Mangystau is one of the most mysterious and intriguing places in Kazakhstan. Here, modernity perfectly matches with history. The cliffs towering over the Caspian for thousands of years form a perfect combination with the freshly built trail, which became a favourite place of pilgrimage for tourists and residents of the region. The stones on the embankment that lived through the ages of history are a delightful combination with a newfangled white-stone embankment.
In addition to the glory one created by man and other given by nature, Mangystau is the most sacred place in the country. Nowhere else you can find so many holy places and so many diverse legends passed on by word of mouth by dozens of generations.
We have created for you a selection of the most interesting legends of the region.
The legend about the patron of snakes
The path to the Shakpak-Ata mosque lies through a beautiful silicon gorge. One of the old residents of the Shair settlement claims that, according to legend, Shakpak-ata is not the real name of the man that created the mosque, but a nickname given to him in the battles with the enemies. According to the legend, sparks flew away from his weapons, like silicon.
The surviving documents of the past say that “he was better known by the name of Shakpak-ata. “On the road, when it became necessary to create a fire, Shakpak-ata touched one fingernail by another and a spark flew out in different directions.”
The well-known geomorphologist Serikbol Kondybay found out that in mythology, Shakpak-ata is the lord of snakes and the patron of the dead, and as a historical figure, he is the grandson of Shopan-ata.
Shakpak-ata, a follower of the teachings of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi, is among the 360 saints that are revered in Mangystau.
There is a legend about Shakpak-ata. Once a Sufi walked past a village and became an involuntary witness to an unpleasant family scene: the husband was beating his wife. The reason for this was the childlessness of a woman. Shakpak-ata immediately stood up for the unfortunate. Either as a sign of gratitude and recognition or as a result of an unwillingness to continue to live in eternal humiliation, the woman followed Shakpak-ata. It is said that in that lifeless place where they stopped a fight, spring began to break out from under the ground, like water pouring from a bucket. And people came here with the hope that they would find a potion from their troubles and hardships.
To this day, those places are surrounded by a special halo of mystery and intrigue. Some kind of special silence and peace surrounds the travellers all around.
In places of active pilgrimage, worldly vanity has recently been noticed, but here - not a soul to be seen. You can safely walk along with the paved steps and view the mosque from the outside and inside. Rising into a rocky mosque, you can hear how in the distance, in lowland, an eagle owl is wailing.
The legend of a teenager who saved his relatives
Previously, the Karatau Mountains were rich in springs and streams. It was filled with the gorges of the mountain ranges. Tourists who were here in the 70s tell that during the walk on the route there were thickets of mint above human growth and trees with branched trunks. However, today the springs are dry, the land is orphaned.
The legend of Sherkal says: during one of the attacks of the Kalmyk troops, part of the Turkmens took refuge in the mountain fortress of Sherkal. Enemies surrounded the mountain. To survive, the Turkmens had to dig a well.
However, the Kalmyks learned about this and blocked access to water. Then, realizing that they were expected to die, the Turkmen Khoja Khasim, who was in the besieged fortress, lowered his nimble 12-year-old son Khoja Niyaz on a rope from the mountain to a place where herds grazed nearby.
This herd included the favourite horse of Khoji Niyaz, a white horse with a fluffy mane and tail named Akcha-At. The boy slipped through the enemies, quietly mounted his horse, and for three days and three nights made it Khiva to inform his fellow tribesmen that help was needed.
Upon learning of the disaster, the Khiva Turkmens immediately went to the rescue. Surrounding the Kalmyks, the survivors were released.
The legend of the saved wife
For a century, this legend of Becket-Ata has been passed from mouth to mouth. One Kurdas (peer) once expressed doubt in a conversation with a neighbour: “Why is Becket, like a mole, digging the earth, is something piling on it, and for that he was elevated to the rank of saints?”
Returning to this conversation was not long in coming. It was autumn time. Kurdas went from Jailau to his native land Mangystau for the winter. His wife, riding a camel along a steep road, fell into the abyss. The only thing she managed to say: “Becket!” Kurdas doubts about Beket-ata's unearthly abilities instantly disappeared: “Becket, hold it! For salvation, I promise a camel and three hundred sheep. ” And in fear, he rushed off the bypass road to the place where his wife fell.
Riding closer there, he saw that his wife, as if nothing had happened, was riding her slender camel to meet him. Her first words: "It is true, Becket helped me, you need to go to him." Without delay, the Kurdas went to Becket-ata, to the mosque.
Hoping that no one had heard his secret prayer at the cliff that terrible day, he did not give the promised sheep, he brought with him only a young camel. When he met with Becket-ata, he raised his shirt and laid bare his back, on which were visible the blue marks from the four legs of a camel:
- Look at it.
On his back were bloody traces of the hooves of a camel, which fell on him with a rider. Kurdas froze in surprise:
- Why did you do that? Is your life inexpensive?
To which the saviour answered in monosyllables:
- We are Kurds. I also need peers. - He added:
- And where did you get 300 sheep?
