Sept 18 Shah-i-Zinda Complex

The Shohizinda Architectural Complex exhibits a large collection of mausoleums the 11th – 15th centuries, which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site

the Gur-Emir Mausoleum – a tomb of the Timurid dynasty, known as the Khodscha Doniyor Mausoleum than the prophet Daniel and the the mausoleum of Imam al-Maturidi

Gur-Emir Mausoleum, Samarkand

One of the most significant architectural ensembles of medieval East – the Gur Emir was built in the southwestern part of Samarkand at the beginning of the XV century. This majestic complex consisted of a khanaka, the madrasah of Muhammad Sultan – grandson of Amir Timur, and, later, tombs of Amir Timur himself and his descendants.

The madrasah, a small building with a typical yard composition was meant to teach the children Samarkand nobility. Opposite to the madrasah there located a khanaka with a central hall and cells – hudjras. The both buildings were erected by Mukhammad Sultan’s order to be become a center of Islamic education. But Muhammad sudden death in 1403 led to a change in an intended use of the complex.

After the death of Muhammad Sultan, Amir Timur was inconsolable: he ordered to put temporarily the remains of his beloved grandson in a madrasah’s corner room – darskhana, and immediately started the construction of the mausoleum which closed the ensemble from the south.

The complex courtyard was decorated with a single decorative wall with four minarets located at its corners, while from the north it was decorated with a magnificent entrance portal containing a name of the architecture – Muhammad ibn Mahmud Isfahani.

However, Tamerlane did not live to see the mausoleum finished, he died in winter 1405. The construction was completed by another Tamerlane grandson – Ulugbek. Although Amir Timur already prepared a mausoleum for himself in his native Shakhrisabz, it was Gur Emir that became his tomb and a burial place of his descendants. There rest his two sons – Shahrukh and Miranshah, beloved grandsons – Muhammad Sultan and Ulugbek as well as Timur’s spiritual mentor – Mir Said Baraka.

Today, the burial places in Gur Emir Mausoleum are marked with gravestones. The Timur’s gravestone, made of a single piece of jade, is located in the center of the tomb. The burials themselves are located below, in the mausoleum basement. The graves are located just in the same way as the gravestones in the hall upstairs. The Timurid tombs were opened only once in 1941, this event generated a famous legend.

The mausoleum is a fine example of medieval architectural craftsmanship. The contemporaries still admire the harmony of its proportions. The ribbed dome and vault walls are completely covered with a mosaic of light and dark blue glazed bricks, gilding and painting. The relief rosettes on the dome imitate a starry sky. The interior is enriched with bar tracery grids in the windows, marble and onyx panels covered with paintings, carving and inlaid with semiprecious stones.

Subsequently, Gur Emir was a prototype for famous samples of architecture of the Great Mughal: Humayun Mausoleum in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Timur descendants, who ruled northern India.

Today Gur Emir Mausoleum and its entrance portal are renovated by the restorers, but the khanaka and madrasahs, unfortunately, are left only ruins.

Mausoleum of St. Daniel, Samarkand

There is hardly any place in the world is a where Muslim, Christian and Jew come to pray. But this Tomb of the Old Testament Prophet Daniel, also known as Daniiel, or Doniyar.

It is situated on the outskirts of the settlement Afrasiab that is in the north-east of Samarkand. On a high bluff of the hill there stretched a long 5-domed building of the mausoleum, and at the foot of the hill there is the river Siab. The sprawl of the building is directly connected with the tomb, whose length is equal to 18 meters.

Many legends and hypotheses are connected with this grave. Some argue that the remains were brought here by early Christians, others are inclined to think that they had been ordered to deliver to Samarkand by famous medieval ruler Amir Timur (Tamerlane).

There are also differences between what it is in the tomb: some sources say that the burial of St. Daniel’s arm, the other counter, and say that here they brought only a handful of earth from the grave of the saint. The third contradiction is associated with belonging of the remains, where featured two faces: the first – the prophet Daniel, the second Khoja Doniyar – associate of Kusama ibn ‘Abbas (Shahi-Zinda).

There are also legends about the size of the grave. According to one interpretation, the holy relics increase from year to year. Others argue that the tomb is made large, so no one can accurately find the location of the remains and steal them.

Be that as it may, this mausoleum, being away from other attractions in Samarkand, is attracting a huge number of pilgrims of many nationalities and religions. And you should not be a believer to feel calm and peacefulness of the place.

