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Mongolia’s religious roots are bound up in Shamanism. However this religious phenomena doesn’t match the conventional description of a religion in the same way as Buddhism or Christianity. Shamanism has no founder from whom its teachings originate. There is no collection of sacred sutras or a bible, as it doesn’t possess any monastic communities to preach or distribute its doctrines. The origins of Shamanism are still unclear, but historians are certain it emerged at the same time as the first human artistic concepts of fetishism, tokenism and animism to name just a few.
Shamanism was the major religion during both the ancient Mongol states and the Mongol Empire until Tibetan Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism) gained more popularity after it was introduced in 13th century. Tibetan Buddhism shared the common Buddhist goals of individual release from suffering and reincarnation. Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who lives in India, is the religion’s spiritual leader, and is highly respected in Mongolia.
Shamanism has continued to be practiced by a few of the ethnic groups living in northern and western Mongolia, including the Tsaatan, who are more commonly known as the reindeer people. Mongolians practice ritualistic magic, nature worship, exorcism, meditation, and natural healing as part of their shamanistic heritage.
Buddhism was introduced to Mongolia from Tibet by Kublai Khan during the late 13th century. Kublai Khan invited an eminent Tibetan lama, Pagba, to be empire’s religious representative. From the late 14th century onwards hudreds of Buddhist temples were rapidly built across Mongolia. Thousands of Mongolian males vowed to live as lamas at one point almost one seventh of the male population has taken robes. Until the beginning of the twentieth century Buddhism developed and spread across the country, playing an important role on both religions and intellectual spheres of life.
The 1921 People’s Revolution swiftly installed a socialist regime, which officially prohibited any religious practice. During the 1930’s political purges under resulted in the destruction of more than 700 temples and the death of around 10.000 lamas. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that, as part of the rise of democracy, Buddhism was revived as Mongolia’s major religion.
Mongolia’s largest monastery- Gandan-is in Ulaanbaatar. In October 1996, Gandan hosted a massive opening ceremony for its newly installed 25 meter high, 60 ton Megjid Janraisag statue, which is the symbol of the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia. The statue’s name translates as "the all seeing Lord”.
Meanwhile Mongolia’s Kazakhs are Muslims. Islam is mainly practiced in Bayan Olgii, the most westerly province in Mongolia.
Since the mid nineties large number of Christians, Bahais and Mormons have arrived in Mongolia seeking to convent Mongolians from Buddhism to their various faiths. There has recently been concern about missionaries working mainly as English teachers and seeking to convent in and outside of classrooms.


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Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA

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