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17 November, 2021

Tushetian Festivals

Tusheti is an extraordinarily beautiful place. What makes Tusheti special? - extensive nature, with pristine alpine zone; Khinkali made of mutton, Tusheti road, which is among the top five most dangerous and extreme roads in the world, historical monuments, towers, stone houses, hospitable locals, and most importantly, the festivals dedicated to icons, different for every village. Yes, Tusheti is distinguished by its ancient traditions, which are still preserved despite the resistance in the Soviet Era.

Atnigenobebi - the cycle of summer cult fests in Tusheti - is special among the traditional Tushetian festivals. It begins on the 100th day after Easter and lasts for two weeks till late July and early August.


Where Does Atnigenoba Come From?

Atnigenoba is currently celebrated only in the mountainous regions of Eastern Georgia. In Khevsureti and Khevi, people call it Atengenoba, in Tusheti - Atnigenoba, and in some places, people call it the name of the icon for which the fest is held. It is related to the name of Sebastia Bishop from the IV century, St. Athenogenes. The cult of Athenogenes was established in Georgia after the entry of the Jerusalem canon and based on Armenian influence. Though, in the Georgian mountainous regions mentioned above, the feast became more popular than the worship of the saint. Tushetian Atnigenobebi follows the "ranks of the dead" (days of remembrance of the lost loved ones), and it is equally significant to the winter "years" (Christmas and New Year). It is the most impressive holiday for the locals of Eastern Georgia, loaded with various rituals. Generally, in the northeastern part of Georgia, ancient villages are still found with their architecture, artworks, traditions, and customs of the locals. People still have traditional beliefs which have merged with Christianity. In the villages Dartlo and Shenako there are shrines preserved, where women are banned from entering

The cycle of the fests (Lasharoba, Kopaloba, Iakhsaroba, and Magaloeloba, the fest of Mary, the Mother of God, Khakhmatoba, Karatoba, Sakheoba, and the fest of St. George of Ghele, Tursiekhoba) are called Atnigenobebi. Icon festivals like these are an integral part of the local religion and culture, accompanied by poetry. Atnigenoba is celebrated not only by Georgians, but also people from the North Caucasus, in particular the Ingush, as well as the Circassians, Adyghes, and Ossetians. In terms of Georgian-Nakh relations, the holiday, related to mowing is especially noteworthy. Khevsurians and Ingush hold it by turn. For Ingush and Georgian guests it was mandatory to participate in it.


Who is Shulta?

Almost every village has its own deity "icon" and there is a long-standing tradition of their pilgrimage and religious holidays. There are 2-3 shrines in each village, which has its own host family every year. The Tushetians call it Shulta, a slave of the cross chosen by the village for one year. The duty of Shulta/Mnate, the craftsman is to organize fests, brew Aludi (Tushetian beer), and host villagers and guests. Meanwhile, worship services are held in the main shrine of all the villages in chronological order. The building where the beer is brewed is sacred and women are not allowed there.


How Are Atnigenobebi celebrated?

The rituals of Atnigenobebi are led by the "craftsman" - the servant of the cross. Only he has the right to carry out the flag and announce the beginning of the Atnigenoba accompanied by the ringing bells. The duty of Shulta/Mnate, the same as "craftsman" is to organize the festivals and host villagers and guests. Shulta-Mnate is responsible for brewing beer, Aludi, which is considered a sacred drink in Tusheti. He treats every guest to Aludi.

The festival starts with the carrying out of the cross. The animals are slaughtered. Then the servant of the icon gives a toast to Aludi, the feast, and the guests. The feast is accompanied by entertainment, joy, and fun. Men sit at the table together separately from women. At the festival horse racing "Khitanoba" is held and "Korbegela" is performed. It is a magic ritual of an astral luminary deity. Five man stands shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle, with the other five on their shoulders. This is how they move from the gathering place to the shrine. Here, they turn around three times and split.

After the feast, ritual entertainment games such as Chataraoba are held. It is a ceremony of a fight between women and men, captivating and saving them. "Chataraoba" is a magical ritual of creating the universe dedicated to the activation of male-female cosmic origins.

This holiday is a unique example of folk art. During the day, every guest in the village is invited to the table, regardless of his/her origin.

The villages of Tusheti celebrated Atnigenobebi with similar cult rituals. Only the secular customs were different, in which certain religious-magical beliefs were reflected and served to maintain the fertility of man and cattle.

During the festival days people especially celebrate Lasharoba, Dadaloba, Khitanoba, Madoloba, and Tbatanoba.


Lasharoba

There are several shrines of St. George in Tusheti. The shine of the "black" St. George is called Lashari. Its name is associated with the Tushetian holiday Lasharoba, which is held about a hundred days after Easter Day in Shenako and Chigho. The Feast of the icon of Lashari is celebrated on July 12, it lasts for a week. Numerous people walk to Lashari hill and bring the sacrificing animals. Only Khevisberi (the leader of the community) has the right to slaughter.

The worship of the cross of Lashari is mainly associated with a pagan period. With the deep faith of the Pshavs and Tushetians, the deity of the icon of Lashari was a warrior. He led the army in the war with a winged white horse. The ritual of sacrificing animals and washing them with blood also demonstrates the paganism of the cross of Lashari. After the conversion to Christianity, the people related the temple of Lashari to the name of King George IV (also known as Lasha-George). In this way, it turned into a Christian shrine.

On Lasharoba holiday traditional rituals are held, animals are slaughtered, horse races are held. People are having fun, feasting, singing, and drinking wine.


Tushetoba - "Shepherd's Day"

Every year, in Omalo, the center of Tusheti, "Shepherd's Day", same as "Tushetoba" is celebrated. The aim of the festival is to popularize Tushetian traditions, culture and promote tourism. In the specially arranged hut, guests have the opportunity to taste traditional Tushetian cuisine and participate in the preparation process. A concert is also held with the participation of invited singers and local folk groups, and shepherds are awarded. At the event, the works of both, local and invited folk craftsmen are exposed. A traditional corner reflecting the ancient life of the Tushetian shepherd is also arranged.

After ending the cycle of Atnigenobebi, the busy season of mowing and harvesting starts.

Tags: #tusheti #History #Culture #tradition #დღესასწაული #ტრადიციული დღეობები
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