Naadam is the Mongolian word for festival. The Naadam Fеstіvаl which is now a national holiday dates back to the 13th century. Originally an event for men, it was described by explorer Marco Polo as а gаthеrіng оf thousands of white horses and Моngоlіаn сhіеftаіns who competed in horse races, archery and wrestling. This year it takes place July 9 through July 16.
It was – and still is – a tournament of rounds that are held during the midsummer months of July or August when the pastures are lush enough to keep the horses well-fed.
With a history that reaches back to cave paintings circa 7000 BC (Neolithic Age) highlighting two naked men wrestling before a crowd, it is believed that the gathering itself was an opportunity to showcase military strength and stamina.
Wrestling in particular was very popular. It has been noted that Genghis Khan (13th century) as well as later Emperors included wrestling man to man combat activities in the annual festival. It was common for the ‘winners’ to achieve military promotions.
Horse racing and archery were also considered important skills. Horses and their riders competed in vaulting activities, cross-country racing, and other equestrian activities.
Archery was important for soldiers to master. In today’s festival women can also compete for bow and arrow honors.
Today’s festival also includes arts, crafts, music, and food as well as other activities.