Tags / Central Asian
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.
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.
Guests also brings presents to the boy who is being circumcised. The gifts can be clothes, toys or just money.
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.
A boy escaping from the ceremony place.
Cars parked in front of the place of ceremony. Mugat are known for driving old Soviet cars, like those pictured here.
However, the poverty of Mugat society means that most cannot afford cars and many still use donkeys.
Mugat children, including the boy to be circumcised stand in front of a Soviet era monument to fallen soldiers.
Relatives of the boy to be circumcized arriving at the ceremony
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.
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.
Twin sisters. Their parents rented dresses for them for the ceremony.
Mugat men and women always sit at separate tables.
Mugat love to decorate their houses with cheap Chinese landscape pictures.
Chickens and watermelons are very cheap and a common staple of any meal in Uzbekistan
Children help their parents serve guests.
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.
Fresh meat and vodka are very desirable products for Mugat, symbolizing prosperity. Guests will take this meat home.
Lamb is often the meat of choice.
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.
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.