Showing posts with label Dambijantsan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dambijantsan. Show all posts

Monday, March 8, 2021

Mongolia | Khovd Aimag | Dambijantsan | Shashin Badrakh

When Dambijantsan returned to Mongolia in late 1911 he was still the Khoër Temeed Badarchin, the “Wandering Monk with Two Camels”, and he still had only one disciple, Jigme, who he beat unmercifully for the slightest hint of disobedience or misconduct. Eight months or so later he had been awarded high-ranking titles by the Bogd Gegeen and put in command of his own small army. By the end of the summer of 1912 he was arguably the most powerful man in the former Khovd Frontier Region. It was an astonishing change of fortune. It soon became apparent that Dambijantsan had even bigger ambitions.

After the fall of Khovd, Magsarjav and Dambinsüren left the Khovd region and led troops into Inner Mongolia in an attempt to “capture cities in the old Mongol territory north of the Great Wall and to unite all Mongolia,” in the words of the Diluv Khutagt. The Jalkhanz Khutagt, the Bogd Khan’s appointee as the overall leader of the Khovd show, soon retired to his home monastery. That left Navaan, the newly appointed Said of Khovd City, and Dambijantsan, Warden of the Western Marches (Baruun Hyazgaarin Olon Monggolin Aimguudig Ilben Tohinuulah Said), in charge of the western frontier region. Most of the 5000 troops assembled for the siege of Khovd either left with Magsarjav and Dambinsüren or returned to their families and herds. That left Dambijantsan with a force of about 300 men.

Although Khovd had fallen to the Mongols Chinese authorities in Xinjiang still harbored ambitions of reasserting control over the Khovd region. In late 1912 word reached Khovd that a Chinese relief column was on the march towards Khovd. Dambijantsan and a detachment of troops left Khovd and confronted the Chinese column at a placed called Tsagaan Tünkh near the Xinjiang border. “When Ja Lama got there with his troops the Chinese retired without much of a fight,” according to the the Diluv Khutagt, who added, however, that ”it was made out that by this he had won great glory. . .” A small detachment of soldiers was left at Tsagaan Tünkh to guard the border, but according to one account Dambijantsan and the rest of his troop retired to a fortified camp on the north side of Ulaan Davaa, one of the main passes through the Altai Mountains. The current road from Khovd to southern Khovd Aimag crosses 9715-foot Ulaan Davaa and it is tempting to think that Dambijantsan’s camped was at Bayanzurkh, a small settlement 6.5 mile to the north of Ulaan Davaa now known for its extensive complex of monolithic deer stones.) The Diluv Khutagt, however, maintains that after the battle at Tsagaan Tünkh Dambijantsan and most of his men went into winter camp at Dund Tsenkher Gol, his headquarters before the siege of Khovd.

Ovoo at 9715-foot Ulaan Davaa, one of the main passes through the Mongol-Altai Mountains (click on photos for enlargements)
By late spring or early summer Dambijantsan and his men were at their camp on Dund Tsenkher Gol, fifty-five miles southeast of Khovd, either having the spent the winter there or just arriving back. Our sources do not indicate why he did not return in Khovd, the city he had just been instrumental in seizing. We may surmise, however, that he did not want to share power with Navaan, the newly appointed Said of Khovd City. At Dund Tsenkher Gol he was the undisputed ruler of his own encampment and could exercise without hindrance his power as the Warden of the Western Marches, the top military commander in the western frontier region.

Dambijantsan’s camp at Dund Tsenkher Gol. When his men were not otherwise occupied, Dambijantsan, a stickler for neatness, had them gather up loose rocks and put them in piles. The piles can still be seen there today. 

Not only was he famous for his exploits against the Chinese at Khovd and Tsagaan Tünkh, he was now the Dogshin Noyon Khutagt Nomin Khan, the Terrible Prince Khutagt, Lord of Scriptures, the first incarnation of what some believed would be a long line of incarnations."Thus the hitherto solitary Badarchin lama Dambiijantsan became a great Hutagt of the lamaist faith,” wrote Burdukov who apparently visited him at Dund Tsenkher Gol. Soon tribute and gifts from all over western Mongolia were pouring into Dambijantsan’s coffers, including ceremonial trumpets and other religious paraphernalia made from pure silver. "All of this [the ceremonial items] was made clumsily and crudely and lacked artistic merit, the only value residing in the amount of silver used,” noted Burdukov. He estimated that the total amount of pure silver used exceeded sixteen kilograms (over thirty-five pounds), however, which made Dambijantsan a very rich man by the standards of the day, so rich in fact that he was even able to loan money to Burdukov.

