Bayanaul: Land of Legends

PAVLODAR –There is a wonderful place in the Pavlodar region where the name of each mountain or cliff, lake or pass is associated with olden times and legends based on real events. This mountain oasis with clear waters and pine forests is known as Bayanaul.

Zhasybai lake

Zhasybai lake

According to one version, the word is of Mongol-Turkic origin. Bayanaul (in Mongolian “Bayan-ola”) means “prosperous hill,” a place of rich and blessed grazing mountains. According to another version and legends of the indigenous population, the name of the mountain and the village is connected with the name of Bayan-Sulu (sulu meaning “beauty”), the heroine of a popular epic poem Kozy-Korpesh and Bayan-Sulu.

Legend has it that Karabai, Bayan-Sulu’s father, wandered annually from Aiaguz to Tyumen, making long stops in Karkaraly, Bayanaul, Dombraly, the Monshakty Mountains, etc.

Bayan especially liked the Kazylyk Mountains, where there were many karkars, birds with beautiful plumage. She made a lovely headdress using feathers from the bird and decorated by a sultan (karkara) and for this reason the mountains were named Karkaraly (black heron mountains). In the Kokshetau Mountains she found a wonderful tree which emitted a melodious sound. Bayan-Sulu ordered a dombra (a traditional Kazakh lute-like stringed musical instrument) to be made from it; therefore the mountain was called Dombraly. The area had a lot of precious stones which she used to make gorgeous beads (monshak); as a result these mountains were called Monshakty (beaded).

The rich Karabai family repeatedly stopped in the valleys of the Bayanaul Mountains, which were recorded in variations of numerous legends. In particular, after the tragic death of Bayan-Sulu people from nearby places grieved over her passing for a long time and retold episodes from her life. They recalled she dropped soap into the lake, causing the water to become soft. The lake was named Sabyndykol (soapy lake). According to legend, in those days the mountains were called Bayantau (mountains of Bayan). People also named one mountain Tarak (comb), where she allegedly dropped a comb.

Poetic local people, talented with a well-aimed word, gave vivid and geographic names to other places in this wonderful corner of nature. The highest mountain was named Akbet (white faced), while others were called Naizatas (stone spear) and Atbasy (horsehead) and a rock was named Kempirtas (the old woman stone) for being remarkably similar to an old woman’s head.

There are other rocks with corresponding names like hat, loaf of bread, fish and dove. There is a Witches Gorge with twisted trees and the Konyr Aulie-Tas sacred cave, where gathering in the deepening water is considered curative, and a pass where Kazakh batyrs (warriors) led by Zhasybai fought the Dzhungars. Struck down in battle, the brave, dying warrior asked to be buried at the pass so visitors could simultaneously see Lake Zhasybai and Lake Sabyndykol and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Bayanaul also has names which are directly related to its history and geography, as the following stories describe.


The Dravert Grotto

The Bayanaul oasis has been and continues to be studied by variousscientists. Among them was Peter Dravert (1879-1945), a prominent Siberian researcher, professor of mineralogy, geology and geophysics, poet and fiction writer. He frequently visited Bayanaul and admired its beauty and attractiveness. “There are really all sorts of obelisks, Aeolian rock shelters, pillars, mushroom and swinging stones, caves, towers and other monuments that grow in all their glory, created by nature in its continuous efforts to destroy its works.”

In these expeditions, the scientist collected various wonderful minerals and stones which were refined by prehistoric man: stone arrows, scrapers and other tools, as well as the remains of Bronze Age copper ore crafts. However, Dravert entered the history of the Pavlodar region as the person who discovered the grotto with petroglyphs (drawings) of ancient men, which is located at the rocky shore of Lake Zhasybai near the Al-rock pass. This small cave today bears the scientist’s name.


Olzhabai and Zhasybai

In the history of the Kazakh people, the 18th century is one of the most memorable times. It was an era of heroic events and is embodied in people’s memory as “Aktaban shubyryndy.” Those hard times of defending the freedom of Kazakh people produced many heroic persons.

One such hero was Olzhabai, a talented leader of the liberation struggle against the Dzungars (also known as Kalmaks). In 1741, when Ablai, head of the Middle Horde, was taken prisoner by Galdan Tseren, the Dzungars wanted to capture the Karkaraly and Bayanaul steppes from the Irtysh side. They raided peaceful villages, stole cattle, robbed people and burned their homes.

Olzhabai, with his brave nephew Zhasybai and other relatives, immediately organised militias to repel the enemy.

First, the enemies met the soldiers of Zhasybai. They twice broke the Dzungarian troops, knocking them out of Zhambak (a valley in Bayanaul). Zhasybai was killed in the battle by an arrow from an ambush. When Olzhabai learned about it, he raised the fighters and rushed to catch the retreating Dzungars without giving them time to recover. Thus, Olzhabai defeated the enemies. Since then, the mountains on the border of the Bayanaul and Mai districts of the Pavlodar region are known to locals as Kalmak-kurgan, translated from Kazakh as the “site of Dzungar’s death.” The people also renamed Lake Shoinkul in memory of Zhasybai, the young warrior.


The Kogershin Rock

There is cautionary legend about the Kogershin Rock. Long ago, people herded cattle along the Toraigyr Lake. Once Tasbas, a rich local man, decided to expand his pastures and demanded that the Aidabol clan move out of the lake. The clan did not want to comply with this unjust demand, however, and a bloody battle began.

When Tasbas’s sister Kogershin (dove), the mother of nine sons, heard about this, she rushed to the battlefield with a desire to reconcile the fighting. There was no horse nearby and she sat down on a riding camel. The camel was very slow, however, and she turned into a dove and flew to the site of the battle. The warriors were throwing weapons where she was flying and began to reconcile. They were ashamed of the unnecessary bloodshed and cursed Tasbas. Thereafter, Tasbas turned into a lonely stone Tas that today is situated near the new road between Zhasybai and Toraigyr.

When peace came, the dove sat on a rock and became petrified, giving it the name Kogershin. The dead warriors lying on the steppe turned into boulders. According to the stories, local people driving along the road scold in the direction of the Tas and say kind wishes to the dove rock.

There are many legends about Bayanaul and famous people of this region. All the tales are imbued with folk wisdom and some special perception of the world.

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