Medieval Architecture of the Karshi City

Issue #2 • 2157

Architecture of the Karshi city developed following the general course of Central Asian architecture development. Mass construction used beaten clay-pasha, raw bricks or roll-like clods of clay – guvalya. The walls were often erected based on a double or single wooden frame filled with adobe or guvalya later on plastered with clay mortar. In the course of time the monumental construction started more and more using burnt brick based on clay or ganch, or clay and ganch mortar. Mass construction applied flat wooden floors across the beams in the aivans and large bay premises – post-and-beam systems in where interior floor beams leaned against columns. Monumental construction used vaults and domes as floors; they were sometimes made of the raw bricks, but more often of the burnt bricks. It is worth noting that there have been until now preserved many architectural monuments with splendidly laid adobe domes.

In the 16th century when general construction turns around in the Sheibanide’s State, for the sake of economy many monumental constructions, for instance in Bukhara, Karshi and other towns, were erected in a camouflet laying with the so called three-layered walls.

When applying this method, two rows of walls were erected from the burnt bricks with the empty space between them. This space was backfilled with the construction waste, crushed brick and then coated with clay mortar. Provided the walls were erected on a high and stable foundation with a good dam course, such walls were rather durable. In case of violation of the above-named conditions the inner layer swelled and caused inflation in the lower part of the walls.

Let us consider Karshi architecture on the basis of the reserved monuments classifying them by functions, and involving constructions that existed and were already studied a quarter of a century ago but lost later on in the 1970th -1980th.

Civil constructions are resented by the residential houses, trading outlets, caravanserais, bath houses, sardobas (wells), bridges and etc.

Housing constructions of the Karshi city had traditional Mouverannahr features of housing architecture and comprised two closed courtyards lined by perimeter with the residential and household facilities. The first court – tashkari (outer part) considered to be the male part of the house and was aimed for living, meetings and official receptions; and the second one – ichkari (inner part) was the female part of the house. From the courtyard the open terrace on the carved wooden pillars adjoined the house. Particularly rich was the decoration of the lounge rooms – “mekhmonhona”, and of the open terrace – “avian”, that adjoined the house from the courtyard.

Bath house in Karshi dating back to the 16th century presents the classical example and one of a few constructions of this type preserved in Central Asia. Proving the local legend referring its construction to Abdullakhan II, M.Masson assigns 1592 – 1593 years as the date of its construction.

In the rectangular plan of the bath (22×14.4 m) premises are grouped around the largest (5×5 m) domical central hall (5.6 m high). From the modern land-based construction the slope takes you to the main semi-underground part where temperature rises with the movement inside the bath/ The first cool room from the entrance is for undressing and reception of the tight bandage (Ilunghi-hona or rumol-hona); the second one is the female room –olish honasi – with the moderate temperature before entering the hot cold room.

The central hall – katta gumbaz or mion-serai – was designated for massaging and washing; the platform called sufa was built amidst it. On the west off it, there is the hall of the mosque, khodim-hona and small washing halls with the niches and sufas. Farther on in direction of the axis the hottest room – garam-hona connected with the hot water reservoir is adjoined by the mion-serai. The neighboring room called sovukhona (khunukhona) and modcha are connected with hot and cold water reservoirs. Six of the eleven domes covering the bath-house are circular fixed on shield-like sails, five are beam’s vaults. Walls are plastered with waterproofing solution called kyr.

There is one more preserved unique construction of Central Asia – the 16th century Karshi Bridge across the Karshi River made of the burnt bricks. “The bridge rests upon twelve powerful piers connected with fourteen wide and low arches. The bridge is 122 m long, 8.2 m wide; its height from the bottom of the river to the road cover in the center reaches 5.35 m. Between the arches on both sides of the bridge its piers are strengthened with 4 cylindrical studs of 4 m diameter each, broadened at the bottom with the stone facing slabs of the pedestal” (1, p. 65).

In the course of time the river widened its bed and there emerged the necessity to lengthen and reconstruct the bridge. Following this in 1914 additional edge piers were raised, two sentry pavilions were built of the burnt bricks on both sides. The latter were dismantled in 1960 as they interfered with the traffic of the freight vehicles. “The ancient stone floor was replaced by the asphalt, plain metal bars with the concrete bearings fenced in the pedestrian’s paths” (1, p. 66).

Cult architecture is presented in Karshi by several preserved mosques and madrasahs, by a honako-mosque and a small minaret. They are made of the burnt bricks with some local peculiarities characteristic of this region.

Mosques in Mouverannahr were traditionally split by functions and architecture into three major types: quarter constructions for daily quintuple prayers aimed for the residents of a certain quarter; juma or cathedral mosques for common city Friday prayers; and festive mosques – namazgoh (idgoh and musallya mosques) for male prayers of the city and its surroundings twice a year on Fitr and Kurban Idhs.

One of a few constructions of this type namazgoh mosque of the 16th century called Kok Gumbaz has been preserved in Karshi.

That time namazgoh mosques constituted the arch gallery with a high portal in the middle and mehrob niche in the western wall. There was usually a square in front of the gallery that could fit the entire population of the city and its surroundings on the days of festive prayer.

In Karshi the namazgoh mosque was constructed outside the city but with its expansion the mosque turned out to be in the center of the city. In the rectangular plan of the mosque (38. 25 E 14.6 m) there can be seen the volume on the axis of the western fac,ade looking like an aspida including a deep mehrob niche. In the plan the cross-shaped middle part with the high (14 m) dome and portal (1, p. 62) is on the both sides rejoined with the open along the fac,ade lowered wings looking like a four-dome gallery with one pier in the center.

