Cholpon Ata

Once upon a time, a long time – so long ago that the people have forgotten exactly when it was – under a high mountain there was a city. Above the city towered the fortress of powerful khan. The khan was famous for his riches, but more than that – for his cruelty. Each day, some citizen was killed and his body thrown into the ground.

The old khan was lecherous and he heard that one poor peasant had daughter of inexpressible beauty. The Khan decided that he must have thus beautiful girl.

The girl and her father lived in small village, in the mountains, on a coast of the river. A lot of the young men from all around (Dzhigits) tried to win her hear, but she did not pay any of them any attention. To offers of love and marriage, from even the most courageous Dzhigits, she always answered, that she loved another.

Who was this beloved? – nobody knew, and she did not know either …

It came to pass – one day, when the sun peeped over the top of mountains, a Dzhigit on white steed came and together they rode off into the sky. A whirlwind blew-up and took them to mountain top covered with eternal snow. The strong Dzhigit embraced her, kissed her, then removed from his hand a ring and gave it to her. Placing it on her finger, he said: “I will soon return! Never remove this ring, and unhappiness will not touch you!”

Many days have passed, but the Dzhigit did not come back.

When the Khan’s matchmakers arrived to the girl village with gifts and offers – she rejected them all saying: "I love another and I shall not be another’s wife!”

The girl went up into the mountains, hoping to find once more the Dzhigit. In vain she called his name, only the echo of her own voice returned to her. The girl began to cry and started to make her way back home. She had not reached her village, when she was surrounded, seized, tied up and blindfolded by a gang of youths. When she was released and the blindfold removed she realized what had happened, that she was held prisoner in the Khan’s fortress, from which it was impossible to escape. It is better to die, she decided, than to become the wife of the Khan.

Her beauty and youth surprised the old Khan. He showered gifts upon her. But no gifts could win her over and make her change her mind. “I love another and I shall never be yours!”, was always her answer.

This “stubbornness” displeased the Khan, and he decided to take by force what he could not win with gifts. He again came to the girl, promising her love, everything, … even freedom.

“I love another!” – she repeated. The Khan rushed at her like a wild animal and she ran to a window. “I shall not be yours!”, she cried and threw herself from the window onto the ground below.

From where she fell at the foot of the high and might walls of the fortress, opened up caves and water gushed from them. From them flowed the waters light-blue, pure, clean, crystal clear, and as hot as the maiden heart, which formed the mountain lake, which the people called Issyk Kul.

It is said that if you stand on the shore at Cholpon Ata (“Cholpon’s Father”) you can see in the mountains opposite the face of the girl’s father who’s tears flow down the mountainside to add to the salt waters of the lake as he weeps for his beautiful daughter threw herself from the window high in the Khan’s citadel, rather than succumb to his evil advances and betray her true beloved. And, on quiet summer evenings, when the sun sets, the ruins of a fortress appear under the water and the voice of the girl can be heard.

There are a number of legends associated with how the village of Kochkor got its name. Perhaps the most romantic tells of a poor, well educated, young man – a traveler. On one of his journeys he stopped at the camp of the local Khan. The Khan had a daughter who was very beautiful – and many of the local prices had already tried to woo her – all of them unsuccessfully. In short, the traveler met her and fell in love – asking the father to allow her to marry him. Although the Khan laughed at the poor traveler, he was not amused and decided to teach him a lesson. He decided to set the would be son-in-law an impossible task. He offered the young man a chance to breed camels for 10 years (!) and if in that time his stock increased by a hundredfold, then he could marry the princess. The young man was so in love with the girl that he set about his task. The first winter was unusually harsh. One day there was an eclipse of the sun and a chill fell across the face of the earth and a storm blew in. The wind was so strong that the man could not even open his eyes. Exhausted, using the last of his strength, the young man cried allowed “Kach kar, Kach kar!” (which roughly translates as “Go away snow, Go away snow!”) Nature heard his cry and took pity on him – the storm abated, the wind died down and the snow stopped falling. From that day, so the legend has it – it rarely ever snows in Kochkor.

Incidentally, the young man was successful: he prospered and his herd of camels increased by the required amount and so he eventually married his princess. They had a son who became a great warrior.

Another legend tells of an old widow, who was very poor, who sent a sheep to market. She couldn’t go herself – so she entrusted it to a couple of her friends. The sheep was already very skinny and looked very sickly and the friends did not look after it very well on the journey. As a result, when they arrived at the market, no-one wanted to buy the animal. There was an organized "sheep-fight" and the men decided to enter the animal. Because it was thin it was able to fun around a lot more than its rivals around which it literally rang rings… until the opponent dropped from fatigue. Having done so well, it was entered for another, bout… and another. As well as earning a lot of prize money – and from bets, it became famous and the village was named in it’s honour – Kochkor.