Dargins - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Dargins are Sunni Muslims of the Shafi school. Islam took root among the Dargins in the fourteenth century and reached its peak in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, facilitated by nationalist movements that assumed a religious form. The Islam of the Dargins has a strongly syncretic nature, with a substantial heritage of pre-Islamic pagan beliefs given Muslim form. The agricultural calendar and ceremonies and household and family rites have retained many elements of paganism: practices for warding off evil and initial, imitative, and other forms of magic. They are reflected in the rite of the first furrow, the most important and ceremonially richest Dargi rite; in the spring New Year holiday, with its personification of winter and summer and their dispute in dialogue; in the rites for making and stopping rain, calling out the sun, completing the harvest, beginning springtime work in the vineyards, and pasturing cattle; and in the holiday of flowers, the thanksgiving for plowing, the sacred trees and groves, and so on.

Arts. Architecture was extremely well developed among the Dargins. The folk masters of this art displayed a very high level of achievement in building and ornamenting towers, fortresses, ensembles of buildings, mosques, bridges, constructions at springs and wells. The artistry of the Dargins is clearly shown in their decorative and applied art: in the world-renowned creations of the Kubachi silversmiths; in the work of stonecutters, toolmakers, woodworkers, and ceramic and tile workers; in weaving, leatherwork, and furwork; and in spirited folk dance and vocal music.

Medicine. Prior to Russia's annexation of Dargi regions, Dargi medicine was a combination of folk and Eastern medicine. Folk healers ( khakim ) achieved considerable success in the treatment of wounds, bruises, broken bones, and dislocations and even in trephination; they were also skilled in phytotherapy and treatment of various internal diseases. The best-known healers were Murtuzali Haji of Butri, who studied medicine in Cairo for five years, worked with the Russian surgeon N. I. Pirogov, and was given a set of surgical instruments by him; Taimaz of Urakhi; Mohammed Haji of Khajalmakhi; Davud Haji of Akusha'; Alisultan Haji of Urkarakh; and others. Medical service was instituted only in 1894, with nine doctors and twelve nurses for all of Daghestan, a ratio of one medical practitioner to 60,000 persons. Now there is a paramedical station in every settled place, or a regional doctor, or a regional, district, or interdistrict hospital and a first-aid service with its own transport, including air transport.

Death and Afterlife. The Dargins see death as predetermined by faith. They believe in an afterlife, a judgment day, the bridge Sirat, heaven and hell, etc. Funerals follow the Muslim rite, with prayers for the deceased, generous funeral feasts, and memorials on the fortieth or fifty-second day.

See also Kubachins

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