Naadam is a traditional festival in Mongolia. The festival is also locally termed eriin gurvan naadam (эрийн гурван наадам) the three games of men. This is Eastern version of olympics like Ancient Greeks. The games are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery, and are held throughout the country during midsummer. Women have started participating in the archery and girls in the horse-racing games, but not in Mongolian wrestling.
In 2010, Naadam was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.
The biggest festival (National Naadam) is held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar during the National Holiday from July 11 – 13, in the National Sports Stadium. Naadam begins with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians. After the ceremony, the competitions begin. The competitions are mainly horseback riding.
Naadam is the most widely watched festival among Mongols, and is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another. Naadam has its origin in the activities, such as military parades and sporting competitions such as archery, horse riding and wrestling, that followed the celebration of various occasions, including weddings or spiritual gatherings. It later served as a way to train soldiers for battle. Now it formally commemorates the 1921 Revolution when Mongolia declared itself independent of China. Naadam also celebrates the achievements of the new state. Naadam was celebrated as a Buddhist/shaman holiday until secularization in the 1930s under the communist influence of the Soviet Union.
The three sports are called “Danshig” games. They became the great celebration of the new nation, where the nobility got together to dedicate to the Jabzundamba Khutugtu, the new head of state.
Genghis Khan’s nine horse tails, representing the nine tribes of the Mongols, are still ceremonially transported from Sukhbaatar Square to the Stadium to open the Naadam festivities. At these opening and closing ceremonies, there are impressive parades of mounted cavalry, athletes and monks.
Another popular Naadam activity is the playing of games using shagai, sheep anklebones that serve as game pieces and tokens of both divination and friendship. In the larger Nadaam festivals, tournaments may take place in a separate venue.