The Karakalpak people, an ethnic group primarily residing in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan, possess a rich tapestry of beliefs, mythology, and rituals that are deeply interwoven with their history and daily life. This essay aims to provide an overview of their cultural heritage, focusing on their deities, mythological narratives, and unique beliefs.

Deities and Mythological Figures

The Karakalpak pantheon, influenced by a blend of pre-Islamic animism, Shamanism, and later Islamic beliefs, comprises various deities and mythological figures. Key deities include:

  • Tengri: Borrowed from ancient Turkic beliefs, Tengri is the sky god, often perceived as the supreme deity. Tengri represents the eternal blue sky and is believed to control the fate of the entire universe.

  • Umay: A fertility goddess, Umay holds a significant place in Karakalpak mythology. She is often invoked for protection during childbirth and for the well-being of children.

  • Erlik: In Karakalpak mythology, Erlik is the god of the underworld. He is often depicted as a figure responsible for the misfortunes and evils that befall humans.

Apart from these primary deities, there are numerous spirits and supernatural entities, each associated with natural elements or human experiences. For instance, water spirits ('su anasy') are revered and feared, often appeased through rituals to ensure safety during water-related activities.

Mythological Narratives and Heroes

Karakalpak mythology is rich in tales that often serve to explain natural phenomena, moral principles, and the origin of their customs. These narratives are usually transmitted orally and have evolved over generations.

One prominent myth is the story of Qoblandy, a legendary hero known for his strength and bravery. He is often depicted battling evil spirits and is a symbol of resilience and courage. Another important narrative is the tale of Edige, a historical figure and hero who is celebrated in Karakalpak oral tradition for his leadership and warrior skills.

Qoblandy: The Legendary Hero

Qoblandy, a central figure in Karakalpak folklore, embodies the archetypal hero, renowned for his extraordinary strength, bravery, and moral integrity. His legend is a cornerstone of Karakalpak oral tradition and reflects the values and aspirations of the Karakalpak people.

  • Origins: Qoblandy’s story, like many mythological tales, is shrouded in mystery and varies across different narrations. He is often depicted as a demigod or a human blessed with supernatural abilities. His birth and early life are marked by miraculous events, signifying his destined greatness.

  • Adventures: The tales of Qoblandy are filled with his heroic deeds and battles against evil forces. He is often portrayed fighting against malevolent spirits, demons, and other supernatural entities threatening the community. His adventures are not just physical battles but also moral and ethical struggles, symbolizing the fight between good and evil.

  • Symbolism: Qoblandy stands as a symbol of resilience, courage, and the protector of the weak. His character is a model for young men in Karakalpak society, embodying ideal virtues like bravery, honor, and strength.

Edige: The Historical Hero

Edige, on the other hand, is a more historical figure, often celebrated in Karakalpak oral tradition. His life and achievements are grounded in the real events of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

  • Background: Edige is known as a political and military leader of the Golden Horde in the late medieval period. His story is a blend of historical facts and mythical embellishments, making him a larger-than-life figure in Karakalpak folklore.

  • Leadership and Battles: Edige's most notable achievement was his rise to power and his role in leading the Golden Horde. He is celebrated for his tactical prowess in battles and his ability to unite various tribes under his leadership. His military campaigns and governance significantly influenced the political landscape of the region during his time.

  • Legacy: The story of Edige has transcended generations, becoming a part of the cultural heritage of the Karakalpak people. He is revered not just as a warrior but also as a wise and just leader. His legacy is often invoked in tales and songs, serving as an inspiration for leadership and unity.

Cultural Significance

Both Qoblandy and Edige, in their respective mythical and historical contexts, play crucial roles in the cultural identity of the Karakalpak people. They represent the archetypical heroes of Karakalpak folklore and history, embodying the qualities admired and aspired to by the community. Their stories are more than just entertainment; they are vehicles for imparting moral values, historical consciousness, and a sense of identity among the Karakalpaks. Through these narratives, the rich tapestry of Karakalpak culture is woven, reflecting their struggles, aspirations, and the enduring human spirit.

Rituals and Practices

The Karakalpak people practice various rituals that reflect their belief system. These rituals are often tied to life events such as birth, marriage, and death.

