Central Asian Gypsy Circumcision Party

Collection with 20 media items created by TTM Contributor 100

Uzbekistan 09 Mar 2015 12:20

Photos and Text by Timur Karpov/Transterra Media

The Mugat are an ancient nomadic people living in Central Asia. Also known as the "Central Asian Gypsies", their lifestyle is similar to European Roma: they live in camps, migrate across countries, and begand recycle garbage for money. Many people in Uzbekistsan, a country with a significant Mugat population, believe the Mugat have magic powers and know secret curses.

Usually the Mugat never let cameramen inside their community and are warey of outsiders. This Mugat ceremony, called "Khatna-tuy", took place in a small city of Parkent, Uzbekistan. Mugat people from camps around Parkent gathered together to celebrate the circumcision of one of the boys from the community. As an Islamic people, circumcision is one of the most important events in the life of a Mugat man. On the day of his ceremony, he receives money and gifts from community, while guests enjoy cheap vodka, bowls of meat, and dancing.

These photos provide an inside look at the rituals of one of the most secretive peoples in one of the world's most secretive states. 

Uzbekistan Mugat Parkent Gypsies Central Asia Central Asian Circumcision Ceremony Celebration Boy Dancing Raw Meat Vodka Islam Alcohol Uzbek Tradition Young Custom Gypsy Party Tent Children Kissing White Dress Food Meat

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 01
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

While dancing, Mugat wedding attendees put money in each other's headdresses. The money is meant to symbolize wealth. The tradition is an adaptation of a local Uzbek custom of throwing money at the dancers as a gift and allowing the children to collect the money. However, the Mugat are cautious of thieves and prefer to put the money directly into another person's headdress.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 02
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Guests also brings presents to the boy who is being circumcised. The gifts can be clothes, toys or just money.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 03
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

The 9 year old boy who will be circumcised. The age of circumcision varies, but is usually performed before the boy hits puberty. The primary determining factor is the family's ability to gather money for the ceremony. Mugat tradition forbids photographing of the actual circumcision.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 04
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Cars parked in front of the place of ceremony. Mugat are known for driving old Soviet cars, like those pictured here.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 05
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

However, the poverty of Mugat society means that most cannot afford cars and many still use donkeys.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 07
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Mugat children, including the boy to be circumcised stand in front of a Soviet era monument to fallen soldiers.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 06
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Relatives of the boy to be circumcized arriving at the ceremony

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 07
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

The boy's parents have to arrange the help of all of their relatives and friends in order to help feed the approximately 200 guests.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 08
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Photos of dead relatives are placed above a carpet depicting the Kabaa in Mecca. This is done as a sign of respect to the dead relatives.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 09
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Twin sisters. Their parents rented dresses for them for the ceremony.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 11
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Mugat love to decorate their houses with cheap Chinese landscape pictures.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 12
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Chickens and watermelons are very cheap and a common staple of any meal in Uzbekistan

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 14
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

According to tradition, every family at the ceremony will receive a dish full of fresh meat and a bottle of vodka. Despite the fact that the Mugat are Muslims, alcohol, and especially vodka is an accepted legacy of heavy Russian influence in the region.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 15
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Fresh meat and vodka are very desirable products for Mugat, symbolizing prosperity. Guests will take this meat home.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 17
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Like Roma gypsies, gold teeth are common fashion for the Mugat. The gun pictured in this photo is a toy gun intended as a gift for the boy being circumcised. Guns are strictly forbidden in Uzbekistan.

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Mugat Circumcision Ceremony 18
Parkent, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
12 Sep 2011

Teenage Mugat girls enjoy their time at the ceremony. Most ethnologists believe the Mugat have Indian origins, causing many to draw parallels between the Mugat and the Roma gypsies of Europe. The comparison is not based solely on ethnicity, but also on lifestyle. The Mugat, like the Roma Gypsies, live on the fringes of society and have strong and insular communities.