this dish along with rice and meat, it is the one that gives this rich taste to the plov. After carrots are chopped, refreshments are served, and the elderly distribute duties among men as only men may cook, serve and take part in the morning plov ceremony.
Morning plov is served right after the morning prayer ‘bomdod namozi’ that ends with the sunrise. As soon as the morning prayer is over, the first guests arrive. The table is served with non (bread), dried fruits, snacks and tea, and musicians start to play Uzbek national instruments such as karnay –surnay announcing the start of the morning plov.
Large dishes (lagan) of plov are served. One lagan is usually for two persons. Before the meal, guests read a blessing prayer for the hosts of the event and repeat it after the ceremony.
On the morning of memorial plov ceremony, other surahs from Koran are read, for the peace of the soul, there are no musicians and the table is served modestly. Morning plov is the most transient mass event and usually takes not more than an hour and a half. On the wedding plov organized by the bride’s side, the most honored guests are offered chapans (national gowns) by the groom’s side at the very end of the meal.
One can get the full picture of the Uzbek plov only at the morning wedding plov ceremony. It may be the blessing and the positive attitude hundreds of people creating this atmosphere that make plov so divinely delicious.
This ancient ceremony has been preserved in Uzbekistan culture from times immemorial and still is one of the most popular holidays in Uzbekistan. For every family it is a great holiday. All relatives, neighbors and family friends are involved in the preparation to the beshik-tui.
It is celebrated on the fortieth day after birthday of a child. Relatives of the young mother bring “beshik”, a beautifully embollished cradle, clothes, and everything necessary for a newborn. Also it is a custom to bring bread, sweets and toys, wrapped in clothes.
Traditionally, while guests enjoy and regaling themselves at the holiday table, in the nursery elder women carry on the rite of first swaddling and placing the child into the “beshik”. The ceremony finishes with a presentation of a child, during which invited guests present the child with gifts.
Uzbek national clothes are very bright, beautiful and cozy. Uzbek clothes are a part of rich cultural traditions and life style of Uzbek people. In urban places it is uncommon to meet people in traditional Uzbek clothes, now it is worn on traditional festivities and holidays. But in rural places it is still a part of everyday and holiday garments.
The basis of national men’s suit is a chapan, the quilted robe, tied with a kerchief. Traditional men’s cap is tubeteika. Kuylak is the men’s straight cut undershirt. Ishton is men’s wide trousers, narrowed at ankles. Traditional footwear is high-boots, made of thin leather. Shirts were worn everywhere, but men from the Fergana Valley and Tashkent region wear a yakhtak, a wrap shirt. Both of these types were sewn from homespun cotton cloth and feature a moderate aesthetics in a form of a decorated miniature braiding- jiyak, stitched along the collar.
Belts for gala dresses were normally very smart, made of velvet or embroidered, with silver figured metal plates and buckles. Everyday shirts are tied with long sashes.
Traditional Uzbek women’s suit consists of plain khan-atlas tunic-dress and wide trousers. Holiday garments were made of satin fabric richly embroidered with golden thread. Women’s headdress consists of three elements: a skull-cap, kerchief and turban. An essential part of traditional holiday garments of Uzbek women are gold and silver jewellery: earrings, bracelets, necklaces. Surkhandarya women most of all prefer the colors of red nuance as a symbol of well-being. The embroidery pattern was chosen not by chance, it always had magic or practical function. One could judge about the owner’s social status by the patterns, though sometimes they bear other meanings. For instance, repeating geometrical pattern on the braiding was a something like an amulet Clothing of black or dark blue colors was not popular in any region of Uzbekistan due to a superstition. Sogdian patterns have preserved the traces of Zoroastrian influence. The colors in this region were chosen on the basis of the position in society. For example, prevailing blue and violet nuances in a woman’s dress showed her husband’s pride of place, while greenish motifs were frequently used by peasants and craftsmen.
The footwear consisted of mahsi (ichigi – nice heelless step-in boots with a soft sole), and high boots made of rough leather or rubber. It was very handy and warm footwear which is quite popular even today.
