Religion of Altai

The main and the most ancient religion of Altai region was shamanism. First written sources about shamanism belongs to the second half of the 6th century. Characteristics of shamanic drums and costumes of ancestors of modern Tuva formed in the second half of the 1st millennium. Peoples of South Siberia and Mongolia have been already used developed shamanic cults with characteristic feature as a priest chosen to communicate with spirits, using a tambourine during the ritual, falling into trance and travelling to spirit world.

Stonewarior of ancient Turk age

Archaeological materials of Bronze Age, monumental sculptures, rock paintings show the complexity of the religious beliefs of tribes inhabiting territory of the Altai Mountains (3 millennium BC. - 9 century BC.). They allow to see elements of Indo-European mythological tradition, images of shamans and spirits of patrons. Iconography images associated as with unique images related with early Buddhist subjects, so with Tibetan Buddhism, which originated on the basis of pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet Bon, also known as yundrun Coupons - "tradition of eternal wisdom".

Outlook of tribes inhabiting Altai represented a synthesis of several religious courses, which was reflected in funeral ceremony and arts in the Scythian period (8-2 centuries BC). Scythian culture mixed shaman, Zoroastrian and Buddhist ideas. Symbiosis of Indo-European and shamanic burial vividly presented at the funeral ceremony in Altai Pazyryk barrows (Tuekta, Bashadar, Pazyryk). Despite high degree of religious beliefs of that period, the tribes have preserved the cult of fire, sun, ancestors, as well as elements of magic and witchcraft. Archaeologists have found strands of human hair sewn into skin, nails and various charms in Pazyryk burial mounds. Archaeological evidence confirms the presence of special techniques of ecstasy, ritual fumigation and using of ritual drink "catfish" in the religious practices.

Pazyryk burial mounds

Huns had extensive political and economic relations with countries which had a Buddhism as main religion since 2 in. BC. Chinese source "Wei Shu" (506-572 AD.) mentioned that the Huns had worshiped to Buddhist statue of the great deity and smoked incense in 121 BC. But it is difficult to prevent widespread Buddhism among Huns because of lack other historical documents.

Altai tribes were descendants of ancient tribes and another great cultures at various times. They interacted with the Buddhist world: ancient Turkic period, western Mongols (Oirat), then period of gradual strengthening of Buddhism in North-Western Mongolia and formation of Burkhanism.

The current period of Buddhism evolution in the territory of Altai Mountains is connected with the revival of Burkhanism and active emergence of Buddhist schools in the late 20th - early 21st century. The association of Altai Buddhist was created in 1992. Practicing Lamas receives believers personally.

Buddhist stupa of religious ascetic Boor XVIII century was established in Karakol valley in 1996. The stupa was built on the site of his cremation. Boor was head seok Maimana (one of clan of southern Altai). He studied in Tibet for 25 years and was the first Altai received degree of Doctor of divinity. The monument is a two-meter stupa made of white granite and metal, symbolizing the sun and the moon. Cult objects were laid at the base of stupa.

Boor stupa

Center of “the Buddhist Diamond Way Karma Kagyu school" has begun to take traveling teachers and seat regular collective and individual retreats in the village Askat since October 2002. Currently Altai Buddhists communicate with teachers of all three schools from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Ulan-Ude and India.

Islam appeared in Altai when Muslim nations were part of Dzungaria. Muslims of Gorny Altai were isolated and away from Islam after defeat of the Khanate in 1756 and the capture of East Turkestan. The new stage of Islamization was coming to the region with arrival of Kazakhs. Directed migration of Kazakhs began to border areas of southern Altai with the consent of Telengits In the last third of the 19th century. Kazakhs developed land of Chuya valley. Mosques and Muslim culture centers are being established in the Kosh-Agach district. The construction of the mosque is almost completed in the Gorno-Altaisk.

Orthodox Christianity came in Altai territory later than other religions. It was happened after the death of Jungar khanate and entry Oirat and Altai tribes which escape to the protection of Russian citizenship. It is considered the beginning of Altai Christianization 1830 year of foundation of Altai Spiritual Mission. Most of the indigenous population of the Altai Mountains accepted Christianity and officially considered Orthodox, the majority still continued to belong to traditional beliefs.

The Old Believers have long been settled on the territory of the Altai Mountains. They came into the closed by mountains and all-sides protected Uimon valley in the late of 17th century. The Valley always attracted freedom people to search Belovodye (white water land). Russian Old Believers sought Belovodian priests such as Assyrian, Antioch priests. Many handwritten route diaries and oral traditions, preserved in Uimon Valley, Rudny Altai, Bukhtarma river valley among Chinese Altai migrants have this information.

Temple of Ioan Bogoslov in Patmos Island

Altai public praying in Tereng valley in 1904 year was the birth of Burkhanism called “Ak yang" (white faith or "milk faith.") The new faith included the concept of supreme God Burkhan as good, comprehensive basis. Major figure Yarlykchy is elected by light deity. They often act as healers and public prayers, they perform rites of worship to Altai, which are held in a special place each time. It can be called differently "rising of the Altai" or "deification of beginning of Altai" or "Altai prayer" depends on areas. Spring rite is called as "Jazhyl Buur" ("Green leaves"), and in the fall - "Sarah Buur" ("Yellow leaves").

Altai keeps a whole series of sacred centers of ancient civilizations such as temple-burial complexes Bashadara, Tuekta, Karakol, famous sacred centers Pazyryk natural and "places of power".

The Altai Mountains is interesting place to achieve profound mystical experiences, it is a cause of rapid spread of different religious and philosophical movements, facing to eastern and pagan psycho practices. Religious ceremonies in Altai associated with the experience "magical reality," the Way of the Warrior Teachings of Don Juan, described by Carlos Castaneda; access to the universal human energy in Reiki; self-realization in Sahaja Yoga, neo-pagan mysteries and traditional waterfall practices of Altai spiritual culture.

The Altai Mountains are also a place of pilgrims following for Roerich places and trying to find legendary Shambhala. It is philosophical and ethical teachings “Living Ethics” or else called Agni Yoga, which is aimed at opening of higher forms of psychic abilities to transform and acquire cosmic energy of Agni.

Gorny Altai is a great keeper of spiritual wisdom accumulated by mankind. It is place of mystery and transformation of human consciousness. It is place of contact with nature and heritage of many-sided Altai, people with its customs and traditions kept from ancestors. Here, you may get spiritual support in life and strengthening bond with ancestors and spirits, which protect descendants of the many troubles and misfortunes.