Architectural masterpieces of Vangazi village

Issue #3 • 988

Two magnificent monuments of architecture of the 16th century -Tash-mosque and the minaret having the great art value, have been preserved in the village of Vangazi, Kyzyltepa district, Navoi region of Uzbekistan. The Tash-mosque is unique for, first, it is only djuma-mosque dated from the 16th century with multi-column hall; second, here is original and improved version of column-cupola structures with use of cupolas of different sizes. The minaret is the highest and finest among the constructions of this type dated from the 16th century and preserved in Central Asia. However, both structures as the architectural complex in a whole have been poorly studied yet, and have not found reflection in the scientific literature.

About the village of Vangazi.
The history of development and numerous renamings of Vangazi village is ancient and rather interesting as it is connected with a line of the important historical events running in Central Asia. However, to give full description within the framework of a short article is impossible. We shall note just, that analysis of discrete historical, archival (1, p. 20; 2, f.39Or; 3, p. 7 – 8, etc.) and bibliographic (4, p. 150; 5, p. 136, 223 and 6, p. 77, etc.) data has revealed that Vangazi is the latest name of the big Vangazi on the Great Silk Road, between Bukhara and Samarkand.

The first documentary mention of toponame, close to Vangazi, was met in the manuscript of Badriddin Kashmiri dated back to the late 16th century, which informed that the settlement “Vangaze, known under its ancient name “Tavavis” was located approximately nine farsakhe (45 – 50 km) from the brilliant city of Bukhara eastward on a road running to the Nursky mountains (Kuhi-Nuri)” (1, f. 390 r).

Until recently have been precisely known neither the date of construction nor the customer of these structures preserved in the village of Vangazi. Some scholars (5, p. 29) considered the Tash-mosque a structure of the 16th century erected under the order of Abdullakhan II, the others (6, p. 125) dated the minaret at the mosque to the 18th century.

Meanwhile, according to the data contained in the manuscript of Badriddin Kashmiri mentioned above, “Ravzat ar-Rizvan va hadikat al-gilman”, it appeared that the mosque and minaret were built in 1585 – 1586 under the order of the well-known religious person – Khodja Sa’ad Djuibari (1, p. 49).
Epoch, the governor and personality of the donor.
In the 16th century, at the reigning of the Uzbek dynasty of the Shaybanids, the Bukhara oasis has been surviving the blossoming of culture, art and architecture. The most powerful member of this dynasty – Abdullakhan II (1556 – 1598) and his aliens, in particular his spiritual teacher – shaykh, the head of Sufi order of Khodjagon – Khodja Sa’ad Djuibari built numerous charitable and commercial structures both in Bukhara, and all over the state, especially in vicinities of Kermineh, where once ruled the father of Abdullakhan-II, Iskandarkhon Shaybani.

Thanks to personal activity as well as to generous gifts from murids, Khodja Sa’ad had increased his riches much. He built both commercial and charitable institutions. So, along with construction of caravans – serays, sardoba (water reservoirs covered with cupolas were constructed mainly on caravan roads), medreseh and bathhouses, he reconstructed or built anew numerous mosques and at least two big minarets in different settlements of the Bukhara oasis (for example, Qarakul, Zandana and others). The largest among the preserved structures were djuma-mosque of Khodja-Kalon with the minaret of Gaukushon and Tash-mosque and minaret in the village of Vangazi.

The architectural complex in the village of Vangazi.
In the middle of the 20th century, the Tash-mosque was a component of the architectural complex being a public and cultic center consisted of numerous structures of medreseh and bathhouses built later, but having been lost. The complex was located on a plain area, eastward from which was aryk, and on the north it was bordered by a road, the south and west sides of the complex adjoined the old cemetery. Availability of the cemetery as well as medreseh and a bathhouse in the complex allows the author, proceeding from the logic and tendencies of development of the medieval architecture in the Bukhara oasis, to assume that at this cemetery was buried some saint person. In a course of time, around his tomb having become a place of the worship had been developing the architectural complex. It is possible to guess, that earlier there was a Sufi center with khauz in the middle of the courtyard (now the square), and the old mosque served also Sufi khanaka. The buildings of the complex during many centuries were being reconstructed; some of them have been lost.

In accordance with measurements, executed in 1949 by A.Balaev, the complex from two sides – on the south and the west was built up with a number of structures in F-shape (7): in the western part – the Tash-mosque, which adjoined medreseh, thick-walled premise marked on the drawing as mazar, and small structures of later period, probably, taharatkhana (a premise for ritual ablution) and a bathhouse. To the southern wing of the Tash-mosque, along its main facade adjoined aivan on six wooden columns serving, probably, a summer mosque as in its western wall there was mikhrab. In the southwestern corner of the square towered the high well-balanced minaret; in the southern part was located maktab with aivan on five wooden columns.