Kurdas froze in surprise: how could Becket-ata learn about these rams? Recovering from the shock, the Kurdas exclaimed:
- O Allah, I'm sorry! Becket, you are a true friend! Forgive your Kurdas!
The Kurdas fell at Becket's feet. And immediately the penitent's hair turned grey. It became a shame for the Kurdas for his stinginess. They say that he took over part of the construction of a mosque in Beineu.
The legend of a white horse and black lies
Once a Turkmen stole a horse from a Kazakh. Knowing that he was doing wrong, the Turkmen decided to pray for his sin and went to Becket-ata. Kazakh, that lost the only possible way to move, source of breadwinning and earning, his beloved horse, also turned to Becket-ata for help. And the two Sufis met at the mosque. Kazakh that was left without a horse, tried to convince the Sufi that he should hear his prayers first as he is Kazakh as well. To which Becket-ata replied:
- The first who came is the first to be heard. First, I will deal with the misfortune of the Turkmen.
When the Turkmen returned to the horse he had stolen, he saw that it had turned from white to black. When he was sleeping, he dreamed of Becket-ata, who said: "Bring back the horse."
In the morning, half-delirious, the Turkmen took the horse to the door of the yurt where the Kazakh lived. He could not believe his eyes, he saw a black horse turning white again.
Legends of Karaman-ata
Residents of Mangystau says that many years ago two clans that wandered in Mangyshlak had a dispute over one very important matter. To resolve the dispute, a hundred people agreed to take the oath on different sides of the grave of Karaman-ata. One side, that was doing wrong, also took the oath. After the oath of crime, the participants on the lying side tried to move a hundred paces from the place of the oath and saddle the horses to go home. Suddenly they heard a rumble of thunder, like a cannon shot. Their faces darkened, and all one hundred fell dead from their horses.
The following legend is most widespread among the people: once, the Turkmen and Kazakh people argued among themselves. To end the dispute, they decided to bring Becket-ata to the trial. Becket-ata proposed to solve the dispute at the grave of Karaman-ata. It was a tradition at that time among the Kazakhs to solve the disputes on the life of the only son of the famous men in the tribe. The choice fell on Koshan, the son of the famous Batyr Kozha-Nazar. Becket-ata made Koshan stand in front of him on a black horse. Awl stuck into the saddle and said:
- If the Kazakh people are not right, then the punishment will befall immediately.
Then, out of nowhere, lightning erupted and struck an awl. Becket-ata, grabbing the boy in his arms, flew off the horse on his wings and landed safely. The second side, not wanting to admit defeat, decided to continue the argument on their land, in Turkmenistan, in the holy place of Shikabr-Ata (Koneurgench), six hundred kilometres from Karaman-Ata. Becket-ata suggested not to waste time in vain and to meet in Shikabr-Ata in time of the morning prayer. Becket-ata, along with Koshan, turned into swans and safely reached the appointed place by morning. Arriving late, the Turkmens recognized the victory of the second side. Thanks to Becket-ata, the matter was decided with peace.
Saint Sultan-epe - patron saint of sailors
According to the legend, Sultan-epe was the patron saint of people that are drowning in the sea. He has a lot of feats. For example, the saint transferred the Kaaba to Bakyrgan (Khorezm) for his father, miraculously revived the stabbed bulls, etc. However, Hakim-ata was distrustful and jealous of the deeds of his son.
In response to this, the Sultan-epe had to say goodbye to his father and mother and became invisible. After hearing about it, Khoja Ahmed Yassawi punished Hakim-ata. Legends say that at Khoja Ahmed Yassawi command the waters of the Amu Darya flowed over the grave of Hakim for forty years, and the city of Bakyrgan was destroyed.
About a hundred years after Sultan-epe’s disappearance, the Nogay(tribe) settled in Mangystau. Legends tell that among the nomadic nogays there was one mullah who taught children to read and write. Among his students was a weak and strange boy named Heyrulla. Everyone was bullying him in different ways: every day somebody hit him at school, he was beaten by Mulla and by his parents at home. Peers also mocked him and constantly offended him. Once Heyrulla went far into the steppe, where he decided to take his own life and stop the humiliation and bullying. But the Sultan-epe saved his life. When the boy, exhausted from tears and mental suffering, fell asleep, the holy elder breathed knowledge and wisdom into him. He ordered Heyrulla to build a mosque in the very place where he would see an eagle sitting on the ground.
When the boy returned to the village, he answered the questions of the mullahs, adults, as a wise man who knew the essence of truth - competently, wisely, and carefully. The wisdom of the boy surprised all of the villagers. Heyrulla then went to the steppe and returned to the market place. Each time, touching the large stones, he pronounced the name of the saint: “Oh, Sultan-epe!”. The stones that the boy’s hands touched easily rose and stacked where he needed them. So Heyrulla quickly built a mosque. After this miracle, the boy was called respectfully a Sufi.