Kurdish Culture (Kurdish:کولتووری كوردی (Kulturi Kurdi) or çand û toreya kurdî) is a group of distinctive cultural traits practiced by Kurdish people. The Kurdish culture is a legacy from ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society. Some aspects of Kurdish culture are close to that of other Iranian peoples; for example all of them celebrate Newroz as the new year day, which is celebrated on March 21.
Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish Classical performers - storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs and are epic in nature, such as the popular Lawik's which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular. Kurdish folklore is a very rich one. Kurds have their own national attire. The women usually wear colored dresses.These dresses differe from area to another area. One can tell from which province or city a certain lady is by looking at her dress. As to the men, they have the "shalûshepik" or "rengûchox" a sort of baggy trousers "shirwal" with an upper shirt. Round the belt they tie a long piece of cloth. The men also use "shashik" or "cemedanî" with a "claw" on their heads. Kurds love to dance and they have hundreds of folk-dances.The music usually have speedy tacts and high tuned. They mostly use the "zurna" (kind of flute) and "Dehol" (drum). While kurds also enjoy melancholic maqams or ballads that usually tells about events from the past. Many historians use these ballads as oral history passed through the generations.
Kurdish dance is a group of traditional hand-holding dances similar to those from the Balkans, Lebanon, and to Iraq. It is a form of round dancing, with a single or a couple of figure dancers often added to the geometrical centre of dancing circle.
According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Kurds sing and dance in all of their festivals, birthdays and marriage ceremonies. These folkloric dances are one of the main factors in distinguishing Kurds from neighbouring Muslim populations.
Kurdish dance has various and numerous versions such as following:
Kurdish rugs and carpets do use medallion patterns; however, far more popular are the all-over floral, Mina Khani motifs and the "jaff" geometric patterns. The beauty of Kurdish designs are enriched by high-chroma blues, greens, saffrons as well as terracotta and burnt orange hues made richer still by the lusturous wool used.
The traditional Kurdish Rug uses Kurdish symbols. It is possible to read the dreams, wishes and hopes of the rug maker from the sequence of symbols used. It is this signification and communication both individually and grouped into Kurdish rug making Kurdish people study how meaning is constructed and understood by talking with the rug maker.
Before the spread of Islam in the 7th century AD, the majority of Kurds practised their indigenous religions, which today are referred to as Yazdanism. Yazidism and Yarsan, which may have stemmed from and eventually replaced those religions, are still practiced among the Kurds. Most Yazidis live in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the vicinity of Mosul and Sinjar. Yazidis are also found in Syria, Armenia, Turkey, and Germany. Their holy book is "Mishefa Reş" (The Black Book). The Yarsan, or Ahl-e Haqq, religion is practised in western Iran, primarily around Kermanshah. There were also many Kurds who practised Zoroastrianism.
Before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, a large part of the Kurdish population practised Christianity. Kurdish Christians can still be found in small numbers, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdish kingdom of Adiabene, together with a large number of its Kurdish citizens, converted to Judaism during the 1st century BC. Tanna’it Asenath Barzani, who lived in Mosul from 1590 to 1670 was among the very first Jewish women to carry an official title normally reserved for rabbinic scholars.
In the 7th century, Arabs conquered the Kurdish regions and converted the majority of Kurds to Islam. The majority of Kurds today are Muslim, belonging to the Shafi school of Sunni Islam, distinguishing them in the region, (and to a much lesser degree, the Hanafi) Schools of Sunni Islam. There is also a significant minority of Kurds that are Shia Muslims, primarily living in the Ilam and Kermanshah provinces of Iran and Central Iraq ("Al-Fayliah" Kurds). The Alevis are another religious minority among the Kurds, mainly found in Turkey. There are also Kurdish Agnostics.
Some better known traditional Kurdish ceremonies or festivals include:
Legendary characters include:
Kurdish cultural heritage is rooted in one of the world's oldest cultures. In parts of Arbil, Southern Syria and Western Iran, the Kurdish young men practice an old culture in which growing a mustache and beard at a young age to prove their loyalty as a man and respect to their elders. Over the past century, this culture has disappeared in most of the area. The Kurds were formerly considered sufficient to describe themselves as the descendants of the Carduchi, who opposed the retreat of the Ten Thousand through the mountains in the 4th century BC. However, there is evidence of more ancient settlements in the region of Kurdistan. The earliest known evidence of a unified and distinct culture (and possibly, ethnicity) by people inhabiting the Kurdish mountains dates back to the Halaf culture of 6000 BC to 5400 BC. This was followed by the spread of the Ubaidian culture, which was a foreign introduction from Mesopotamia. In 1927, Ephraim Speiser discovered remains of ancient Halaf and Ubaid settlements in Tepe Gewre (Great Mound) 24 km northeast of Mosul. These settlements date back to between the 5th and 2nd millennium B.C., and include 24 levels of civilizations including Halaf and Ubaid. This site includes an acropolis with monumental remains and fine architecture. In their own histories, they are proud to mention the Hurrian period in the mid third millennium BC as the earliest well documented period. The 3rd millennium was the time of the Guti and Hattians. The 2nd and 1st millennium BC were the time of the Kassites, Mitanni, Mannai (Mannaeans), Urartu, and Mushku. All of these peoples shared a common identity and spoke one language or closely related languages or dialects. These groups are thought to have been non-Indo-Europeans, apart from the original Mitanni leadership. Kurds consider themselves to be Indo-European as well as descendants of the above groups. According to the Encyclopedia Kurdistanica, Kurds are the descendants of all those who have historically settled in Kurdistan, not of any one particular group. A people such as the Guti (Kurti), Mede, Mard, Carduchi(Gordyaei), Adiabene, Zila and Khaldi signify not the ancestor of the Kurds but only one ancestor. This heritage has been subject to injustices, neglect and repression, or has been eclipsed by other cultures. Important components of the original cultural heritage have disappeared or have been destroyed. There are numerous examples of how valuable or irreplaceable Kurdish physical heritage are endangered or destroyed, like the threat posed by the Illusi Dam in Turkey, where the oldest Kurdish city, Hasankeyf, soon is to be covered by water.
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- Tepe Gewre, The Columbia Encyclopaedia, Sixth Edition.
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