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The Republic of Buryatia. General information

Source:  Tourist Buryatia. - 2008. - P. 4-37.

                                                                  POPULATION

The population of the Buryat Republic is multi-national, and according to the census data of January 1, 2007, it is estimated at 960,000 people.

The major ethnic group that resides in Buryatia is Russians - more than 660,000 people (54%). The census data of 1989 reveal the decline of the Russian population by 8% which is mainly explained by their migration to other regions. The Buryat population has increased by 9% because of the natural growth and migration from Aginskii and Ust-Ordynskii Autonomous Regions.

For the first time the Nationality Dictionary has listed Soyotes who have also been included into the List of Indigenous Peoples of Russia. The Buryat census data give estimates of 2,700 Soyotes. Between 1989 and 2002 there was an increase in the Evenk population by 39% who are referred to as the Indigenous Peoples of the North. There are currently about 2,300 Evenks in Buryatia.

The total population of Buryats in the world is about 520,000 people. There are 249,500 Buryats in the Buryat Republic, 49,000 Buryats - in the Irkutsk Oblast and Ust-Ordynskii Autonomous Region, 42,300 Buryats - in the Chita Oblast and Aginskii Autonomous Region. The Buryat people also live in Mongolia (35,000 people) and China (10,000 people). The Buryats are the most numerous ethnic group in Siberia.

There is a theory that first Buryat ancestors (shono and onkhoi tribes) appeared on this territory at the end of Neolith, the Bronze Age (2500-1300 ). At the beginning of the 3rd century the Trans-Baikal and Baikal population got involved into important historical events that happened in Central Asia and Southern Siberia and were associated with the formation of the States of Huns, Syanbi and ancient Turks. Since that time the Mongolian tribes got spread in the Trans-Baikal region, and the aborigines started to assimilate with Mongolian tribes. In the 9-14 centuries the Trans-Baikal region was in the center of Mongolian political events that included the formation of the Mongolian state led by Genghis Khan. Russian explorers of Siberia first got to know about the Buryats ("brotherly people") in 1609, and in 1628, when the first scat of 142 sable furs was paid by the Russian Kazaks led by Pyotr Beketov, the Buryat people and their region became part of Russia. The Buryat population is divided into 223 kindreds who comprise the main ethnic groups - Ekhirites, Bulagats, Khoris, Khongodors, and Selenga Buryats.

The aboriginal population of Buryatia also includes the Evenks, whose native land is located in the Baikal Region. As a result of numerous conflicts with the Turks and Mongols they had to move into the Far North and Far East, while some of them stayed in the Barguzinskii District, Severobaikalsk, the Vitim taiga and Baunt regions. They were nomads in the beginning, and were mainly engaged into hunting, fishing, deer breeding; besides they were skilful in smith craft and ivory works, processing animal's skins, sawing clothes from skins, building boats, skis, Evenk sledges, making household utensils from birch bark and wood. The Evenks lived in chums (traditional houses) covered with birch bark in summer, and deer skins in winter. The beginning of the Soviet era marked the new stage in the Evenks' life. The nomads started to lead a regular life with little migration. The traditional activities were diversified by agriculture, cattle and processing furs.

Besides Buryats there is an indigenous group of Soyotes who reside in the Okinskii District. The Soyotes are the ancestors of the ancient Samodiiskii population of the Eastern Sayans. They are kindred with Tyva-Todjin people, Tofalars (Irkutsk) and Tsaatans (Mongolia). Their traditional activities include deer and yak breeding. Their religions are Buddhism and Burkhanism.

Nowadays, the Soyotes' spiritual and material culture is being highly promoted and supported. The Soyote Association of the Okinskii Region lists 1,200 indigenous people. They have also opened a Center of Soyotes' Culture which contributes to the development of material and spiritual culture of the Soyote ethnic group, and to regeneration of the Soyote crafts. The Center also hosts a Soyote folklore group.                    

The Russian settlements started in the 17th century when Kazaks founded the Barguzinskii, Udunskii, Selenginskii and other villages which marked the Trans-Baikal exploration. The Kazaks were the most numerous migration group of the Russians who were the first to come to Trans-Baikalia. They were the military people who performed administrative duties and, having joined the local population, provided for the security of the Russian borders. To supply the military Kazaks with food they were given agricultural lands that promoted the development of agriculture and farming.

The Russians brought their original culture to the Trans-Baikal region, however, interaction with the locals: Buryats and Evenks, and specific natural conditions contributed to enrichment of the Russian culture with a fewinnovations. The security of the Russian borders was a serious issue of the 18th century, and the guards of Russians, Khorinskii and Selenginskii Buryats, and Evenks perseveringly performed that duty. The formation of the Trans-Baikal Kazaks' troops dated back to 1851, and they included Russia's bordertroops, the Kazaks of the Verkhneudinskii District, local farmers (peasants), Buryat and Tungus Kazaks who settled along the Russian border. As a result, the Kazak troops were ethnically diverse, however, the Russians prevailed.

The second largest ethnic Russian group in Buryatia and Trans-Baikal is Old Believers ("semeiskiye"), the descendants of Old Believers who were exiled to Siberia in the second half of the 18th century. They are spread all over the Buryat Republic: they mostly reside in the Tarbagataiskii, Bichurskii, Mukhorshibirskii and Zaigraevskii Regions (Districts). The Semeiskiye belong to the unique realm of Russian culture which developed under specific conditions that never repeated in other Russian ethnicities.

The new Russian settlers of the Trans-Baikal region kept their unique culture, developed it and preserved it for the future generations to come. The Semeiskiye culture was at the peak in the second half of the 19th century. Both the secular and religious life achieved success: the Old Believers' way of living was different from other Russian settlers' of Trans-Baikal and Buryats', so traditions and rituals were carefully handed down. Nowadays, they have undertaken a lot of research and effort to revive the Semeiskiye culture: the Orthodox churches are being restored, the traditional holidays and festivals are regularly celebrated, the folklore dancing and singing groups give concerts, etc.

                                                                 GEOGRAPHY

The Buryat Republic is located in the central part of the Asian continent, and surrounded by the mountain chains of Southern Siberia bordering on Altai-Sayan mountainous region in the east, Severobaikalsk and Stanovoi highlands in the north.

The longitude of Buryatia from the west to the east varies between 98° 40' and 116 55' (east longitude). The very north of the Republic is at 57 15' (north latitude), and the very south of the area is at the Chikoi River at 49 55' (north latitude).

In the north and west the Buryat Republic is washed by Lake Baikal, in the east it borders on the Chita Oblast, in the north and west it borders on the Irkutsk Oblast, in the south-west its neighbor is the Tyva Republic, and in the south it has a common border with Mongolia.

The Republic is situated on the area of unique Central Asian landscapes that include mountains, tundra, forests and steppes, and the largest and the oldest fresh water reservoir - Lake Baikal, which all make the region important and valuable for the Earth's biosphere.

