Monday, June 15, 2020

Mongolia | Khovd Aimag | Baatar Khairkhan Uul

Baatar Khairkhan Uul  is a small mountain standing alone on the steppe 4.7 miles from downtown Khovd, just beyond the airport. It is clearly visible when you arrive in Khovd by airplane. Before 1912 Baatar Khairkhan Uul had two different names: Taliin Khairkhan Uul and Tsogt Khairkhan Uul. After 1912 the mountain was renamed Baatar Khairkhan Uul in honor of Magsarjav, one of the four military commanders during the attack on the Chinese Fortress in Khovd in 1912. After the city had been seized he was awarded the title of Khatan Baatar (warrior); hence Baatar Khairkhan Uul.
Baatar Khairkhan Uul stands alone on the steppe south of Khovd City
Baatar Khairkhan Uul 
Magsarjav, (1877-1927) was born in the banner of the Itgemjit Beis of Sain Noyon Khan Aimag. His father was a minor nobleman, but the family was not considered well-to-do.  Although thought to be a khuvilgaan, or incarnation of a minor Buddhist hierarch in western Mongolia, he apparently never considered a religious vocation. Magsarjav had been the Bogd Khan’s representative in Khovd City when Mongolian independence had been declared and had presented the Amban with the ultimatum to surrender the Khovd fortress and return to China. He had to sneak out of Khovd to avoid arrest after that affair and thus no doubt had own score to settle with the Amban. He appeared to have had little military experience, however, and one source calls him “an untried youth,” although he was thirty-five in 1912. 
On the north side of the mountain, visible from the airport, is a large depiction of the familiar Soyombo, the head symbol of the Soyombo alphabet designed by Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia. This sign also occurs on the Mongolian flag, Mongolian currency, and innumerable other places. 
Soyombo Symbol on Baatar Khairkhan Uul
On the rocks at the base of the hill are what Professor Baasankhüü of Khovd, who accompanied me to the site, says are Bronze Age petroglyphs, including depictions of ibex, sheep, elk, deer, tigers or leopards, wolves, and, interestingly, a turtle. (He dates the Bronze Age to about 2000-5000 BP.) There are also Tibetan inscriptions from the seventeenth century, Sanskrit inscriptions, and  inscriptions in vertical script Mongolian, one of which says, “If you pray under this mountain you will be forgiven for the sins of 1000 years.” (According to the translation of the Professor, who reads vertical script Mongolian perfectly).
During the Siege of Khovd in 1912, Magsarjav camped near the mountain with his contingent of troops. He also maintained an observation post on the summit from which he could watch what was going on in Khovd. According to various accounts he also had monks perform chanting ceremonies on the summit of the hill to ensure the success of the upcoming battle.
It was at the base of Baatar Khairkhan Uul that Magsarjav performed the notorious "Blood Ceremony” in preparation for the attack on the Manchu Fortress in Khovd City. During the ceremony, which was meant to encourage the troops, a Chinese servant who had been captured in the city had his still-beating heart ripped from his chest. The Mongol war banners were then ceremoniously anointed with his blood. A man named Samand Baatar, who was one of Magsarjav’s soldiers, was an eyewitness to the ceremony. In 1970 he described the event in detail to Professor Baasankhüü of Khovd. It is widely believed that Dambijantsan, The Notorious Ja Lama, took part in the Blood Ceremony here at Baatar Khairkhan Uul. Samand Baatar maintained, however, that Dambijantsan was not present at Magsarjav’s ceremony, although he did reportedly perform his own Blood Ceremony at his camp on the Dund Tsenkher Gol near Mankhan.
Not until we had left Baatar Khairkhan Uul and were halfway back to Khovd did I realize I had forgotten to pray at the base of the hill.  
Bronze Age Petroglyphs
Bronze Age Petroglyphs and Vertical Script Mongolian inscriptions
Bronze Age Petroglyphs
Bronze Age Petroglyphs
Bronze Age Petroglyphs and Tibetan script
Bronze Age Petroglyphs

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