Traditions of the Karakalpaks

Karakalpak Traditions

The Karakalpaks, just like other peoples of Central Asia, have their own customs and traditions. Many of them are rooted in antiquity and originated in the pagan cultures of nomadic Saka, Pechenegs, Oghuz. Of course, most of them belong to the later Islamic culture, but at the same time retain some elements of pagan cultures.

The Karakalpaks have unique customs and rules of behavior at family and community meals, which are strictly followed so far. Like most of the eastern nations, the Karakalpaks usually eat food sitting on the floor around a tablecloth or dastarkhan. Solid food is eaten with fingers, the broth is served separately in a bowl or cup. Hands are washed before the meal, the water pouring down. It is not supposed to shake the water off the hands after washing to avoid it spraying on the food. According to the custom, the eldest or the senior member of a family or guest starts to eat the first. When a visitor came to the house, he was served with sour milk or airan. The custom of drinking tea began to spread in Karakalpakstan, as well as throughout Central Asia, only by the beginning of the 19th century.

The custom of the Karakalpak maternity is of particular interest. Special rituals are served after the birth of a child to stem off the disaster and misfortunes. Great attention is paid to the choice of the baby’s name. Usually, the most respected member of society, the spiritual leader or elder- aksakal has the right to choose the name for the baby. Often, names are given in honor of the great-grandmothers or great-grandfathers. The most popular names among the Karakalpaks are names with “Nur” - Nuratdin, Nursultan, etc.

Beshik-tui is celebrated on the fortieth day after birth. After the traditional bathing, the child is placed into the cradle, but before they put an onion, pepper and a knife to settle the enemy hash under the pillow, a mirror is put under his feet, so that the baby has a fair life and an open and beautiful face. Also, they put a large grindstone and bread so that the head is solid as a rock, the mind is great like bread, and the baby’s eyes are keen. There is a tradition to sew a variety of charms to infants’ dressing to keep them out of mischief.

Karakalpak marriage, like at all Turkic-speaking peoples, has several stages, the main are: 1) arrangement, 2) a small feast (patia toi) in the bride's house, and 3) the wedding day (the feast of the bride's house and the house of the groom).

The arrangement usually takes place in the bride's home. The groom's parents give presents to the bride's parents. This necessarily involves the participation of the elders, who must give permission to marry. Relatives of the groom must give something white and agree on a dowry (qalın').

After the arrangement, parents of the bride and groom hold Kenes toi, where they invite relatives, neighbors, close friends to discuss the issues of the wedding process. The small feast (patiya toi) is held in the bride's home after the arrangement. The groom takes all the costs of the feast and gives ritual gifts to the bride, her parents, family. After patiya bride's parents pay a visit to the groom's parents (Ydys kaytty) (literally: dishes are given back) with presents.

The bride’s crying synsu is an integral part of the wedding, it is an expression of grief about leaving her father's house. When the bride arrives at the house of the bride, groom's mother throws candies at her, so that the life of the girl will be sweet. Then the girl is then escorted into the room, which is closed with patterned screen – shimyldyk, where she has to stay until the beginning of an important ceremony of unveiling her face - bet ashar. After, the bride welcomes each guest, bowing to them as the Uzbeks and the ritual is called kelin salom.

In general, customs and traditions of the Karakalpaks are very similar to the traditions of other Central Asian people.