In the East, women have always been treated with respect. The woman is glorified in poetry, praised and immortalized in muganni melodies, in the work of art and in the names of architectural monuments. This is confirmed by archaeological finds, such as figurines and coloured illustrations in ancient manuscripts, as well as in the oral tradition (dastan) found in Uzbekistan. This article describes some of them.
There are many common names of geographic and historical sites containing girls names: Kizketgan, Kiz uchgan, Kizbulak, Kizkurgan, Qirqkiz.
Fortresses and mounds with similar names are not uncommon in the country. The ruins of many of them still tower in Denau, Sherabad and Termez Districts of Surkhandarya. The Qirqkiz (forty girls) Fortress is located in the Namuna village in Termez district. This monumental structure uses an architectural solution for room and terrace layout of unparalleled beauty. The legend has it that the Fortress was home to Guloim and her forty lady friends who fought heroically against invaders. According to other sources, it was a school for girls, and this version of the story is told in a feature film “The Mystery of Fort Qirqkiz” by the famous film director Razzak Khamrayev; according to the film story, learned women pursued their academic interests in the fort. Among the characters are Ruhaidaee Davron and Hurayd Binti Al-Hakim; it also tells about great discoveries and scientific views of their teacher Ahmad Usturlobiy as-Soguniy at-Termiziy. Since the fortress housed the most educated women in Asia, it entered the history of science as “The Forty Girls Academy”. Residential quarters, chambers, halls, and service area are laid out in such a way as to make life in the fort comfortable and cosy for the inhabitants and to aid their studies, specifically astronomy and observation of stars.
Orientalist Gulsum Hujamkulova shared: “The “Qirqkiz” spiritual and educational charity centre of the Province set up in 2004 has a collection of manuscripts, and its book fund keeps growing. The translation of the Ilm un-nujum book from the repository revealed that one of its chapters was titled Qirqkiz. The chapter contains a detailed account of the fact that girls in the academy arrived from forty countries and passed forty examinations to be admitted. Some say that the Academy was a university where girls learned forty professions, and that the school was led by al-Hakim at-Termeziy’s daughter Ruhaidaee Davron. The girls were taught many sciences and professions and spoke forty languages. Along with humanities, they also received fundamental knowledge of medicine and astrology.”
Some archaeologists refused to recognize historical value of the site and identified it as a soap factory. In the years of independence the attitude has changed and historical facts are being restored.
Holly Bukhara, the cradle of science, was home to the world-famous scholars such as Avicenna and Imam al-Bukhari. Not far from the city, in the Kasri Arifon village there is a burial place of Baha ad-Din Naqshband, leader and one of the founders of Hojagon-Naqshbandiya Sufi Order. In the 16th century, Abdulazizkhan I reconstructed the hazira with the dakhma of the holy man and built a large honako next to it; west of it was a burial yard with the dakhma of khans, and to the north-west – a yard with the honako of Abdulazizkhan I. Later on, not far from the holy man’s dakhma they erected two mosques with columned aivan, and a minaret, constructed a water-well… In the years of independence the compound was renovated.
Pilgrims visit the tombs of Baha ad-Din Naqshbandi and his mother Arifa, known to be a highly educated woman; hence her name Arifa, which means knowledgeable and wise. Architectural solutions and the finishing of buildings indicate that architects were searching. In the centre of a beautiful structure with a portal and dome there is a large ceremonial hall covered by a great dome with four strong intersecting arches that look quite advantageous from a distance. The hall’s ornamental ceiling and a niche in the mosque’s inner wall are decorated with a two-tone terracotta-and-white ganch (plaster carving) in kyrma technique. The Childuhtaron (forty girls) honako is adjacent to the Baha ad-Din Naqshband memorial complex. People remember stories about heroes who perished for the honor and freedom of the motherland. Childuhtaron is one of the places where their memory is kept alive.
