There are many mysterious and frightening legends surrounding the great lake. Here’s one of them.
A horrible cave called “Shaman’s Cave” has existed since olden days on the island of Olkhon. People are afraid of it because the Mongol ruler called Gegen-Burkhan - the brother of Erlen-Khan, the ruler of the dark underground kingdom – once lived there. Their ferocity and anger terrified the residents of the island. Even the shamans were afraid of these rulers, especially of Gegen-Burkhan. The locals knew that if this heartless and merciless ruler came to light, then there would be a trouble - the blood of innocent people would be shed. And in fact, many simple islanders suffered from the ruler’s cruelty.
However, at the same time a wise hermit called Khan-guta-babai lived on this island, on the Mount of Izhmey. He refused to recognize the rule of the Gegen-Burkhan, did not even want to hear about him, never descended to the lands of the ruler from his home. Many people saw how the old man lit a bonfire at the top of the mountain at night, cooked mutton for dinner. But there was no way to reach him, the mountain itself was considered inaccessible. The terrible master of Olkhon tried to subordinate the wise hermit, but failed. All the soldiers sent by him to Izhmey had bad luck. They fell dead from the mountain, because huge stones crashed onto the heads of uninvited guests. So they left Khan-guta-babai alone.
The situation was changed by one case when, by the order of Gegen-Burkhan, a young herdsman, a husband of a woman living on the island, was executed for the fact that he was allegedly looking at the ruler without due respect.
Having crying for a long time, the young widow felt fierce hatred for Gegen-Burkhan and began to think about how to release the island’s residents from this cruel master. She decided to consult the hermit and ask him to help her to protect the islanders after punishing Gegen-Burkhan.
So the woman set out on her journey, she climbed easily and freely where the most skillful warriors failed, and, finally, safely reached the top of the Izhmey Mountain.
Having heard the story of the brave, freedom-loving widow, Khan-guta-babai said that he would help both her and her people, and ordered the woman to go back and warn all the islanders about his support.
Khan-guta-babai himself came to the lands of Olkhon on a light white cloud on one of moonlit nights. He put his ear to the ground and heard the moaning of innocent victims killed by Gegen-Burkhan. The wise man finally realized that the land of Olkhon land was soaked with the blood of the unfortunate people, felt indignant and promised that there would be no more Gegen-Burkhan on the island. He also asked them: “But you must help me with this. Make it so that a handful of Olkhon land turns red when I need it!”
As the morning came, the hermit went to the Shaman’s cave. The angry ruler went out to meet him and asked him in a hostile way: “Why did you come?”
Khan-guta-babai calmly replied that he wanted the ruler to leave the island, and offered him to look around as a confirmation of his words.
Gegen Burkhan looked around and gasped. The frowning islanders stood in a dense wall at a short distance.
And then the wise man and the master of the island decided to fight. Gegen-Burkhan and Khan-guta-babai had fought for a long time, but none of them could get an advantage. They were real athletes with equal strength. Thus they parted, having agreed to solve the issue on the next day by casting lots. They agreed that each of them would take a cup, fill it with earth, and put this cup at his feet at night before going to bed. And if the earth in the cup becomes red during the night, its owner must leave the island and move to another place.
In the next evening, according to the agreement, they sat side by side on felt put on the ground in the Shaman’s cave, each of them put a wooden cup at his feet, then they filled the cups with earth and immediately went to bed.
Then the night came, and the treacherous underground shadows of Erlen Khan appeared with it: the cruel brother hoped for his help. The shadows noticed that the earth was colored in the cup of Gegen-Burkhan. They changed the cups at once. But the blood of the killed people turned out to be stronger than the shadows of Erlen Khan, so when the bright ray of the morning sun burst into the cave, the earth in the Khan-guta-babai’s cup lost its color and the earth in the Gegen-Burkhan’s cup grew red. And they both woke up at that very moment.
Gegen-Burkhan looked at his cup and sighed heavily: “Well, now you own the island, and I will have to wander to another place.”
He immediately ordered his Mongols to load their property onto camels and dismantle the yurts. And in the evening Gegen-Burkhan ordered everyone to go to bed. At night the Mongols with camels and all their property were quickly transferred to Baikal, captured by the powerful shadows of Erlen Khan, and in the next morning they woke up on the other coast.
However, many poor Mongols who were not involved in the atrocities of their ruler stayed on the island. Olkhon Buryats that live on the island nowadays originated namely from them.
The Professor of Irkutsk State University, Doctor of Biological Sciences Fedor Eduardovich Reimers spent his entire life working on plant physiology. He began as a simple teacher, later becoming a Director of the Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry and a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
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