Friday, May 23, 2008

Turkmen Wedding Customs

Attractive Customs
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Gorgan Plain is situated along the Caspian Sea coastline, but rises above the sea-level as we go toward the east side of the plain. To its north is a vast low region that stretches as far as Turkmenistan and to its south lie the eastern parts of Alborz mountains, which has peaks exceeding 3,000 meters.
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According to Iranchamber website, the mountainous region situated to the east of Gorgan Plain includes villages and districts of Kalaleh, Goli Dagh, Ghara Bolkhan, Torveh Tappeh and Hesarche. The region where Iranian Turkmans live, called Turkman Sahra, is located to the south of Atrak River.

Tribal Roots
Turkmans arrived from Central Asia and live under various social and natural conditions.
According to ancient narratives, the head of Turkmans was a person called Aghooz Khan, who is regarded in Turkman myths as Adam. Another point worthy of mention in these myths is the reference made to Noah and his three sons. In the Turkmans’ family tree, we come across names like Tatar, Turk, etc. who were descendants of a tribal leader named Alinje Khan.
Marriage in the tribal system plays an important role due to the need for manpower. Women play a big role, as they make felt, spin wool, weave carpets and cloths, milk cows and sheep, prepare dairy products for the family, build cottages and help men in cultivation, maintenance and harvesting of agricultural products. And, most important of all, they give birth to children and help their husbands in other activities too.
For the same reason, elaborate and glorious ceremonies and rites are observed in the case of courting and marriage.
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Marriage Ceremonies
Sport contests, including horse racing and wrestling, are performed by men while adolescents dance and some groups sing songs.
As the wedding ceremony is important among Turkmans, it would be appropriate to describe its stages.
The ceremony is usually held in an open space and string instruments are played. Men and women celebrate separately. As guests come from far-off places, celebrations continue for two or three days, so that everybody gets an opportunity to participate.
The men’s assembly begins with the playing of a double-stringed instrument and flute, and a kind of soup called shurva is consumed.
The bride is taken to the bridegroom’s house in kajaveh (kind of pannier used in pairs on camels or mules). When taking the kajaveh, 30 horsemen ride alongside each of whom with a piece of cloth 1.5 meters long strung from his horse to indicate his tribe.
Before the bride mounts the kajaveh, her mother sprinkles white flour as a sign of good luck. Then the kajaveh moves along. At this time, agile horsemen move toward the bridegroom’s house to announce the news about the bride’s departure. Whoever gets first to the bridegroom’s house receives a prize, which is a kind of shawl hung round the neck of the horse. This kind of race is now called desert race.
When the bride moves toward the bridegroom’s house, handkerchiefs are waved in the sky and songs are sung. The guests are then entertained.
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Traditional Sports
The main sport in Turkmans’ life is horse racing. Turkman horse riders start their career from the age of 5, that is from the time they can sit on a horse.
In addition to horse racing, wrestling is an important traditional sport of Turkmans. They practice this sport from a very young age and win awards for their villages and towns.
Turkman wrestling contest is an arena for showing one’s strength against known or unknown rivals. Weights of participants or time of contests are not taken into account. The two contestants continue their fights indefinitely until the final results are announced. The space of this contest is not limited and the wrestler is allowed to tackle his rival over a long area.
The most important point in this wrestling is that if the hand or knee or any part of the wrestler’s body, except his palm, touches the ground, the wrestler is declared the loser, and the referee will raise the other’s hand and will declare him the winner. A prize is usually awarded to the winner. In traditional Turkman wrestling, strong wrists and legs contribute to victory. Wrestling rarely ends in a draw.
If the shoulders or sides of the two champions touch the ground at the same time, the match will end in `chal’ or draw and the hands of the two will be raised as winners. Any prize envisaged for this purpose will be divided equally between the two.
Wrestling is held during religious festivities, weddings, circumcisions and other happy occasions. As a sign of vow or dedication, the recipient ties the handkerchief and touches it on his forehead.
In Turkman Sahra, all weddings and celebrations end in horse racing and wrestling. These events are, in fact, the main elements of celebrations.
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