Ulak-kupkari in Uzbekistan
Almost all holidays in Uzbekistan are accompanied by grandiose folk festivals. This tradition is rooted in deep antiquity, so far our people with pleasure and enthusiasm celebrate all significant events together. Our ancestors raised their strength and dexterity, they were good riders and accurate riflemen. That is why it has become a tradition to organize various entertainment events, competitions, contests and performances of art masters.
"Kupkari", the competition of riders is incredibly spectacular. Kupkari in Uzbekistan is also called Uak, Ulak Kupkari, Buzkashi or Uzgashi, which in translation means "tearing the goat" - the most common and popular equestrian sport among the peoples of Central Asia.
This game is allowed to be played only by men on horseback. Usually the number of participants varies from 50 to 300 people. Experienced riders compete for a goat or young sheep. The winner must come to the finish line, not allowing other riders to select the prey.
A man who has never seen Uzbek ulak is unable to imagine the swiftness and tension unfolding in the vast field of struggle. Riders then rush in avalanche after one of the players, then, surrounding him, turn into a living, winding, like a tornado, a tangle of snoring horse faces, flashing hoofs and human figures, clutching their hands in the object of the claims - the goat carcass. Beginners, first watching ulak, are amazed with the intensity of the struggle of players and the rapid expression of emotions by fans.
Ulak-kupkari horse riding competition begins with the moment when players line up in a single line, while the bakaulbashi (referee) at this time prepares the carcass and places it in the center of the field. Each participant must solemnly swear that he will play fair: he will not attack the opponent from the back, will not run a horse against the bending opponent and will not use metal objects.
After the bakaulbashi gives a signal, the riders jump to the center of the field and try to raise it. The rider must lift the carcass, secure it, pressing to the side of the horse and rush to the finish line. A horseman must make one circle on the square, without losing the loot, bring it to the finish. The finish in Uzbek is translated as “marra”. A spacious field is the venue. At a distance of one and a half kilometers there are two finish spots. Large prizes are intended for the upper finish, and smaller for the lower finish. Marra is a platform with a diameter of up to 20 meters. It is denoted by sprinkling straw or lined stones. The kupkari rider must throw the goat’s carcass in this circle. The winner is the horseman who throws the trophy in the circle. Sharp mind, tremendous dexterity, powerful strength and ability to merge with a horse bring success to the winner. In earlier times, the champion received generous prizes. It could be camels, carpets, valuable items or money. Today, the prize can be household appliances or even a car.
Preparing horses for kupkari
Competitors prepare for the competition of kupkari in advance. They choose a strong horse of great endurance. In addition, the horse should be short to facilitate the lifting of the animal carcass from the ground, since at the height of the battle it often falls to the ground.
The kupkari riders train their horses before the important day, so that the horses know how to get closer to the carcass, how to get ahead of the rival's horse, how to push, how to turn sideways.
Particular attention is paid to feeding horses. The horse cannot be overfed. A strict diet is established.
Oriental horses have always been famous all over the world. So, back in 104 BC, Chinese emperors sent their envoys to the territory of the Fergana Valley for the famous “heavenly horses”, which were strong and powerful in stature, and also distinguished by their unique endurance.
The horses of the Zarafshan Valley, the Karabair racers since ancient times used special honor.
Outfit of participants during ulak-kupkari Uzbek national game
Riders or “chavandoz” wear wide quilted robes and pants, high boots, helmets and fur hats to protect themselves from the blows of their rivals, as well as to keep tight clothing from holding down movement.
Special requirements are imposed on equipping horses. Their bridles to avoid injury to the participants of the game should be without metal jewelry, and stirrups - smooth. No horses with spikes on horseshoes are allowed on the field.
Usually in Uzbekistan the competition kupkari is arranged in the offseason, at the time of weddings and other major celebrations. In the days of the celebration of Navruz, the game kupkari is most popular among the Uzbeks. In addition, the weather is important - for horses and for the riders themselves, acceptable weather conditions are necessary.
Nowadays, in Uzbekistan the game of ulak exists in three forms: sports competitions, competitions in honor of national, regional or district holidays and competitions in connection with family celebrations. Each type has its own characteristics. But the most popular and spectacular is the traditional, ulak wedding game. Hundreds and thousands of foreign tourists try to see it.
The horse game kupkari is a sight which is worth seeing. This game is not only a demonstration of endurance, dexterity and strength of both riders and horses, but is also an indicator of hospitality, friendliness, honesty, kindness and benevolence.
If you want to see this wild and exciting game in action, contact the travel agency Peopletravel. We are happy to organize for you the Uzbek tourist package in the settlements, where you will get acquainted not only with Uzbek kupkari, but also with the locals, their customs and traditions, as well as with the nature of Uzbekistan.