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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

The secrets of Bizhiktig-Khaya

In Tuva, in the vicinity of practically any inhabited area, you can find “open books”, where our ancestors left the traces of their lives on this territory. Stone statues, petroglyphs, deer stones, remains of ancient military fortifications, irrigation canals, kurgans holding burials of kings, chieftains, leaders, warriors of the tribes of Sayan-Altai… “To the credit of our distant and recent ancestors, I would like to note that antiquities of Tuva have been preserved better than anywhere else…” Sergei Shoigu writes in the “Tyva Depter” anthology, of which he is the collector and editor.

One of such places is the village Bizhiktig-Khaya, which, translated from Tuvan language means rock with inscriptions, with rock drawings. It is an astonishing, mysterious place, but its legends and secrets are already calling out to their researchers.  Right now they are just marked out…


A bear drinking from a spring

From the height of a bird’s eye view, it can be seen that the Bizhiktig-Khaya village is located at the lower abdomen of a gigantic stone bear, who has thrown his front limbs apart. One hind leg is extended, the other is flexed under the body.  While approaching the village, you do not even think that now you are driving over the right front paw,  and now - the left hind one (the village seems to be divided into two parts by this left hind leg…). The bear’s nose is stuck into a stream coming from a spring, and the rest of his gigantic body serves as orientation points for “footprints” of the ancestors, astonishing in their historical and literary content. And the ancestors left plenty of  their “footprints” all over the vicinity of Bizhiktig-Khaya.

..The mighty “claws” of the granite animal were well liked already by the ancient people. An open-air shrine is located in a natural niche. The ceiling and walls are covered with well-preserved inscriptions, executed in black  ink in four languages - Uighur, Ancient Mongolic, Ancient Tibetan and  Ancient Chinese. Only one of them has been decoded - the one in Ancient Chinese. The work was done by a Japanese scholar, who came to these places in 003. The age of the inscriptions has been determined to be from 14th century, and also the name of the Chinese official who met with another official here. The inscription was written on his personal order, so it is quite understandable that it was in Chinese. The Japanese scholar said that such inscriptions can be found also in his country. Judging from these inscriptions, we are not very different from our ancestors in terms of  development of intelligence.  Just remember: “Vasya was here…” As a matter of fact, the walls of this natural shrine have also been decorated by just such contemporary inscriptions, right on top of the ancient petroglyphs…

Very well visible is a figure of some multi-armed deity, sitting in the lotus pose. The lamas insist that it is a female deity. A kneeling boy is praying to this deity. Above is another inscription - the mantra “Om mani padme hum” and the numeral 17.

The rock drawings and inscriptions were first discovered in this area more than 100 years ago by a major Siberian archeologist A. Adrianov.  According to the scholars, the Buddhist niche was a part of a Buddhist temple complex of a grotto type, which was built at the close of the Yuan Dynasty, during the rule of the last emperors of the Chinggisid line. Nobody tried excavating  on the level land. It is quite possible that remains of  wooden monastery buildings would be found.

The flat walls of the cliff are literally covered with petroglyphs - a huge griffon, masks, faces. Several women with obviously Asian features. Such rock “canvases”  were also in the area of submersion by the Sayano-Shushenskoye dam-water reservoir. Marianna Devlet writes about it in her monograph “Petroglyphs of Ulug-Khem”, published in 1974.  Many masks are of the type of animal figures - reindeer, bulls, dogs, mountain goats. A caravan of animals carrying cargo.  The flat expanses of  the cliffs served as pages of books for the inhabitants of these places over the ages, where they recorded the events of their lives. These monuments were made by several generations following each other. The ancient artists knew their stuff very well - time did not obliterate the details of these drawings: astonishingly dynamic animals, details of clothing worn by the human figures. A warrior in a helmet or hat, traders in eastern costumes, (there is a depiction of a ceremony of  the traders‘ arrival). Many images of bulls, which are symbols of fertility, power and strength to these times.  “Bizhiktig-Khaya is a pagan shrine and a Buddhist temple, with masks and images from the Bronze Age until our era. Drawings from the Scythian times… In front of us is a monument of rock art of world significance, documenting the arrival of Buddhism to Tuva”  a plaque with this notice is now standing by the  sacred “bear’s claw”. Its author is a member of the Artists’ Union of Russia, merited worker of culture of Republic Tuva, lecturer from Kyzyl-Mazhalyk children’s art school, Biche-ool Mainy.  A dedicated person, up to his ears in love with his small native place, expert in local noteworthy things.


