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To Be or Not to Be...? Someone’s grief, and someone’s drinking party

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 11:21

Traditions of the Kyrgyz people were being formed with the help of economic, trade, domestic and other relations with kindred and other tribes that were closely related to the geography of their habitations. There was an exchange of information, cultural values, skills and also mutual enrichment of cultures and household technologies between them.
Thanks to their family and tribal traditions, love for each other and to the fatherland, as well as the desire for self-preservation, Kyrgyz people passed on from one generation to another their best traditions, including the previous generation’s best life experience.
At different stages of its development the culture of the Kyrgyz people was changing, constantly being in a state of renewal and improvement, striving for novelty. In this regard, some customs and rituals were no longer popular, but many aspects of tangible and intangible culture were preserved and further developed in a transformed form.
Today, customs and traditions of the Kyrgyz people make a rich and complicated ethno cultural complex. It intertwined standards that appeared in different historical times, at different levels of the socio-economic and cultural development. Historically, the traditions of the Kyrgyz people are classified according to the cycle of person’s life, and in accordance with the circumstances of existence they are subdivided into "jakshylyk" and "zhamandyk" – i.e. "good" and "bad". According to the belief of the Kyrgyz people, the distance between good and bad is the same as between the eyelashes and the eyebrows. Kyrgyz proverb says: "Jakshylyk menen zhamandyk Birge zhurot", in direct translation it means that "good and bad things always go together".
So one of those rites of the human life cycle we would like to consider, but not from a position of the specialist, but as a simple man and follower of these standards. We are talking about the funeral and memorial service.
All of us know to some extent that according to Sharia (set of legal, moral, ethnic and religious norms) we should ease the burdens that fall on the shoulders of those who should provide decent farewell of the deceased. Sharia recommends to conduct burial activities at minimal cost and not to get into debt. It is forbidden to slaughter any cattle and to arrange dinners at least in the first three days of mourning, and then it is allowed to prepare charitable dinners only for orphans, disadvantaged and old people. That is what the Sharia allows, but it doesn’t force to do it. Everyone should conduct these ceremonies according to his will and capacity.
And what do we see today during funerals and memorial services? Today we see a forced reception of "guests", a kind of "social competition" between relatives and tribes, and between members of specific population groups. And our own aqsaqals and moldos, who must honor the Sharia and to require its compliance by others are pushing us to this "competition" and an abundant feast of "guests" during the funerals and memorial service.
Death always comes suddenly and when we do not wait for it. It is an axiom. Sorrow and misfortune come with death. First of all, it's a great stress for family members and it’s accompanied by strong emotional worries, a sense of loneliness and deep grief. The loss is irreplaceable. And in this state we must quickly solve issues related to the documents about the death of the deceased, providing organizational and ritual activities at his burial. But despite this, the aqsqals and moldos consider it to be their duty to remind us and our relatives about the "significance" of our family and the position that we have in the society today, and thereby forcing us to go to the exorbitant cost.
We should remember that the region of residence also plays an important role in the customs of funeral and memorial services. The most elaborate ceremonies in the moral, financial and material terms, both in "jakshylyk" and "zhamandyke" are held in the Talas region. Judge yourself. The body of the deceased hasn’t cooled down yet, and in the house we put cauldrons and huge kettles on the cooker, we cut cattle and begin to treat "coming people" and this continues until the day of the funeral (the body of the deceased is usually buried after three days). Everyone who comes to present his condolences, is obliged to go into the house of the deceased and eat some food, or at least, to drink some tea.
Well, what about the day of the funeral? It is sacred and inviolable, people cut a mare or some cattle, depending on the sex of the deceased, but there are exceptions. And the quantity or quality of living of meat depends on the competitive process, which we have already mentioned earlier.
Not so long ago, a close relative of one famous citizen of Talas died. So, the local mentality "obliged" living relatives to provide "guests" with hot food (cut sheep) every day, and at the day of the funeral to sacrifice three mares! And we all know what the prices are on the market. It’s good that he has a lot of reliable friends, and he himself had a worthy place in the society, but it didn’t help him, his relatives spent a lot of money.
Another problem of this rite is the organization and holding of the "treats". Of course, this ritual is also tightly regulated, but at the same time anything can happen, there are a lot of people, but there is not enough time. For someone the food is bad, for someone the drinks are bad, etc. And the people are "thin, delicate and vulnerable." If something is wrong they organize rallies, revolutions, "ketsin!" and etc. So, it is necessary to be attentive and to trim the sails to the wind. And, of course, it’s very necessary to note the process of giving the so-called "ustukanov" - each animal bone has its value. Here you can’t afford to make a mistake or you’ll obtain enemies. Any self-respecting aqsaqal "must" get not just a piece of meat, but the bone, which corresponds to his status.
Not so long ago in the Talas region appeared a new habit to give to the guests not only handkerchiefs but some money during the funerals. So, such rule because of its contestability began to drive relatives of the deceased in the financial bondage. Today, this "attraction of generosity" gradually began to overcome itself, probably it was influenced by the financial crisis. We must thank it.
And about "kiyit" and "zhyrtysh" we can say that it’s a special and even the most delicate part of the rite. Usually relatives and close friends pass shirts, suits and outerwear of the deceased to his family. And here we need a hard and constant control of what object was received from whom in order to give them products of the same value back. But as a rule the disputes and gossips about the quality and quantity of the received or not received "zhyrtysha" and "kiyita" can not be avoided. But we can’t do without it, it would be boring.
A special theme is the frequency and the amount of ceremonies of remembrance. If all regions of Kyrgyzstan usually held funeral repasts on the seventh, fortieth day and the obit ("zhetilik", "kyrkyn" and "ash"), then in the Talas region except these days, they celebrate funeral repast every next Thursday after the "zhetilik" and on the 52nd day after the death. And the most offensive fact is that a negative element appeared recently in the rite of burial, it is the use of alcoholic drinks during the "conulo aytuu" - "an expression of condolences." If to remember the fact, that all the Kyrgyz citizens consider themselves to be Muslims, this custom fundamentally contradicts all norms of Sharia. What happened to them?
Of course you can’t get away from rituals. These are our tradition, that were formed over centuries, but we need to remember Pushkin's dictum "Custom is a despot among people" and we shouldn’t perform dutifully all the outlived traditions, especially the traditions that aggravate the conditions of people. We should pay attention to our compatriots, Muslims like we are, but whose rituals and traditions are much sparing. And isn’t it the reason why these people who live near us stand firmly on their feet? And isn’t it the reason for us to sometimes envy them?
Who forced us to follow these burdensome ceremonies and traditions? Perhaps we did it ourselves, or ... the enemies did? Did they force us to follow them in order not to let us get out of debt and poverty?
As a result, it should be noted that the history of developing of countries and nations shows that the more civilized society is, the less burdensome rites and customs to its citizens are, as it’s evidenced by the canons of Islam. And in this regard Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan made a lot to systematize and streamline the funeral rites. So, in February 2007 it issued Regulations for the giving the last honors to the diseased, which encourages us to follow the norms of Sharia and to depart from funeral customs with plentiful meals and a large number of cattle slaughtered. The country didn’t stay aside. We all remember that during the reign of Akayev and Bakiyev they issued relevant regulations that prohibited (regulated) funerals and memorial services with many people invited and many expenses. But everything was relegated to oblivion.
Now many Kyrgyz people hope that the certification of ministers of regions and districts headed by qudis that was held by the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan together with the State National Security Service and the State Agency for Religious Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as further cooperation between the country and the religion will promote the preservation of the best traditions of the Kyrgyz people, and what is the most important it will help to get rid of unnecessary and wasteful things.

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