Plan – miniature of Bukhara of the mid – 19th century

Issue #4 • 1430

Different topographic plans of Bukhara done in different periods and by different people are of great interest for researchers. The plan said in this article is connected with a name of the famous orientalist Peter Ivanovich Lerkh (1827 – 1884), a member of Russian embassy to Khiva and Bukhara in 1858, which was headed by the colonel N.P Ignatiev. His function was to buy coins for Hermitage and manuscripts for the Asiatic Archeological Society (1, p. 367 – 377). Among the pieces he had purchased was a plan of Bukhara, which was revealed in the archive of P.I. Lerkh just in 1964 by the orientalist R.L Gafurova, studied by the historian A.R. Muhamedjanov and published a year later.

The document of 52×44 сm in size is done in a technique of the miniature with colorful inks and aquarelle on glazed Samarkand paper. The plan contains about 300 topographic objects locating in Bukhara and its environs. Most part of them is supplied with legends in Tadjik language, which besides comments to separate elements contain different data about Bukhara and its citizens. A curious fact that according to standards of European cartography, the artist marked four general directions on the sheet and worked out signs for each type of topographic objects.

The plan is original in color. Each of three parts has its own color: the city panorama – beige, the city – scarlet, the environs – apple – green and yellow. The plan of Bukhara in a form of animal skin occupies a central place of the miniature. The artist literally used a famous fairytale plot, typical of many peoples all over the world. We are giving it in short words: they cadge or take as a prize a plot, which can be covered by a skin (of sheep, bowl, cow, camel or horse); a narrow long strip is cut from this skin; using this strip, they contoured a huge area (3, p. 374) that became a prize.

Two variants of such legend existed in Bukhara. The first one is connected with a foundation of the city. In old times, when there was no city, a place of Bukhara’s Ark was occupied by the castle of Lyumushkan. At that time, in the lands neighboring China lived the king Halok, who used to make strangers arriving at his castle to solve riddles. If they have failed, the king would have ordered to kill them. Living in Lyumushkan, seven-year old but wise Imam Kazy – khan heard about that. He took a camel and goat and went to Halok. The king was very surprised when beardless boy appeared before him and refused to riddle the boy. Then Imam Kazy – khan said: “If you want to see somebody tall – here is my camel, if you need a beard – my goat has it”. Halok liked such wittiness and he riddled the quest. Imam Kazy – khan solved all his riddles. As a prize, the boy asked to give him as much land around the castle of Lyumushkan as oxhide could cover. Having obtained the king’s consent, he cut oxhide into narrow strips, knotted them together and contoured a huge area around the castle. The people inhabited this area becoming a foundation of the future city.

The second legend is connected with the period of Mongolian invasion. In this legend, we meet the same heroes – young Imam Kazy – khan and one of Mongolian khans, whose riddle given to citizens of Bukhara was solved by the boy. As a prize he got as much land as bull’s (or camel’s) skin could cover. Then Kazy – khan cut the skin into thin as a hair strips and contoured with them the city, so saving Bukhara from the ruin. The Plan of Bukhara, drawn in the miniature, represents a symmetric geometrical figure elongated by axis “north – south” and surrounded on a perimeter by walls with towers. Over the walls, the swamps are located symmetrically; they are given in whitish blue. The Shahrud channel, by three courses inflows into the city from the east and outflows in the western part.

The territory of the city is painted in red; light lines of streets and alleys are riving it. The dark lines marking the borders of twelve mahallyas – districts are going along arterial roads running from the gate and along the central streets. In mahallyas there are 79 quarters and Friday mosques (brown crosses), 78 hauzes (blue rectangles nearby mosques), 7 medresehs (brown rectangles), 4 sales tholuses (black circles), 12 caravanserais (П-shaped signs), 7 bathhouses (brown circles or squares), 26 cemeteries (straight black hatches), etc. We should note that the artist drew about half of buildings de facto existing in Bukhara in the mid – 19th century, probably, the most important from his point of view.