Buryatia makes a bigger part of the mountainous region that occupies a significant area of Eastern Siberia in the south, and is characterized by magnificent mountain ranges and vast and deep hollows. The dissected mountains are spread almost all over the Republic, and there are only few plains in the region that are located rather high above the sea level (about 500-700 m). The lowest point above the sea level is Lake Baikal - 456 m at the Pacific point, and the highest is the glacier covered mountain peak Munku-Sardyk in the Eastern Sayans -3491 m above the sea level.

The mountainous relief of the Republic contributes to seismic activity of the region making it one of the most active seismic areas on the planet. Numerous small and large scale earthquakes of grades 5-6 are rather common in Buryatia, however, for the last 100 years there have not been large earthquakes.

                                                                    CLIMATE

The Buryat Republic is known for its sharply continental climate with a big range difference of annual and daily temperatures, inequitable distribution of precipitation during the year, cold winters and hot summers. Winter in Buryatia has many sunny days, and the temperature is rather low. The frosty weather is not unbearable because of the dry air. The lowest temperatures have been registered in the river valleys and hollows in which the air stands still and continues cooling. The average temperature in January is -20-30°C, and the absolute maximum is -45-55C. Severe winters are followed by late and dry springs with drops of temperatures below zero in the nighttime. The true spring starts at the end of March, and the first greenery appears in late April.

Summers are short, dry in the beginning, and have more rain in July-August when the cyclones form, and the warm air comes from the Pacific coast. The summer heat reaches its peak at noon, while mornings and evenings are rather cool and nice. The average temperature of the warmest month, July, varies between+15 and +20 °C, and the absolute maximum is +30 - +38 C.

Autumns are rather warm and prolonged. The fall temperatures in Buryatia are higher than in the European part of Russia. The most notable feature of the Buryat climate is the big amount of sunny days which account for 1900-2200 hours of sunshine, and, thus, Buryatia has even more sunshine than some southern regions of Russia. In comparison, the resort area of Abastumani in the Caucasus has 1994 hours of sunshine, and the Riga coastline has about 1839 hours of sunshine a year.

                                                                 RIVERS, LAKES

The Republic is rich in water resources. Most rivers are included in to the Lake Baikal water basin. The largest rivers are the Selenga, Turka, Khilok, Dzhida, Uda, Barguzin, and upper Angara. The rivers are abundant in fish. The largest river Selenga originates from the rivers Ider and Muren and flows from Mongolia. The Buryat part of the Selenga is 409 km.

Between the Barguzin and Ikat Ranges there flows the Barguzin River which is 400 km long. The cooled air goes downstream the valley in spring and fall and causes winds of 25-35 m/s.

The Dzhida River ("zed", "dzed" in Buryat, and "dzed" in Mongolian that means "copper") is 567 km long. The upstream of the river is full of rapids in a canyon-like valley. The total number of big and small rivers and streams in Buryatia is about 9,000.

Besides, there are many lakes in the Republic, the biggest and most attractive of which are Baunt, Kotokel, Gusinoye (Geese lake), Schuchie (Pike lake), Frolikha. The most famous lake is Lake Baikal which is 636 km long.

                                                                   FLORA AND FAUNA

The 83% of the area is forests. The prevailing tree species are larch, pine, cedar, and fir trees. The total forest area is 21,171,700 ha, including 15,347,400 ha of coniferous forests.

The pine is a true pearl of the forest. It is the second largest species in Buryatia that occupies 16% of the forested area. The 60% of the pine forests is concentrated in the basins of the rivers Uda, Kurba, Khilok, Temnik, and Barguzin. The most spread larch species is the Dahurian larch which accounts for 80% of the larch forests. It is largely found in the north and north-east of Buryatia. The fir trees occupy 2% of the forested areas. The cedar forests account for 1,609,000 ha (9% of the forested areas). The cedar forests are primarily found in the upper parts of Khamar-Daban and Baikalskii Ranges, and Kitoy mountains. The cedar is highly resistible to low temperatures, and gets more solid turning into a taiga giant at the age of 250-300. The cedar nuts are an exceptional product, tasty and rich .There are no big spruce forests in Buryatia, and some strips of spruce are located at Lake Baikal and mountain valleys which make 2% of the forested area. The Buryat spruce is known for its higher hardness and strength than the spruce of Western Siberia.

In spring the evergreen bushes of wild rosemary get covered with purple flowers. The wild rosemary is the Siberian heather that usually grows on swamps and wet coniferous forests. In Buryatia there are many flowers in summer. Many plants are used in traditional and Tibet medicine. The fall is rich in berries: blueberry, black current, buckthorn which is used in making medicinal oil -buckthorn oil.

The greenery of the Baikal hollows and valleys largely accounts for unique beauty of landscapes that surround Lake Baikal. The flora is remarkable for a large number of relict and endemic species among vegetation communities. The mosaic character of Baikal landscapes and vegetation communities create unique wildlife habitats of different animals. There are currently 65 species of mammals, more than 300 bird species, 6 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians.

Lake Baikal is one of few inland water bodies in which a seal (Baikal nerpa), the only endemic mammal species, can be found. The nerpa is a long-living large mammal of 120-150 sm long. Hunters reported about animals of 50 and older. There are still arguments and theories about how the seal got into the central part of the Asian continent. The most popular version is that the nerpa reached the lake from the Arctic Ocean during the Ice Age when the ocean waters spread along the Enissey Valley up to the mouth of the Tungusska River.

In the upstream cedar forests there can be seen the fur animal, sable, which is considered the "king of furs". The experts say that the darker the sable fur, the more expensive it is. That is why the Barguzin sable is the most valuable (precious) of all sable species found in Siberia.

The total number of vertebrate species in Buryatia is about 435. Unfortunately some of the fauna representatives are listed as endangered and threatened species including a red dog (a middle-sized animal whose looks is similar to both of a fox and a wolf), a wild cat - manul, a snow leopard, a river otter, a wild goat, a reindeer, a Dahurian hedgehog and others.

Besides, in Buryatia there are more than 348 bird species. One of them is a gannet that used to be most numerous at Lake Baikal. It is not by chance that three islands at the lake are called Baklanii (from the Russian name for a gannet "baklan"). There is also a bustard which is one of the largest and valuable birds in Russia. The bird species include a whooping swan which is one of the largest bird species in Buryatia. The swan is called "whooping" as it has a very loud voice similar to the trumpet sound. This is a very beautiful and magnificent bird.

The Buryat rivers and lakes are rich in fish. The Lake Baikal symbol is the omul. There are five omul species in the lake: Selenginskii, Chivyrkuiskii, Severobaikalskii, Barguzinskii and Posolskii.

The golomyanka is a viviparous marvel of Lake Baikal. Its body is so transparent that it does not have a shadow in a well-lighted place. What is more it is possible to read black characters through the golomyanka's tail. The fish body contains 40% of fat, and it can melt when exposed to the direct sunlight. This fat is of value in Tibetan medicine.

