There are three famous temples in Kalmykia, namely the Ik Khurul (Big Temple), the Dund Khurul (Middle Temple) and the Bag Khurul (Small Temple) believed to be founded by three brothers. According to yet another story, the temples’ founders were a father and his two sons. Having 400 monks at one time, the Dund Khurul, which had several buildings with Byzantine style columns and domes, was considered to be the largest of the three. The temple was built in the 1840-1850s as a wooden building. Before that it was housed in a nomadic yurt. Not far from the Dund Khurul is a village called Khanata. There are three legends about the origin of its name: (1) the village got its name from the nearby river of Khan, (2) it was named after a man called Khan, and (3) the houses in the village were built from reed, a material which is called ‘khan’ in Kalmyk. The Dund Khurul was destroyed in 1934. It is believed that monks hid many relics in two big kettles and buried them somewhere. When people are ready spiritually, the story goes, the hidden relics will reveal themselves from beneath the earth. The Dund Khurul is associated with the famous Kalmyk lama Baaza bagshi Menkendzhuev who went on pilgrimage to Tibet twice, each journey lasting from 3 to 4 years. He brought the Gandzhur texts back from Tibet. There are many legends associated with this sacred place. According to a legend, in the past Buddhist astrologists predicted that a shulm (evil being) would be born in a certain place. When the lamas warned about this, the local people went to the place only to see a woman giving birth to a baby with a wolf’s head. Horrified, the witnesses chased the baby to kill him. When he was finally caught, the shulm baby growled to his captors that, ‘Had I only tried my mother’s milk, no one would have ever beaten me’. In the territory of the former Dund Khurul there are 16 clans, including the Onkyakhn, the Azhirgsud, the Mu Chons, the Zod Kovud, the Tugtn Shevnr, the Bargs, the Bichkn Bargs and others. Each clan has its legends and know their genealogies, since Kalmyks are supposed to know seven generations back. In the territory of the temple there are few settlements, including Zurgan Khudg (six wells), Ungn Toryachi (lost foal) and others. The latter got its name as follows. According to a legend, one day a foal went missing. While searching for it, people found a nice place and decided to set up a settlement there.
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.