26.09.05 22:39

DON'T BE WASTEFUL!
Respectful treatment of nature is in Turkmen's blood
For over thousands or even millions of years the nature has been endowing men with gifts. At first sight, this notion seems to have been in conflict with the generally accepted notion that the man should preserve the nature, keep it from him self, "help" it and, at the same time, "win back" a space for living. Yet, in fact, these relations - nature-man - can't be split, even conditionally, in two "contracting parties" bounded by certain mutual "commitments".

Today, ecologists share the common view: "The capacity of biosphere for self-purification is closing its end". This verdict is very alarming, for the nature is exactly that foundation of life originally given to the man. It means that we, people, will also face this "end". And, may be, this is the right time to change the widely-known slogan "Preserve the nature!" to "Preserve the man!" The government's nature protection measures are surely not enough. It is important to bring up ecological, in the broad sense of this word, conscience of the man. It would be useful to recall the invaluable experience of our ancestors as regards this and many other issues.

Centuries old farming standards, the ability to adapt to living conditions in different landscapes have formed in Turkmens a special code of respectful treatment of the nature and its gifts. They enriched this sphere with moral values and norms of private and public life regarding it as a prerequisite of the man's education.

Traditions of the Turkmen people envisaged a set of measures on preservation, rational use and restoration of natural resources including flora and fauna species diversity, mineral resources, purity of water and atmosphere. Our ancestors, living in harsh conditions and forced to earn day and night their daily bread, spread nature protection traditions in their daily life, work rituals and their treatment of the nature itself.

As a matter of fact, cultivating their lands, they watched closely purity of the fertile layer called "yerin gaymagy" meaning "cream of soil". According to the tradition, it was strictly forbidden to pollute the top-soil. Domestic waste, firewood waste, fodder, straw and other garbage were collected in special pits and burnt or covered with earth. It was forbidden to spill kerosene, food waste, suds on soil neither near home nor in a remote place. After washing, water was collected in a special pit. These measures prevented microbes in the top-soil from death, keeping them in natural form.

After slaughtering, all wastes, be it a populated place or a pasture, were deeply buried. They would make a fire at the place of slaughtering and then cover it with earth. These rules were accepted both as hygienic and ethic norms of behavior.

Takyrs that accumulated surface drain in the arid regions were preserved in every possible way. They were cleaned with a broom like in the private house or yard. In general, the conditional boundary between "inhabited" and "uninhabited" places did not divide their mind into two worlds: they treated the nature as their home which should be kept clean, in good order, prosperity, peace and accord.

To preserve rare herbs, valuable types of fruit trees Turkmen's ancestors restricted themselves to using certain types of them. It was prohibited to cut platans, servi (bald cypress), dagdan, erkek gyzgan (Turkmen wolfberry), archa, mulberry and rose bushes. These plants were considered precious. They remained intact long after fading. Apart from cultivated fruit trees, it was also forbidden to cut wild nutwood, pistachio trees, apple trees and vine.

Animals also enjoyed "the right" to a certain "social status". Whatever was their use in the household, rude treatment of animals was prohibited. Turkmens considered camel a sacred animal. That is why even ironic mockeries at his appearance were not allowed. Hens, which according to ancient legends were included in the list of seven riches of the world (along with water, land, a horse ...), were treated with the same degree of respect. Dogs surely enjoyed special respect for their loyalty. Keeping dogs hungry was regarded sinful. Cats were also loved and respected.

Of domestic animals, sheep was regarded as valuable and precious. A shepherd even had no right to "rail" at it. Even the length of a shepherd's stick was established according to traditions. It was believed that the animal could die if a shepherd hit it with a stick without a curve designed to soften the hit.

Turkmen cattle breeders had a tradition in the past that in literal translation meant "to tie up the wolf's mouth". If a flock scattered, a shepherd "tied" wolves' mouths by magic spells to keep scattered sheep safe. However, it was necessary to lift a spell and "open" the wolf's mouth as the wolf was a respected animal and it was considered a sin to starve him leaving his mouth shut.

There also existed restrictions in hunting gazelles, argali, goats, pheasants, ducks, partridges and etc. Some types of birds (like larks, hoopoes, swallows) were treated as precious and killing them was a sin. On the whole, killing wild animals or birds unjustified by daily needs was condemned: live and let others live.

Turkmens had an expression, "isrip haram" - literally "don't be wasteful". This motto was instilled form the early childhood and brought up a man to respect and take care of the nature, its gifts, not only material but also cultural-aesthetic. Any display of beauty, be it a picturesque landscape or a modest field flower, was valued. Our ancestors could see the beauty, cherish and multiply it, placing high demands not on surrounding environment but on themselves. This is the root of the general culture of the man. And it is "still there".

Victoriya BAYLIYEVA

Journalist

"Turkmenistan: The Golden Age" web-site.