The sturgeon is the tsar-fish of Lake Baikal. The primary sturgeon habitat is the coastal areas where the rivers Selenga, Barguzin flow into the lake and the upper Angara flows out of the Lake. Since the ancient times settlers of the region have been fishing for the sturgeon, and this can be proved with petroglyphs found in Buryatia that contain an image of a sturgeon. The overfishing of the sturgeon, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, has significantly undermined the sturgeon populations in Lake Baikal. In the eastern part of the Lake and in Baikal's tributaries there can be seen the grayling, a predatory fish which is tasty and rather popular with fishermen.

                                                   NATURE PRESERVESAND NATIONAL PARKS

 The protected areas of the Buryat Republic account for 3,262,200 ha (6% of the Republic's territory) and can be divided into: State Nature Preserves, National Parks, State Nature Refuges, Natural Landmarks, Resorts and Recreational Areas.

The State Nature Preserves are located in the five Districts: the Barguzinskii - in the Severobaikalskii District (374,300 ha), the Dzherginskii - in the Kurumkanskii District (238,100 ha), the Baikalskii - in the Selenginskii, Kabanskii and Dzidinskii Districts (165,700 ha). There are two national parks in Buryatia: the Tunkinskii National Park (1,088,200 ha), and the Zabaikalskii National Park (230,200 ha).

The Barguzinskii Nature Biosphere Preserve (Reserve) is situated in the north-eastern part of Lake Baikal, the western side of the Barguzinskii Mountain Range. It was founded in 1916 to preserve and restore the sable population, and in 1986 it was given a status of a Biosphere Nature Preserve. The water reservoirs account for 17,083 ha including 15,000 ha of Lake Baikal (a strip of water of 3 km wide). In the Preserve there are 39 mammal species, 243 bird species, 4 reptile species and 2 amphibian species. The Preserve's residents are sables, foxes, wolves, bears, reindeer, moose, squirrels, grouses, black-billed capercaillies, nutcrackers and nerpas.

Address: 671710, Buryatia,

Severobaikalskii District, Nizhneangarsk,

KozlovaSt. 61

tel.:+7 (30130) 51-912,

e-mail: bargnr@burnet.ru

The Baikalskii Nature Biosphere Preserve (Reserve) is located in the southern part of Lake Baikal and encloses the water basin of the central part of the Khamar-Daban Mountain Range. It occupies an area of three districts in Buryatia: Kabanskii, Selenginskii and Dzidinskii. It was founded in 1969 to protect a huge ge-

netic pool of wildlife. The total number of higher and lower plants is about 2,000 species, vertebrates - over 350 species, invertebrates - over 1,000 species. Among the flora and fauna of the Preserve there are 60 endangered plant species and 40 endangered animal species. There are over 870 plants in the flora of the Preserve, 49 mammal species and 272 bird species in the fauna of the protected area.

Address: 671220, Buryatia,

Kabanskii District, Tankhoi,

Krasnogvardeiskaya St., 34,

tel.:+7 (30138) 93-710,

e-mail: bainr@burnet.ru

The Dzherginskii Nature Preserve is situated upstream of the River Barguzin. It was founded in 1992 to preserve the environment of the River Barguzin outlet and the Ikatskii Mountain Range. The flora species of the Preserve account for 322 plant species, 59 moss species, and 122 lichen species. In the faunaof the Preserve there are 201 vertebrate species (6 fish species, 3 amphibian species, 4 reptile species, 146 bird species, and 43 mammal species).

Address: 671636, Buryatia,

Kurumkanskii District, Maiskii, Lenin St., 5,

tel.:+7 (30149) 41-799

The Zabaikalskii National Park was founded to protect and study the unique nature of Lake Baikal. It includes the Chivyrkuiskii Bay, Svyatoi Nos peninsula, the Ushkanii Islands and the north-western part of the Barguzinskii Range that faces the lake. This is one of the most picturesque areas of the Lake Baikal coastline which also hosts some hot springs. The Park's flora is over 700 vascular plants. Among them there are many relict, endemic and rare plants. More than 291 vertebrate species have been registered at the Park including 49 Russian and Buryat Red-Book-listed species. The fish species of the Park are represented by the omul, grayling and whitef ish. In the Park there are many unique places which are called natural landmarks.

Address: 671623, Buryatia,

Barguzinskii District, Ust-Barguzin,

Bolnichnyy per. 11,

tel.:+7 (30131) 91-575

TheTunkinskii National Park was founded to protect the environment of the Eastern Sayans, Khamar-Daban highlands, Tunka Valley and part of the Lake Baikal basin, and also to manage sustainable use of natural resources, preserve and develop national culture and promote recreational use of the Park areas. The most of the park territory is located in the River Irkut basin within the boundaries of the Tunkinskii District.

Address: 761010, Buryatia,

Tunkinskii District, Kyren, Lenin St., 69,

tel.:+7 (30147) 91-485

                                                                       RELIGIONS

As well as in the whole world, in Russia and in Buryatia religion has been an integral part of the spiritual life of all the peoples of the region, and of all the ethnic groups.

Religion influenced all the sides of life of the society, its traditions, its customs and rites of the peoples.

During the time of the social cataclysms religion remained to be the hope and support of the people.

By the XXth century in Buryatia there had been two world religions - Buddhism and Christianity (Orthodox Christianity).

Within the Orthodox Christian church there were the communities of the Old Believers, who did not accept the Nikon's reforms. The major part of the Buryat population was the Buddhists. Atthe same time, a cosiderable part of the Buryats and the major part of the Evenks were baptized and converted to Christianity. During the years of the first revolution greater part of the baptized Buryats separated from Christianity and returned to the traditional religion - Shamanism.

The Evenks, officially cosidered to be Christians, in fact continued living in accordance with the Shamanist traditions and customs.

The Soviet rule, set in October 1917, proclaimed the freedom of conscience and religion. It led the policy against religion and church, diminishing religious views of people. By the end of the 1930- ies the Buddhist dat-sans and a lot of Orthodox churches in Buryatia had been closed, and other religious communities stopped functioning.

By the end of the World War I11941-1945, the treatmerit of the state and its attitude towards the church changed.

The Buddhist religion in Buryatia had an opportunity to act and the Ivolginsky Datsan was opened.

Some Orthodox churches started working as well. During the last decade the status of the church changed. Now16datsans, 12 Buddhist communities, 17 Orthodox churches, and a Catholic "kostel" (Roman-Catholic Church) are functioning.

Shamanism

Shamanism is a traditional religion of the Buryats and the Evenks, the name of which is derived from the word - "shaman" - the mediator between the world of people and the world of spirits. The most important and also the characteristic thing about this religion is that it is the deinfiction of nature and the passed away ancestors. The followers of the religion strongly believe that: in the world there are a lot of Gods and Sprits, and with the help of Shamans we can influence them to get happiness, well-being, health, and also we can avert misfortune.

Unlike the Shamanism professed by many people in Central Asia and Siberia, the Buryat Shamanism is distinguished by highly-developed polytheism and also more complex ritual system.

