In a rocky field on the north shore of Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, a petroglyph (rock drawing) of ibex or mountain goats; in a lone tree in the Alamedin Valley, south of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, an animal carcass; in the mountains of the Eastern Pamir, south of Kashgar, Xinjian an array of poles with yak tails and strips of cloth and supported by ibex horns; in the dazzling, gilded interior of the Gur-i Amir, the Islamic Timurid Mausoleum in Samarkand, a horse tail suspended from a pole.
What are we to make of this evidence, which we might assume illustrates facets of traditional Central Asian culture? This website provides some answers and additional illustrations. Our subject here is traditional religion in Central Asia; we begin with what has been termed"dispersed shamanism." This set of pre-Islamic traditional religious beliefs and practices has lasted into modern times, at the same time that many of its practitioners have adopted one or another of the"religions of the book": in the case of the Mongols--Buddhism; and in the case of many of the related Turkic peoples of Central Asia-- Islam. As will become evident, there is a syncretism between pre-Islamic religious tradition and Islamic norms, a fact which explains some of the distinctive features of Central Asian Islamic practice.
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