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Tengri (Old Turkic: ?, romanized: Te?ri or Old Turkic: :?, romanized: Kök Te?ri, Ottoman Turkish: ?, Turkish: Tanr?, Bulgarian: , Proto-Turkic *te?ri / *ta?r?; Mongolian script: ?,Tngri; Modern Mongolian: , Tenger) is one of the names for the primary chief deity used by the early Turkic and Mongolic peoples.
Worship of Tengri is Tengrism. The core beings in Tengrism are the Heavenly-Father (Tengri/Tenger Etseg) and the Earth Mother (Eje/Gazar Eej). It involves shamanism, animism, totemism and ancestor worship.
The oldest form of the name is recorded in Chinese annals from the 4th century BC, describing the beliefs of the Xiongnu. It takes the form /Cheng-li, which is hypothesized to be a Chinese transcription of Tängri. (The Proto-Turkic form of the word has been reconstructed as *Te?ri or *Ta?r?.) Alternatively, a reconstructed Altaic etymology from *T`a?giri ("oath" or "god") would emphasize the god's divinity rather than his domain over the sky.
The Turkic form, Tengri, is attested in the 8th century Orkhon inscriptions as the Old Turkic form ? Te?ri. In modern Turkish, the derived word "Tanr?" is used as the generic word for "god", or for the Abrahamic God, and is used today by Turkish people to refer to any god. The supreme deity of the traditional religion of the Chuvash is Tur?.
However, this proposal conflicts with recent reconstructions of the Old Chinese pronunciation of the character "?" as "qhl'iin" (Zhengzhang) or similar, with a lateral consonant (compare Wiktionary).
Tengri was the national god of the Göktürks, described as the "god of the Turks" (Türük Tängrisi). The Göktürk khans based their power on a mandate from Tengri. These rulers were generally accepted as the sons of Tengri who represented him on Earth. They wore titles such as tengrikut, kutlu? or kutalmysh, based on the belief that they attained the kut, the mighty spirit granted to these rulers by Tengri.
Tengri was the chief deity worshipped by the ruling class of the Central Asian steppe peoples in 6th to 9th centuries (Turkic peoples, Mongols and Hungarians). It lost its importance when the Uighuric kagans proclaimed Manichaeism the state religion in the 8th century. The worship of Tengri was brought into Eastern Europe by the Huns and early Bulgars.
Tengri is considered to be the chief god who created all things. In addition to this celestial god, they also had minor divinities (Alps) that served the purposes of Tengri. As Gök Tanr?, he was the father of the sun (Koyash) and moon (Ay Tanr?) and also Umay, Erlik, and sometimes Ülgen.
Tengri was the main god of the Turkic pantheon, controlling the celestial sphere. Tengri is considered to be strikingly similar to the Indo-European sky god, *Dyeus, and the structure of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is closer to that of the early Turks than to the religion of any people of Near Eastern or Mediterranean antiquity.
The most important contemporary testimony of Tengri worship is found in the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions, dated to the early 8th century. Written in the so-called Orkhon script, these inscriptions record an account of the mythological origins of the Turks. The inscription dedicated to Kul Tigin includes the passages (in the translation provided by the Language Committee of Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan): "When the blue sky [Tengri] above and the brown earth below were created, between them a human being was created. Over the human beings, my ancestors Bumin Kagan and Istemi Kagan ruled. They ruled people by Turkish laws, they led them and succeeded" (face 1, line 1); "Tengri creates death. Human beings have all been created in order to die" (Old Turkic: Öd Te?ri yasar kisi o?lu qop ölgeli törürmis), (face 2, line 9); "You passed away (lit.: 'went flying') until Tengri gives you life again" (face 2, line 14). Khagans ruled by the will of Tengri thought the ancient Turkic people and preserved these thoughts in the texts of the Orkhon inscriptions in the following way: "I, Tengri-like and Tengri-born Turk Bilge Kaghan, succeeded to the throne at this time" (Old Turkic: Te?iriteg Te?iride bolmu? Türük Bilge Qa?an bü ödüke olurtum).
In Turkic mythology, Tengri is a pure, white goose that flies constantly over an endless expanse of water, which represents time. Beneath this water, Ak Ana ("White Mother") calls out to him saying "Create". To overcome his loneliness, Tengri creates Er Kishi, who is not as pure or as white as Tengri and together they set up the world. Er Kishi becomes a demonic character and strives to mislead people and draw them into its darkness. Tengri assumes the name Tengri Ülgen and withdraws into Heaven from which he tries to provide people with guidance through sacred animals that he sends among them. The Ak Tengris occupy the fifth level of Heaven. Shaman priests who want to reach Tengri Ülgen never get further than this level, where they convey their wishes to the divine guides. Returns to earth or to the human level take place in a goose-shaped vessel.
"Tengrism" is the term for a revival of Central Asian shamanism after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In Kyrgyzstan, Tengrism was suggested as a Pan-Turkic national ideology following the 2005 presidential elections by an ideological committee chaired by state secretary Dastan Sarygulov.
Güngör, Harun (Winter 2013). "Tengrism as a religious and political phenomenon in Turkish World: Tengriyanstvo" (PDF). KARADEN?Z - BLACK SEA - ?. Erdo?an Altinkaynak. 19 (Winter 2013): 189-195. ISSN 1308-6200. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 2016.