The Altai Republic, Russia’s most mountainous region borders China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The region is barely larger than Maine has been inbabited since the Paleolithic times. This Eurasian region has served as a vital gateway to Siberia and the cradle of widespread human lineage. “It’s a place where people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years. It is believed that this is the area where ancestral Native Americans lived before they crossed the land bridge leading to the New World.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/2cGnL0XTU44″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
It is also from within the Altai region that the city of Shambhala is supposed to have existed. In Tibetan Buddhist and Indian Hindu/Buddhist traditions, Shambhala is a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia, most likely if it where ever a real place it would be found in the Altai mountains.
Shambhala gradually came to be seen as a Buddhist Pure Land, a fabulous kingdom whose reality is visionary or spiritual as much as physical or geographic. It was in this form that the Shambhala myth reached the West, where it influenced non-Buddhist as well as Buddhist spiritual seekers — and, to some extent, popular culture in general. In Altai folklore Mount Belukha is believed to be the gateway to Shambhala.
The Altaians were originally nomadic, with a lifestyle based on hunting / trapping and pastoralism (mainly sheep, goats, horses and sometimes camels), but many of them settled as a result of Russian influence. Despite the intense Tsarist and then Soviet policy of denationalization, the Altaians have largely maintained their traditions. Apart from painting and poetry, one of the most important forms of Altai art is the narration of epics to the accompaniment of the topshur (a lute-like string instrument). One of the legendary kai-chi (narrators), Deley, knew 77 of them by heart and the longest took seven days and nights.