Issue #2 • 1425

Buddhist monuments of Central Asia were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century. The Russian orientalist V. V. Bartold, who did much for studying of Central Asian history, noted that Buddhism played an important role in formation of Central Asian culture proceeding from Muslim and Chinese sources.

Fayaz-tepa was an advanced post of Buddhism brought by Indian missionaries to the Kushan empire. Buddhist monastery of Fayaz-tepa is located in the northwestern part of Termez’s shahristan, at distance of one kilometer to the northeast from Buddhist center of Qara-tepa. In 1968-1976 archeologist L. I. Albaum carried out excavation at the complex (1, p. 53). Excavations revealed important architectural, planning and design features of the complex. The building was rectangular (117х34 m) and extended at axis of north-south. Though wall paintings and sculpture found at the complex have been already described in scientific literature, its general architecture and design have been studied partly. The first data concerning its architecture were given by architect A. A. Asanov (2). The results of the last fixation of characteristic constructive parts are of interest.

Works at this historical monument started again in 2000. The fact is that in 2000 Ministry for Culture and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Representation Office of UNESCO in Tashkent started the international project on “Preservation and reconstruction of Fayaz-tepa” (Termez). The author of this article took part in archeological expedition to Fayaz-tepa headed by T. Annaev carrying out fixation of finds and studying its architectural details (3).

This grandiose structure consists of three parts: a temple, monastery and economic structures with refectory. Each of them has own courtyard and premises located along perimeter. The earliest stupa, one of major Buddhist attributes, is located on a special pedestal separately from the central part. It dates from the 1st century B.C. and is considered the most ancient structure of the complex. The central part has a courtyard with rooms along the perimeter and aivan. Walls of aivan gallery laying on columns were decorated with polychromic paintings. The archeologists presume that the temple was here. The northwestern part of the complex represents a complex structure. Its small courtyard had one-side roofed aivan and cells of monks.

Clay platforms and fireplaces as well as tandyrs were found in economic premises and refectory located around the courtyard. Fragments of pottery found here contain ancient Bactrian and Indian inscriptions (kharoshti, brahma and others). For example, the inscription on clay vessel found at the last excavation. The head of expedition, archeologist T. Annaev presumed that these signs done in black mineral paint on the surface of kuza could be related to ancient Indian script (probably, kharoshti) (fig. 1). However, these letters still wait for studying.

Isolation of major premises and their enfilade-like location are typical of Buddhist structures. According to the sources, ancient Buddhist monasteries had a special part for women. Besides that, one of the reasons causing close type of planning might be the necessity to protect the monastery from the wind called as “Afghan”. The major construction materials were clay and adobe popular in Central Asia. Pise walls were one of traditional features of Central Asian architecture. Though it is difficult to see that walls consist of pise blocks, actually they are horizontally divided in 40-45 cm sections. Besides that, the clay is obviously added with rubble making the wall more durable. Adobe was the major construction material in the antique period. Probably, they applied some technological standards as walls and arches were made from blocks of 32х32х12 cm in size. Sometimes, their size was 28х28х10 cm. Rare was burnt brick for floor facing and decorative elements. Bases and capitals of wooden columns were made from limestone, like Buddhist structures of Qara-tepa, Airtam and Dalverzin-tepa. This material was also used for sculptures alongside with architectural decorative details. Ganch was widely used for floor plastering and primer of wall painting.

The walls from clay and adobe have average thickness about 1.5 m and height of 4-4.5 m (they have been kept up to 3-3.5м). They are from clay in the northwestern part, and are substituted by adobe as closer to the center of the building, first in upper part, and finally entirely.

A. Asanov presumed that the sanctuary (6х6 m) was located in the central part and roofed with false dome of “darbazi” type (wooden dome). The roof of aivan in the courtyard lays on the wooden columns “hidden” by the plaster, probably, because of walls from adobe were not reliable enough, or according to local tradition of frame structure. Columns of aivan and joist ceiling were wooden.

Four places for columns and mehrab of 1.5 m in diameter in the middle were revealed in the big room (8.4х8.4 m). Most likely, ceiling of this room (as well as in Pyandjikent, Afrasiab and some other monuments) was done on the basis of “chor-harri” system widely used in architecture of Northern Bactria.

Arch ceiling was one of major constructive elements of Northern Bactrian architecture. Remains of arches (width – 3.0; 4.0 and 4.5 m) show that one row was closed by semi-cylindrical arch ceiling from adobe set into dense clay solution. Remains of arches in walls at height of 3 – 3.5 m have been kept in some rooms of temple and monastery. For example, in the northeastern part of Room 15 there are traces of wall arch at height of 2.80 m from floor. The arch was formed from four belts of clay and ten belts of adobe (seven belts – 32х32х12 cm, the other – 28х28х10 cm), set across the surface at angle of 60 – 70 degrees. Traces of this arch were revealed at the same axis and continued in Room В16 (fig. 2, 3). This element in the monastic part was kept in the eastern wall of Room С15. The arch is the same, just abutment was revealed at 2.10 m from floor, while in Room В15 the abutment was at level of 2.8 m (fig. 4).

Arch entrance door of one meter in width is covered by arches from adobe. Walls of the sanctuary contain traces of arch entrance door of 2.60 m in height and 1.10 m in width. It was of horseshoe type and later was blocked. Entrance door of Room В13 is characteristic both for the temple part, and for the complex entirely. It was done by breaking of initially entire wall (fig. 5). The biggest entrance door of the complex is located in the northeastern part of the monastery. The majestic door of 1.5 m in width and kept at height of 2.85 m has semi-divider-shaped arch which was built from rows of adobe above five rows of clay. Probably, it was a front entrance (sardara) of the complex. Niches were also arched, cut down in pise walls. Architectural decoration is characteristic for this structure. Bases and capitals of columns, plinth and cornice of stupa are made from local material.

Construction of pyramids, monasteries and stupas was connected with Buddhism coming from India. They show some influence Hellenic architectural art too. However, the experts say that architecture of Northern Bactria took an important place in Buddhist structures of Central Asia. Their planning, use of local construction materials – clay, adobe and architectural d?cor from burnt brick, limestone and ganch prove that. Fayaz-tepa is very important monument as kept subjects of painting and applied arts. Unfortunately, they are not so numerous. Wall paintings are mainly devoted to religious subjects and done in mineral paints which were put on a thin layer of ganch. Buddha, Bodhisatvas and other religious characters were drawn. Composite integrity, bright colors and exquisite lines are characteristic for its wall painting. Sculptures are made of clay covered with a thin layer of ganch, and faces of personages are gilt. Among them there is well-known triad of Buddha from limestone which is a true pearl of art.

A. Asanov presumed that the structure had been constructed for the short period and operated within two-three centuries.
The experts dated Fayaz-tepa to the 1st century B.C. and 1st-2nd centuries A.D according to the coins of Helioclus, Soter Megas, Vima Qadfiz, Kanishka and Huvishka found there. However, the complex was all ready at the reign of Kanishka I. In the 4th century the complex was destroyed by the Sasanid army. Some tombs were found in cells of the complex.


  1. Альбаум Л. И. Раскопки буддийского комплекса Фаяз-Тепе ( по материалам 1968 – 1972 гг.)// Древняя Бактрия. Л., 1974; Альбаум Л. И. Исследование Фаяз-Тепе в 1973 г. //Бактрийские древности. Л., 1976.
  2. Асанов А. А. Фаяз-тепа// Архитектура и строительство, 1976 г. № 9.

Akmal Ulmasov

Pin It

Comments are closed.