The Zabaikalsk Shamanists defined God and Spirit in different ways: Burkhan, Tengeri, Khan (Khat), noyon, ezhin, zayan, ongon. "The Eternal Blue Heaven" -Khukhe Munkhe Tengeri is considered to be the Hiegh-est deity. The heaven gives us life and all the good. Tengeri is not only the creator of people, but also the founder of the deits - tengeris. There are western Teng-eris - they are kind and eastern - hostile. There are more the kind ones. The Shamanists (the followers of the Shamans) do not have special temples, they hold their services in the open air, at the foot of the mountain, on the bank of the river, at the hitching post, unusual rock or tree.

The family rite can be held outside or inside the house, in yurta (national house of the Buryats and Evenks), and in the backyard. Among the Shamanist rites, the most important ones are the collective rites, they are called "tailgan". Their major purpose is to ask the Gods to have a good year, a good harvest, grass, to get more cattle, happiness in the family, to avoid misfortunes.

The tailgans were usually held from May to October. The Buryat and the Evenk Shamans perform not only religious functions. The more traditional occupation for them is healing.

Orthodox Christianity

In the republic there is a considerable number of the Orthodox perishes. On the territory of the republic there is district under the rule of archpriest, which is a part of Chita and Zabaikalsk eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Unlike the Biddhist communities the archpriest of the Buryat district is not to be elected, he is appointed by the bishop. As soon as the district under the rule of the archpriest of Buryatia is a territory structure of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is ruled from the center, the Orthodox Church on the territory of Buryatia successfully managed to avoid the difficulties of the 90-ies of the past century. From 1994 to 2008 there were only 3 heads of the district.

                                                                  TEMPLES

"The Odigitry Cathedral"

It was founded at the beginning of 1700-ies and was named after the icon of Odigitry's God Mother. The gilded carved iconostases were the main decorative elements of the cathedral's interior. In the upper temple the iconostasis contained four tiers with eight rows of icons. The Cathedral was built with the help of famous philanthropist P.A. Frolov. In 1929 the cathedral was closed, there was the anti- religious museum, later, there were stocks of the historical museum. In 1995 the Cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. It was renovated, at the bell tower there were six bells fixed. In the cathedral now there is center of the Buryat district.

"Saint - Troitsky temple"

The building of the remplwe was held from 1798 to 1809. Merchant Vasily Pakholkov started building it, and it was finished by Afanasy Naletov. In 1988 the temple was given to the Russian Orthodox Church, it was renovated and it functions till present. It is located on the hill, in the city park of Ulan-Ude.

"Posolsky Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery"

It was founded in 1681. It is the first Orthodox Church in Baikal area. The architecture of the monastery is the outstanding monument of the architecture of "Siberian barocco". On the territory of the monastery there is buring of the "embassy" of Erifei Zabolotsky, which was sent there with the mission to sign up the paper of receiving the eastern territories under the rule of Russian tzar Aleksei Mikhailovich. Nowadays the monastery is being reconstructed with the help of the Ministry "t    of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

 Sretenskaya church

 Built in 1815, now it is the monument of architecture, and is located in village

 Baturino, along the Bargtszin road. It is a functioning monastery for women.

Old Believers and Old Orthodox faith

The Semeislie (OLd Believers) of Buryatia are the descendants of the Old Believers, brought from Poland, Belorussia and Ukrain in XVIII, they kept not only their culture, but also the religion. On the territory of Buryatia even in pre - revolution time the semeiskie had two branches in the religion: priest - belief (trusted the priest /the so - called pop) and priest - disbelief. The first ones accepted the priesthood, they had temples and chapels, their own priests, who led the services according to the old books and rites. At present in the republic there are 7 perishes of the Old Believers and of the Old Orthodox Faith, of various views, but they both follow the Old Orthodox faith, old faith and rites.

Buddhism

The history developed in such a way that the majority of Buddhism followers accepted the trend "gelukpa" ("tradition of virtues"), which founder was a great reformer of Tibetan Buddhism -Tszonkhava (1357-1419). Buddhism came to the territory of present-day Russia from Tibet and Mongolia at the end of 16th - the beginning of 17th centuries. The first Buddhist monastery in Buryatia was Tsongolsky (Khilgantuisky) datsan, which was founded in 1730s.

Afterthe decree signed by the Russian Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna in 1741 Buddhism in Buryatia was officially recognized as the state religion of Russia. In 1764 the abbot - shireete lama of Tsongolsky datsan - Damba-Darzha Zayaev was appointed in the rank of Pandito-khambo-lama, i.e. the spiritual leader of all datsans in the Eastern Siberia and Transbaikalia.

In 1809 Tamchinsky datsan became the main residence of Pandito-khambo-lama, it was located on the shores of Gusinoe lake till 1937. To the end of 19th century Buddhism in Buryatia was a well-developed system. There were more than 40 datsans which had over 10000 monks-lamas. Buddhist datsans were a kind of universities, which gave knowledge in Tibetan, Mongolian languages, Sanskrit, Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan-Mongolian medicine, astrology, also lamas developed book-printing, icon-painting and Buddhist architecture.

In 1811 Aginsky datsan was founded, there they established philosophy department (Tsannid-datsan) in 1850-1860. In 1880 department of Tantra (Zhoud-datsan) was established, in 1884-department of medicine (Manba-datsan). The order of carrying out religious services (khurals) and the system of education of all disciplines in Aginsky datsan corresponded to traditions of Tibetan monastery Lavran in Amdo. The number of monks was more than 1000. Monasterial book-printing of Aginsky datsan soon became the recognized center of publishing trade in Transbaikalia and Mongolia. During the time of its existence almost all necessary canonical literature foreducation in datsans was published: literature on philosophy, logics, astrology, tantrism, monasterial discipline, medicine. Also Tibetan and Mongolian ABC-books, text-books on grammar and dictionaries were published there.

At that time Tsugolsky datsan (founded in1831) competed with Aginsky datsan. Tsugolsky datsan had a very good reputation among Buryat datsans because of the largest number of lamas-scientists. Lamas, who took the course of philosophy in Tsannid-datsan of Tsugolsky monastery, later founded schools of Philosophy and Logic in other datsans.

The Medical department of Tsugolsk datsan has received great popularity. The famous "Tibetan Medicine Atlas" was brought from Tibet by the lamas of Tsugolsk datsan at the end of XIX century and was used as a textbook at the Medical Department. It is known about the existence of only one more complete set of the Atlas, and as for Tsugolsk variant, at the present moment it is kept in the reserves of the Museum of the History of Buryatia in Ulan-Ude. Egituy datsan was founded in Kho-rinsk district in 1826. There is a Buddhist sacred object in the monastery - a sandal wood statue of Buddha called "Zandan-Dzhu". It was secretly brought from Beijing in the time of the boxers' rebellion. The legend says that the statue was made 2500 years ago. It is the object of worship for all the Buddhists.

In 1938 all Buddhist schools and monasteries were closed. By that time Buryatia had 47 datsans, where 10000 lamas and novices were living.

