Dariganga is a district in the far east of Mongolia, a territory characterized from pastures extending as far as the eye can see and dotted with volcanic craters, sandy dunes and small lakes. All this makes this Eastern Mongolian corner one of the areas in the country with the most beautiful landscapes. Event tough it seems Dariganga is surrounded by unspoilt nature, untouched by the passing of time, History has been here too; especially a History of conflicts against dynasties that have occurred in China, the powerful neighbouring country.
Until 1912 this territory belonged to the Chinese Empire and its pastures were used to breeding imperial horses. Dariganga hosted also a large settlement of metal workers and goldsmiths. This widespread among local women the habit to wear elaborate jewellery, still visible today at National Museum of Ulaanbaatar. When in 1912 the so called Xinhai revolution dethrone the ruling dynasty, Dariganga declared itself independent and rejected attempts of recapture by the general Jodbajab. In the 1912 was defended with the help of Kalmuk communist troops as well.
One of the most interesting attractions of Sukhbaatar aimag, to which administratively belongs the Dariganga district, is the Shilin Bogd Uul among the holiest mountains in the whole Mongolia. Along the road between Shilin Bogd Uul and Dariganga there’s the Ganga Nuur, a lake that from September and middle October turns in a true paradise for the ornithology lovers, since it is populated by thousands of migrating swans. Around 10km from the lake in direction of the Shilin Bogd you’ll can find a statue depicting a man looking toward the Chinese border just a few kilometres away: is the monument dedicated to Toroi Bandi, the Mongolian Robin Hood.
Toroi Bandi is a character who really existed in the XIX siècle – when the Manchurian dynasty of Qing (1644-1912) was ruling the Chinese Empire – and today firmly entered in the Mongolian folklore. Historical sources claim the true name of Toroi Bandi has been Nanzad Danzan, born in 1834 in a poor family. He soon become orphan and seek shelter in a Buddhist monastery to study. This choice was not a happy one, the poor boy was constantly beat and bullied. A day he decided to go into hiding, kicking off the heroic deeds of Toroi Bandi, the Robin Hood of Mongolian steppe.
Longing for justice, he distinguished himself for horses and cattle stealing to the detriment of large farmers exploiting the pastures of the region. Furthermore, Toroi Bandi become famous for using to distribute to poorest people the spoil of his raids. Targets were as well the functionaries charged with the task of collecting taxes on behalf of the Manchurian rulers. For this reason, he become beloved by the local population: two times Toroi Bandi was helped to escape after been jailed by the imperial authorities. After each strike, the Robin Hood of steppe seemed to disappear sheltering into natural hiding places of the Shilin Bogd Mountain.
Even today the places that witness Toroi Bandi’s exploits are visited by a huge number of Mongols, going to render homage and show respect to the avenger bandit died in the 1904. The statue near the Ganga Lake have been built in 1999 and seems as if it wants to remind the Chinese neighbours that this already legendary hero is ready to came back, for defending the poor from unreasonable demands of the mighty. Maybe also to monitor what is happening in the region of Inner Mongolia, a Chinese area struggling with several issues.
Toroi Bandi has not been the only Robin Hood riding in Mongolian steppe, indeed were numerous those who found themselves to fight outlaw against the Qing dynasty, targeting the rich merchants and helping the poorest local population. All these men were hiding their real name and birthplace, because the disclosure of their identity could lead to repercussions for the whole community. Also the stolen cattle were handed out many provinces away, to avoid the recognition of livestock tags. Among them Toroi Bandi, who was also a singer and a musician, is definitely the most popular.
The story of Toroi Bandi takes place in a context of great crisis for the Qing dynasty over the hill, a period characterized by a lot of revolts like that of Taiping. The Empire became weaker and weaker and shortly thereafter will collapse under the blows of revolution; a revolution whom Toroi Bandi is part as well.