Headdress is one of the main elements in the traditional Uzbek clothing. The national headwear in many countries of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan is a tubeteika (skull-cap). Tubeteika is derived from the Turkic word “tubé”, which means “top, peak”. Tubeteika is worn by everybody: men, women, and children. Only elder women do not wear tubeteikas.
Today it is uncommon to meet a man in the tubeteika in large cities, mainly it is an important element of holiday garments at family parties and religious celebrations. The common form of the Uzbek tubeteika is tetrahedral and slightly conical. Traditional men’s tubeteika is black and embroidered with a inwrought white pattern in a form of four “paprikas” and 16 miniature arches. An everyday tubeteika, “kalampir”, is one of the simplest and widely used cap, its importance must not be underestimated. This tubeteika is an essential attribute for some events even in the environment of a country-wide influence of the European culture. There are smart tubeteikas enriched with bright and colorful embroideries and patterns for special festival occasions. Each region of Uzbekistan has its own national headdress ‘tyubeteyka’ (in Rus) in height and pattern. Despite the wide range of variety it is considered that there are only six main schools of tyubeteyka embroidery in Uzbekistan: Ferghana, Tashkent, Kashkadarya-Surkhandarya, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khorezm-Karakalpak. For special, festive cases there are smart tyubeteykas that are rich in bright and gold embroidery and patterns.
Traditional festival entertainments can be distinguished into a separate category among different traditions of Central Asian people. These are, of course, dances, songs, also puppet shows, wrestling, horse racing and performances by equilibrists – darboz as they are called in the East.
On the territory of Uzbekistan this kind of circus performances was spread in the early middle ages. Rope dancers’ shows always attracted huge numbers of people. Previously, they were held in the bazaars or large squares. No holiday was celebrated without equilibrist show. They gathered all the people from young to old, the shows were often visited by local city administration.
This national tradition survived up to present time because it was passed down from generation to generation. And today’s rope-walkers are great successors of the glorious traditions of their ancestors.
Craft of rope dancers is very difficult, it takes great endurance, agility and strength. The rope dancers – darboz- are mostly men. They are usually dressed in traditional national costume, either bright colors or in white shirt and black trousers, which are tucked into soft leather boots. Darboz do not use safety lanyard, and the height of the rope reaches from 4-5 m to 50 m. Such a height takes such huge concentration and attention, as well as skill.
During the show darboz climbs the rope and begins his show. Walking along the rope darboz holds a pole for balance. Unsurpassed masters are those equilibrists who can keep the balance on the rope while standing on one leg. When darboz reaches the other end of the rope, he again repeats all his own stunts, but walking backwards, which is another sign of rope walker’s skill.
Today the rope-walkers show can be seen during such holidays as Navruz and Independence Day of Uzbekistan, during the national festivals, their performances are held in Tashkent Circus.
Kurash (translated as “attaining a goal by fair means”) is a kind of national waist belt fight, traditional among the Turkic peoples officially included in the world’s network of non-Olympic sports and supported by UNESCO. This kind of single combats originated in the territory of Uzbekistan presumably about 3,500 years ago. In the ancient legendary epos Alpomysh, kurash is mentioned as the most popular and favorite kinds of single combat. Whereas historian and philosopher Herodotus in his work “History”, described kurash in detail among other customs and traditions of ancient Uzbekistan.
Avicena considered this kind of single combats salubrious not only for body but also for spirit, while Tamerlane introduced kurash to his fitness and self-protection program, developed for the soldiers of his unconquerable troops. Furthermore certain battles were preceded by straight fights: where fighters of the feuding parties met. There were cases when upon such straight fights the commanders ceased hostilities and canceled the battle. Kurash was not only a kind of single combats but also public entertainment during various events and festivities. Years went by, but kurash did not lose its national popularity, being one of the most favorite and respected traditions among the Uzbekistan’s peoples.
Over a number of centuries the kurash rules, as well as technique, traditions and philosophy were passed from generation to generation. But no attempts to systematize as well as generalize the whole information on kurash were made; indeed, each family anyway has all necessary knowledge about it. And what is more, kurash never spread beyond Central Asia. It was not until 1980 when Komil Yusupov, kurash, judo and sambo master, began studies which ten years later resulted in making universal rules. The millennial traditions which were thoroughly studied served as a basis to determine weights, terminology, jests, fight duration, uniforms for fighters and referees. Everything that was essential to turn an ancient folk entertainment into a modern kind of sport was worked out.