The old photo gives the picture of the medreseh, where behind the minaret towers the two-storey multi-dome structure, similar, according to the local old residents telling, with the building lost in 1930s (6, p. 125). In 1980s, because of dismantling or reconstruction of some structures, some scholars (10, p. 1.) mention just the bathhouse; as for the old building of maktab located in the south, they specify it as medreseh with aivan.

A value of the Tash-mosque in the history of architecture of Central Asia.
The building of mosque, rather original in constructive and design solution, represents a culminate point in development of Central Asian monumental column-cupola structure of roofing made from brick (5, p. 29). It is rare for the 16th century type of djuma-mosque for at that time and in this region basically were erected architecturally more traditional djuma-mosques of a courtyard composition, with a spacious inner courtyard, such as djuma-mosques of Kalyan and Khodja in Bukhara.

The second and less characteristic, especially for the 15th – 16th centuries, type of djuma-mosque included buildings consisted of a big, covered multi-column hall (so-called “a wood of columns”) without inner courtyard, often having monumental column-cupola structures, which had been erected in the oasis since the 10th – 12th centuries. The examples preserved are mosques of Maghoki-Attari in Bukhara (the 10th – 12th centuries) and Diggaron (the 11th century) in the settlement of Khazara near the city of Kermineh.

In the 16th – 17th centuries, in the period of economic and cultural blossoming – in the city of Bukhara as an echo of these ancient traditions were constructed some column-dome mosques from the brick (Kulbaba of Kukeltash of the 16th century, Maghoki Attari – reconstructed in the 16th century and Maghoki Kurpa, the 17th century).

In different settlements of the Bukhara oasis were constructed universal rural column-dome mosques, which combined functions of quarter and djuma mosques. Due to monumental column-dome structures from the burnt brick, these rural structures got a name – Tash-mosques, i.e. stone, for example, near the village of Gidjumak (the 15th century) in Ghijduvan district; in the village of Vangazi (the 16th century); in Vabkent district (the 16th century), etc. The Tash-mosque in the village of Vangazi is original in more picturesque volumetric composition, improved layout and design. Rather valuable facts on a date and customer of the Tash-mosque and minaret in Vangazi, given in the manuscript of Badriddin Kashmiri “Rayzat ar-Rizvan va hadikat al-gilman”, were revealed and translated by the orientalist B.Babadjanov: “In the village of Vangaze there was a carcass mosque, which in a course of time has decayed. And Khodja Sa’ad Djuibari (died in 1598) ordered to destroy this mosque and to construct a new one of the burnt brick, and to add a high minaret” (1, p. 49). The text of Kashmiri does not give clear description, what design had the hall of the first mosque; however it is possible to assume, that the mosque in the settlement of Vangazi having decayed by the end of the 16th century was a big building with carcass walls “kosh-sinch”. Approximately, in 1580 Khodja Kalon ordered to reconstruct this mosque again. Old carcass structures had been dismantled, and on this place was erected a new multi-column hall of the mosque, but then completely from the burnt brick with multi-dome roofing. Construction of this mosque “had been lasting for six lunar years and was completed in 993 (1585-1586)” (2, p. 49).

Architecture of the mosque.
The Tash-mosque in Vangazi was erected on a high (about 70 cm) platform and frontally extended along the main facade. In its picturesque volumetric – spatial composition are notable a monumental portal and a big blue dome on a high drum, which occupies the central part. The rectangular layout of the mosque of 24×40 m in size includes one hall covered with two big and sixteen small identical domes, basing on foundations – pillars. The layout has three sections: middle and two lateral, located on the sides. In the middle section, on a central axis of the building are placed: a portal entrance, a lobby blocked under a dome of 3.8 m in diameter; before mikhrab there is a central part of the hall roofed with a big blue dome, which diameter is 5 m. Inside the hall, opposite to the entrance, in a back wall is installed a deep niche of mikhrab that indicates the direction to Mecca to the praying people.

Two other lateral sections are identical in their solution and represent eight-dome two-rowed gallery (four domes in each row) on three powerful pillars. Each of sixteen identical small domes of 3.2 m in diameter bases on pointed arches with pendentives in corners. In all walls of the mosque, except the western wall with mikhrab, in addition to the front entrance are installed four auxiliary doors with lancet windows above them.

The frontal side of the mosque is oriented to the east. The main entrance is marked with a high portal decorated with lancet niches on pylons and a horizontal panel “kitoba” with epigraphic ornament above tympan. The side walls have the brick texture with accented lines of joints. The western – back facade is flanked on the corners with three-quarter towers “guldasta”; in the middle there isa ledge equal to a depth of mikhrab niche with two lancet windows at its sides. Probably, in the 1970s have been still preserved such elements in decor as mosaic panels in tympans of the entrance portal, “in the interior – the stalactite arch of mikhrab decorated additionally with ganch carving (zandjara) and kyrma (Girichs, vazons)” (5, p. 29).

