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What is the yurt of nomadic people

The ger (in Mongolian), or the yurt (in Russian), is the traditional dwelling of the Mongol peoples and, in general, of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. Yurts and teepees are designed to be easily assembled or dismantled so that the owner can resume his journey. The herder is constantly moving, looking for new pastureland for these animals.

The nomad's yurt

Orientation & symbolism of the yurt

The orientation and the symbolism of the yurt are valid for all the ethnic groups of Mongolia. The yurt is not only the center of the universe but also a microcosm itself. It is a map of the universe, and the veil of the sky is reflected in the arched form of the interior of the roof yurt.

The entrance is always facing South. The North side, also called the hoimor is located behind the fire opposite the door. This is the most honorable place in the yurt where sanctuaries and altars are placed. It is here that sacred objects and other religious images are placed on a table or chest.

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Nomadic family in the Mongolian steppes

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Symbolism of the yurt's fire & crown

The center of the yurt is the most sacred place of the yurt, it’s where the fire is located. The fire is the dwelling place of the daughter of Father Sky, Golomto. It must therefore be treated with respect. Just as the yurt is the center of the universe, the fire is the center of the world represented by the yurt. The vertical axis represented by the chimney rising from the fire symbolizes the tree of the world where the shamans ascend to the higher world. The crown of the yurt symbolizes the gateway to the upper world. In some shamanic rituals, such as the initiation of shamans, a tree will actually be erected from the fire through the crown of the yurt, thus describing the journey of the shaman to the higher world.

Loneliness of nomadic life

The yurt symbol of native people's medicine wheel

The yurt can also be compared to the native people’s medicine wheel in North America. It is a physical representation of the sacred circle with its marked orientation towards the four directions of the universe. The circular pattern and alignment to the four directions are also preserved in outdoor shamanic ceremonies, such as walking and dancing around the sacred ovoo erected for mountain spirits. Ovoos are piles of stones and other symbolic items located on the top of the hills

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Yurts with their wood barracks

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The yurt symbol of the race of the sun

The movement in the yurt is “sunwise”, it is in the sense of a clock. By observing the crescent of light created by the sun entering the yurt through its crown, we understand very quickly why the yurt represents the race of the sun. By this fact, each person moving in the yurt must do so in the direction of the movement of this sun. Going from the south to the north of the yurt, passing by the westside of the yurt, and going from the north to the south of the yurt, passing through the eastside of the yurt. This same movement is also applicable in shamanic dances and other ritual dances.

A Mongolian yurt at the lake

Orientation & symbolism of the yurt

Seating also respects a tradition still ingrained today. The west side of the yurt, on the left hand passing the front door is the side reserved for men. It is also the storage place for tools, saddles, bows and rifles.  he east side of the yurt, on the right hand passing the front door is the side reserved for women. On this side are stored kitchen tools, food and other female objects. Finally, the places north of the yurt, those near the altar are the most honorable. Here elders, chiefs, shamans and honored visitors take seat. Children and young adults sit to the southern part of the yurt.

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The evolution of the yurts

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Interior layout of the yurt

A. Iron stove for cooking with chimney
B. Fire wood box
C. Low table for eating
D. Stool in the guest area
E. Beds for sleeping and sitting
F. Storage chests for personal items

G. Chest/cupboard with altar and Buddha image/statue
H. Pantry for kitchenware and food
I. Water bucket
J. Equipment for manufacturing Airak (fermented mares milk)
K. Saddle stand

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