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Remove or leave the cemetery?

By E.Dari

There is a “nightmare” that high ranking officials do not notice and don’t even care if they do.

Ground pollution has become one of the most crucial issues in Mongolia. It has the possibility to be called as the third disaster of Ulaanbaatar. Residents criticize and talk about this hot topic. UB has become the place where the late and the departed live in the neighborhood.

The capital city is surrounded by cemeteries with their round shapes. According to unofficial sources, over 20 cemeteries occupy UB and its environs such as in Naran Hill, Dalandavhar, Altan-Olgii, Tsagaan Davaa and Gachurt. It is estimated that these cemeteries take up 1,000 hectares of territory in total.

It is the law of nature that human beings are born and will die. But it has always been an issue where to bury the deceased with utmost respect. It has been passed on for many years since we started burying the dead in the outskirts the city on the top of the wild flow(?).  These cemeteries have been emitting large amounts of toxic gases.  These gases are sulfuric acid and nitrogen gases and they are combined with the air that we breathe. According to environment officials, this is the reason why there is a high rate of sulfuric acid adversely affecting the air quality.

Moreover, during the summer the contagion of the Hepatitis C disease tends to be heightened. This is related to the poisonous gas emissions from the cemeteries and other pollution as well. There are talks that people sometimes see body parts, bones and even skulls brought in by the stray dogs .

There are only two cemeteries that are given official permission to bury the deceased. But there are also 17 more cemeteries where the citizens choose to bury the departed.

Traditionally, Mongolians did not bury their dead.  Nowadays, some families follow this tradition and leave the body in open air.  For families that don’t, grave diggers rob the grave the day after the burial and leave it dug, maybe because the cemetery is close to the city.

Ger districts expanded from the east to the northwest of its city neighbors with cemeteries. The cities of the live and the dead are separated only with white blocks.  They are often called the “White Walls of Ulaanbaatar.”  But separating with walls will not decrease the pollution. It is not a right decision to support the expansion of the city with cemeteries. The issue of moving the cemeteries can be left to the future, but we definitely should clean and maintain the current ones. We should at least make the cemeteries as green as our parks. Ulaanbaatar should resolve the cemetery issue, but how?

The Burial of the Mongols

After the Revolution of 1921, Mongolians started to change their burial rites.

Atheists like Sükhbaatar and other representatives of the Communist Party, scientists and “heroes” of the new generation were buried in a cemetery named Altan Ӧlgiï (Golden Cradle) in the northeastern part of Ulaanbaatar.

After the revolution, especially in the ‘30s, a strong campaign against traditional beliefs and superstition was started. I couldn’t find a decree, a law or anything similar which prohibited the traditional so-called “open-air” burial, but it wasn’t permitted. Only very old people, mostly in the countryside, were secretly buried the traditional way until the late ‘60s.

Step by step, European funeral practices were introduced, a process accelerated by Soviet influence. One effect of the change to socialism was a really serious intrusion in nomadic life. The settled form of existence became more and more important, and relatively large towns were established in the steppe. This is one of the main reasons why many nomadic traditions were lost, among others was the open-air sacrificial burial – which I will now describe in greater detail.

The open-air burial or “casting-out” burial is a very ancient custom among the nomads of Asia; it was already in use several centuries before our era. This is what we know from Cicero and other old writers. This is a quote from Henning Haslund’s book, “Mongolian Journey.”

Apart from the open-air burial, there were other funeral practices in Mongolia like cremation, embalming and the “water-burial”, another form of open-air burial.

Choosing one of these funeral practices depended primarily on social standing, the cause of death and geographical location.

Mainly people known as “Reincarnations of Buddha” and other dignitaries of the Lamaistic Church were embalmed. Such bodies were normally buried in coffins in a sitting position as if in prayer.

Nobles were also buried in coffins, but unlike Lamaistic dignitaries, these coffins were buried with additions like weapons, horses, food and other things, which were meant to help them in the next world – in Erlik-Khan’s kingdom. Erlik-Khan is the god of death. The location of a nobleman’s tomb was kept secret to ensure that they rested in peace.

When people died from infectious diseases, they were cremated to reduce the danger of an epidemic.

Sometimes the corpses of lamas were also cremated to allow their spirit to rise directly to heaven without any desecration of the spirit. This is because Mongolian people believe that fire cleanses everything.

Mongolians have different customs to bury children under the age of three, because their souls were regarded to be innocent and pure.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=2880

Posted by on Feb 19 2013. Filed under Community, Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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