Yurta for the Kyrgyz people is more than just a comfortable dwelling.
It was created more then thousand years ago. Today it is difficult to say which
of the nomadic tribes in the ancient history gave rise to the idea of this unique
residential contraction. In present days yurta is an obligatory part of the
nomadic people and shepherds of Central Asia. Despite the time has altered the
appearance of big cities and small villages, this ingenious creation did not
sink in oblivion in our days.
Nomads normally put up their yurts, on the hills from where they
can easily watch the cattle and the surrounding world: sky, stars, and valleys.
The yurt in highlands with their domes towered up into the sky seems as natural
continuity of the mountainous environment. Sometimes, yurts can be met in the
valleys amid the verdure, or on the green meadows near the mountain rivers.
However, these are only temporary dwellings because in winter and autumn time
it is more preferable to stay in windless spots, lacking heavy snowfalls. At
the ancient time, a governor could measure the number of the families belonged
to him by the number of tyutyuns, or smokes, rasing over each yurta. This word
is still in use in the Kyrgyz villages to refer to the number of householders,
although most villagers live in modern buildings. A skilful master can make
the yurta within a month while it can serve for the years. The yurta encompass
the nomadic people from the birthday till the last days.
To put up the yurta they start from installing a door casing, bosogo.
Then by the circle stretches the openwork wall, kerege, which consists of a
few sections, kanat. Each kanat is made of long wooden poles, specially curved
and fasten up with rawhide straps. Usually kerege is made of birch tree trunks
and boughs. Then stretched out it form a grid with rhombic clear space-kerege
koz. Then installs the supporting dome poles and tyundyuk - the top of the Yurta.
The surface of the poles is meticulously trimmed and thoroughly polished by
the master who renders them the required shape and thickness. The surfaces of
the wooden parts of the yurta are covered with a special substance and painted
so it keeps the original flexibility for a long time. From the outside, the
Yuta is covered by Chiy, or mat, with a national ornament and finally, the nearly
finished spherical structure is covered with a specially prepared thick felt,
- kiyiz. Usually, yurta has several felt layers. Each layer is fixed by the
ropes to the pegs around the Yurta.
The tyndyk is partly covered with a felt coat which
in day time and in clear weather is folded back while in the cold weather or
in rainy day it shuts tightly the top hole and preventing the wind or moisture
from penetrating inside. In the stormy weather then the wind crush everything
on the way, the nomads save the dwelling with a special creation- fine ribbons
attached to the top of the yurta. They also used for the decoration with their
ends looking like big coquettish tassels of bright multicolored threads hanging
down from the tyunduk. However, if necessary they can be pulled down and attached
to the pegs in the middle of the yurta. This adds strength to it even during
the most appalling storms. The Kyrgyz call the Yurta - bozui what means gray
house. At the ancient times poor nomads could not use high quality felt
to cover their yurts and had to use wool remains of black and gray colors. The
Khans and governors yurtas were dressed in snow white felt and were called
"ak-orgo", or white yurtas. The welfare of yurtas
owner used to be determined by its dimensions: the more kanats the richer the
family. The Khans yurts had some 60 metres in diameter. Today the nomadic
yurts consist of about 4-5 kanats, from 5 to 15 metres.
The life inside the yurta is centered around kolomto,
or the fire place, located right under the tynduk. Behind the fire place, near
the rear wall of the yurta, there is the juk-blankets, carpets and pillows piled
up on the chests or special props. The juks height indicates the welfare
of the family. In hot and sunny days the nomads usually take them outside to
expose them to direct sun light. At the day time the sun fluff up the pillows
and blankets and absorbing the aroma of fresh spicy herbs it become the best
possible bed to sleep after a hard day. The place in front of the juk is called
"tyor" which serves as a seat for the honorable guests - aksakals
- wise old men. In everyday life the tyor is the place for the head of the family.
Next to him there are the seats for the sons, and the place near the entrance
is usually designed for daughters and the mistress. These traditions come from
time immemorial and followed very strictly. There are no Kyrgys dares to change
the established order, although no special punishment is provided for offenders.
Yurta is separated for two parts. On the right side, there is a
corner separated for a womens work, the eptchi zhak. The place
for kitchen stuff and washing dishes. On the kerege fasten up the bags in which
the mistress and her daughters keep their needles, threads, needle-work, knitting
and all sorts of woman knickknacks. The part for male, the "er zhak",
is on the left side. On the kerege there the one can see fasten harnesses, kamcha
(whips), hunting knives- all the necessary tools the one needs to breed cattle,
hunting and handcraft. In the Kyrgyz families children are taught to help their
parents in house work- a tradition which comes from generation to generation.
The day in yurta starts before the sunrise. The first sun rays
meet the nomads doing house works. Women cook breakfast and put the food into
bags for men who lead their herds out to pastures. After seeing them off, women
back to thousand big and small house causes. Boys who can barely walk are taught
to ride a horse. All the skills which true men are supposed to possess
are picked up in childhood. Afterwards, these red cheeked kids can easily manage
the herds of sheep without adults. The girls with mothers help will grow
into masters versed in embroidery, cooking, will get to know the secrets of
Kyrgyz national patterns making the shirdaks, ala-kiyiiz, or toosh kiyiz-kyrgyz
carpets placed on the walls or floor. They serve not only for practical purposes
- warming the house - but also perform an aesthetic function. The Kyrgyz ornament
embodied the wealth of colors and shapes existing in the surrounding nature:
the bright variety of field flowers, eagles with proudly bent wings, the gentle
fragility of tulip petals and the blue tints of the sky. The Yurta encompasses
the Kyrgyz from his birth to the last day of his life. Despite the most Kyrgyzes
nowadays live in apartment blocks, every Kyrgyz on his sons or parents
birthday will certainly put up the yurta and invite guests to the dastarkhan-
a holiday table. A Yurta is also the place where the Kyrgyzes gather for the
funeral of their relatives. Today, the yurta provides for the Kyrgyz a philosophical
understanding of the beginning and the end of life, eternity and transience,
the universe centered on a tiny cupola at the foot of Ala-Too. It has been like
this for centuries and will be like this.