In the interior sectioned by powerful columns, all surfaces of walls and plafonds are plastered with ganch. The hall is rather well illuminated by means of big apertures cutting a high drum of the big dome in the center of the mosque. This creates a perfect game of light and shadow within white interior. The window apertures are supplied with inserted ganch lattices “pandjara”. The doors are decorated with carved ornament, mikhrab niche – with ornamental painting.
The building is constructed from big square burnt brick of 29x29x5 cm in size. The floor is covered with the brick put flat-wise.

The minaret erected beside the Tash-mosque of 24 m in height, in details imitating the silhouette, decor and balancing of Vabkent minaret of the 12th century is rather expressive. Dating of erection of this tower in Vangazi is rather debatable point. Opinions of some scholars are close each other and, I think, wrong as they could indicate the date of late restoration of the minaret but not a date of its construction. Therefore, V.Nilsen dates it back to the 18th century. Another date is given in the inscription on A.Balaev’s drawing “minaret Azizabat-1294″. Probably, this is a name; of this structure being in use in the middle of the last century, and the date – 1294, most likely, indicates the year of Hegira correspondent to 1877 according to modern time computation.

Moreover, besides that, according to local old residents, in the 18th – 19th centuries the same master restored minarets in the village of Vangazi and the city of Vabkent. Probably, this touched the stalactite eaves on the minaret in Vangazi, which now has a little another colour of the brick and simplified big stalactites. Probably, this date of the late restoration was inserted into the decor of the minaret, and many scholars including A.Balaev, considered this date as the date of construction.

The minaret has preserved almost original form and is a sample imitating more ancient regional traditions typical of the Bukhara oasis. From the ancient time, minarets were obligatory attribute of a cathedral mosque and intended for calling of the Muslims for praying. They had also rather important town-planning value – enriched panorama of a city or village, served a reliable high orientation point in city-planning, marking a place of the public center with a cathedral mosque, markets, medreseh and others.

In Central Asia more widespread were minarets with round body thinning upward, which was topped with an arch lantern. Thinning of a body upward, considered system of internal communications and powerful foundations, gave reliable stability to the minaret. In structure, it consisted of internal column, around of which a spiral stair twisted upward and external wall with circular section. Brick steps as well as radial wooden bars installed on edges of these steps connected the internal column and external wall of the minaret as if reinforcing the structure in a whole. The spiral staircase led onto the top platform, which was installed in a form of a lantern with arch apertures, whence muedzin-azanchi called the Muslims for praying.

One of the most significant by its size and art value among the preserved in Central Asia, was the Bukhara minaret of Kalyan (1127, height – about 47 M), which became an example for imitation in almost all later minarets in the Bukhara oasis. Its earliest imitation that was done 70 years later, in 1197, became a minaret at the cathedral mosque in Vabkent, which has not preserved. The architectural solution was almost the same. Meanwhile, due to more harmonious proportions of the body (diameter at the basis – 6.2 m, at the top – 2.8 m, height 40.3 M) the Vabkent minaret seems higher and looks more balanced than its Bukhara prototype, though actually it is 7 m lower.

A feature of minarets in the Bukhara oasis was arch lantern with stalactite eaves bell-shaped upward, which slightly hanged above the body. After the 12th century even the largest minarets, erected by Khodja Sa’ad in the 16th in the oasis – Gaukushon in Bukhara and the minaret in Vangazi in size were 2 – 2.5 times less than their prototype. The most similar with Kalyan by a shape and proportions – Gaukushon (1579 – 1580) was 19.5 m in height and 4.8 m in diameter at the bottom of its body.

Constructed in 1585 – 1586, the minaret at the Tash-mosque in the village of Vangazi was the highest among the erected in the 16th century: height – 24 m, the bottom diameter – 3.8 m, basement and foundation were from the stone (8, p. 2). The body is decorated with six belts of relief and crowned with eight-arched lantern with stalactite eaves at the basis and top.

It is rather remarkable, that the tower of Gaukushon in Bukhara was a small copy of the minaret Kalyan, and the tower in the village of Vangazi, located nearby Vabkent, was as if reduced copy of the Vabkent minaret. These facts give the reasons to speak about local features of minarets’ architecture within the school of the Bukhara oasis. According to researches done by the engineer A. Asanov, all Central Asian minarets had a number of constants connected with durability of structure and size of human body (9, p. 51). In the above-mentioned minarets, besides these requirements, were installed rather strong foundations and were kept optimal proportions. Thanks to that, the minarets of the 12th – 16th centuries in Central Asia have preserved their initial height of the body only in the Bukhara oasis.

In this article, the author on the basis of searching, generalization and analysis of written and archival materials gave the results of preliminary study of dating and architecture of Vangazi monuments. Comprehensive research in history, history of architecture and separate monuments in this village will be continued.
Now the restoration works on the Tash-mosque and minaret in the village of Vangazi are coming to the end, the territory of the complex is being planned; another ancient shrine (zieratgokh) of Uzbekistan with remarkable monuments of architecture of the 16th century has been revived.

Author: Mavlyuda Yusupova

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