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Kara-Kys Arakchaa about arzhaans of Tuva

Kara-Kys Arakchaa about  arzhaans of TuvaUsually people start thinking about arzhaans closer to July, around the time when they "ripen". But we have several reasons to talk about healing springs in December. First, our ancerstors would start preparations for  a trip to an arzhaan six months ahead of time, to get ready, and think everything out in great detail. Second, the project "Nine Treasures of Tuva" is coming to a close, and we would very much like arzhaans to be among the treasures. And the main reason is that after a political period in her life, Kara-Kys Arakchaa, a scientist-chemist, an author of  the popular brochure "Story of the Arzhaans of Tuva" and a delegate  to the State Duma, returned to Tuva.

- Kara-Kys Dongakovna, we are glad that you returned to the republic , and happy that you returned to the arzhaans. Did you vote for the "Nine Treasures"?

- I voted, and I voted for all the arzhaans that were on the list.

- As to the results of Internet-voting, not a single arzhaan made it into the first nine. But in the SMS voting, both  Tarys and Azhyg-Sug made it. In your opinion, are these arzhaans worth it?

- Of course they are. Both of them are unique. Tarys used to be called "South Arzhaan", Ush-Beldir was the North Arzhaan. Tarys is thermal with sulphur and hydrogen compounds; true, the water temperature is not as high as at Ush-Beldir, only up to 50 degrees centigrade.  The spectrum of its effects is very wide - from  therapy for radiculitis to skin diseases. In Soviet times the utilization of the spring was well organized,  trips there were being sold, the airplane would take you right to the spring, and a medical station was there.

Tarys, in my opinion, has been known since early Middle Ages, (5th - 10th Century), when the area of Kungurtug, or, more exactly, the district of Vosmirechie (Eight Rivers) - river Kaa-Khem in its middle and upper reaches with tributaries Ulug-Shivei, Kargy, Balyktyg-Khem and others, was a place of active intertribal contacts. The life here was very active,  and this district is mentioned in the works of Rashid-ad-Din as Sekiz-muren (Vosmirechie). It is not by chance that the ancient Uighur fortress Por-Bazhyn was built right there. Under the conditions of tourist utilization of the Por-Bazhyn complex, arzhaan Tarys would fit into this project in a quite natural manner.

In 12th and 13th centuries, it was precisely through this district that Buddhism arrived to Tuva. Until recent times, there was a tradition among local people of reading Buddhist mantras during taking baths in the hot springs. Each of the springs had its own mantra, which had to be read a certain number of times. Apparently this was done to measure the time which was necessary for  the bath to have a healing effect. But that was not all. The reading of the mantras would bring on a special spiritual state of consciousness, which, in my opinion, also acted to enhance the therapeutic effect of the spring. Many of the old-timers said that they would start preparations for going to an arzhaan a year or half a year ahead of time. They would ask a shaman or a lama which direction would be advantageous for them, and selected the arzhaan accordingly. All in all, a visit to a healing arzhaan was a process based in many ways on spiritual practice. Now, of course, there is not enough of that.

-  And Azhyg-Sug is just as unique, right?

-  There may be one or two other like that at most. Acidic spring, with a large content of silica acid and ions of iron. Azhyg-Sug is a place of pilgrimage for patients with chronic gastritis or gastric ulcers. Already from the color it is obvious that the spring is rich in minerals with high iron content. The earth has ochre color. When we went to Azhyg-Sug, the geologists explained that to dig around the spring or create disturbances would be dangerous. The soil crumbles easily, and if it is disturbed, it will collapse and cover up the spring; it would then disappear and the waters would find an exit somewhere else.

-  That means that it would be impossible to build a sanatorium there, right?

-  Yes, that is right. Arzhaan Azhyg-Sug needs to be developed in the framework of therapeutic-rehabilitative tourism. So it is necessary to set up the territory. The spring should be supervised by local authorities, and a medical station should be there. It is impossible to leave garbage on the territory of the arzhaan, the visitors have to take it away when they leave.  All that has to be monitored.

-  Kara-Kys Dongakovna, and when did you first become interested in arzhaans?

-  At the end of the 80's, but the interest started a bit earlier.  My mother played a large role in it. When I returned from my aspiranture, I started working at the pedagogic institute, and worked on Tuvan coals with my colleagues. One day we went with my mother to visit relatives at a sheepherding station. There was a little spring nearby. When we were drinking tea, our hostess remarked that there always was sediment in the water. Mother turned her attention to that, and noted that in that case it certainly must be an arzhaan. And she told me: "Work with arzhaans! Why  else did you study so much?"  I, to tell the truth, was a little bit upset, and answered that one really had to have a lot of knowledge to do that. But several years later, fate itself brought me together with arzhaans.