Queen Sai-Suu

It is an interesting fact that even Tuvan scholars know very little about a monument of memorial type, located in an area fully visible from the village Bizhiktig-Khaya. Its first description was published

by the Khakass scholar Kyzlasov, who came to Tuva during the preparatory work for the submersion by the Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir.  During the excavations, remains of a sacrificial fire and animal bones were found, mixed with river pebbles. Within an enclosure of tall upright flat stones, two stone figures, male and female, were found. These figures, if you look closely, are also in the lotus pose. Even though Ongak Kuular, a former resident of Bizhiktig-Khaya, who saw the figures as a child, insists that the woman was standing. Judging from the appearance of his attributes - traditional leather belt, striking steel for making fire, a dagger, a vessel that he is holding in his hand - the man was of a high rank. Both figures have been decapitated.

Ongak Kuular and his granddaughter Shenne Saaya presented for the evaluation of the jury of the “Nine Treasures” contest a project, which includes several categories at the same time - pagan shrine, inscriptions and petroglyphs on the “claw” of the stone bear, and stone images near the Bizhiktig-Khaya village. The discoverer now lives in Sukpak village, but as he says, memory and conscience do not allow him to remain silent on a subject which elders used to speak of.

- Queen Sai-Suu, just like Queen Olga in Ancient Rus, is a famous historical personage of this region. Legends say that she ruled her people in the place  of her husband. He suddenly became sick (possibly injured), became paralyzed, and sat on a special carpet of skins. There it is, his carpet, depicted as a stone podium. Of course, the king’s mind remained intact. When I was six years old, my father showed me this monument. The figures, at that time, were still standing outside of the enclosure. Later somebody dug them up and placed them inside,- says Ongak Kombuyevich. - Not far from them, you could still see the foundations of a six- or eight-sided yurt-temple. By now, everything is grown over with vegetation, and there is no trace… Sai-Suu put her right hand on her heart, the left on her right hip. According to the legend, she spoke to her people:” Because of my husband’s loss of mobility, it fell to my lot to rule you. I, your queen, am devoted with my whole heart and body to you, my people…” Sai-Suu’s merit lies in the fact that she ruled wisely, and there was not a single bloodshed during her rule. The statues were decapitated most likely by Mongols. Turks could not have done that because the monument was built during Ancient Turkic era.  Those times were brutal. Enemies would decapitate their adversaries, even in stone… Generally female stone statues were made very rarely.

-It has been said that just such a female figure was preserved at the mouth of Chyrgaky river. The woman holds a flower in her hands. A certain admirer of antiquity, colonel of the militia, showed the photograph, when we were building a canopy for Genghis Khan. He said that the statue has been protected by his family, as a clan object, for many centuries, - says Biche-ool Mainy. In the ancient times, there used to be two forms of  depictions of dead heroes in the Sayan-Altai mountains, connected with the cult of the ancestors - stone portrait images and menhirs - unworked stone pillars. Since 8th century, these have been used to bear inscriptions in runic writing.

But by now, we are on the way to the next monument, which can also be seen from the village, and is known by several names - Warrior, protector of the Steppe, and Genghis-Khan.


Protector of the Steppes

Time could not obliterate the details of  the clothing of this mighty figure, worked so carefully - an obviously leather, ornamented  belt ( a sign of high rank), other attributes of clothing, a simple vessel that the warrior is holding in his hands, beautiful earring in his left ear, a braid. Mighty shoulders thrown back, confident and somewhat overbearing expression on his face, eyes looking straight at you… The statue dates from 6th-7th century. The era of Ancient Turks.

- Protector of the Steppes has been standing here as long as we, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers remember. During the Soviet times, one of the village technicians, a tractor driver, wanted to uproot the statue with his tractor, with chains. You see here, one of his shoulders is smaller than the other, and he is missing his right ear? No matter what, he could not pull the satue out, but he damaged it and it leaned over. Later the Tuvan archeologist, Irgit sambu put the statue back in place, but the tractor driver’s wife died seven days later…- our volunteer guide, Biche-ool Mainy, continues. The stories are interspersed with legends, which are generously shared also by Ongak Kuular.

