A man is helpless twice along life's road; when he begins his journey and when he has grown old.
The huge cemeteries on the outskirts of every town or village testify to tire respect the Kyrgyz accord their dead. Funerals are traditionally large, costly affairs and the graves themselves are elaborate structures, frequently adorned with turrets or domes, decorated with marble or patterned brick tiles and topped with the Muslim crescent moon. In the past, when people had to move constantly with their herds, the Kyrgyz used to say the only proper time to have a settled home was after death
The funeral itself lasts about ten days but the period of ritual mourning goes on for a year. Firstly, two yurts are erected; one for the women mourners and the other for the body of the dead person. Relations and close friends then gather to mourn. By tradition people express their sorrow openly, and guests will begin weeping long before they reach the home. Horsemeat, the most prestigious and expensive of foods, is traditionally served, along with plov.
After three days of communal mourning, the dead person is buried in a white cloth. According to one custom, a woman reads a prayer on a white horse before riding away; other than this, women are not allowed at the burial. Every day for the following seven days the men go to the cemetery to read the Koran. The Kyrgyz say that the dead person is not used to being alone in the ground yet, and needs support.
On the seventh day, and again on the 40th, the family invites mourners to the house to read the Koran. Over the next year, people regularly visit the family and the cemetery to pray and express their condolences; the idea is to keep the family too busy to grieve. After about a year, the gravestone is erected and it is said that the family starts to mourn for the dead person, 'because this is finally the end, he's not here any more'. Families also visit the cemetery on religious holidays and on 8 May (Remembrance Day) to read the Koran and clean their ancestors' graves. Sometimes they hold a feast, slaughtering an animal and eating a special kind of bread.
Bruno de Cordier