[wpspoiler name=”Altai throat singer Nohon Shumarov” open=”true” style=”aatw-video”][/wpspoiler]

Located in the center of Asia at the point where the Siberian taiga (forest), the deserts of Mongolia and the steppes of Kazakhstan come together, Altai is a mountainous region that has been known to shake with seismic activity. In the early 20th century Altai was the center of a religion called Burkhanism, which began when a man in Altai known as Chet Chelpan had visions of a man in white called Ak-Burkhan (“White Burkhan”) riding into the region to announce the coming of messianic hero Oirat Khan. When Burkhanists reacting to the incursion of Russians into the Altai region sought to unify local tribes in this religion the Russians rebelled and the Tsar had Chelpan arrested. The Tsar eventually freed him, but the Bolsheviks put an end to the religion when they consolidated power in Altai in the early 1920s.

Today, New Age tourists flock here from Russia, believing the Tibetan Buddhist “Pure Land,” a mythical kingdom known as Shambhala (“Shangri-La”), can be found somewhere near Mt. Belukha. Read this traveler’s account of a trek in search of Shambhala: “Shambhala is said to have ‘outer,’ ‘inner,’ and ‘alternate’ meaning. The Outer meaning is a physical place, where only people with appropriate Karma can reach. Inner meaning is a pure land that represents itself in your own body and mind. And alternative is a pure land represented in the practice of meditation.”

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