Introduction / History The Dariganga, a small people group of Mongolian origin, inhabit the southeastern regions of Mongolia. They are primarily located in the southern part of the Sühbaatar province, on a volcanic plateau near the Gobi Desert. The Dariganga belong to the eastern group of Mongols, which includes the Khalkha Mongols, the Buryat, and most of the Chinese Mongols.
The Dariganga language is closely related to Halh, and is often referred to as a Mongolian dialect. However, all Dariganga are also able to use Halh in conversation with other Mongols in North and Central Asia.
In the 13th century, Genghis Khan formed one of the greatest empires in world history by uniting all of the nomadic Mongol tribes. During the centuries that followed, the once mighty Mongol empire became squeezed between the growing Russian and Chinese empires. In the early 1920s, Mongolia became a Marxist state, until its quiet democratic revolution in 1990.
What are their lives like? Although most Mongols now live in cities, there remains a large population of Dariganga nomads. They live in herding camps and migrate seasonally with their animals. Their dwellings are portable gers or yurts, which are round felt tents that have brightly painted wooden doors. The nomads raise horses, cattle, and sheep and migrate four or five times a year in search of fresh pastures.
Some of the Dariganga are now settled farmers who live and work on the collective (community) farms. The urban Dariganga generally live in Soviet-built apartment complexes. Many of them have found jobs in industry, mining, or transport.
Due to the harshness of the climate in Mongolia, the Dariganga diet consists primarily of fat, meat (mainly mutton), milk, and dairy products. Large amounts of fat and mutton are eaten during the winter, and dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and sour cream are eaten during the summer. Their favorite drink is airag or kumiss, which is fermented mare's milk.
The Dariganga traditionally married while they were very young. The girls were usually 13 or 14, and the boys were only a few years older. Today, couples usually marry while they are in their early to mid-twenties, and then immediately begin having children. Urban Dariganga, especially those with a college education, tend to delay marriage until they reach their late twenties. Birth control is discouraged in Mongolia. Families with six or more children are given financial benefits.
The Dariganga love music, folk dances, chess, and sporting events. Every July, the ancient Naadam festival is celebrated throughout Mongolia. Sporting events are held in horse racing, archery, and wrestling.
What are their beliefs? The Dariganga were traditionally shamanists (believed in an unseen world of gods, demons, and spirits). The people depended on shamans (medicine men) to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events.
In the late 1500s, the Mongols were introduced to Tibetan Buddhism, and most Mongols converted to Buddhism at that time. By 1900, more than half of Mongolia's males were serving as priests in Buddhist monasteries. However, as a result of an anti-religious movement launched by the Marxist government in the 1930s, about three-quarters of the Dariganga became either non-religious or atheists.
Today, a number of Dariganga have returned to the beliefs of their forefathers. Shamans are once again called upon to cure the sick or alleviate evil spirits through divination, oracles, and astrology. A combination of Buddhism and shamanism has survived, especially among the elderly. Obos, heaps of stones thought to be inhabited by local spirits, can still be seen on almost every hilltop.
What are their needs? Rape, murder, alcoholism, and violence are major problems in Mongolia's urban areas today. Many young people are also involved in criminal gangs. The Dariganga need to find true peace-peace that can only come through knowing Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points * The Lord has raised up several Mongolian missionaries to go to places Westerners cannot go. Pray that the church would be ready to support these missionaries as that is often the big hindrance.
* Pray that God's church in Mongolia would grow in deeper discipleship and greater missions vision.
* Pray for freedom from alcoholism, violence, and divorce.
* Ask God to raise teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Dariganga.
* Pray that Christians will have opportunities to introduce the Dariganga to the Prince of Peace.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Mongolia's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Approximately 35,000 Dariganga people live in and around the town of the same name in south-east Mongolia. They inhabit areas on a volcanic plateau in the southern part of Mongolia's Sukhbaatar Province. (Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)