The formation history of Nadir Divanbegi architectural ensemble of monuments in Samarqand consists of several phases dating to different periods spanning 15th-20th centuries, from the time when a religious centre of Naqshbandia dervish order emerged here (16th c.). From the west, the ensemble is framed with summer and winter 15th-17th cc. verandas (aivan) decorated with highly artistic painting and carved wooden columns. In the centre of the courtyard there is a large water pool (hauz) and a minaret dating back to the 15th century. Adjacent to the courtyard is an ancient cemetery with hundreds of tombstones – the works representing folk epigraphy.
Perhaps the largest and most interesting monument in the complex in terms of history and architecture is Nadir Divanbegi madrasah built by a high-ranking official of the Bukhara ruler Imamkulihan in 1630-1635. The attention of researchers who studied the monument before the intense restoration had begun was caught by the fact that the layout of the madrasah was slightly unusual for this type of monuments. Its south-eastern corner was cut along the direction of a pathway leading to the tomb of Khoja Akhrar, the leader of the aforementioned religious centre. Historical documents do not contain any mentioning of any significant structure adjoining the Khoja Akhrar complex, which could have necessitated this deviation from the traditional rectangular shape.
Still the studying of brickwork and structures revealed that this irregularity in the plane of the madrasah was not accidental. For almost a century and a half before the madrasah was there the pathway which the faithful took to visit the burial place of Khoja Akhrar had become not only traditional, but sacred, and blocking it would mean to disrupt the fundamentals of the ritual. And the willingness to connect his name with this so much revered place made the construction manager compromise the architectural canon. The result was the building with this uncharacteristically asymmetric layout. In all other aspects the monument is traditional: inside there is a courtyard with four aivans, on the western side of which there is a mosque with tall graceful portal, and on either side of the mosque there are two-chambered galleries.
The reconstruction, restoration, adaptation and landscaping of the monument area were implemented on the basis of research and a project designed by the group of authors comprising architects A. Salimov, T. Gayupov, N. Lasovskaya and design engineer V. Boriskin from the “UzNIPI of Restoration” Research and Design Institute under the scientific guidance of Doctor of Architecture, Professor P. Zakhidov.
In the process of research and at the early stage of restoration the scientists and restorers faced many a problem. The matter was not only that the monument suffered a major destruction: its southern outer portal tilted one meter away from the axis and was at risk of collapsing; roofing and vaults of hujras cracked, affected by time and moisture, and the upper part of portals was completely ruined.
Fortification and restoration of these structural elements, given the wealth of experience gained by the restorers when working in Registan, Gur-Emir and Bibi-Khanym ensembles, could be considered a secondary challenge. Much more important and complicated task was to find adequate (in line with the original look of the monument) solutions to restore the lost domes and drums or the facing on the upper sections of the portals. This was the area in which contemporary scientists and restorers had to deal with a rather difficult heritage left by their predecessors. This primarily concerned the validity of information about the type of portal facing. For instance, the last traces of the facing on the upper part of the eastern entrance portal – figuratively speaking, a saving end, pulling at which could reveal the whole picture – disappeared in the process of 1910-1913 fortification repairs. The upper section of the portal was simply dismantled and strengthened with ordinary bricks…
Before the eyes of those who appreciate antique – the residents of Samarqand and tourists – the monument presents itself in its original beauty and splendour: the pictured scene largely reminds of the image on the portal tympanum of Sher-Dor madrasah on Registan Square.
It is now appropriate to refer to the studies performed by P. Zakhidov on some issues of comparative history of the Nadir Divanbegi madrasah and Sher-Dor madrasah that was built by the Samarqand ruler Yalangtush Bakhadur in 1619-1631.
Having entered the history with the name of Yalangtush Bakhadur, the madrasah on Registan Square acquired a popular name of madrasah-i Sher-Dor (“madrasah with lions”). The name originates from the portal tympanum featuring lions (tiger-lions, more precisely), deer and two suns. It is remarkable that during the time when the Koran prohibited picturing living creatures, the animals and even the sun on the tympanum were given a human-like appearance. According to Zakhidov, it is still a mystery how this daring solution of usto Abduljabbar, the madrasah architect, could be realized.