In keeping with his new role as Noyon Khutagt Dambijantsan also held religious ceremonies at Dund Tsenkher Gol, the chief of which was the Tsam Dance. Originating in Tibet in the thirteen century, the Tsam Dance was first performed in Mongolia at Erdene Zuu Monastery in the late eighteenth century and soon became one of the most popular religious ceremonies in Mongolia, often attended by thousands of people. The ritual began with an early morning invocation of the diety Yamataka, after which a series of performers wearing paper papiermaché masks representing various Buddhist deities did elaborate dances while brandishing swords and other paraphernalia. At the end dough figures known as baling were burned to exorcize any evil demons which may be present. Presided over by the Gachin Lama, a famous Tibetan monk who was visiting Dambijantsan’s camp, the Tsam dance attracted all the local nobility and  devotees from all over western Mongolia. Many no doubt gave offerings and gifts to Dambijantsan himself, adding to his already burgeoning coffers.

While at Dund Tsenkher Gol Dambijantsan also engaged in hunting, one of his favorite pastimes. Burdukov:

One time he organized a hunt . . . in which he had several hundred people took part. For two or three days they hunted, combing a wide area and stirring up game. The people were afraid that hunters inexperienced in these old-style battue hunts would shoot each other, but the hunt was a great success.
Dambijantsan’s shooting proclivities were not limited to wild game. According to an informant one of his devotees presented him with a gun as a gift. Wishing to test the gun Dambijantsan took a shot at a man riding a camel along the top of a nearby ridge. The man tumbled from his saddle. “Ah, now that's a good gun,” said Dambijantsan. Money, silver, guns, and other valuables were just the beginning of the gifts his devotees offered Dambijantsan. According to Maisky, “. . . his admirers among the Kobdo princes presented him with about 1,000 yurts [families] and a fairly large piece of land along the Kobdo River, 80 versts from the city of Kobdo. Ja-Lama thus became a land-owning ecclesiastical prince.” Here on the Khovd River, at a place known as Shashin Badrakh, Dambijantsan hoped to establish his own city.

Shashin Badrakh is located in the valley of the Khovd River sixty miles north of Khovd City and 100 miles southeast of Ulaangom, the capital of current-day Uvs Aimag. As the Diluv Khutagt mentioned, the area was known as Shashin Badrakh (Flourishing of the Faith) even before Dambijantsan set eyes on it. Positioned as it was between Khovd City and Ulaangom, it was considered a strategic location for controlling all of western Mongolia. The valley bottom of Khovd River is relatively wide and well-watered, making it ideal for settlement.

Khovd River at Shashin Badrakh
It was also considered an auspicious area, blessed by the spirits of the Mongol-Altai Mountains. Shashin Badrakh was commemorated by the huge Monjigiin Ovoo complex located on a bluff above the river. Unlike most ovoos, which are simply heaps of rocks piled up at random by devotees, the Monjigiin ovoos were constructed. No one knows how old this ovoo complex is, but according to Professor Baasankhüü it pre-dates the arrival of Dambijantsan. The main ovoo of the complex is surrounded by thirteen smaller ovoos which represent the thirteen main peaks of the Mongol-Altai Mountains. Unlike many cultures the people of the Khovd region venerate the number thirteen and consider it propitious. Thus the presence of thirteen ovoos at Shashin Badrakh made the site all that more auspicious.
Monjigiin Ovoo
Dominating the skyline to the southwest is glacier-capped 13,757-foot Tsambagarav Uul, one of the thirteen main peaks of the Mongol Altai Mountains. Tsambagarav is the fourth highest peak in the Mongol-Altai, after Khüiten Peak (14,350 ft), Mönkh Khairkhan Uul (13,793 ft), and Sutai Uul (13,850 ft), all in Khovd Aimag. Tsambagarav is considered a sacred mountain in part because of its connection with Galdan Bolshigt, the Oirat hero who as we have seen had fought to free Mongolia from the Qing Dynasty. After Galdan committed suicide on April, 4, 1697 rather than submit to the Qing his body was cremated, at least according to the official story. The Qing then made Galdan’s relatives bring the ashes to Beijing where they were unceremoniously scattered on a military parade ground.
Tsambagarav from Shashin Badrakh