In the northern section of the plan there is a fortress, Ark with the gate facing to the square of Registan – a symbolic stronghold of the power in Bukhara. This point is proved in addition by inscriptions placed in small rectangles-structures; 5 prison cells, including famous kanakhona (cell with pincers), emir’s mosque, a reception room, a premise for emir’s friends and servitors, mint, a room of the guard, etc. Below, almost in the center of the drawing – a symbolic heart of the city there is a main economic center – mahallyas of Registan, Gaukushan and Morkushan where were located the markets of Chilbir (rope sales), Panba (cotton sales), Shira (sweets sales), Carbas (fabrics sales) and others as well as tholuses, caravanserais (Radjab-beg, Hindu, Kushbeghi, Amir, Abrishim and others), mosques (Kalyan, Registan, Magoki Attari), bathhouses and medresehs. Double black line marks the streets between sales tholuses (toq or chaharsuq) of Zargaron (jewelers), Sarrafon (moneychangers), Tilpak Furushan (in the plan – Misgaron, headwear sellers) and Tirgaron (arrow makers; in the plan – Polonduzan (harness makers). Southward from markets and in suburbs there are dwelling areas with mosques, hauzes and cemeteries. In mahalya of Hiyaban is located a garden drawn in a form of yellow rectangle enwalled on its perimeter. In its center there is a rectangular hauz with aryks surrounded by pavilions drawn in red.

The panorama of Bukhara (in the upper right corner) is given north – westerly. Above the wall with towers and the gate of Uglan with merlons we can see basic symbols of the city: “high Ark” – many century-old residence of Bukhara’s kings, with towers at the gate, two biggest minarets (Kalyan, or of Arslan – khan, and Gaukushan), mosques’ domes and sixteen toogs (sticks) marking worshipped tombs – signs of Bukhara’s sanctity. The panorama is interpreted in warm beige color. The other colors are limited: the green – for trees, the brown accents architectural elements (merlons, window apertures, elements of minarets, etc.), the red marks trunks of toogs, gate arches of Ark and nakorakhona (veranda for musicians) and the black – for toogs’ horsetails.

Around Bukhara, on an apple – green background there are exurban settlements – mahallyas, gardens (chaharbag), fields, worshipped places and yellow strips of roads coming up to the city gates. Thin red lines sign planning of the settlements (Faizabad, Dilkusho, Fathabad, Utrar, Qalandarkhona, Arababad and others). Eastward from the city are located the popular khanaka of Faizabad – a cube with four toogs on the corners and khanaka of Fatkhabad – a building with a roof of steep pitch. The fields are cut by borderlines between estates; crops are marked by pecked line. Classical plans of three parks – gardens belonged to emir and aristocrats and occupying an area westward from the city are enwalled on perimeter with towers on the corners; they are regular in plan and have definite places for dwelling houses, hauzes, alleys, vineyards, various decorative and fruit trees.

In two big legends in the miniature, sui generic explication, is given information for people which knew nothing about Bukhara and customs of its citizens. To the left from the panorama there is a text: “A custom of the Bukharians is that if somebody from grandees or shaykhs, generally from padishahs or aristocrats, Sufis or God’s fools died, after his death The Bukharians would have installed four very long wooden [sticks] at his grave. They hang one toog from a tail of Chinese bull on the end of each stick so that everybody could recognize”. The legend about the city foundation is reproduced in short: “Among [the Bukharians] is spread [the legend] that city’s fortification system was constructed [around] the plot, which was contoured by strips cut from [one] oxen’s skin” (4, p. 36-37).

In the left lower part of the miniature there is interesting but mainly wrong statistic information on area of the city and a number of buildings. For example, the area of Bukhara, in some places, is equaled to one farsang (i.e. 6 – 7 km) against actual 3.5 km; a number of big and small mosques – 300 (de facto, at the early 20th c. – about 240), medreseh – 250 with 300 – 500 khudjras (de facto, at the early 20th c. – about 200; the biggest of them – medreseh of Kukeldash, built in the second half of the 20th century, had about 160 khudjras), shops – 200 (de facto, more than 500) and so long. (Detailed analysis of the plan is out of the subject of this article).

Collation of Bukhara’s plan in the miniature and topographic plans done in the 19th – 20th centuries revealed that the artist knew the city and environs well. However, here just toponyms are correct and reliable. As for the city contour, location of mahallyas and buildings they were revised in accordance with the mythological subject.

This plan-miniature can not be considered a source for the study of historical topography of Bukhara of the mid – 19th century. However, it is, obviously, original piece of art performed by some talented citizen.

Author: Elisaveta Nekrasova

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