Only at the end of the Great Patriotic War, due to many requests of USSR believers, churches started to open again. In 1946 it was allowed to open a datsan in Buryatia in the region of Ivolga, not far from Ulan-Ude, and to recommence the activity of Aginsk datsan in Chita region.

From 1946 Ivolginsk datsan became the residence of Hambo-Lama, the Head of the Central Theological Board ofthe Buddhists of the USSR. In 1956 the delegation of CTBB consisting of Pandito Hambo-Lama E. Sharapov, did-Hambo-Lama Zh. D. Gomboev and S. Dylykovtook part in the celebration of 2500th Buddha's birthday in Nepal and India, and they met the northern supreme hierarchs of Buddhism - Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. Dzh. Neru and other officials of India met the delegation.

In 1995 Damba Ayusheev was elected the new Ham-bo- Lama of CTBB of RF. In 1996 a new Charter was passed at the Sugundy (congress) of Buddhists, which renamed CTBB of RF into Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia. In June 1998 the Sangkha of Russia was registered in the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation under the same number. The new Charter confirms the succession of the Sangkha of Russia from CTBB of RF.

Aginsk Buddhist Institute and Buddhist Institute "Dashi-Choinkhorlin", the two religious educational institutions, have a governmental license for educational activity.

In September 1998 at the general conference of Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace in Ulaan-Baatar (Mongolia) the Sangkha of Russia confirmed their wish to restore the activity of the international Buddhist organization. Aginsk datsan was accepted as the second national center of ABCP in Russia. Nowadays the Sangkha of Russia includes 26 datsans of ethnic Buryatia and some Buddhist communities.

BUDDHIST RITUALS

Gurums and abarals

A Lamaist consults a lama-zurkhachin about practically every event in his life.

'Zurkhachin' can be translated into English as 'astrologer'. The latter provides counsel on which rituals should be performed in every particular case. An important part of it is the Indian traditional calendar adopted in Buddhism. Every year in this calendar is named after one of the signs of the zodiac. These names are combined with the five 'elements': wood, fire, earth, iron or water. Thus, all the chronological system consists of sixty-years' cycles, the first one starting in year 1027 A.D. Having analyzed all the 'data', a lama makes up a horoscope for a new-born child, foretelling what and when the new-born should fear, which spells should be used, whom he should marry. The predictions are based on the characteristics of the birth year, manifested in its name, e.g. "year of fire dragon", "year of water hen", etc.

Buryal rites

According to the Lamaist teaching, when a man is dying, a Lama should be invited to the house to conduct the farewell rite - zurdain-sudur. The Lama instructs the dying man on what will happen to the spirit when it leaves the body. After death, one of the relatives consults a zurkhachin to ask who may prepare the dead person for the funeral, which prayers should be read, when the person should be buried, when and in what direction the body should be carried out, how the person should be buried. If the recommendations are not observed, another member of the family may die. A buyanchi -'the undertaker'- puts the dead body into a proper position, washes and dresses it, sews up the eyelids etc. According to the rules, the body should be commited to one of the five 'elements' - earth, water, fire, air or wood. After the funeral a 'cleansing' ceremony is conducted to protect the living from evil and misfortune. For seven weeks after the death rites are performed to ensure the dead one can be reborn successfully.

Dzul-hural

Dzul-hural - the so-called "sacrificial rite" - is performed late in autumn. The believers stand in front of Buddha statues to confess to bad treatment of the domestic animals. According to Lamaist doctrine, any domestic animal can be a reincarnation of a deceased relative of the believer. The confession is considered to help the believer to expiate the guilt to the dead.

Naidani-hural

This rite, devoted to naidani - the hermits, which have become deities, is performed in autumn. Pictures of naidani are put out, in which the latter are painted as old, decrepit people indifferent to the world. Lamas tell believers how naidani, who were once ordinary people, left the world for hermitage to gain merit and salvation. The image of naidani stresses the harm of attachment to the mundane life, which can lead to lower reincarnations.

                                             IMPERISHABLE BODY OF HAMBO-LAMA ITIGELOV

The datsan is protected by the government as a piece of cult architecture, and not long time ago it became a place where the most valuable relic is kept - the imperishable body of Pandito Hambo-Lama XII Dasha-Dorzho Itigelov.

Dasha-Dorzho Itigelov was the Head of the Buddhists of East Siberia from 1911 to 1917. He became popular as a philosopher and a doctor. All his life was spent in Buryatia - only once he left Siberia for the celebration of 300th birthday of Romanov family. During World War I he organized hospitals and got several government awards. His name, even when he was alive, was connected with legends. One of them says that the monk, as Jesus Christ, could walk on the surface of water. The circumstances of his death and his burial in 1927 are very strange for Buddhism.  Surrounded by his disciples, he took the pose of lotus and ordered them to take his body out of the grave after some time. He promised to come back alive. Then he began to say the prayer, which usually accompanied the dead and plunged into deep meditation. When the disciples concluded that all the signs of death are available, the body of the lama in the same pose was put into a cedar sarcophagus and buried at the rural cemetery.

The authority of the teacher was unquestionable. The disciples visited Dasha-Dorzho twice from that time: in 1955 and in 1973. They made sure that his body is imperishable, changed his clothes and put him into the grave again. In September 2002 the body of Itigelov was exhumed according to the legal rules. Forensic medical examination experts drew up a report, which stated that the skin of the body, the nails and the hair were safe, the tissues of Hambo-Lama were soft and flexible, the joints active. It became clear that this is not mummification, embalming, tanning or preservation of the body due to permafrost but some other, yet unknown to anybody, condition.             

Now they build up a separate datsan for the relic;  the project is carried out by old Buryat scetches.      

Obo

Obo is a pile of stones, which can be arranged on the top of a hill, on a mountain slope, at a mountain range pass, by a steppe road, by a river or a spring. Lamas and believers attend these places to ask the local deities for help. Offerings of food, coins or silk scarves are left on the stones. The prayers are particularly intensive during draughts, because according to Lamaism, rain is a responsibility of the local gods and spirits. Sometimes cattle are slaughtered during such ceremonies.

Pilgrimage. Believers go on pilgrimage to the places declared sacred bylamas. Springsand unusually shaped stones and rocks are generally believed to possess the magic ability to give help and cure the sick.

Amulets. Practically every lamaist wears an amulet, which may be a piece of paper or cloth with a prayer or a spell written on it. These may be prayers for longevity, for health, for defense against violent death. The text is folded and placed into a tiny leather bag, which is worn on the neck. A more powerful amulet is a small Buddha statue or a piece of the clothes of a 'living Buddha', also worn on the neck in a small wooden or silver case decorated with engravings.

RULES OF BEHAVIOUR AND THE GIFT PROCEDURE IN BUDDHISTIC        

MONASTERIES

When you have come to a monastery, you should walk around it along the perimeter. On your way you should set in motion khurde, that is big prayerful drums inside of which there are threaded mantri. Try not to speak out loud, don't blow your nose, spit, or smoke.