  • Birth Rituals: The birth of a child is accompanied by specific practices meant to protect the newborn and the mother from evil spirits. Charms and amulets are commonly used for this purpose.

  • Marriage Rituals: Traditional Karakalpak weddings involve elaborate ceremonies with specific rites meant to bless the couple. These rituals are deeply symbolic, incorporating elements that represent fertility, prosperity, and the joining of two families.

  • Funerary Practices: Death rituals among the Karakalpak are rooted in their belief in the afterlife. The deceased are honored with specific mourning practices, and there is a strong emphasis on commemorating the dead through annual rituals.

Birth Rituals

Birth rituals among the Karakalpak are steeped in tradition and are aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of both the mother and the newborn.

  • Pre-Birth Rituals: Before the birth, certain customs are observed to protect the expectant mother. This might include specific dietary restrictions, prayers, and the wearing of amulets to ward off evil spirits.

  • Birth: The actual process of childbirth is typically overseen by a midwife, who is not only skilled in the medical aspects of childbirth but also knowledgeable about traditional practices. The room where the birth takes place is often prepared ritually to ensure it is spiritually safe and welcoming.

  • Post-Birth Rituals: After the birth, there are various rituals to safeguard the newborn. These might include naming ceremonies, blessings, and the introduction of the baby to the ancestors. This is also a time when the mother and child are secluded for a period, to protect them from negative outside influences.

Marriage Rituals

Marriage in Karakalpak culture is not just a union of two individuals but also a coming together of families and communities.

  • Matchmaking and Engagement: Traditionally, marriages were arranged, and the process began with matchmaking. Once a match was agreed upon, an engagement ceremony would take place, involving the exchange of gifts and blessings.

  • Wedding Ceremony: The actual wedding ceremony is elaborate and colorful, often lasting several days. Rituals include the bride's symbolic journey to the groom's house, the exchange of vows, and various traditional dances and songs. A significant aspect is the blessing by elders and the community, seeking prosperity and fertility for the couple.

  • Post-Wedding Rituals: After the wedding, there are rituals to integrate the bride into her new family. This might include culinary traditions, where the bride prepares meals for the family, symbolizing her new role.

Death Rituals

Death rituals among the Karakalpak reflect a deep respect for the deceased and a belief in an afterlife.

  • Preparation of the Body: The body is washed, dressed in traditional clothes, and often wrapped in a white cloth. This preparation is done with great care and respect, accompanied by prayers.

  • Funeral: The funeral is usually conducted quickly, often within a day of the death. It involves prayers, readings from religious texts (if the deceased was Muslim), and the gathering of family and community members to pay their respects.

  • Mourning Period: After the funeral, there is a mourning period, the length and nature of which can vary. During this time, family members remember the deceased, share meals, and pray. It is a time for the community to come together in support of the bereaved family.

  • Memorial Services: Memorial services are held at specific intervals after the death - often on the third, seventh, and fortieth days, and then annually. These services serve to honor the memory of the deceased and provide ongoing support to the family.

Each of these rituals - whether marking birth, marriage, or death - is imbued with the cultural and spiritual essence of the Karakalpak people. They serve to strengthen communal bonds, pass on traditions, and navigate the key passages of human life with dignity and respect.

Unique Beliefs

The Karakalpak culture harbors some unique beliefs that are distinct to their community:

  • Environmental Reverence: There is a deep-rooted respect for nature, evident in their reverence for natural elements like water, earth, and the sky. This respect is often expressed through rituals and offerings.

  • Shamanism: Elements of Shamanism persist in Karakalpak beliefs. Shamans, known as 'baksy', play a crucial role in the community, acting as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds. They are often called upon for healing, divination, and protection against evil spirits.

  • Ancestor Worship: The Karakalpak exhibit a profound veneration for their ancestors. This is evident in their genealogical recitations ('shajara') and the high importance placed on ancestral lineage and history.


The belief system of the Karakalpak people is a complex amalgamation of ancient traditions and external influences. Their mythology, populated with powerful deities and heroic figures, offers insights into their understanding of the world and their place within it. Through their rituals and unique practices, the Karakalpak continue to preserve and celebrate their rich cultural heritage, providing a fascinating example of the enduring nature of traditional belief systems.

Read more at and Karakalpakstan.