The site is situated in the north-east of the country in the central part of the Khentii mountain chain where the vast Central Asian steppe meets the coniferous forests of the Siberian taiga. The mountain or its locality is believed to be the birthplace of Genghis Khan as well as the location of his tomb. The Mountain was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 4 July 2015 under the title Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape. Under a Presidential Decree of 1955 the worship of this mountain has become formal. Its ecosystem is complex with unique biodiversity with flora of the Central Asian steppe. It has 50 species of fauna and 253 species of birds.
According to the legend, Chinggis Khan went to pray for guidance to the top of the mountain before going into battle. This mountain is rich in archaeological history, with over 800 burial sites identified by archaeologists. The mountain is located in the 1,2-million-hectare Khan Khentii Strict Protected Area established in 1992. This mountain is considered the most sacred mountain in Mongolia, because it was first designated as sacred by Chinggis khaan.
Burkhan Khaldun is in the northeast of Mongolia in the middle of the Khentii mountain range. The mountain is integral to the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area established in 1992 and which extends over an area of 12,000 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi).
Burkhan Khaldun means the God Mountain and is also called Khentii Khan (The King of the Khentii Mountain range). It is one of the Khentii Mountains in the Khentii Province of northeastern Mongolia. It is the highest mountain of the region, rising to an elevation of 2,362 metres (7,749 ft), and is crescent-shaped. It is the source of several rivers: the Onon and Kherlen rivers flow into the Amur, which has its outfall in the Pacific Ocean; and the rivers Tuul, Kharaa and Yeruu flow northwards to join the Selenge, which empties into the Arctic Ocean. It is in a complex ecosystem with unique biodiversity which is defined as a “transition zone from Siberian permafrost land forms to great steppe”.
Genghis Khan (also known as Chinggis Khan) lost his battle against the Merkit (one of the major tribal confederations (khanlig) of the Mongols) and escaped death by seeking protection in the sacred precincts of the Burkhan Khaldun mountains. An old woman saved him and a few others. As mark of great reverence, which in Mongolia is considered a highly sacred mountain of spiritual significance, and to the sun above, he offered his respects to the spirits of the mountain around him, sprayed milk into the air and sprinkled it on the earth. He removed his girdle strap, unwinding it from his outfit, and then put it around his neck. Symbolically by this act he surrendered his Mongolian man’s pride and expressed his submission to the gods.
He took off his hat, crossed his hand across his chest and knelt in obeisance nine times offering worship to the sun and the mountain. He spent three days on the mountain offering prayers and thus established a strong bond of spirituality with the mountain and derived special strength from it. In the Secret History of the Mongols, Genghis Khan, who later became the “World Conqueror” believing in his own destiny, said:
|“||I went up Mount Burkhan,|
Though I was frightened and ran like an insect,
I was shielded by Mount Burkhan Khaldun,
I will honor Burkhan Khaldun with sacrifices every morning and pray to it every day: my children and my children’s children shall be mindful of this
Genghis Khan then started his campaign to unify the land and people of Mongolia as a strong force. He gave the Burkhan Khaldun the status of a royal sacred mountain.The history is chronicled in the Secret History of the Mongols, which UNESCO recognised in 1990 as a “literary creation of outstanding universal significance”. In this document Burkhan Khaldun is described in detail and mentioned 27 times, which signifies the unique position of the mountain in Mongolia‘s heritage. This document establishes the authenticity of the site, stating:
|“||The origin of Chingis Khan is Burte-Chino predestined by the propitious|
Heaven. His spouse was Gua-Maral. They crossed the Tenggis and settled in the Mount Burkhan Khaldun upstream of the Onon River where Batachigan was born to them (SHM §1)”
A Presidential Decree of 1955 formalised the worship of the Burkhan Khaldun Mountain as a national monument. Special worship is offered to the mountain according to a prescribed procedure at the main “Ovoo of the Heaven”; it is reserved for a few officials of the state and local administration, shamans and a few Buddhist lamas (monks).