Participations of G’assols (Washers of the Dead) in Mourning Ceremonies (in the Example of Ferghana Valley) | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Каримова, М. Б. Participations of G’assols (Washers of the Dead) in Mourning Ceremonies (in the Example of Ferghana Valley) / М. Б. Каримова. — Текст : непосредственный // Молодой ученый. — 2013. — № 1 (48). — С. 289-291. — URL: (дата обращения: 09.08.2020).

One of the religious ceremonies is the mourning ceremony, from the ancient times the mourning ceremonies reached to us in different forms reflecting the people’s past and worldview in itself. These ceremonies are not only chracteristically important but also historically and theoretically important too. That’s why in this part of the research we are going to analyze the syncretism of different up-to Islam and Islamic traditions and customs that are being kept by the otinoyis (women who run a school at their home) in the mourning ceremonies of Uzbek people.

Every living creature knows1 and feel that Death is the grand leveler. In our nation if it is known that the patient’s sustenance is over by his/her situation, actions or the doctor’s information, his/her relatives or children try not to let know the patient himself/herself. If a woman feels her death beforehand, commissioning her “o’limlik”(money or goods to cover the costs of funeral rites) to one of her family members, her close daughter or daughter in-law, or granddaughter, she tells her will about who will wash her, what to give the washer and the things set aside for the gravedigger, also, we can say it is a preparation in a way to share all her belongings, jewelries and valuable possessions among her daughters and daughter in-laws pretending from the conflicts between the daughters and daughter in-laws in the family because of the property. The meaning of this preparation and willing didn’t change during the XX century, it was learnt during the field researches. At the beginning of ХХ century and up to now in the cities and villages of Fergana valley mainly leaving the will orally widely spread [4], according to the researcher M. X. Payzieva’s notes, in the Uzbek families of Tashkent the will were often in oral form at the beginning and the middle of XX century, but at the end of the century they were in written form [21].

According to the researches carried out in Ferghana valley, the relatives of the patient hygienically put his/her body in order, in accordance with Islamic Law (shar’ia) they called an imam (prayer leader) from a mosque to the presence of dying patient and recited the Yasin from the Koran [18]. If the dying patient was a woman they called an Otinoyi (a woman who runs a school at her home / a woman who recites mystic poetry or verses from the Koran at gatherings) If the Otinoyi doesn’t know to read Arabic, then the Imam (prayer leader) standing at the door loudly recited the Yasin or other verses in the Koran. As the informers emphasize, Yasin [3], “Kalimai tavhid and shahodat” (the profession of faith in Islam) are recited in order the patient to die easily and this can be seen in the Islamic tales [14]. Also, in order to make easy the patient’s dying making him lie on his/her right side facing to qibla (the direction of Ka’aba in Mecca) is recommended in Islamic literatures [19, 22].

The women who was having menstrual period and the unwashed men and women after intercourse were made to go out of the presence of the patient who was on deathbed. Besides that, children and pregnant women were not allowed to go into the presence of the dying patient pretending them from scaring.

According to the Islamic doctrine, every single man will die after his “sustenance given by Allah finishes”, when “his/her time is up”. The life is taken by malak-ul-mavt” (the Angel of Death)- Azrael [12]. In Islam there is a concept that the dead man’s body returns to Allah [26].

In the lifestyle of the Uzbek people in Fergana valley after the man dies his/her chin is tied with white cloth, his/her eyes are closed, his/her fingers spread out and put on the sides, the body and the legs are straightened, the thumb toes of the two feet are tied together [5].

It is known that seeing the deceased off to the final destination (the hereafter/ the next world) includes a number of traditions and customs. The first one of the mourning ceremonies is washing the dead, especially the g’assols (washers of the dead) deal with this job. In Fergana the g’assols are called as “g’assol or pokchi”, In Andijan “yuvuvchi” (washer), (in the southern regions of our Republic the g’assol is called as “murdasha”, or “poshshuy”)

At the beginning of ХХ century in the cities of our Republic such as Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Nurota, Karshi, Urgench and Khiva and in the big cities of Fegana valley such as Margilan, Hujand, Namangan, Andijan and Osh there lived professional g’assols (washers of the dead) and they differed from each other only by their appearance [24, 13]. According to the researches done throughout Fergana valley the professional g’assols (washers of the dead) can be found very few in the villages and the informers noted that only in the places near the cities people use g’assols [7].

In Fergana valley the g’assols certainly must get ablutions before washing the dead. As it is known from the field researches, in the Burbaliq village of Fergana valley besides ablutions, the g’assols go to the graveyard and roll there in order to be purified [10]. In our opinion, the reason why they do like that is connected with cults of animism ancestors one of the religious beliefs up to Islam mixed with Islam. It can be seen from this, among the Uzbek people being afraid of not only the dead, but also the washers, having a special attitude to the g’assols [23] and fearing them can be said to be connected with the “conception of unclean dead” [13] of the ancient zardusht.

According to Islamic rules the dead is cleaned with water before burying. In Islamic Law the dead should be washed in the following cases such as the dead must be Muslim, the newly born baby must be born alive, its arms and legs must move and live at least a moment, the dead’s whole body or half body must be with head. Also, “the martyr” (person killed for persisting in a belief) are not recommended to be washed [22].

In the most regions of Fergana valley the dead was washed in the same room where the dead died. The carpets or rugs laid in the room were taken away, instead the special piece of wood brought from the graveyard was put and the dead was laid on this piece of wood. The Qipchoq people living in Chust and Kosonsoy districts of Namangan province, the people living in Arabmozor and Buston villages of Fergana province often use a door-wing instead of the wood [13].

