Genesis of female mausoleums in Central Asia

Issue #1 • 1309

The idea of female beauty occupies an important place in poetry, painting, literature and architecture from times immemorial. Life of the great and the small is always connected with women. They are mothers, lovers, wives, sisters… Great Amir Temur built country palaces with fine gardens for his princesses. There were such, as Bugh-i Behisht (“Paradise garden” for Tuman-aka in 1378), Bugh-i Dilkusha (“Garden captivating the heart” – for Tikel-khanum). In 1397 he founded Bugh-i Shamal (“Northern garden “) for his grand daughter, daughter of Miranshah.

Mausoleum Bibi-Khanym.

“Position of Temur’s wives and other women at his court corresponded to Mongolian customs more, than to Islamic” (1, p. 482). Clavijo and Ibn Arabshah wrote that in 1404 princesses and queens did not veil their faces at feasts. They could arrange their own feasts and invited quests. Though they did not interfere in state affairs, but sometimes managed to soften Temur’s severe character. However, time is equally extreme for king and his family. Relatives and beloved were transiting from this life to the next. Tombs with female names appeared one after another. Kings aspired to immortalize their feelings and to fix memory about their beloved forever.

Female mausoleums remained untouched even in days of wars and dynastic conflicts – in fact, “to fight against women is not a matter for men” (2, p. 37). Probably, that is why female mausoleums have kept much better condition than the male.

Let’s turn to architecture of the Temurid epoch as that period was the richest in female mausoleums. In Shah-i-Zinda, three female mausoleums were built. Mausoleums of Temur’s sisters, Turkan-aka (1371-1372) and Shirin-bek-aka (1385-1386) were located in the upper east part of the necropolis. Upper, behind the mausoleum of emir Burunduk there is a group of structures constructed by Temur’s wife, Tuman-aka. These are chartak, mosque and mausoleum. One of the best epoch in Muslim architecture is connected with Temur and his descendants. He paid

great attention to prosperity of the capital – Samarkand. Up to the 9th century, Islam condemned construction of mausoleums or any other tomb structures, but Abbasid Caliphs gave an example (in the 9lh century mother of Muntasir received a sanction to construction of a mausoleum for her son). In Bukhara, one of the earliest mausoleums -mausoleum of the Samanid was built soon. Since that time, necropolises had come into architecture of Central Asia. Originally it was “centric cube-shaped structure which enclosed inner space” (4, p. 80). The forms developed gradually and became more complicated, but its major principle of central crosswise layout had been kept. In the 11th century, a portal appeared.

Female tombs are interesting and original architecturally. For example, mausoleum of Turkan-aka “was built by the sister of Temur, Kutlug-Turkan-aka, for her daughter, Shadi-Mulk-aka, died in 1372. Later the first was buried in the same mausoleum after death, in 1383″.

The mausoleum is a single-chamber vault of 8.6×10 m in area, with the portal having well-balanced arch. Majolica panels and carved enameled terracotta entirely cover the walls of entrance niche. Corner columns are decorated with carving. On the left side of portal there is an inscription: “It is a paradise garden where the star of happiness is buried, and this is a grave where the pearl is lost; the cypress-shaped body lies here in ever rest; therefore the place should have majolica ornament. Even Solomon was carried away by wind from this grave in spite of he had the ring with magic gem of happiness” (6, p. 10).

The interior also has magnificent decor. It represents a new type of tectonics created by decorative means. The walls are covered with polychromic majolica to the dome. The major color is dark blue. The ribbed dome is egg-shaped and has very high boom. It was distinguished by proportions: quotient of its height to bay is 3:4 (in early mausoleums – almost 1:2). We could assume that masters Zainuddin ibn Shamseddin from Bukhara and Bareddin and Shemseddin from Samarkand aspired to emphasize a female character of the tomb, differed from male tombs of Shah-i-Zinda. It was achieved due to extended and light dome; dark blue color of interior and turquoise-green of portal; refined carved details and play of light and shadow.

Mausoleum of Shadi-Mulk-aka and mausoleum of Temur’s sister Shirinbek-aka, constructed in 1385-1386 oppositely, form “kosh” composition. The last one continued a tradition of single-chamber portal-dome mausoleums, almost identical in sizes (outside – 10×9 m, inside – 7×6.8 м), but having individual features. In many respects that was promoted by Persian masters which were brought to Samarkand by Temur. Kashin mosaic (glazed tiles on silicate basis) was widely used in Isfahan and Tabriz. Carved mosaic decorates portal and 16-hedral dome drum. To make complicated mosaic, all elements of portal – ribbons, panel and borders were done simple. In the tomb of Shirinbek-aka, as nowhere else, colors look very bright due to special texture of tile from porous material. V. Vyatkin remarked unusual “dark – crimson, almost black, color in combination with white letters and finest vegetative ornament on portal ” (7, p. 21).

Due to correct location of color on surface – dark colors create deepened background, light (yellow and blue) – the second ground and white color – the foreground, so giving an effect of relief. Mausoleum of Shirinbek-aka is interesting by its dome on 16-hedral drum – only sample among the mausoleums of Shah-i-Zinda. Special laying gave some kind of original swelling as if accenting originality of female mausoleums.

