Uyghurs And Nowruz
Mihray Abdilim Abral
Uyghur is one of the ancient nationalities of China. They established Orkhon
Uyghur Khanate in seventh century CE. By the end of the ninth century CE,
Uyghurs established the Huigu-Edikut Khanate and the Karakhanid Khanate. To
the honor of Uyghur people, outstanding statesmen, strategists, astronomers,
historians, translators and other distinguished scholars emerged in Uyghur
history. In the thirteenth century and the years after many such eminent persons
held high official positions in Yuan Dynasty.
Uyghurs began to accept Islam in the tenth century, and by the end of sixteenth
century, Islam became a common religion of Uyghurs. According to the 2001
census, Uyghurs account for 8,605,575, or 45.87%, of the total population of
Xinjiang. Nearly 80% of them live in Southern Xinjiang. The language belongs to
the Altaic language family. Uyghurs in Xinjiang use Arabic script.
Uyghurs is a nationality of unique natural and spiritual civilization. They are
honest, openhearted, friendly, outgoing, hospitable people. Humor, song and
dance are the important features of their social life. The “Twelve Mukams” is the
typical classic musical collection of a long history and high honor. Uyghur dance is
well known for its lively, joyful and glorious form. Mashrap, as a form of get-
together, is the common event of Uyghurs. High-wire-walking, horse racing,
sheep snatching, wrestling, etc., are also the common forms of sport in the towns
Uyghurs celebrate Nawruz, Kurban Heyt, and Roza Heyt. During such holidays,
the tables in every family are topped with typical Uyghur snacks, such as sangza
and other sweets and fruits.
Nawruz (or Noruz Bayrimi in Uyghur) is one of the major and the most favorite
holidays of the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Central Asia. Although it is
celebrated in Islamic countries, Nawruz is not a religious holiday. It is an actually
a celebration of the symbolic renewal of nature. According to Turkic scholars, it
originated in Ancient Mesopotamia. In Babylon, New Year was celebrated starting
from the 21st day of March and lasted for 12 days. According to historians,
Nawruz is certain to have been celebrated in pre-Islamic times and after words.
Nawruz is associated with spring start of agricultural activities, renewal of nature
and warm days. This period being of great importance it caused many traditions
and rites associated with magic, the cult of nature and earth and belief in the
perishing and reviving nature. Celebrations began four weeks before the actual
day of festivity. These four weeks were each devoted on of the four elements.
They were: Su Heptisi (Water Week), Ot Heptisi (Flame Week), Tuprakh Heptisi
(Earth Week), Ahiri Heptisi (Last Week).
According to folk beliefs, on Water Week, water renewed and still water came to
stir; the Flame Week was believed to be the time of fire’s rebirth; on Earth Week,
the earth revived; and, on the Last Week, the wind opened tree buds and spring
arrived. Now, due to the busy schedule and other reasons, the festival has
become must shorter, ranging from one day to two weeks.
The most important week was the Last Wednesday before the vernal equinox and
most of important rites and ceremonies were delivered that day which concerned
all the aspects of human life Those rites were intended to provide welfare for an
individual, his family and the community in general to get rid of the old year is
troubles and to avert calamity.
According to Uyghur tradition, on the day of Nawruz, all people in the town,
including young and old, congregate in the town in a beautiful place, such as a
park, to celebrate the festival. They wear beautiful traditional dresses and
customs and sing songs and play games to entertain the crown. The poets and
writers will dictate their poems and folklores for glorifying Nawruz. Storytellers
will entertain the crowd by telling jokes and short stories. Musician and singers
will show their talent by playing music and dancing. There will be games such as
“Oghlakh Tartish” (Catch the Goat), “Bayge” (Horse racing), and on some
occasions “Dawaz” (a unique Uyghur rope-walking game) to perform and attract
hundreds of people. Young girls sit on the ground and play games; others sit
around musicians to enjoy the beautiful Uyghur Twelve Mukhams. In short,
everyone will give his or her own best performance to entertain the crowd.
In order to prepare for Nawruz, villagers select a number of individuals a few
months before the festival. The group of people will be responsible for collection
dues from villagers. Special kind of food named Nawruz food will be cooked,
which has to contain wheat, rice, grain, meat, milk, and water as ingredients. In
addition to the special Nawruz food, there are also plenty of fruits and vegetables
to feed the crowd. Per Uyghur tradition, everyone who attends the festival has to
taste some Nawruz Food.
Although every Uyghur consider Nawruz as an important holiday, nobody knows
exactly when the Uyghurs started celebrating the holiday. According to legends
and folklore, it could be traced back to the period before Uyghurs became
Muslims. Therefore, it is not a religious holiday.
Uyghurlar We Nowruz
Mihray Abdilim Abral