Mausoleum of Imam al-Moturidi, Samarkand

The tomb of Imam al-Moturidi is another sacred place in Samarkand. The grand Imam and famous philosopher and theologian fought for the purity of Islam. He was buried there in 944, in the cemetery Chokardiza where many other famous scientists of Islam world were buried as well. Once upon a time a military fortress was here, therefore the cemetery has such a name: “Chokar” means “army” “Disa” means a fortress.

In 1947 the cemetery was leveled to the ground. Ten years ago the grave was found again it for visiting it was opened only on the 17th of November 2000. In 2000 1130-year anniversary of Imam al-Moturidi was widely celebrated. The mausoleum was restored in Chokardiza, and the entire territory was landscaped.

the mausoleum by Imam al-Maturidi, who was primarily considered the founder of the Sunni Maturidiyyah school of the Theosophy (Kalam) and Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) is known.

Ali Nasafi Tomb, within the Shah-i-Zinda Complex (built 1360s-1380s)

The so-called “Tomb of Ali Nasafi” is located on the west side of the alley of tombs within the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, roughly halfway along the path. It is one of a several dozen tombs built along the south side of a hill that formed the core of Afrasiyab, the city that preceded Samarkand prior to its destruction by the Mongols. The name “Shah-i-Zinda”, or “The Living King”, refers to the legend that Qutham ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad who perished here in the first siege of Samarkand by Islamic forces, is not in fact dead, but descended into a well and remains the king of an underground paradise. In honor of the saint, the site has attracted tomb building from the 11th through the 19th centuries, with many of its finest tombs built in the Timurid era (late 14th-early 16th century).

Despite its designation as the “Ali Nasafi tomb”, nothing is known of who was buried here and what relation (if any) they had to the royal family of Timur. The present name of the tomb is taken from an inscription at the base of the door jamb within the pishtaq, which attributes the tomb’s construction to a certain ostad (master artisan) Ali Nasafi, whose surname indicates the likely hometown of Karshi in what is now central Uzbekistan. Although not included in the tomb’s present name, another ostad named Ali Tuki-kub left his signature on the opposite side of the door jamb in the same position. In the absence of further information, it is reasonable to assume that the two masters were equal participants in the execution of the tomb, as they both used the same titles (ostad) and inscribed their names in similar locations on opposite sides of the entrance.

The iconography of the tomb’s richly decorated pishtaq and interior surfaces provides a wealth of calligraphic samples in Arabic, mostly written in square Kufic script. These mostly consist of verses from the Quran such as Sura 112 “The Unity”, Sura 114 “The Men”, and the entirety of verse 255 from Sura 2:

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi [throne] extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

As these verses are drawn directly from the Quran, they do not provide any useful information regarding the tomb’s occupant, other than that he/she was a Muslim. The only calligraphy that suggests more detail are the names of the twelve imams inscribed within several of the 8-sided star motifs on the front of the pishtaq. It may be an indication that the occupant had Shi’ite affiliations or was sympathetic to Shi’ite beliefs. Beyond that, nothing written on the tomb brings its occupant into closer focus. It remains possible that such identifying information once existed on the tomb but was located in one or more areas that did not survive the passage of time. The present “complete” appearance of the tomb is deceptive, as roughly 40% of the facade’s tile work are recent restorations, albeit of excellent quality.

The historians Soustiel and Porter suggest the monument was erected in two phases from the 1360s to the 1380s. The first phase involved the plan of the tomb which is similar to others from that era. Also, the specific use of buff bricks and turquoise key motifs is emblematic of the prevailing style of the 1360s. In contrast, the interior decoration and main facade are clearly of a more advanced nature and reflect techniques and motifs commonly used in the 1380s. For example, Lisa Golombek notes that “the technique of painting tiles with a wide-ranging palette, including low-fire pigments such as red and gold, enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the region” (Golombek, p. 145), and notes that Ali Nasafi tomb is a relevant example of this short-lived trend.

Ultimately, this suggests the occupant was a person of some stature if construction of the tomb was maintained over a period of 20 to 30 years. Alternatively, it remains possible that the original tomb of the 1360s was never completed (and its occupant interred elsewhere), and the two osted were retained in the 1380s to complete its decorative treatment for another occupant.

One significant unknown is the state of the outer dome in this chronology: as the dome collapsed long ago (fortunately, not damaging the inner dome with its splendid ceiling), it is impossible to say what sort of decoration was used and to what extent it had been completed when the two masters began their work.

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