In 1989, we had a large conference in analytic chemistry. Many scientists gathered,  among them hydro-chemists from Irkutsk - Grigoriy Moiseyevich Shpeizer with his team. They were telling us about their  research of hydro-mineral springs in Mongolia. From that moment our contacts started with scientists who were studying hydro-mineral resources.

We started to study our own springs. Kalin-ool Sereyevich Kuzhuget took us under his wing, he was working as a vice-director of Tuvan complex section of  SO AN USSR. In 1989-1991, we performed several expeditions. The first year we went  in a large group: geologists, hydro-chemists from Irkutsk, and my small team. Mongun-Taiga, and Bai-Taiga were the first districts we went to. It was unforgettable!

At first we studied the chemical parameters of the spring waters, then, in 1993-1995, together with the scientists from Tomsk polytechnic  university, under the leadership of M. B. Bukaty, we started getting involved in geophysical research. We studied the characteristics of the geomagnetic field on the territory of the arzhaans. We collected a lot of material, but, unfortunately, I went into politics  and did not write a scientific monograph. Only the brochure "Story of the arzhaans of Tuva" was published, but that is a scientific-popular publication, even more of an advertising character,  that is why the text is in both Russian and English languages. It was to attract attention to the arzhaans, not just of Tuvan residents, but of the visitors as well.

-  And in your opinion, which arzhaans are the most valuable?

-  All the arzhaans are the most valuable for me. Definitely, even those which are recognized: Shivilig, Azhyg-Sug, Tarys, Ush-Beldir, Ulaatai, Choigan.  But the fresh-water arzhaans are really close to my heart. There are many more of them, and they are all over the place - every settled point has one, every herding station.

-  What is a fresh-water  arzhaan?

-  They are natural springs, which are known as healing springs among the local population, but  their chemical content is not enough to get them officially classified  as therapeutic mineral spring. They are such arzhaans as Kara-Sug in Chaa-Khol, Uurgailyg (Argolik), Mannailig in Tandy, Moren in Erzin, and the famous Bobry (Beavers) in Kyzyl.

-  Few people beside the local population believe in their power. People simply relax in nature, and they just generally get healthier.

-  The fresh-water arzhaans were classified in the middle of 20th century as "false arzhaans", that was the verdict of the 60-70's. And that was that, nobody studied them anymore. But I am convinced that the fresh-water arzhaans have a therapeutic action. The medical research has now become much wider, the effect of ultra-micro-quantities of metallic ions on the organism are being studied. Magnetic properties of water are being studied. Magneto-therapy is in use, and other physiotherapeutic methods, everything that influences the exchange processes on the cellular level. I am setting a task of studying the effect of water on the human organism depending on the changes of its physical and structural parameters, for example, under the influence of geomagnetic fields. I formulated a grant proposal with these goals  for a regional grant RFFI for the study of fresh-water arzhaans, specifically Kara-Sug and Argolik.

-  I know that you are an active supporter of the Choigan spring.

-  Yes, we also wrote a grant proposal to the Chairman of the Government of RT to study the therapeutic properties of the springs in the natural arzhaan complex "Choigan mineral waters". I want precisely this name to be applied to  Choigan arzhaan. We proposed to carry out medical-clinical studies at that arzhaan. I spoke with the scientists at Tomsk NII of balneology, and in the summer we should go to the spring. (We received the grant, and I am very happy about it).

Choigan is a unique complex of cold and thermal waters with carbon dioxide, with radon, mineralized and fresh. They are deep juvenal (magmatic) waters, which have significant quantities of gaseous carbon dioxide, possibly also of magmatic origin. According to the hypothesis of A. Kostenko, with use of these waters, acidification of the organism takes place, including in the blood. And that helps remove the "mineral of death", hydroxyapatite,  which accumulates on the internal walls of  blood vessels, which causes loss of elasticity and permeability, and atherosclerosis, and, finally, premature aging of the entire organism. The Choigan complex has one fountain with cold water, of greenish-blue color, strongly gasified, with temperature of 5-6 degrees. This spring is known as "the spring of youth" among the locals.