Another group of structures was constructed in 1405 by the wife of Temur, Tuman-aka. It consists of mosque and mausoleum.

While the majority of Temurid mausoleums are portal one-dome structures, the mausoleum of Tuman-aka represents “development of 2-component structure belonged to original direction in architecture” (8, p. 113). Zioratkhona was extended in memorial mosque what required additional auxiliary premises. The building has a graceful blue dome on well-balanced drum and portal with dark blue mosaics and turquoise columns. The interior is solved in contrast colors: the panel is from bright – green tiles with gold painting. Bright dark-blue and red painting was done on a background of white walls, stalactites and domes. Above entrance there was an inscription: “Tuman-aka, the daughter of fair master Amir Musa. Let the God recognize her worthy of love and pleasure. The Almighty God considered us worthy to construct this I mosque above the queen, having covered her from the sky. Blessing to the lady” (6, p. 11).

Summing up the said about mausoleums of Shadi-Mulk-aka,; Shirinbek-aka and Tuman- aka, we could assume, that: First, they illustrate evolution of domes. Initially, domes were sphere conical with ribbed surface (Shadi-Mulk-aka), then a double dome came, which external calotte lied on 16-hedral drum (Shirinbek-aka) and, at last, the mausoleum of Tuman-aka was crowned “with high sphere conical dome on well-balanced cylindrical drum” (8, p. 115). In this way, well-balanced domes created some kind of emotional intension as you are approaching the center of ensemble.

Second, the female mausoleums should have differed from male mausoleums keeping volumetric scheme. These were “small vaults with crypts located under it and blocked by dome and portal that faced the narrow path” (9, p. 79)- This difference is in contrast of sharp outlines of portal and exquisite soft interior (these features were typical of east woman and furthermore queen, stand off externally and gentle in heart and loved by relatives what was echoed “in contrast interior made of cold shining of panels and light warm color of upper plasterboard” (8, p. I 122) and in contrast of blue, turquoise color I of carved details on facade and dark interior j replete with bright tones.

Thirdly, they should have pointed out 3 the greatness of sultan and power of feudal j aristocrats, at which expense they were built.

G. Pugachenkova wrote that no female mausoleums of pre-Mongolian period I were found in Central Asia as they were atypical for the Muslim East. They installed nameless gravestones bearing an inscription informing on “her status in relation to some man from a family: for example, she was a wife of some man” (2, p. 38). The earliest female mausoleums were located in northern areas of Turkistan. These are the tomb of Syrly-tam (the end of the 13th century), the mausoleum of Babadji-hatun near Djambul and mausoleum of Aisha-bibi beside. The majority of female mausoleums date to the period of Temur and Temurids. “All that characterizes a social position of women at the Central Asian Mongols, later inherited by the Temurids along with many other nomadic traditions” (2, p. 40).

Among the Temurid female mausoleums there is a mausoleum of Bibi-Khanym, built at Temur. It was built for the mother of Temur’s wife opposite to the mosque of Bibi-Khanym. History says that the name of Bibi-Khanym did not exist. There was a name of favourite wife of Timur – Sarai Mulk Khanym, the daughter of Mongolian Kazan khan. She became the main wife of Temur and thanks to her he took a title of “Guragan” (khan’s son-in-law).

There are many legends about construction of cathedral mosque of Bibi-Khanym. “Ibn Arabshah assumed that Sarai Mulk Khanym and another wife of Temur were poisoned by the new queen (wife of Halil Sultan)” (10, p. 15). She was buried near cathedral mosque, in the crypt of half-ruined mausoleum of the end of the 14th – beginning of the 15th century. It is supposed, that the building could be a part of madrasah from where Temur was watching construction works at the cathedral mosque. The mausoleum was octahedral, with a dome on drum. It “closed the crosswise premise under which there is a big crypt with rich sarcophagi” (5, p. 119) Mosaic panel, blue and dark blue unglazed bricks make its decor. It is interesting, that subject painting was applied in the cultic building. Sarcophagi are of stone. “In Central Asia, it is only example of Muslim depositions in stone coffins” (7). According to contemporaries, madrasah competed to the cathedral mosque in majestic forms and size. The tomb, probably, was more modest in comparison with previous mausoleums. Perhaps, that was because the customer was a woman who devoted it to her mother.

Decoration of the building show great care and taste. The masters, which were building fine structures devoted to women, have gone, with the wind. They tried to immortalize the beloved of famous persons by means of architecture creating the land of death and beauty. Each master brought something new, what made each monument unique and original. They were keeping a basic principle of central dome structure, developing its layout and volumetric composition. Most likely, volumetric! structure of female mausoleums differed from male mausoleums just in richer; decoration and more graceful forms of dome bearing some features of the woman. Years, decades and centuries are going. Time ruthlessly destroys fine mausoleums, but even their ruins continue to keep glinting beauty.

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Shoina Nurmuhamedova

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