In the corner of the doors built at the beginning of XX century there was a special hole that the water could flow down, later these holes have disappeared and in the consequence, the g’assols (washers) have been using piece of breaks to put on the top part of the door and let the water flow into the “tog’ora” (a large dished plate). This water is called “mahram suvi”(wash water of the dead), the Tajik people living in Burbaliq village of Oltiariq district Fergana province think that this water should be poured under the fruit tree [10], as the ethnographer A. Ashirov informs in the Uzbek villages of Kosonsoy district people think that this water will dry the fruit tree, so they poured it in an edge of the yard [13].

Great attention was paid to wash the dead very carefully [20, 27] and if there is only one g’assol (washer) or the dead was fat or plump, two people from the neighbours or relatives also helped to wash it [9]. For washing the dead a pair of mittens made from the burial shroud, a tog’ora (a large dished plate), a bucket (pail), a ladle, some cotton, a piece of soap were needed and warm water was prepared. It should be noted that almost all the people of Fergana valley wash the mouth and the teeth of the dead with a swab [3]. But during the researches throughout the valley we came across some distinctions in washing the dead. In Burbaliq village the dead is washed in sitting position, In Kokand city it is vise versa, the dead is washed not in sitting position, it is washed lying on side not hurting as possible

In Avval village of Fergana region some flowers are put into the water that washes the dead in order to smell sweet and sometimes adding some perfume (not to smell the cuts, scratches or sores bad if there is any on the dead body) can also be met [2]. Also, in Kokand city in order the water smells sweet a string of cloves is soaked into the water [8].

In the process of washing the participation of women relatives has a particular order. In Shirmonbuloq, Nayman, Paxtaobod, Sharq yulduzi, Uchtepa and Kulla villages of Buloqboshi district of Andijan province, in Qipchoq and Turkish people [17] of Fergana valley there is a dogma we don’t let strangers touch our bones and according to this dogma, the relatives wash the dead themselves [1]. According to the opinions of the researcher A. Ashirov, the roots of such customs are connected with the thoughts about the relations between the ancient Turkish ancestors and descendents [13], such customs exist in another peoples of Central Asia, particularly in Kazak people. As the researcher A. T. Toleubaev notes, in washing the dead one of the relatives must attend, this work is kept in the place where Islam is stronger held, and it is considered as “meritorious action” [25].

The dead is washed uneven times, that’s three, five or seven times, and this was mentioned in the Islamic law and hadiths (the traditions or records of the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) [15] too.

In most villages of Fergana valley the g’assol (washer of the dead) goes to the dead’s house two hours before considering the time of the grave to be ready and the time of funeral prayer. G’assols (washers of the dead) are chosen according to the gender of the dead. G’assols always take a ladle made from gourd and a pair of mittens made from cheap cotton material used for washing the dead with themselves and this is the outer attribute of their handicraft skills [17]. As the informers notes, young girls are not allowed to be a g’assol (washer of the dead), it is emphasized that a g’assol should be one with a strong-heart, pure-hearted and never “bring out” what he sees “inside”

After the dead is washed, according to the customs of funeral ceremonies, aromatic flowers or plants such as rose or basil are put on the dead. Almost in all the regions of Fergana valley in shrouding the dead black seeds, basil, perfume brought from Haj(Mecca), musk ambergris, a string of cloves are widely used [8]. In the room where the dead washed an ewer with basil and flowers in it is put and a candle is lighted and the water in the ewer is changed until forty days. Also, a candle is lighted and verses from Koran are recited. As the informers mention, after the mourning ceremony those who are scared and feel bad drink the water from the ewer which was blown on for treatment [6]. This is the mixed appearance zardusht and Islamic customs of the ancient agrarian cults.

The analyze of the field research materials of Fergana valley show that the work of g’assols(washers) and gravedigger have been inherited from ancestors to generations, this works have been taught from the youth and for their service they were given the dead’s clothes before, now they are given new clothes from head to foot and materials also given as a present [11]. In Tumor village of Dangara district of Fergana province g’assols(washers of the dead) are given a prayer rug, dishes and a quilt together with new clothes [7]. According to the field researches hel in Tumor village of Dangara district of Fergana province from the 2nd half of ХХ century it began pay attention greatly to giving a prayer rug among the things given for the services of g’assols. The prayer rug was given to ten people in total the seven imams (prayer leaders) of neighbouring villages and four old hajji adults (pilgrim to Mecca) after the funeral and the funeral bier was taken away to the graveyard. In Islam the prayer rug is thought to be a factor separating the man from this world during the worship [16]. In our opinion, giving a paryer rug is directly linked with Islam, as our informers mention, as if the spirit of the dead enjoys the worship done on this prayer rug, and the uneven number of the prayer rugs, in general paying attention to the uneven numbers is clarified with the death being lone (single) [7], and in its turn it shows common syncretism of up-to Islamic and Islamic customs.

As a conclusion it should be mentioned that all the ancient religious beliefs in the lifestyle of local people of Fergana valley have been mixed up the customs turned into Islamic under the influence of Islam and its spread.

  1. Field notes. 2007-2010. Andijan region, Buloqboshi district.

  2. Field notes. 2008. Fergana region, Avval village.

  3. Field notes. 2008. Fergana region, Buvayda district,Poshshopirim village.

  4. Field notes. 2008. Namangan region Yangiqurgan district.

  5. Field notes. 2010. Andijan region, Buloqboshi district.

  6. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region Buvayda district, Buvimozor village; oltiariq district Burbaliq village.

  7. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region, Dangara district, Tumor village.

  8. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region, Kokand city.

  9. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region, Oltiariq district

  10. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region, Oltiariq district, Burbaliq village.

  11. Field notes. 2010. Fergana region, Oltiariq district, Burbaliq village; Kokand city.

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