Secrets of ancient nomads’ dwellings are revealed
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Besides all the traditions and history of a Mongolian ger, anthropologists and researchers have made interesting research about the Mongolian symbol of Ger and customs.
Mongolians also consider their Ger in the same way they see as a human body. It means that a Ger has a head (upper space) and foot (lower space). A ger has upper and lower parts in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Altogether there are two upper parts given the most respect and two lower parts given the least respect. Below shown is the organization of attributes inside the Ger. In the horizontal figure, the upper side of the Ger is (upper space) and the lower is (door) with a central space between them.
In the vertical direction, the top is the “crown of the ger” (the “roof wheel”), then the central space, and the lower end is the floor. Following this, all head related attributes and other things equal to the head are kept in the upper space area. There is usually a chest with valuable, new clean dresses, garments, gifts, and so on. On the chest, there are figures of sacred objects like deities so on. Older families put pictures of some political leaders, Chinggis khaan, and family photographs.
The Mongolian language describes the human body as having two main parts. From the waist (belly) upwards is the upper body and from the waist downwards is the lower body. The upper body would correspond to the upper space in the ger that goes from the roof - poles (hearth ) upwards on both the left and right sides (social space). The lower body would correspond to the lower space in the ger that goes from the roof - poles downwards on both the left and right sides (economic space).
At the top of the upper body, is the head, which corresponds to the upper space, which is the most honorific spatial place in the ger. The head is the most honorific part of the human body, which symbolizes the best, the first, and the prime. It is from this human body analogy that the upper space, although at ‘the rear’’, has pre-eminence over other positions inside the ger.
At the extremity of the lower body, are the feet, which correspond to the threshold. It is a taboo to tread on someone’s feet just as it is prohibited to tread on, sit on, or stand on// at the threshold. The head and the feet express values of first and last on the same scale of classification. Similarly, the head (upper space) and the foot (lower space) were extremities within the same symbolic classification, representing the values of first and last. At the ‘center’’ of the body are the waist and the navel (belly) which correspond to the hearth or fire, which is the center of the ger. The linguistic expression (literally ‘fire - navel’’) undeniably connects the navel to the hearth.
Finally, the body is also vertically divided into two sides: the left side and the right side which correspond to the left and right sides of the ger domestic space. The term used for sides implied those who belong together. Therefore, I suggest that people who belong together were on one side and the Mongol term ‘our side or our people’ or intimate members is appropriate to identify occupants of the left side of the ger. On the other side are strangers or ‘your side or your people’ or those who were on a different side, the right side for this case.
In terms of human relations, sides indicate people who have to learn to trust each other and rely on each other. They make up a network whereas those on the other side are considered strangers vis - à - vis the residents. It takes hospitality protocol, among other practices, to transform strangers into allies.
The expressions ‘our side or our people’ and ‘your side or your people’’ are inspired by group games where members of the same team identify themselves as ‘‘our side or our people’ whereas the opposite team members are called ‘your side or your people’. Therefore, membership to these groups is fluid and involving processes of identity and network reconfiguration.
Please visit our website regularly to get new updates about Mongolian customs and traditions.
Source: “Study of Mongolian Symbolism”