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The Alpamysh, part 18: Baychobar’s supernatural gallop

'The Path of Kathanka' by Susan Cavaliere.

Baychobar speeds across the steppe to catch up with the rest of the race in a miraculous sprint of supernatural proportions!

Supernatural stallions figure prominently in Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, two religious systems that made a deep imprint in Central Asia prior to the rise of Islam.

In Zoroastrianism, one of the three representations of Tishtrya, the hypostasis of the star Sirius, is that of a white stallion (the other two are as a young man, and as a bull). Meanwhile in Buddhism, Kanthaka was a white horse that was a royal servant and favorite ride of Siddhartha himself, the eventual Buddha. Siddhartha used Kanthaka in all major events described in Buddhist texts prior to his renunciation of the world. Following the departure of Siddhartha, it was said that Kanthaka died of a broken heart. In one story, it is said that Kanthaka jumped across a massive river in a single leap — something similar to what Baychobar shall do in this portion of the Alpamysh.

Baychobar is often referred to as being “winged”, although whether metaphorically or literally is unclear. Unsurprisingly, the ancient Turkic tradition does have an analogue to the Greek Pegasus: the Tulpar (Тұлпар). It appears in the national seals of both Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Readers should also note the allusion made to the Russians and other elements of sedentary Modernity, an example of the flexibility and adaptability of the dastan poetic form.

Baychobar became like fire, burning [in his gallop]. The four nails in [his] four hooves caused Baychobar’s eyes to flame [with pain]; his life was taken away [by the pain of the nails], his mouth agape, foamy sweat pouring from his breast. The horse was an ocean that was overflowing.

Karajan whipped him; Baychobar’s rump became fiery hot. His hooves became hot, he could not step down squarely. One full day he ran. Then, during the time of evening prayers, he [continued to run] under the force of the whip. At the time of the night prayers, Karajan begged of Chobar to take the right path.

On stony ground, he began tripping as if he had a hunchback. On narrow paths, he began swaying from side to side, his eyes rolling. If you look:

His breast became the size of a [doorway's] threshold;
his mane, with the beauty of silk, beautiful locks like the velvet at the market place;
a beautifully blazed creature, like the house erected on a hollow land;
a beautiful rump, like the reed pens cut by the mollas;
beautiful ears, like the plates that come from the Russians;
beautiful hooves, like the rabbit’s shining teeth, its molars are two fingers long.

Over six-fathom-tall rocks, as if a lightning bolt rumbling, Baychobar jumps — !

Siddhattha crossing the Anoma river on his loyal white horse, Kanthaka.

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