Having entered the temple, take off your headdresses. Having j oined the common action, you can come up to the altar quietlly and bow to it. Also here you can present it with khadaks, light icon-lamps to your near and dear for their longevity and to those who are dead for their way to the Nirvana. Also you can put incenses. On the altar you can see different divinities and mandals. In the Mandal (three-stage hoops decorated with precious jewels and metals, bestrewed with grain and seeds; it symbolizes the Buddhist world picture) you can put money as a sign of increase of welfare and richness.

While bowing put your hands ahead yourselves as a sign that in future you will be guided by the method (arga) and wisdom (belig) to achieve Buddha's level. Raise your hands above your head to show your intention to soar into Ganden - the sphere of all perfect buddhas. Touching you forehead, you can pray to clear yourselves from negative deeds and actions committed by the body. Placing your hands opposite the throat you can ask to clear yourselves from all negative deeds committed by speech. Keeping your hands on your chest you can ask to clear yourselves from all deeds committed by mind.

 MORTARS – BUDDHISTIC RELIGIOUS-MEMORIAL CONSTRUCTIONS

Mortars with depicted images of gods and bodhisattvas on them become a place of pilgrimage of Buddhists.The Mortars bring good to all human beings in their present and future lives. Mortars constructing is considered to be a good deed because Mortars represent containers of Buddas of the past, the present and the future. It means that carnal and no carnal beings worship them. Whatever their prayers or desires are, all of them will be complied and even supreme realization and spiritual strengths will be culminated.

A Mortar is a saint's deputy and a protector from misfortune. A Mortar is not only a memorial, it's a constantly working construction, which brings good to people, to all who live near, all living beings coming up to it, walking round and praying by a Mortar.

                                                             DATSANS OF BURYATIA

Ivolginsk Datsan

Ivolginsk datsan is a spiritual capital of Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia and a center of spiritual Buddhist culture of Buryatia and Russia. It is located 38 kilometers from Ulan-Ude. The complete name of the datsan is "Tuges Bayasgalantai Ulsy nomoi Khurdyn Khiid". It is translated into Russian as "Monastery - the wheel of teaching, giving happiness and full of joy". This monastery complex occupies the area of three hectares and includes Tsogchen-dugan, Sakhyuusan-sume, Maidarin-sume, Devazhin-sume, Choira-dugan, a museum, a hotel, dwelling houses of the priests, suburgans and a lot of khurde (prayer drums). The datsan is the residence of the Head of Buddhists of Russia, Pandito Hambo-lama, and his house is also included into the complex. While staying in Russia in the year of 1982 Dalai Lama admitted that Ivolginsk datsan is one of the greatest places of interest he had seen in the USSR.

Ivolginsk datsan was founded in 1946 by the decree of Sovnarcom of the USSR by authority of Stalin. A year earlier a group of Buryat monks, having gathered the signatures of 16 old lamas who were former exiles, went to Moscowto meet the country leader and got his agreement to the building of the datsan. The chapel called "Khambinsk sume" was built in the Buryat village of Middle Ivolga, on the territory of Stalin kolkhoz that was located 38 kilometers from Ulan-Ude. On December 1945 the first khural (a religious service) was held. On May 23, 1946 the new Buddhist center - Ivolginsk datsan, the residence of the Head of Buddhists of Russia, Pandito Hambo-lama, the former Head of the Central Theological Board of the Buddhists of the USSR (now the Head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia) was officially recognized.

In 1991 on the basis of the datsan the Buddhist Institute "Tandan Dashi Choinkhorling" is created. From 1999 it has had the status of the higher educational institution. The Institute graduates Buddhist clergymen, Buddhist scholars, and specialists in Tibetan and Old Mongolian languages. At the present moment about 100 khuvaraks (disciples) from different regions of Russia, from CIS countries and from abroad are studying here. The main temple of the datsan -Tsogchen-dugan - is built according to the principle of "mandala", an ancient religious symbolic idea  coming from India. 12 stone lions guard the  building. There is a pantheon of a thousand of Buddhas including an immense sculpture of Buddha Shakjamuni in the altar. Apart from this, you can see the sculpture of the goddess Lkhamo who is the "protector" of the datsan.

Datsan Khabyn Khure

The Datsan Khambyn Khure is the residence of Pandito Khambo Lama. It is situated in the Verkhnaya Beryozovka (the name of a place 6 km from Soviet Square) in Ulan-Ude. It was founded by Pandito Khambo Lama DambaAyusheyevin 1994. It is a complex of some temples, suburgans (holy Buddhist constructions), outbuildings, and other additional lodgments. The first temple, devoted to Kalachakra - the Buddhist veity, Idam of the supreme level, - was built in 1998. Kalachkara ("The wheel of time" in Sanskrit; in Tibetan; in Buryat) is a secret learning, inherited by Buddha Shakyamuny himself. There is the faculty Duynkhor attached to the temple of Kalachkara, where students are taught by the curriculum of Namgyal datsan (India) the art of Mandala creation, which they put into practice during the annual hural "Duynkhor". There are unique Sutras Ganzhur in the temple; they are canonical texts of Buddha and his followers, a stamped gilded sculpture of Buddha Shakyamuny, a carved cedar throne, supported by eight lions and devoted to the XIVth Dalai Lama, precious gifts made of holy ingredients, buddhist icons (tangkas), painted in mineral paints and devoted to the 25 Lords of Shambala. The main temple - Tsogchen-dugan - was consecrated in 2003. In the temple traditional services are held in accord with buddhist cannons. On the territory of datsan Khambyn Khure, two suburgans are erected. They are devoted to the datsan's foundation and to the divinity Kalachakra.

Buddhist Centre "Rinpoche-bagsha"

It was founded in 2000 by the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche associates by the blessing of the XlVth Dalai Lama as the Buryat Republican Public Organisation "The Tibetan Cultural Centre "Rinpoche-bagsha" it was organized by the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche. Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche is a holy renegade (Tib. tulku), i.e. born for some special purpose and dedicating his life to help all the living beings.

In 2002 the organization was renamed the Buddhist Sentre "Rinroche-bagsha". Along with religious activity the Centre teaches everyone who wishes (not only priests, but laymen as well) the fundamentals of Buddhism by the program, specially worked out for Russian citizens.

In the framework of the Centre the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche leads consecrations in superior Tantras, transfers the practices of Makhayan sense transformation "The fighting charka", of worshiping the Teacher, and of Cathedral gift to the Teacher; and the commentary to them. He also gives courses on Yaman-taka practice, and delivers the commentary to Yamanaka Tantra. The services in the Centre are basically held by Tibetan lamas.

In 2004 from China to Buryatia was brought and placed in the Centre the statue of Buddha, coated with gold. The statue is the biggest in Russia; it is 5 m high.

Buddhist Community "Lamrim"

The community was founded in 1996 by the initiative of the lama Choi-Dozhi Budayev with the spiritual support of His Holiness Dalai lama the XlVth to disseminate the idea of non-violence all over the world.

The community was founded with the support of different levels of population and associates, who all the time help it in its everyday activity. "Lamrim" unites 25 lamas-priests, among them there are natives of Tibet, Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and almost all the districts of Buryatia.

