The UB Post

A guide to Mur Gargakh ritual


The 17th “Urvuulagch” Year of the Pig is upon us and everyone is busy preparing to welcome it during Tsagaan Sar.

The first day of Tsagaan Sar, known as Shiniin Negen, will occur on Tuesday on a Rooster Day. The sun is expected to rise at 8:13 a.m. Before sunrise, heads of families are advised to perform the Mur Gargakh (leaving footprint) ritual to ensure their family is safe and protected in the coming year.

Mur Gargakh is a ritual originated from ancient religions and beliefs that worshiped deities of nature and ancestors. Over time, it expanded in terms of content and ritual as it became associated with shamanism and Mongolian Buddhism. It requires the head of the family, usually the father, to leave his/ her home toward a given direction to perform a ritual, which consists of a specific action and recital of mantra. Then, he or she must return home from another given direction. The action and directions are determined in accordance with the year’s Buddhist calendar and vary depending on the individual’s date of birth.

Performing the Mur Gargakh ritual is believed to bring fortune and productivi­ty in that year, and ensure the wellbeing of their family.

Most people think that “leaving home” and “returning home” from a specific direction applies immediatel­y as you step out of your ger, house or apartment. But that’s not the case. In fact, the ritual performer needs to find a location for doing Mur Gargakh ritual before sunrise. Then, they take five to nine steps toward the given direction to “leave home”, perform the specified action, and go clockwise to go back to the starting point from the given direction. It’s best to make sure there aren’t any obstacles (rubbish bins, poles and street lamp etc.) in the way beforehand.

Astrology and religion researcher­s advised individual­s to reach the place they plan to perform the ritual before the sunrise. If it’s at an open space in the countrysid­e, the ritual should be held far from stables and horses. However, if it’s in the city and at a residentia­l area, the individual is advised to be at least nine feet away from a building. The mantra should be recited three or seven times, according to a monk.

Mongolians usually wear new or clean clothes, a belt and a hat in addition to making sure their shirts are buttoned up as to pay respect to the ritual. Some people even prepare small offerings such as dairy products, milk or vodka to offer to deities in the surroundin­g area. It’s also advisable to prepare items for rituals beforehand. These items depend on the date of birth but are usually items you can find in nature, including water, soil and rock. However, some of the items are more difficult to find like paper.

As mentioned before, family members other than the head of the family, especially those under the age of 13, aren’t required to do Mur Gargakh ritual but they can also perform it for extra protection. Family members can perform the ritual on behalf of old or sick members as well, provided that they whisper the original performer’s name and date of birth before doing the ritual.

 ?? Photo by G.ARGUUJIN ?? People watching the first sunrise of 2018, the Year of the Dog, after Mur Gargakh ritual
Photo by G.ARGUUJIN People watching the first sunrise of 2018, the Year of the Dog, after Mur Gargakh ritual
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