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Holy Baikal for Indigenous Peoples

Holy Baikal
Holy Baikal
Water as a source of life is especially revered by the indigenous peoples of the Lake Baikal region: Buryats, Evenkis, Soyouts and other local residents.

The bodies of water and the shores and banks of waterways have always been considered holy places. And as in any sacred place, you must follow a strict set of rules and abstain from certain behaviours when you visit them.

In shamanism, the traditional faith of the Buryat people, each natural object has its master and patron. Rivers, creeks and lakes are no exception. When you approach the bodies of water, you are not permitted to talk loudly, let alone scream or curse. Any economic activities that could harm the water and anger the spirits are also strictly prohibited.

The Evenki hold the same beliefs. They see their world as consisting of three tiers: the upper, the middle and the lower. The middle level is for ordinary people, while the upper and the lower levels are accessible only to the most powerful shamans and deities. The middle world is seen by them as a holy territory of their family clan, where they hunt and herd reindeer.

Shamans, the most respected people among the Evenki and the Buryats, hold special rituals asking the local spirits to bring rain, provide for a good harvest, or grant their request to fish in the river or the lake. 

They hold special reverence for Lake Baikal. The people who live on its banks consider the lake holy, calling it the Holy Sea. The great lake occupied a special place in the rituals of the Buryat life cycle for those who live in the vicinity of Lake Baikal.

The masters and spirits of water

Lusad Takhikha is a ritual honouring the masters and spirits of water, which is celebrated on especially fortunate days. To celebrate the ritual, the lamas (Buddhist monks) prepare different substances – named “three white” substances (milk, butter and buttermilk) and “three sweet” substances (sugar, honey and molasses) – and various jewels. During the ritual, the lama meditate to transform the gifts into jewels and medications for spirits of the water, and then, accompanied by the sounds of ritual instruments, ceremoniously and reverently submerge the gifts into the water.

This ritual on Lake Baikal is usually held near the village of Dulan in the Kabansky District.


NGO Baikal In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre "Gran" www.bic­

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