The services are held in the building, which is situated in the centre of the city; it was consecrated in 1996 by the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche. Everyday in the evening and afternoon the services for prosperity of living and for peace for those who passed away are carried out; besides, once a month they also celebrate special services.

Besides, in the community astrologers and a Tibetan doctor give consultations, at the instance of believes constantly public lectures on Buddhist philosophy are read; brochures and leaflets with spiritual sermons of great lamas of the past and with canons are published.

Buddhist Woman Datsan "Zungon Darzhaling"

The history of the Buddhist woman datsan "Zungon Darzhaling" construction is closely connected with the name of His Holiness Dalai lama the XIVth Tenzin Gyatso. In 1992 during his visit in Buryatia, on his meeting with the activists of religious organizations, Dalai Lama the XlVth advised to inaugurate a Buddhist woman datsan with a view to preserve piece and harmony among the peoples of Buryatia.

The initiative to construct the datsan belongs to the married couple - Darima Sambuyevna Tsynguyeva and Dalai Anpilovich Budayev - they invested their equity into the construction. The Ambassador of India in Mongolia Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, who D.S. Tsyngueyva made a requestto, also agreed that it was necessary. So in 1995 they chose the place for the datsan, worked out the project for it, and started its construction. This very year the lamas from the Buddhist communities "Lamrim" and "Dkharma" consecrated the place and lay the holy vessel "Bumba". The Government of the Buryat Republic and some other organizations also provided some Financial Support. In 1998 the first dugan (a cabin for services) was built. The first services therein were held by the representatives of the Mongolian Buddhist Woman Centre Tgs . In 1999 a few women and girls received the vows of genim from the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche. The datsan under construction wasnamed "ZurgonDarzhaling", which in Tibetan means "The Noble Prosperous Convent". From this point onward in the dugan they started to conduct daily hurals-services for well-being of all the living and for the prosperity of the home country. They also invite Mongolian astrologists and lamas-emchies.

In 1999 in Moscow Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) Sir U. Kkhin Nyunt offered to fund the construction of a mortar (Suburgan). On the 31st of January 1999 he arrived in Buryatia on the consecration of the Mortar; he brought the family reliquiae as a gift, and they were immured into the Mortar. His Excellency U. Kkhin Nyunt also put holy relics - blood signs, a piece of Buddha's bone, and the statue of Buddha - into the Suburgan-mortar, which is located on the territory of the Buddhistic Woman Centre. The official unveiling of the main building of the datsan took place in the Day of Ulan-Ude City on the 1 st of July 2000. A bulk of believers, who have taken an active part in the construction, participated in the event.

In 2001 a big statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, delivered in the datsan from St. Petersburg, was consecrated. The history f the statue is closely connected with the name of Agvan Dorzhiyev, who brought it from Tibet in 1913. The statue was restored; and 45, 000 sheets with 27 different Mantras, 65 kg of incense, grain and 9 different erdenis (jewelry) were placed into it. The ceremony of the statue's consecration was conducted by the Right Worthy Eshche-Lodoi Rinpoche.

In the settlement Maximikha in Barguzinsk region the branch of the datsan was built; the Mortar was constructed; a dugan is being built, the services are held for the holy jewel of the planet - Lake Baikal - preservation.

The main difference of "Zungor Darzhalgin" from other datsans of Russia is the fact that the receiving is held by women-lamas. At present time the datsan leads the activity for blessing of all the living beings.

The Tamchinsky Datsan

The datsan is situated 150 km from Ulan-Ude near the road to Mongolia. In 1974 it was declared the centre of Buddhism in Russia by Queen Elisaveta. Two out of 17 temples, which are monuments of Buryat religious architecture, have remained so far.

There are many interesting stories connected with this buddhist temple.

At the end of the 18th century a divine wind blew in the Selenga steppe. It is said that in 1741 the buddhist clergyman AknaldiynZhinbe(ZhambaAkhhaldayev) put up a felt yurta(nomad's tent), which was used as a joss house, at the place which is the centre of the present Lake Gusinoye. That was the beginning of the history of the Tamchinsky (Gusinoozersky) dastan. It was built at the place shown bythe first Pandito Khambo-lama Dambo-Darzhaa Zayaev.

The legend says that one day after the joss house had been put up the lamas eyewitnessed a real miracle: all of a sudden near the temple od Buddha there appeared water around the well. It kept on spreading, so the datsan had to be removed twice to a more elevated place.

Since its foundation the Tamchinsky datsan has been under the patronage of deity of fire - Goddess Bal-dan Lkhamo - the main sakhayusan (keeper) of the datsan, whose habitat is the sacred mountain of Boorin-khan. The goddess is traditionally depicted riding a mule or a horse.

The buddhist monastery changed its appearance with the time. In 1750 a wooden temple was built. The influence and prominence of the datsan among bud-dhists living south of Lake Baikal spread with its growth.

The year of 1809 was an important milestone in the history of the datsan. It was then that the Tamchinsky datsan became Khambyn Khureye, i.e. the residence of the Khambo-lama, head of Buryat buddhists. For more than 130 years the datsan was the centre of Buryat Russian buddhism and buddhist thought.

In 1858 a new building of the main temple Tsokchen (Sokshin) was started. And in 1870 the scenery of the Tamchinsky valley was embellished by a magnificent three-storeyed stone house, its roof being decorated with two gilded deer with a wheel between them. The Sokshin-temple became the first model of new type temples in the Buryat religious architecture.

The Tamchinsky datsan reached its golden age at the beginning of the 20th century. It turned into a large settlement at that time. In 1903 there were nearly 300 houses, 22 temples with more than 1000 lamas conducting services there.

The Tamchinsky datsan gave Russian buddhism nine Pandito Khambo-lamas. One of the most noted of them was Gombyn Dampil (Dampil Gomboyev), who held that post from 1878 till 1896.

One of the largest datsans of Buryatia was blessed with a second life only in the nineties of the 20th century In the summer of 1991 on its 250th anniversary the datsan was visited by the Dalai-lama the 14th TenzinGiatso Again there blew out a fresh divine wind over the Tamchinsky valley: underthe patronage of goddess Lkhamo the Buddhist faith began to strengthen. The early nonassembled temple of Ayusha returned to its previous place, the sacred servine stone of "Altai Serge" (Golden tethering post) which had had a 3300 year history ant was considered to be irrevocably lost, was then found.

The Murochinsky Datsan                               

"Baldan Brayboon"  

Being the first buddhist temple the datsan is the entre of lamaism in Western Transbaikalia. The Murochinsky datsan (the Tsongolsky datsan formerly) is situated not far from the village of Murochy on the right bank of the river Chikoi.                                                                 

In 1741 a big felt tent for conducting divine services was put up in 12 versts from the present temple in the locality called Khilgantui. In 1758 the wooden Tsongolsky datsan was built there in accordance with the Khambo-lama's project. It consisted of the main temple of Tsokulie and 6 smaller temples - sumae. Buryat masters of temple painting and Russian woodworkers took part in the erection. The buildings of the datsan were distinguished by their size.

