The history of Mongolian deel

History of Mongolian deel

A deel – Mongolian traditional costume, has been on the attention of foreigners’ even from the ancient times, well known for its, exotic and colorful design. “It is amazing that this nation has invented an outfit that fits all type of seasons and climate, well thought of the personal needs and used in many different purposes”, written by medieval travelers from Europe. Even for today, the deel is quite unusual and eye-catching outfit for non-Mongolians. One of the evidence is that Queen Amidala, a cast of Star Wars, a world-famous Hollywood epic movie, appears in the screen fully dressed in Mongolian costume of married woman imaginary alteration created by the movie designers.

We say that dress is god-given and body is devil given. For Mongolians, it is impossible to dress like people in tropics or other warm zones because of its harsh condition of weather and extreme changes in air temperature throughout the year. It means that having a suitable outfit is vital part of survival kit for every nomads to overbear the sudden changes in weather, especially in winter or summer times. A deel perfectly protects its owner from fierce cold and strong winds. Designed in simple T-shaped pattern and double-layers, it can be universally served as a blanket, a pillow, a mat and even a tent.

Moreover, a deel is designed to satisfy every-movement of body that it offers a great convenience for herders to fulfill their every-day tasks and duties on horse. A deel is belted by a sash, which is made of bright and several meters long textile and is designed to protect kidneys from unhealthy vibrations that could potentially be caused by riding horses. Also, the sash can be used as a corset or a hanger for knives, cups, firestones and other accessories. The upper part of a deel (above the sash) can also be used as a big pocket, ideal for small things to be kept safely.

Mongolian deel, horse riding

Hence, a deel is a practical outfit that reflects nomadic lifestyle of Mongolians. Mongolia is inhabited by various ethnic groups such as Khalkh, Zakhchin, Durvud, Uriankhai, Buryad, Barga, Torguud and others. And the deel’s combination of colors, decorative ornaments and garments is differentiated according to those ethnic groups.

Deel designs are also varied by its purpose whether it can be used in cold or hot weather, for man or woman, for everyday use or special occasions. For instance: Deels, that are designed for holiday and ceremonial events are more colorful than usual and are made of valuable silk and other expensive materials and usually been dressed during Naadam (Independence day festival), Tsagaan sar (Lunar new year) and other Mongolian holidays, festivals and ceremonies.

Mongolian deel in holidays

But during the socialist era and urban movement, the deel has become more simpler in its style. Below you can see a full dress of a married woman in exotically bright textiles and richly decorated gold and silver, coral and pearl details, would it be only used by folk singers or artists of traditional theater.

As far as we can relate, the deel has a rich history. Researchers say that the deel is originated in the era of Huns, which is accounted to be more than thousands years ago. Deels with braided edges have been found in excavations of burial-mounds of the Huns period in “Noyon-Uul” mountain.

Aristocrats of Kidan, at Mongolian Empire that has became powerful after Huns, have been made their costumes (deels) with expensive fabrics brought even from Egypt.

Mongolian deel

Deels have been found in excavations of burial-mounds of the Huns period in “Noyon-Uul” mountain.

An interesting fact says that Hubilai (Kublai) khan of the Mongolian Yuan Empire adopted a national law on deel and its etiquettes in 1252. This law was to regulate designs, colors, ornaments and fabrics of deels to be differentiated between nobles and usual Mongolians. At that time, Mongolian khans were dressed by white fabric deels that symbolized the color of happiness and greatness.

Practical and elegant deels and similar costumes became very popular among the nobles of the different nations united under Mongolian Yuan Empire. For example: as long as the Yuan Empire consolidated Korea as a vassal state for nearly a century, pro-Mongolian aristocrats and military officers in Korea has incorporated the deel into Korean traditional costume, the “Hanbok”. Also, Korean nobles, officials and military personnel, who adored Mongoilans were, decreed to wear the deel.

After Manchurian domination in the beginning of 1700’s, Mongolians have forced to wear deels with very long cuffs as an order of Manchurian kings. The behind idea was to insult Mongolians whether they looked like animals with four legs. But it is said that Mongolians have easily adopted the way to wear such styles in a normal way by folding the cuffs, instead. At that time, a unique dress with following shape, representing wings of a mythological bird Khangarid was also designed for married women – as the guards of the home and fire.

Mongolian deel in Naadam festival

There are many legends and traditional customs related with deel. When a baby child wears a newly-made deel for its first time, adults adore and instruct him blessings in a rhymed form to be a good man worthy to wear such a new costume.

As a part fashion, designers note that deel has its original patterns of sewing and there are numerous ways to sew traditionally. Modern designers try to transform the main elements of deel to create a brand new fashion.

In the photo salons and ateliers offer some service for people of all ages to take photos with traditional deels and to keep them in their family albums. Foreign tourists also like to have such photo services with pleasure. As we would state, if deel is god given, it’s interesting to experience the devil’s (our body) feeling inside the god.

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