For Tuvans, the Khayyrakan mountain (“bear” on Tuvan) is a holy place. The mountain was named in honour of the shamanistic belief that there was a resident God bear ruling over it. It is located in between the town of Shagonar and the village of Khayyrakan, an hour’s drive from the capital of Tyva, Kyzyl. The mountain is striking in size, with steep cliffs, many caves and grottoes. It towers at 1042m about sea level. There are many legends and stories involving the Khayyrakan mountain.
I have a favorite story which my mom told me. I keep it deep in my soul. On the way from Kyzyl to the village of Chaa-Khol, where we stayed during the summer holidays, we always stopped at the foot of the Khayyrakan mountain, in the town of On-Kum. There is a Buddhist stupa erected at that place in honor of the arrival of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in 1992. He consecrated this place, marking it as a place of concentration of positive energy. The mountain also remains a shrine for shamans. At one of our routine picnics, mother told me a story of how a famous enthnographer became enthralled with our holy mountain. In 1993, the well-known ethnographer Heimo Lappalainen came to a symposium on shamanism in Tyva. He believed that Tyva is the birthplace of shamanism. During the trip, he also visited the sacred mountain of Khayyrakan. He felt instantly intertwined with this place and considered the mountain the most important symbol of shamanism for himself. He loved the place so much that prior to his death, he requested to dispel his ashes near Mount Khayyrakan. The shamans duly obeyed his dying wish. This story impressed me, primarily, with how much you can love a place that is so far from your birthplace.
At the sight of the holy mountain of Khayyrakan, I too, feel awe and a sense of connection with this mount.
To understand this, you have to go there and feel the concentration of powerful energy of this place.
Tuva is a Siberian region of Russia, bordering on Mongolia. The republic may be difficult to access, but we contend that that adds mystery and purity. The pristine nature and untouched culture of the Republic of Tyva attracts only the most daring urbanites, who have long been bored with the typical touristy destinations.
If you crave wild travels, unforgettable impressions and great stories to tell, you’re driven off the grid, and that’s exactly where Tyva is. It is only possible to experience such vivid emotions in the heart of Asia – in Tyva. Thus, Tyva.me launches a series of articles where readers will learn about the unusual places in Tuva and reveal to themselves the mysteries of the ancient land of the Scythians.
The golden mean of Asia was determined in 1910. The image of the obelisk symbolising the centre of Asia has undergone many changes over the years. According to available sources, the geographical centre of Asia was first mentioned in the book “Essay on the Uryanghai Territory (the Mongolian Basin of the Yenisei River).” The author of the book is the engineer of communications, the head of the party for the study of the Upper Yenisei, VM Rodevich. The researcher mentioned that an English traveller came to Urianghai. His personal mission was to see the geographical centre of Asia for himself. He had already visited the centres of Europe, Africa, and Australia. According to his calculations, the centre of Asia is located near the estate of Georgy Safyanov, which was 23 versts (approx. 24 km) lower than Biy-Khem and Kaa-Khem on the left bank of the Yenisei.
At the start of the last century, the middle of the Asian continent was marked by an obelisk in Safyanov’s courtyard. Half a century later, in 1964, the centre of Asia was transformed. A concrete obelisk replaced the wooden one. The heart of Asia was symbolised with a globe on a two-meter squared pedestal with an ascending trihedral spire. On the pedestal was the inscription “Centre of Asia” in three languages: Tuvan, Russian and English.
The author of the obelisk, established in honour of the 20th anniversary of the voluntary entry of the Tuvan People’s Republic into Russia, was the oldest artist of the Republic – Vasily Fadeevich Dyomin. Exactly 50 years, the obelisk of Dyomin served as a symbol of the centre of Asia. The Republic celebrated an important historical date – the 100th anniversary of the Union of Tuva with Russia. In 2014, to celebrate the big event, the centre of Asia radically changed its appearance.
Excavations of two mounds, namely “Arzhaan 1” and “Arzhaan 2”, gave us a glimpse of ancient Scythian culture. The findings inspired the Tuvan people into rejuvenating the previously laconic image of the centre-point obelisk.
The Russian sculptor, artist, jeweler, member of the Union of Russian Artists, Dashi Namdakov, interprets the current symbol of the central point of Asia as follows. “The symbols of the three elements present throughout Scythian culture are enshrined in the installation, namely, an obelisk directed to the sky with a pommel in the form of a deer figure, a globe with contours of the land continents and a fountain representing water. The bowl of the fountain is decorated with twelve animal figures, which in turn symbolize the 12-year calendar cycle adopted in the cultures of the East. Two dragons, He and She, personify the merger of two great rivers into the Yenisei.”
The composition, called “The Tsar’s Hunt” tells that the Tuva land has a great history, since the Scythian times, and managed to preserve traditions and customs in their original form. Parallel to the Republic’s historical continuity in culture, it is dynamically developing and moving forward.
The “Centre of Asia” cultural compound is the starting point of many journeys, and is inspirational for residents and guests. It links today to the ancient culture of the Scythians and the customs of nomadic life. Today, being the ‘Centre of Asia’ is one of the most recognisable aspects and nicknames of Tuva.