In search for the answer, Zakhidov turned to historical sources. He was also curious to find out how this image could pass through the strict filters of religious “censorship” and what it was supposed to mean. Was it simply Zodiac signs from Muslim astrology as suggested by the 19th century Samarqand scholar Abutahirkhoja in his work “Samaria”, or the pictured scene contained certain symbolism – for example, the everlasting conflict between Good and Evil embodied in the images of the deer and lion? The Sun is one of the incarnations of creative Good, for its rays seem to protect the deer from the lion’s deadly leap?
The researcher might not have obtained direct and clear answers to all of his questions (one would be na?ve to expect that), but the studies put in Zakhidov’s hands, and thus in the hands of the restorers, that very end of the line that we spoke about earlier.
Zakhidov noticed that in the aforementioned work of Abutahirkhoja, “Samaria”, Nadir Divanbegi madrasah was referred to as Sherdori-Berun (berun means outward, located outside city limits). Hence comes natural conclusion that some elements of its decor were identical to its city “prototype”. Still, Abutahirkhoja did not reveal (perhaps, in belief that it was not necessary) what the analogy in the names was based upon. Zakhidov also indicated that “the portal of the madrasah featured the images of two lions and two deer performed in the technique of carved mosaic”. In his time, Zakhidov had a chance to see the monument still intact, before the place where the vanished tympanum had been was covered up with bricks and plastered.
This important evidence of professor Zakhidov was crucial for those who were to restore Nadir Divanbegi madrasah. What did the image look like? Was it the exact copy of the one that adorns the tympanum of the madrasah on Registan Square or was it different from it in some way? These questions remained unanswered.
This time again the researches were extremely lucky: besides written evidence, some priceless photo-facts were made available to the restoration experts from the “UzNIPI of Restoration”: namely, photographs of Nadir Divanbegi madrasah taken back in 1870, discovered in the Hermitage archive in St. Petersburg. Among those pictures was a photograph showing the eastern portal, on the tympanum of which one could discern fragments of a hunting scene with lions and deer. Yet, unlike the Sher-Dor, the image of the sun was absent; instead, there was a vegetable ornament.
Careful, painstaking study of a monochrome 19th century photograph, and modelling the whole picture fragment by fragment enabled the restorers to reproduce the tympanum on the entrance portal of Nadir Divanbegi madrasah in its original look.
We should mention another important discovery made by the researches and restorers. Another photograph of 1870 revealed an Arabic inscription above the door in one of the niches, recording the name of Khoja-Khashim – one of the masters who participated in the construction of the building.
All these discoveries, as well as the comparative analysis of the workmanship of many ornamental compositions and colour solutions that adorn both madrasahs, made the researches convinced that the buildings were probably erected under the guidance of the same master – usto Abduljabbar, the fact that was eventually reflected in the restoration project.
Over the years of independence quite a lot of work has been done in the country to reconstruct, restore and landscape the entire territory of the ensemble and its pearl – Nadir Divanbegi madrasah. A team of restorers from Samarqand specialized scientific-restoration workshop led by usto Abdugaffar Khakkulov, merited cultural worker of the Republic, have undertaken to reconstruct and restore Nadir Divanbegi madrasah, including all its courtyard fa?ades and hujras. Currently, these have been fitted to house museum-workshops of traditional crafts, opened by the time Samarqand marked its 2750th anniversary. Visitors and tourists will be able not only to view the exposition of crafts, but also to observe the process of their making and to purchase souvenirs.
Joint research work performed by scientists and restorers has helped rebuild the dome’s drum in the main mosque of the monument and create an open-air museum on the territory of the ensemble, which offers a harmonious display of architectural monuments, traditional epigraphy and crafts.
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2. Хаккулов А. Тарихий ёдгорликларни таъмирлаш. Тошкент, 1983.
3. Хаккулов А. Таъмирлаш санъати. Тошкент, 1991.