The arzhaan complex is located in a ravine,, there is a small mountain river, naturally waterfalls, and the air is full of negatively charged ions. There is a spruce forest all around with medicinal phytoncides(?), and a completely original character of the geomagnetic field. In one word, in my opinion this arzhaan complex has a multimodal therapeutic effect. And because this is a ravine with hot springs, it has very mild winters, with minimal snow cover. The kids who fly helicopters there tell us that even in February freeze the grass there is green and flowers bloom.

-  Quite a spa!

-  I will tell you straight out that it is impossible to build a spa there. First, the amount of water is not large. Second, the territory of the arzhaan complex, located in a ravine, is not very big. If there is something to be built there, then only some light structures, perhaps wooden buildings or yurts.  If there is too much rumbling an vibrations, then the water would escape through other channels. The Choigan arzhaan complex is valued from a therapeutic-healing point of view, as well as from scientific and scientific-popular tourism point of view. It is possible that  the Todzha district could organize a special tourist-recreational special economic zone based on the arzhaan complex.

-  Trails would have to be built for that.

-  That is our second chief task. Our colleagues Kalin-ool Sereyevich Kuzhuget and Nikolai Ivanovich Putintsev agreed to work on that. We propose to go overland to Choigan in both summertime and in winter. Afterwards, once the tourist trails are worked out, it will be necessary to attract investors to build them. To work on all these problems, we established an OOO "Laboratory of arzhaanology and tourism". The chairman of the board of directors is K.S. Kuzhuget, general director-yours truly, and members are N.I. Putintsev and L.Kh. Tas-ool.

-  There is one bad thing - it is very difficult to get to the spring.

-  Nevertheless, there are plenty of visitors. Todzhans are always going there, they ride on reindeer, and with little children. There are many visitors from Buryatia; it is somewhat easier to get there from that direction. But we will definitely work out a route it should go by way of Khamsara, and we will guide everybody who wants to go. And the routes will be worked out with consideration that people of ordinary levels of physical preparation will be using them. We will work out one-day excursions at the arzhaan itself, for example to the Topographers' Peak , valley of volcanoes, etc.  Right there, just over the mountain pass is another unique spring, Torpa (Tybra) - carbonaceous, acidic, cold, and strongly gasified. These waters can be bottled straight out. To preserve the quality of  water, its mineralization, they put carbon dioxide into  bottles under pressure.  And here we have naturally gasified water all ready to go. But, of course, the Torpa spring is very difficult to get to.

-  What do you think, will the results of the studies confirm the folk traditions about the arzhaans?

-  This matter requires research. I think that they will be in agreement, but the accuracy of scientific knowledge is very important. I will give you an example. Not far from Kyzyl in the direction of Saryg-Sep is an arzhaan Churek-Dorgun. I found a translation of the word "Dorgun" - a small river going through a meadow with a small forest. I translated the name of the spring as "Heart spring". The people have long known that this arzhaan lowers blood pressure. I told this to a remarkable scientist from Tomsk NII cardiology, Irina Yulievna Stuks. She worked out an index of lowering the risk of arterial hypertension, calculated by chemical composition of natural waters. The threshold number is 3. Less than 3, the risk increases, more than 3, it decreases. When we studied the composition of  this arzhaan, it turned out that its index number was 9 and a little bit, which means it is significantly more than 3. A complete agreement with the folk knowledge. But more research has to be done.

Large-scale, long-term medical-clinical studies are needed. The matter depends on financial possibilities.

-  We will hope that tourism has appeared among the priorities of the direction of development of the republic, and the arzhaans, unconditionally, are a treasure of Tuva.

-  I have already written that the tradition of Tuvan people to take cures at the arzhaans, and the rituals associated with it are, without exaggeration, a part of world cultural heritage. I have a suggestion - Tuva should declare a Year of the Arzhaans. It is very important for their popularization and research. Maybe not in 2011, but one of the next ones. I would also suggest to nominate one day of the year, for example , July 6, as Day of  Arzhaans. Why precisely July 6? It is practically in all the districts that precisely at the beginning of July people start getting ready for the arzhaan season. According to folk belief, an arzhaan has to ripen, "to gather the power" of its healing properties. The second half of July is considered to be that time. That is why  it would be possible to have the Day of Arzhaans in early July. And July 6 is also, in my opinion, very suitable, because it is the birthday of  His Holiness Dalai-Lama XIV. It is precisely with Buddhism, with its ancient Sanskrit roots, is the word "arzhaan" associated. In Sanskrit, it means "holy, healing water".

Marina Chanzan, Plyus Inform, translated by Heda Jindrak
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