Khinalughs - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Khinalughs are Sunni Muslims. They observe the custom of worshiping at pirs (the grave sites of holy people believed to have lived in Khinalugh in the distant past); among these are Jabarbabe pir, Pirajomerd pir, and Shikhshalbarazbabe pir. Alongside traditional Moslem holidays the Khinalughs have retained many pre-Islamic observances: rituals for bringing rain and sunshine, and a fire cult. There were various popular beliefs, including the following: during heavy rainfall young people made dolls of boards ( guzhul ), which they dressed in women's clothing and carried throughout the village while singing an Azerbaijani-language song to the effect that "tomorrow the sun will shine." The villagers gave them gifts of eggs and sweets.

Arts. Industrial arts include the ornamentation of carpets and the carving of designs in wood. Little has been preserved of Khinalugh folklore. There are proverbs in the Khinalugh language, but songs are sung in Azerbaijani, and the dances and music are likewise Azerbaijanian.

Medicine. Because of the absence of professional medical care, there was a high rate of mortality among the Khinalughs in pre-Revolutionary times, especially for women in childbirth. Herbal medicine was practiced, and births were assisted by midwives.

Death and Afterlife. Burials are performed according to Muslim practice and usually take place on the day of death. The body is wrapped in a shroud and carried to the cemetery on a stretcher by men, with the women following at some distance (women did not enter the cemetery). The relatives give assistance to the family of the deceased in the form of food (rice, sugar) and money. During the three days after death the villagers come by the home of the bereaved family to offer condolences. Seven days after burial women gather in the home of the deceased to mourn—these are residents of the village specially invited for this purpose. Visitors to the home are served pilaf if the deceased was of advanced age, only tea if he or she was young. The funeral banquet on the day of burial is not a large affair, and only those participating in the burial are invited. The principal funeral banquet is held on the third day after burial. The relatives go to the cemetery, bringing sweets to set on the grave. There is also a memorial on the first Thursday after death, at which relatives and fellow villagers are present. Subsequent memorials are held on the seventh and fifty-second day and the anniversary. Mourning attire is worn by all women of the village for three to seven days and for a longer period by relatives. Men let their beards grow out, and women wear black kerchiefs.

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