Kurash uniform includes wide white trousers and a loose shirt. An imprescriptible part of the uniform is a fabric belt used for comfortable hold of the rival. The girdle made of soft fabric measures 180–220 cm long and 50–70 cm wide. The main kurash rules are rather simple. The competitions are held on a special mat with thickness at least 5 cm, with a marked working zone (located in the center), protective zone and with a “passive zone” separating them. Two participants meet in the working zone. The only position permitted for the combat is a standing stance. The aim set before the contestants is to throw the rival on the back; this result in kurash is considered a victory by fall. To achieve the goal the fighters are allowed nothing but dashes and undercuts to be assessed by the judges. Kurash is a safe and simple combat sport since any painful, beating and submission holds, grips below the belt are prohibited there. In spite of these prohibitions the straight fights are very dynamic and theoric.
Kurash has embodied a centuries-long philosophy and such values as respect to the rival and humanism, honesty and ability go all the way. This kind of single combat is one of the youngest international sports; it starts gaining popularity all over the world. Kurash world championships as well as those of Russian and European take place on a regular basis. The International Kurash Association with the participation of representatives from 28 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe was founded in 1998 and which has been functioning up to date.
Kupkari (ulak, buzkashi) is a traditional Central Asian team competition played on horseback. In Turkic “kup” means “many” and in Persian “kari” means “work, case”, hence “kupkari” is “the case of many people”.
In Uzbekistan the kupkari competition is also called an ulak. In this game skilled equestrians compete to carry a goat or sheep carcass into a goal.
Usually Kupkari is held in spring or autumn, when the Central Asian peoples traditionally celebrate weddings, as well as during the main spring holiday, Navruz. Often Kupkari game involves brave riders from neighboring regions.
Equestrians prepare for the kupkari competition in advance and carefully. They choose a strong, short horse of great endurance. The horse should be shortll to make it easier to pick up the carcass of an animal from the ground, because in the heat of battle, it often falls to the ground. For the Kupkari game, riders usually wear head protection, quilted cotton robes and pants to protect themselves against other players’ whips. Because getting excited, horsemen can whip each other; it is not prohibited by the rules of the game.
Kupkari competitors line up and wait until a village elder or other respected person leaves the animal carcass in the center of the circle and signals the start of the competition.
Then the horsemen try to grab the lamb or goat from the ground and reach the finish line without losing their trophy, while fighting off rivals who are trying to take away the animal carcass. According to the Kupkari rules it is prohibited to attack a rival from behind or knock the rider off the horse.
The riders keep away from the audience not to strike someone accidentally. The audience is prohibited to help riders, giving them the carcass from the ground. The winner, who carries the trophy into a finish line first, gets a prize. In the old days it was a colorful rug, bulls, sheep and goats, expensive fabrics. Nowadyas, the prize for the Kupkari winner may be, for example, expensive appliances or a car.
Hospitality is one of Uzbekistan features. Hospitality in Uzbek families is appreciated higher than the wealth of a table and prosperity of the family. Not to receive a guest means to disgrace the family, kin and makhalla.
Hosts welcome esteemed guests at the gate. As a rule, men shake hands to each other and show their interest in each-other’s health, business and other things. It is appropriate to greet women with slight bow, attaching right hand over the heart.
Then guests are invited inside and to the most honorable seats at the table, or dastarkhan in Uzbek. By the ancient custom men and women should seat at the separate tables, but this custom is preserved in whole only in suburbs. The head of the family himself seats guests round the table, and the most honored guests are seated away from the entrance.
Any meal begins and ends with tea drinking. At the beginning the table is served with sweets, baked goods, dried fruits, nuts, fruits and vegetables, then it is served with snacks and at the end – with pilaf or other festal dish.
The host of the house pours the tea. The traditional element of hospitality is the peculiar small amount of tea to be poured: the more honored guest, the less amount of tea is in his cup. This custom is explained in such way: the more guest asks the host for more, the better. It is the sign of respect to the house. If tea is remained in the bottom of the piala, the host pours it out and again fills piala with tea.
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