Myths and legends of Kyrgyzstan
Legends of Issyk-Kul lake
Issyk-Kul- a unique lake and has had a specific reputation of being
voodoo amongst local people since ancient time. Before coming of Russian migrants
in XIX century there was nobody who caught any fish or swam in the lake.
One of the legends about the Issyk-Kul lake says that in olden times there
was a big and beautiful town on the territory where the lake is situated
Once a calamity, a strong earth-quake happened there and it did spare neither
the buildings nor the people. The earth went down and the depression was
filled with water. A lake was formed on the spot of the town.
It happened so that before the earth-quake a number of young girls had
left the town and went up the mountains to collect tezek, a kind of firewood.
And so only those girls remained alive. Every morning they came up to the
lake. They felt sad and woebegone as they could not bring their relatives
back to life. They cried much, their tears dropped into the lake and the
water of the lake became salted. Old people say that the lake is full of
human fates (kandoo-Kyrgyz).
Bitter sorrow and grief of those girls was later reflected in the name
of the lake – “Issyk-Kul”.
Old people believe that the character of the lake resembles that of those
girls -now it is silver gray, stormy and roaring, now it is calm and deliberative
and magnifies you with its transparent sapphire - colored water.
Once upon a time, so long ago that people have forgotten when, there was
a city by Issyk-Kul lake. A fortress of a powerful khan dominated the city.
The terrible governor learned that one poor nomad had a daughter of incomparable
beauty. The khan sent his jigits to bring the girl to him. However, the
girl had a beloved young man, who, before leaving for distant lands, put
his ring on the beloved's finger and asked her not to remove it until he
came back. "It will protect you from any misfortune!" the young man said.
The khan's envoys brought generous gifts to the girl's parents, but she rejected
the gifts stating: "I love another and cannot become a wife of the khan!"
When the khan's jigits grew more insistent, the girl escaped to the mountains
in an attempt to hide herself from them. All of a sudden, with horror she
found out that the ring on her finger had disappeared. The girl came back
to the village in the hope of recovering the lost ring, but the servants
of the khan seized her and took her to his camp. The khan imprisoned the
intractable girl in the fortress and tried various means of persuasion to
woo her for himself. His efforts were all in vain. "I love another and I
shall never be yours!" This was the beauty's answer. Having failed to enjoy
the girl's favor by gifts, the khan decided to possess her by force. Like
a beast, he charged towards the girl intending to overpower her. But she
rushed to the open window and threw herself out. Suddenly the unassailable
walls shook, the earth split and water gushed out of a crevice washing away
the fortress and the whole city, continuing to pour out until the whole valley
disappeared under the lake.
Once upon a time there was a formidable khan, ruling a beautiful town. Once
he met a beautiful girl on the side of the river and desired to take her
as a wife. The girl hated khan and resisted to this fact. She asked the dwellers
of the town to protect her but there was nobody who helped her. Meanwhile,
the khan immured the girl in to the tower until she would give her agreement.
The girl was crying bitterly about her fate and prayed to the heaven to be
rescued. Her entreaty was heard. The river, flowing thought the town went
out of its channel and sank the town, killing all indifferent people, khan
and the immured girl. Since that time, the lake has been salty and very shifty.
Sometimes it is quiet and tender as the perished girl, swashing quietly,
but another time it is formidable and scary, recalling the tragedy.
4. A khan Iskander
Once upon a time there was a beautiful town son the place of modern Issyk-Kul
lake and the cruel khan Iskander governed the town. He had a hidden secret:
he had two horns. In order to keep the secret he kelled his every barbers,
who cut his hair and shaved him. And a son of an old widow was next. The
widow knew that her son would die and tried to save him: she prepared 3 lepeshkas
(bread) on some milk from her breast and suggested the son to treat the khan.
While visiting the khan, according to the advice of the mother, he dropped
down the first lepeshka, and then the second one. When he dropped the third
one, the khan picked it up and ate - it tuned out to be very tasty and the
khan asked what it had been made from. This way they began to be the milk
brothers. The khan took the promising about his secret from a poor man and
let him go home. On the 3 day the young man came to the khan because he had
a prurience to open up to somebody about the khan`s secret so much that his
belly swelled. The khan ordered to open a cover of a big well in the center
of the town and shout 3 times: “Our Iskander has two horns”. The young man
couldn`t shout the 3 time because a lot of water came out the well and sank
the town, formed the lake Issyk-Kul.
5. Cholpon and 2 men (baatyrs)
It happened when the kyrgyz people lived as one tribe next to the ice mountains.
There was a beautiful girl Cholpon by name with the eyes, which were bluer
and cleaner than sky and brighter than stars, shining on the sky. Two young
men (djigits), Ulan and Santash, fell in love with Cholpon. They were ready
to donate their lives for her heart. She didn’t make her choice. The men
began to fight between each other: they injured each other, tore clothes
and they shed their blood for the right to be with Cholpon. They were equal
and their relatives began to fight drowned each other in blood. Cholpon didn’t
know show to stop the men and she pulled out her heart out of the chest so
that nobody possess it and fell down as a dead. She was tombed on the high
mountains with the face turning to the rising sun and the town nearby was
The people cried for along time about Cholpon. Their hot tears sank the
valley and formed the lake Issyk-Kul.
The men stopped their fighting and the tribe separated into two parts -
Kungey and Terskey and settled down on the north and south sides of the lake.
The men have remembered a beautiful Cholpon until our time. It is believed
that their` souls exist in some winds and when the winds meet each other,
they are booming, moaning and bellowing and the awful storm usually comes
after that. The winds – men (baatyrs) Ulan and Santash come to meet each
other from the west and east in order to fight until wear and tear. Then
they die down and renew their eternal age - old contest.
The Kyrgyz remember many legends about how the lake was formed, about
ancient cities and the catastrophe that drowned them, when water poured
out of the wells and flooded the cities.
Another legend states that Alexander the Great flooded the valley to
comply with the desire of a Persian hero, Rustem, who reigned in Andijan
and possessed the lands around Issyk-Kul. Before his death Rustem wished
that the bones and relics of his companions-in-arms and ancestors should
be inviolable forever. After the conquest of the lands around Lake Issyk-Kul
Alexander decided to execute the last will of the hero. From a girl who had
fallen in love with him, he found out about the well that could flood the
whole valley. His beloved gave Alexander a casket with a key to the door
that covered the entrance to the well. Opening the door the well bubbled over
with flood waters that drowned the surroundings. There is also a legend stating
that it was Tamerlane in the 15th century who decided to destroy the rebellious
According to one of the legends, in the city there was a spring from
which water came out with such a force that each person coming for water,
after filling a bucket, hurried to cork up the well's throat with a heavy
stone. It happened that a young man met a young woman at the spring and
they tarried too long with love chatter. Forgetting to replace the stone
onto the fountain, the rushing water flooded not only the city but the whole
valley as well.