The holiday of the first furrow is celebrated with races, songs, and dances by the people of western and central Daghestan -- Avars, Dargins and Laks. It marks the time when the spring warmth comes and the soil is ready for sowing. This year people gathered in the village of Balkhar on April 6, and carried out festive rites for a fruitful and prosperous year.
The man who makes the first furrow is regarded as respected and fortunate. Fellow villagers throw snow and dirt at him, as a symbol of the tough weather conditions in this region. It is believed that if he withstands the challenges with a calm and composed face, the harvest will be strong.
After the furrow is plowed, people return to the village and celebrate. Different competitions are held and villagers of all ages race in the streets for prizes.
The most respected people of the village wait with bread and dough figures, prizes for the winners, at the finish line.
In some villages the prizes are richly decorated with fruits, nuts, candies, or boiled eggs.
Afterwards, horse races are run outside the village.
Adults and children cheer the riders on.
The festival ends with songs and dances.
Some Balkhar women are dressed in traditional outfits with bright orange scarves and metal ornaments, which they receive as presents for special occasions.
In recent years the festival has become popular among tourists. Buses and cars from all around the country converge on this small village. The Balkhars gladly welcome visitors, generously treating them to ceremonial dishes made of seven cereals, and inviting them into their homes.
After the celebration, the tired villagers return to their homes. The next day, hard work awaits them in the fields. But the successfully observed rite promises a rich harvest.