At the beginning of the 19th century four more small temples were built and near the datsan there appeared a monastery settlement.

The datsan's name "BaldanBrayboon" can be translated from Tibetan as "Perfect Reeping of fruits" of the Budda's teachings. Not far from the basic complex the temple "Aryabala" was erected at the sacred rock in the locality of Ranzhur where the prayer inscription "Om Mane Padme Khum" shows up. This inscription was discovered by the first prior of the datsan more than 200 years ago and since then the place has been the aim of pilgrimage of buddhists from Central Asia ans Transbaikalia. This is one of the two unique sacred places of Buddhism in the world where the Buddha has left his sign The second similar place is situated in Nepal. Every day meditations are practised at the rock. The datsan is for visitors.

The Egituisky Datsan

The Egituisky datsan is one of the most prominent in the republic. It attracts people due to the location of the famous statue of Buddha, the object of worship well-known all over the world.

The datsan is situated 300 km from Ulan-Ude. It was built in 1826. The main treasure of the datsan is the statue of Zandan Zhoo - the Buddha made from sandal wood, which is thought to be the only intravital sculpure of Buddha Shakyamuni.

The Egituisky datsan was one of the most beautiful due to its architecture. The main temple was surrounded by three other temples - medical, philosophical and astrological ones. The datsan had its own printing house. One of the most respested holidays was Tsam.

In April, 22, 2003 the Traditional Sangkha of Russia decreed the statue of Zandan Zhoo to be one of the bud-dhist sacred objects of Russia.

Today the sandal statue of the Buddha emanates the radiant light of inexaustible study in the Egituisky datsan, situated in a picturesque place between two hills on the western bank of the river Marakta in the locality of Khara-Shibir. According to one version Zandan-Zhoo was transported to Yeravna with a lot of effort made by Gombo Dorzho Erdyneyev, the Sorzho-lama of the Egituisky datsan, and many other people who risked their lives then. The statue was bought by the lamas of the Egituisky datsan during the "boxing" riot in China. Before 1935 it was placed in one of the small temples (sumae) and it was a worship object. In the dark period of repressions Zandan Zhoo was brought to Ulan-Ude and it was kept in the stocks of the Museum of History of Buryatia. In September, 25,1991 the statue was transported to the Egituisky datsan by helicopter. There was much sleet on that day and it is said that heavens were washing and cleaning Zandan Zhoo's way with mineral water of arshan.

The Datsans of the Tunka Valley

The Datsan "Tushite", the village of Kyren

The datsan was built in 1817, it was destroyed during the years of anti-religious campaign and rebuilt in 1990. Its first name was "Dachin-Darzhaling". The datsan was the main buddhist temple responsible for spreading buddhist study in the Tunka Valley. The unique buddhist treaty "Ganzhur" in a golden binder was kept in the datsan. At present the datsan "Tushite" is the leading temple of the buddhist community of the Tunkinsky district, which arranges activities to support the study and to build new religious objects. Head of the community is lama Danzan Khaibzun Samayev, leader of the international buddhist fund "Akhallar".

The Datsan "Bodkhi Dkharma", Health Resort "Arshan"

The datsan "Bodkhi Dkharma" follows the traditions of the unique Khoimor Khandagataisky datsan, which was built by an outstanding religious figure and enlighter Agvan Dorzhiyevin 1897 as a prototype of St. Petersburg's buddhist monastery. Agvan Dorzhiyev chose the place for the datsan not far from the sacred place of "Tchengiz-Khan's Throne". He later wrote in his autobiography: "The local spirits prefer this "white side" and they have vividly manifested some good proof of their presence." The Khandagataisky datsan was destroyed in the years of anti-religious campaign and it has not been restored yet.

The datsan "Bodkhi Dkharma" conducts all the services in accordance with the buddhist canon. There one can buy Indian medicine as well as some medicine based on the local raw materials.

The Nilovsky Datsan

This buddhist datsan is located 4 km from the health resort "Nilova Pystyn" up the river in the thick forest on the mountain Kholma-Ula. The legend says that a mythical god Khan Shargai noyon , head of the haats sitting solemnly on the crests of the Sayansky mountains, landed at that place. In his honour in 1867 people built asmal log cabin for praying. Later on two wooden datsans were built there.

On the territory of the datsan there is a tower of a long and smooth log with a round wooden barrel on top.  One can never see such a construction in any datsan of Buryatia. Some old residents say that when lamas wers converting the local people to Buddhism, they gathered     all the shamans at that place and persuaded them into buddhist faith. The shamans' tambourins and ritual clothes were burnt.

Sacred relics and silver coins were put into the barrel and it was raised for Buddha to seethe gifts. The sand  of the landing place of Khan Shargai noyon is consideret sacred and they say if a man takes it, he'll get much  stronger.                                                                            

The Datsan of the Barguzin Valley

The Kurumkansky datsan "Gandan Shae Doovlin” is a place where All-Russian retreats are held.             

Kurumkan occupies a prominent place in the buddhist world and Bogdo Gegen, Geshe Dzhampa Tinley and other highly ranked clergymen come to this land not incidentally. Pilgrims from all parts of Russia gather there. Not long ago for three days the Barguzin valley became a place of pilgrimage for buddhists from all over  the country. Headed by the pandito Khamba-lama Damba Ayusheyev clergymen took part in the opening ceremonyemony of a temple near the village of Yarikta where the deity Yanzhima's image has shown up on a rock. Besides Asome religious rites directed at sanctifying a three meter statue of the Buddha in the Kurumkan datsan and a sub-urgan at the Baragkhan archan (mineral spring) were conducted then.

160 years ago an unknown flower grew near Soolo-sogshyn Soodoi 's house in the locality of Elesyn. At seeing it people guessed what it could mean. In the same year Tseden Sodoyev came into the world. Since his early years he had been demonstrating outstanding abilities for predicting and healing. Much later he became the shiretoi of the Bargjjzin datsan. According to trie legend the great yogin could walk on the water surface and rise to the heaven. He predicted the Second World War, invention of the radio and even flights into space. His predictions come true nowadays as well.

More than 5 thousand believers came to celebrate Soodoi-lama's 160th anniversary. There were public prayers on the mountain of Barkhan - one of the sacred objects of the buddhist world. Priors of the datsans of Buryatia, Mongolia, Ust-Orda ana Aga autonomous regions gathered there for the first time in the history of the Barguzin valley.

In the village of Argada a suburgan was built by the village community. The symbols of prosperity such as little sacks of grain, the Baikal water and stones were laid into its socle.

The Argada stupaweighs3 tonnes. Onlythe cleanest materials had to be used to build it, that's why the sand was extracted high in the mountains where the foot of man had never stepped. Everyone prayed for his family's prosperity at the stone of Yanzhima - goddess of wisdom, arts, patroness of mothers and children.

The statues of the Buddha and the Green were also consecrated in the Kurumkansky datsan. A new temple was opened in the Barguzin region.











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