Yunus Rajabiy Berta Davydova Viktor Uspensky Mukarram Turhunboeva
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Yunus Rajabiy

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Berta Davydova

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Viktor Uspensky

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Mukarram Turhunboeva

Beshik Toy (Cradle Festivity)

Domain: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events
Index Number: 03.01.01


Beshik toy (the ceremony, organized on the occasion of putting baby to beshik for the first time) is considered to be one of the most widely spread family-related ceremonies in Uzbekistan that has ancient origins. As a rule, it is organized with participation of the relatives and neighbors on the seventh, ninth and eleventh day after baby's birth or on any other day with mutual consent of parents of the newly married couple. In beshik toy ceremony the participants are women only. And it is this feature that makes it different from other family-related ceremonies.

In most cases beshik toy ceremony is carried out in honor of the first-born, and is solemn in nature. This ceremony is generally called "Beshik toy" in Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, in some regions and areas, its name may differ. For example, in Bukhara it is called "Govora bandon" ("Tying to beshik"), in Khoresm – "Buvak yighilish" ("A gathering around baby").

According to the established tradition, grandmother of the newborn on mother's side, before beshik toy ceremony was organized, prepared all items necessary for the baby, bought beshik and decorated it. And one day before the ceremony, she sent patir (a type of flat bread) and sweets, covered with beautifully decorated tablecloth, as well as various toys (if it was girl, then it was a doll), to the house of son-in-law (i.e. groom). Then, beshik, presents and food, covered with the tablecloth and loaded on cart (nowadays it is car), were carried on street under accompaniment of karnay, surnay, and tambourine. In the majority of places (in Tashkent in particular) a colt was festively dressed for beshik toy ceremony, which was meant to be used by the baby (if it was boy). Also, several sets of clothes (sarpa) were prepared, which were given as presents to the parents and grandparents of the baby.

On the day of beshik toy, after relatives on mother's side of the baby were welcomed, flour was poured on their faces, symbolizing their good and pure intentions, good wishes to the baby. Then, the guests were invited to the room, where festive table was laid. At the same time, in another room, another ceremony was observed, i.e. the ceremony of putting baby to beshik.

Beshik toy lasted from early morning to the evening under accompaniment of karnay and surnay. Nowadays though, the ceremony is carried out at the house of son-in-law (i.e. groom) or daughter-in-law (i.e. bride) at a certain time of day. According to tradition, the closest women-relatives of son-in-law arrive and say their wishes. In her part, the woman, who welcomes the guests or one of the older women, while performing lullaby, brings in specially decorated beshik. After lullaby song has been performed, father of son-in-law "buys" beshik for symbolic amount of money. Consequently, women-guests are invited inside the house, seated around festive table and prayers are said in honor of the baby. In some places, for this special occasion noodle, made from dough and cut into long pieces, is offered. Noodle symbolizes a wish of long life for the baby. After the main part of the ceremony has been completed, merrymaking and dancing parts begin. Close relatives of baby's parents give him various presents. In their turn, parents of son-in-law give their presents to the guests.

In Khoresm, special women-performers called "khalfa" were invited to beshik toy ceremony. They performed various fragments of Uzbek folk eposes and told various stories and legends. As a rule, khalfas participated in beshik toy ceremonies of the first-born.

In the old days, during beshik toy ceremony special food made from white durra was offered, because it was considered that white durra is a symbol of fertility. Nowadays, however, during the ceremony various sweets and specially prepared pilaw is offered.

At the end of beshik toy ceremony, beshik was placed to the right side of a young mother, who breastfed her baby and sang a lullaby she knew. In accordance with the views held among Uzbeks, for a baby two things are necessary. The first thing is mother's milk. The second thing is a lullaby sung by his mother. It is therefore, girls, starting from their tender age, began to learn singing lullaby songs.

After holding all ceremonies, associated with beshik toy, the guests are seen off. In such a way beshik toy ceremony comes to an end.

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