The central hall is covered with a double dome of which the outer decorative dome was resting on a high drum. This explains the name of the mosque Kok Gumbaz – Blue Dome. The drum was decorated with the tiles possessing the epigraphic ornament, well seen and read from afar. The majolica inscription of large and high letters represented the repetition of the Arabic expression “eternity (belongs) to Allah”. Against this background the smaller letters repeated another Arabic dictum, “Praise be to Allah”.

The words “Allah”, “Muhammad” and “happiness” are laid with glazed tiles on the surface of the portal. The tympanum was decorated with a star-shaped pattern. Here on the majolica frieze above the entrance door remains of the inscription have run, “The building was constructed by the highest command of Abdullakhan II” and the dates – 999 corresponding to 1590-1591 of today’s system of chronology. The end of the inscription revealed the name of the mosque’s constructer – Mir Biki Bakhadur, whose name is connected with the construction of Abdullakhan II madrasah in the Rejistan of Karshi. This is the name of some Bik-Byi done a great favor by Abdullakhan for saving his life (2, p. 51). Primarily majolica decorated mehrob and wall panels in the interior of the mosque. Both this decoration and the outer dome that had collapsed by the end of the 19th century and restored during the capital restoration works of the building conducted in the last third of the 20th century.

In the quarter mosques domical, columnar or flat roofed hall without columns on one side (but more often on two and even three sides) was equipped with the avian on the wooden pillars. The most representative of the preserved Karshi cult quarter constructions was the Chakar Mosque.

The rectangular elongated in the plan six-column hall (11.5×15.7 m) of the in-depth composition was surrounded by a columnar avian on the three sides (total size of 22×22 m). Four entrances were leading from the side aivans to each of the four naves. The butt-end had two doors and the mehrob was in the western wall. “The column near mehrob has a cutout date of 1223 h.y. = 1807. Painting above the mehrob has an inscription – 1259 H.y.=1847. Unique details, carved columns, doors, mehrob with the fretted ganch tympanums bordered with zandjira have been preserved in the hall (3).

In the 19th century mosques were also built in Karshi. Malahat mosque had a four-column hall and a three-sided avian; Buzrukabad mosque had the walls of the wooden frame “kosh sinch” completed with the haus (pool) and dervazahona; Khodja Akhrar mosque had a domical hall attached with the avian with beam covering on wooden columns and Kulollik mosque erected in the old town cupolas quarter of ceramists; several hudjras and an entrance darvazahona were built in its rectangular plot.

In the 18th-19th centuries mosques were often combining functions of the Sufi khonako and quarter mosque. The memorial cult complex Kurgancha in Karshi contained just the like khonako mosque (3, p. 74). Originally it was located outside the city next to respected graves of local ishans – Baretdin, Kamaletdin, halpa Abdurakhman and others who were buried in the dahm located in a small funeral courtyard –hashr. According to old-residents the Kurgancha complex was also erected over 200 years ago – in the 18th century, and the currently existing mosque was built here at the beginning of the 20th century. In the course of time the out-of-town complex found itself in the territory of the city and turned into a religious center of the residential quarter. Hashr funeral courtyard with the domical darvazahona is now joined by courtyard of the complex with the khonako mosque in its south-western corner, a minaret in the south and a haus (pool) in the courtyard center.

Multiple small, but sometimes monumental in their architecture, madrasahs occupied an important place in the medieval Karshi architecture.

By 1970 about ten madrasahs of those twenty known in 1920s have been preserved in Karshi (as for now several more buildings have been lost). The largest used to be Shir-Muhammad madrasah (the door tie-plate had the cutout date – 1865 and the name of the master that can be read differently: usto Hido Khalik or uso Abdal Khakim Nesefi (1, p. 60); Khodja Kurban madrasah (with the asymmetric entrance section; 1, p.72); Sharap Khodja madrasah local residents assume that it was built at the beginning of the 18th century (with the wooden avian of the summer mosque in the western part of the courtyard) by its mudarris Sharap Khodja.

Among the later constructions it is worth mentioning three madrasahs of the beginning of the 20th century displaying innovations in the traditional architecture observed in the use of newly introduced construction techniques and materials, e.g. use of the burnt bricks of the “European” rectangular shape, calcimine or cement solution. These are the square in the plan (28.07 x 28.57 m) Bekmir madrasah (1903) and rectangular in the plan (26 x 21 m) Abdulaziz madrasah (1909) that being single-storied buildings, were constructed with the two-storied main fac,ades and entrance parts (3), as well as Klych-bai madrasah (17.2 x 19.8 m).

Local features of Karshi architecture are most vividly seen in madrasahs architecture of the 17th-early 20th centuries. On the one hand, they date back to the times when Karshi was the second important city of the Bukhara khanate and was greatly influenced by the capital Bukhara School of architecture. Here we can see the three layer walls characteristic of Bukhara constructions; corners cutoff inside the courtyard; guldastas on the corners of the building; brick platforms under the buildings; minaret’s form and architecture. But on the other hand, the Karshi madrasahs, on the whole presenting a provincial branch of the capital Bukhara architectural School, also possessed their local features: madrasah’s main facades in Karshi were blank like in Samarkand – without arched loggias (two later madrasahs, Bekmir and Abdulaziz, made an exception); they stand out for the different from proportions of Bukhara guldasta and the shape of its light; in Karshi they applied a rare but famous for Bukhara since the 16th century method – erection of a two-storied fac,ade with the other part of the building remaining a single-storey building.

Therefore the Karshi Medieval architecture presents an interesting, original, and unfortunately yet little studied part of the history of Central Asian architecture. The most preserved here rare, ancient and large constructions of the 16th century like Kuk Gumbaz namazgoh-mosque, bath house and brick-laid bridge across the Kashkadarya River testify for high professionalism and mastership of the ancient architects of the Karshi City.

Mavluda Yusuova

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