This version of events, although recorded in various histories, is not widely believed in Khovd Aimag. Some believe his body was buried under an ovoo in what is now northern Khovd Aimag. Indeed, a photo of this ovoo, labeled as Galdan’s burial place, can now be seen in the Khovd Aimag Museum in Khovd City. 
Photo in Khovd Museum showing the burial place of Galdan Bolshigt
There is yet another legend about Galdan’s final resting place that persists up to the present day. This legend maintains that he was buried at a place called Kharz Tuvshin on the side of Tsambagarav Uul. Even this legend has two variants. One says that Galdan left explicit instructions that he should be buried here. The other says that his followers brought his body to the side of this sacred mountain of their own volition. In any case, the spirit of Galdan was believed to dwell on Tsambagarav, awaiting the day to return in bodily form and restore the former glory of the Zungarian Khanate. Dambijantsan may well have been aware of this legend; in any case he soon let it be known that he was emulating Galdan Bolshigt, who had attempted to create an independent Oirat state.
Tsambagarav Uul from the town of Erdenebüren, twenty miles south of Shashin Badrakh
Ovoo dedicated to Galdan Boshigt in the town of Erdenebüren
Statue of Galdan Bolshigt in Khovd City

Inscription on Galdan Bolshigt’s statue: “Even if the Buddha Himself asks for our Land, do not give it to Him.”

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mongolia | Shambhala | New Book

I just received word from Andrei Znamenski that his book Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia will be coming out in June. It can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.
Amazon Product Description:
Many know of Shambhala, the Tibetan Buddhist legendary land of spiritual bliss popularized by the film, Shangri-La. But few may know of the role Shambhala played in Russian geopolitics in the early twentieth century. Perhaps the only one on the subject, Andrei Znamenski’s book presents a wholly different glimpse of early Soviet history both erudite and fascinating. Using archival sources and memoirs, he explores how spiritual adventurers, revolutionaries, and nationalists West and East exploited Shambhala to promote their fanatical schemes, focusing on the Bolshevik attempt to use Mongol-Tibetan prophecies to railroad Communism into inner Asia. We meet such characters as Gleb Bokii, the Bolshevik secret police commissar who tried to use Buddhist techniques to conjure the ideal human; and Nicholas Roerich, the Russian painter who, driven by his otherworldly Master and blackmailed by the Bolshevik secret police, posed as a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to unleash religious war in Tibet. We also learn of clandestine activities of the Bolsheviks from the Mongol-Tibetan Section of the Communist International who took over Mongolia and then, dressed as lama pilgrims, tried to set Tibet ablaze; and of their opponent, Ja-Lama, an “avenging lama” fond of spilling blood during his tantra rituals.

Professor Znamenski also told me that he has dug up some new information about the The Notorious Ja Lama which should shed some additional light on the career of the enigmatic adventurer. 

Some real heavyweights have coughed up very laudatory pre-publication reviews, including Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, author of The Occult Roots of Nazism and Black Sun, a copy of which I have my Scriptorium:
Red Shambhala enters a maze of intrigue with a colourful cast of Bolshevik secret police officers, spies, occultists, Mongolian warlords and Buddhist monks. Andrei Znamenski shows how Soviet Communists in the 1920s sought geopolitical influence over Mongolia and Tibet, projecting their world revolution onto ancient messianic prophecies amongst Inner Asian tribesmen. Inspired by the myth of hidden sages directing the world's destiny, the Roerichs add visionary adventure amid the great game of competing powers, England, Russia, China, for mastery of the East. A first-rate espionage story, all from recently opened Soviet archives.
From all this I gather that Professor Znamenski will present some material about The Roerichs which you may not learn about at the Roerich Museum here in Ulaan Baatar. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

Also, See The Video. If I am not mistaken, in this video is a photo of the Shambhala Thangka (see 1:57 of the video) which I acquired in Darjeeling a few years ago. This thangka can now be seen in the Lam Rim Temple here in Ulaan Baatar.