Bibi Khanym mosque was built on the orders of Amir Timur in the 14th century in Samarqand, the capital of the Temurid Empire, and the dynasty aspired to make their city “shine in the world”. The Bibi Khanym mosque was erected by Sarai Mulk-khanym, the senior wife of the ruler. The names of architects, masters and craftsmen who built this jewel are unknown. The total area of the cathedral mosque is 167 x 109 meters. 50 meter tall minarets towering at the corners collapsed as a result of earthquakes; only the 18.2 meter high tier of the north-west minaret survived. The yard has four portal gates. At its centre there is a huge marble lauh – a stand for the Koran. Marble slabs on the sides are decorated with vegetable designs. The portal decorated with dark-blue, light-blue and white ornaments is 19 meters away from the stand. Minarets are taller than the portals. Geometric designs and Arabic ligature, winding around the walls, climb smoothly to constitute their primary ornamentation. Rainbow mosaic shimmers in the sun. Historian Sharafiddin Ali Yazdy said that if there were no heavenly dome, the dome of this mosque would be the only one on earth.
In 1868, when Samarqand was occupied by Russian troops, the mosque was destroyed. On the initiative of Islam Karimov, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, it was restored along with other historical sites.
Sarai Mulk-khanum, a strong-willed, wise and charming woman, was keen on education and supported scholars. Sakhibkiran appreciated these qualities in her and entrusted the upbringing of his grandchildren and heirs to her.
According to the account of a Hungarian traveller Vamberi, the Bibi Khanym madrasah taught thousands of students (talib) to read and write. Bibi Khanym built it in honour of her mother, whose burial-vault on the central axis of the madrasah is harboured by the mausoleum. The Bibi Khanym madrasah offers a view upon the necropolis of Tuman-agha, one of Amir Temur’s favorite wives. In her honour the Commander built Boghi behisht in Samarqand, which was renovated in 1996 to mark the 660th anniversary of Amir Temur.
The 14th-15th cc. Tuman-agha memorial complex is one of the elements in the Shah-i-Zinda complex that consists of three structures stretching from north to south: mosque; hujra (cells); and mausoleum. The three-domed mosque is located on the south side. The text on the entrance door confirms that its founder is the Amir’s daughter Musy Tuman-agha.
A masterpiece of the 14th century architecture is an exquisite Shah-i Zinda mausoleum built in honour of Amir Temur’s younger sister Shirin-bek-agha. The vault bears an Arabic inscription saying that this is the burial-vault of Princess Shirin-bek-aga, the daughter of Taragay, 1385. The arch of the fourth niche, the ornamentation of which consists of bricks and ceramic tiles, grows into a dome. Sapphire-blue composition mosaic has amazing colour shades. In most instances, the corners of the arched tier are filled with semi-domes or halves of conjoining vaults, yet a different ornamentation makes the interior unique.
Shadi-Mulk-agha Mausoleum is situated opposite the preceding burial-vault building on the crest of the fortress wall. It was built by Amir Temur’s younger sister Turkan-agha for her daughter Shadi-Mulk-agha. A niche, an essential interior element in the architecture of that period, introduced diversity into the composition; it began over the panel, integrating itself into the tier of arch “sails”. Professional skills of architects are manifest in the way they combined interior and exterior facing of different colour and manufacturing technique, which lends lightness and lace-like quality to the portal that uses carved glazed terracotta and painted majolica. Warm shades were introduced into the colour range of the facing. The burial-vault of Turkan-agha is also here. Stalactites adorn the vaults over the portal niches. Faceted cells of the lower stalactite rows are aligned with the edge of the arch. In carved glazed terracotta vegetable designs prevailed, highlighted by deep shadows; in majolica, geometric framework created a relief, and vegetable design was performed by over-glaze or under-glaze painting. In mosaic patterns, vegetable element dominated, and the main motif was highlighted by colour.
The Shah-i Zinda buildings were created by the representatives of different schools; among them are Bahreddin and Shamseddin from Samarqand; Zaineddin from Bukhara, usto Alim from Qarshi… Their names are inscribed in the designs adorning portals and mukarnas. The monument is a symbol of achievements in monumental art and carving.
Modarihan Madrasah in Bukhara was built ca. 1567 in honour of Abdullah-khan’s mother. The madrasah has a rectangular courtyard with an aivan (portal and niche). In the courtyard there are two-storey loggias; behind them there are hujras. The madrasah has two storeys and is built of roast brick in the shape of a square. Modarihan is richly decorated with tiles made of coloured brick mosaic. Majolica tiles feature flower buds. The facade is painted with geometric designs, and the rooms are divided into three sections.
Women always inspire men to create wonderful works of art, be it music, poetry, or architecture. Historical chronicles keep the record of many wonderful names of women, whose stories are yet to be told.