- The Turks erected monuments not just to their own warriors, but to their defeated enemies as well (may they turn to stone…) But things are not so straightforward with this warrior. According to one hypothesis, Genghis Khan’s mother’s clan was from what  today is the Ulug-Khem district. The legends relate, and people transmit them from generation to generation, that a body of an extremely significant person was brought, and walled up in a cave. Others say that this happened at the foot of Bizhiktig-Khaya mountain. Only after several years was this stone statue brought, and erected on the kurgan in the center of the field, and they told the people: ”On your knees - Genghis Khan is in front of you. Whoever defiles him, will be executed with his whole family and clan.” And all the local chieftains were ordered to protect it.

Ongak Kombuyevich remembers that three such statues were around here - at Chyrgaky (the back side was smooth, front had a female bas-relief).  Anotherf emale figure used to stand on the left bank of river Barlyk. Only the Warrior remained, looking towards the east. During the period of Orkhon-Yenisei Turks (the theme of “Kultegin” epos) it was customary to bury the military leaders of Turkic period in burial chambers right on the battlefield. The stone statues would be on the top of the kurgan like guards. It is quite possible that the riddle of Bizhiktig-Khaya Genghis Khan will be solved. But so far,  cattle gently grazes in that huge field, and the great-great-grandsons of the mighty Warrior drive on the roads, throwing clouds of dust of ages on the stone statue.

Female statues appear to be quite a rarity for the stone art of those ages. Scholars believe that the first appearance of  female statues was a consequence of the remarkable rule of Queen Sai-Suu. It is interesting that large burial kurgans in the vicinity of Bizhiktig-Khaya have been preserved, while the small ones have been destroyed. On one side are the ladies’ kurgans, as they are called, in which wives of the Kuular chieftains were buried, on the other side, the chieftains themselves. It is appropriate to walk past and between the kurgans on foot, getting off the horse, and taking off one’s head dress.

Ayangaty village is another place in the district connected with the name of Genghis Khan. During the Turkic times, the territory belonged to the Mongols. The original name of the village was Tasol-Takhil (or Tagil), which means abundant, prosperous, apparently in memory of Genghis Khan’s ancestors who used to live there. Another legend was told to Ongak Kombuyevich’s father by an 80-year-old resident of Bizhiktig-Khaya. The legend said that when the shadow of the highest point of the mountain of the recumbent bear falls on his nose (we recall that the bear-mountain is drinking water from the spring), you should look for “national” in that spot. Even the old man himself did not know what exactly it was supposed to be. Ongak Kombuyevich’s father supposed that it could be “national book”, possibly of stone, which holds the biography of Genghis Khan.


Mountain-fortress Shiveelig-Dag and…more legends

To encompass the unencompassable no matter how much you try, is impossible, and even a newspaper page is not made of rubber, but to remain silent about Shiveelig-Dag (mountain-fortress or watchtower) would go against a journalist’s conscience…

…It towers in the middle of a huge field (not far from the district center of Barun-Khemchik district, Kyzyk-Mazhalyk), which is sprinkled with a multitude of large and small kurgans of Turkic era (6th-8th century). Each is marked by stones balbans, with various images carved on them - animals (apparently clan totems), birds, and again masks, or simply faces… There are no fewer than 300 of these stones-balbans. There are polemics about their origins to this day. Some scholars say that they represent numbers of enemies killed by the buried warrior, others insist that the stones were erected by those who came to pay homage to the warrior. What battles took place oh this field, whose ancestors rode their fiery horses through this area… The smooth sides of the mountain are also covered with petroglyphs, and a trench is is all the way on the top - well preserved! The watch men used to observe movements of their enemies from here, and lit signal fires. The mountain was useful even to their descendants. The name was changed to Naksyl-Dag (Love Mountain). The legend tells that long time ago a poor girl who fell in love with a rich khan’s son threw herself from the mountaintop.  The kid had nothing at all against marrying this impoverished beauty, but his father stood in the way of the two lovers. Only the legend an a huge stone, shaped like a heart, remained.  If you wish for connubial happiness - climb to the top of the mountain.

Galina Murygina, “Tuvinskaya pravda”, translated by Heda Jindrak
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