Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

The path leading to St. Almerek Ata © Sattar Mazhitov

From Sacred to Truth

The creation of life on Earth begins with mystery. In pursuit of understanding mysterious things, humankind gained one of their most valuable qualities—veneration of sacred. Understanding the link between mystery and sacred has existed since the dawn of humanity. The first lightning in the sky and thunder, sunrise and moonrise, and heat and coldness—all these were once mysteries that people worshiped as to unknown and sacred. The first forms of worship were to water, sky, and wind—early formations of sacred spaces. Therefore, knowing who designates this or that object is sacred or what the criteria is not possible because no one knows all the mysteries of creation. Objects or artifacts that people qualify as sacred spaces are those that remind us that we are not alone in the universe.

Kazakhstan has about thirty sacred spaces. One such sacred space is the tomb of the holy Almerek-ata in Pokrovka Village on the outskirts of Almaty, the capital city.

According to legend, above Almerek’s tombs, there was a fiery arm flaming like a torch. The local inhabitants invited servants of the mosque who prayed, and only after the prayers did the arm disappeared. Since then they decided to erect a shrine over the tomb, and inside it they fixed a white flag.

Hanging white cloth to worship the great elder’s spirit © Sattar Mazhitov

The wise Almerek-ata (an elder) was a historical figure who lived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He was a famous warrior (batyr) and peoples’ judge (biy) who was notable for his holy qualities. When he was going against the enemy during battle, it seemed that a mysterious force was supporting him. When Almerek-ata spoke, it was as though the ancestors’ spirits were speaking together with him. He thought about a peaceful life and liked labor and creativity. When he did any handicrafts, cultivated the land, and made channels, it appeared that he was simultaneously creating an unusual sacred space.

From the very start, when visitors set foot on the land, they will feel a lightness and purity emanating from space, feelings that intensify when they get closer to the tomb of Almerek-ata. While talking, there is an impression that they simultaneously hear their inner and outer voice. It is as if they are embraced by transparent speaking air. Many people attach a white cloth or handkerchiefs as sign of worship to the great elder’s spirit and ask for his help.

Three healing springs are on the Almerek site. The first of them is considered a living spring. It can speak. If the spring wants to speak to you, then bubbles emerge on the surface of the water. At this moment visitors can ask for prosperity and healing. After drinking some water, visitors can wash the parts of their body that is unwell, and the water will make them better. One boy taking water into a plastic bottle said that he had been going to the holy place for water for nine years and that the healing property of the water depends on how strongly a person believes.

The first spring, the healing spring that speaks © Sattar Mazhitov

The second spring is two hundred meters away from the first. To get there, visitors need to descend along a stiff slope, but there are no longer any stairs. Below are two cabins covered with a plastic tent. This is where the anointment ceremony takes place by pouring oneself with the water from a bucket. They say the water heals everything from evil eye and deterioration to serious diseases.

The third spring is seven hundred meters away from the second one. In three cabins made of bricks, men and women can have a bath in turn. Visitors need to start pouring the water on the right shoulder and turning to the direction of Mecca. In doing, so one should pour the water an odd-number of times according to one’s capability. The distinctive feature of the third spring is that here people ask for accomplishment of their desires and wishes.

Visitors of the holy springs bathe in the hydro-therapeutic waters regardless the season. They take holy water from all three springs. On returning home, they use it for healing purposes. There is a story of a man who escaped from alcoholism after drinking the water from Almerek and another of a Moscow woman who was cured from cancer after visiting that holy place. Many people see Almerek-ata in their dreams after visiting the site.

There is a sacred feeling at the space where the famous historical figure has been resting. Here visitors receive invisible blessing, and the way to truth begins.