Nauryz Festivities Continue with Shanyrak Day Honoring Family and Tradition

ASTANA – “May the dome of your yurt remain strong!” With this wish tied to shanyrak, the round crown at the top of the Kazakh yurt, Kazakhstan is celebrating Shanyrak Day on March 17, as part of the Nauryz festivities nationwide.

Shanyrak. Photo credit:

This year marks the introduction of a new format for the Nauryz holiday in Kazakhstan. With the launch of the Nauryznama Decade from March 14 to 23, the “shanyrak day” will be dedicated to honoring family values featuring marriage ceremonies adorned in traditional attire, alongside engaging educational and creative festivities for children.

What is shanyrak?

The shanyrak stands as a cornerstone of the Kazakh yurt, arguably its most pivotal element. It is the wooden crown of a yurt with a central opening, which serves as a window through which light enters and smoke escapes. In inclement weather, it is closed with a square piece of felt, known as tunduk.

Traditional Kazakh yurt – kiyiz ui.  Photo credit: Kaliolla Akhmetzhan

The shanyrak typically has a diameter of 1-5 meters, about a third of the yurt’s base. Poles are attached to the shanyrak, with their lower ends fixed to the wooden framework of the yurt.

It forms the structural foundation positioned atop the dwelling. As designer and architect Timur Suleimenov once remarked: “This embodies the brilliance of our ancestors’ architectural thought, which always amazes Europeans: the foundation rests on the ceiling.”

Symbol of a family

The shanyrak is a powerful symbol transcending time and place that has come to mean unity and family for the Kazakh people. Within Kazakh culture, it served as a family relic symbolizing the perpetuation of lineage. Under no circumstance was it to be overturned or dropped.

The set-up process of the yurt involved the whole family. Photo credit:

The shanyrak also serves as a visual representation of Kazakh cultural customs, emphasizing the sense of community and cooperation of families. Numerous Kazakh idioms and sayings revolving around family incorporate the word “shanyrak.”

Passed down generationally, it was given to the youngest son entrusted with the title of “shanyrak iesi” meaning a “keeper of the shanyrak.” “To raise a shanyrak” in traditional Kazakh expression means to call a place home.

Uttering the words of blessing called bata, Kazakh elders may say “shanyragyn shaikalmasyn” meaning “may the dome of your house remain strong, unshakeable.” This expression signifies a wish for peace and harmony to prevail within the family.

A family’s length of heritage could be measured by the accumulation of stains on the shanyrak from decades of smoke passing through it, so an ancestral home is often referred to as a “black shanyrak”.

Shanyrak uniting all nations

Long seen as a melting pot of diverse cultures, Kazakhstan has incorporated the shanyrak, as the symbol representing the harmonious coexistence of all nations living in the country in its national emblem.

National Emblem of Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Sputnik / Abzal Kaliev

The national emblem’s central figure is a shanyrak. Just as the shanyrak’s strength and stability depend on the reliability of all its uyks (poles), Kazakhstan’s sustained development depends on the well-being of every citizen.

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