Saturday, April 30, 2011

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Khiva | Kunya Ark and Summer Mosque

After visiting the Harem of Allah Kuli Khan I wandered by the Summer Mosque of the Kunya Ark, or Citadel. Finished in 1838, the mosque features spectacular tilework by local masters Ibadullah and Adullah Jin, who had also worked on Allah Kuli Khan’s harem. 
Summer Mosque
Pillars in the Summer Mosque
Base of pillar in the Summer Mosque
Pillars and Tilework 
Minbar, or pulpit, in the corner of the mosque
 The Kunya Ark, or Citadel, from outside
View of the Inner City from the top of the Citadel
View the Inner City from the top of the Citadel
View from the top of the Citadel, with the Kalta Minaret, top, left-center
View from the top of the Citadel with Islam Hoja Minaret (1910), middle
Heart-palpitatingly gorgeous local hand-woven carpet. I sat on it for an hour, soaking up the vibes, but in the end did not buy, since the next stop in my wanderings is Bukhara, whose very name is synonymous with carpets. 
 This brother and sister duo dogged my tracks for an hour or more, hounding me to take their photo. Finally I gave in. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Khiva | Harem of Allah Kuli Khan

While I was mainly interested in Remnants of Khiva Pre-Dating the Mongol Invasion I thought that while I was in town it would be downright churlish not to wander by the Harem of Allah Kuli Khan (r. 1825–42), even though it is a relatively recent structure, dating back to the 1830s. The Harem is part of the so-called Tash Hauli Palace, which many of you are no doubt familiar with from the descriptions given in Frederick Burnaby’s A Ride to Khiva: Travels and Adventures in Central Asia (1876) and The Life and Adventures of Arminius Vambery, Written by Himself (1883) Both Burnaby and Vambery visited the palace after the death of Allah Kuli Khan, however, and of course neither of them gained access to the Harem.

Allah Kuli Khan’s seventeen-year reign as Khan of Khiva began in 1825 with the death of his father Muhammad Rakhim Khan. In 1830 he decided to built a new palace on the eastern side of the city. He envisioned a sprawling complex with 163 rooms and three courtyards and informed his architect Usto Nur Mohammed Tajikhan that he wanted the entire palace completed within three years. When Usto Nur Mohammed Tajikhan opined that such an extensive project could never be completed in three years Allah Kuli Khan had him impaled on a stake and hired as his replacement an architect named Kalender Khivaki. With the help of the renowned tile decorator Abdullah Jin and a work force of over 1000 slaves  Kalender Khivaki was able to complete the Harem section of the palace in two years, but the rest of the complex was not finished until 1838. Allah Kuli Khan lived in the Harem with his four wives in apartments on the left-hand side of the courtyard. His female relatives and Persian serving girls lived in apartments on the right hand side.
The formidable walls of the Tash Hauli Palace
Current entrance to the Harem Courtyard. 
According to local sources this entranceway was cut through the palace walls only after the Harem was no longer used for its original purpose. The original means of egress was by carefully monitored hallways through the rest of the palace. Direct egress between the Harem and the street would have been highly inappropriate.
Apartments on the left hand side of the Courtyard
Ceiling of the roof shown in photo above
Tile decoration on the outside walls of the apartments of the Khan and his wives
Entrance to one of the apartments
Entrance to one of the apartments
Tile decoration on the outside walls of the apartments of the Khan and his wives
Tile decoration on the outside walls of the apartments of the Khan and his wives
Detail of tile decoration on the outside walls of the apartments of the Khan and his wives
Apartments of the Khan’s female relatives and serving girls on the right side of the courtyard
Another view of the apartments of the Khan’s female relatives and serving girls on the right side of the courtyard
Entranceway to one of the apartments on the right side of the courtyard
Entranceway to one of the apartments on the right side of the courtyard. 
Embedded in the walls can be seen green ceramic tiles which local authorities claim are symbols of Zoroastrianism. This would seem to indicate that the beliefs of Zoroaster were to some extent incorporated into Islam.
Zoroastrian Symbols 
Zoroastrian Symbol.
The two triangles are said to represent Body and Mind. They are linked by the bar, which represents the power of speech. Thus Body, Speech, and Mind are united. This is very similar to the Body, Speech, and Mind Triad often cited in Buddhism.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Khiva | Djuma Mosque

After wandering about the Fifty Forts Region along the northern bank of the Amu Darya I returned to Khiva. I was most interested in finding what traces if any of Khiva survived the Mongol invasion of the lower Amu Darya in the winter of 1220-1221. 

Although much has been written about the fall of Urgench, further on down the Amu Darya (now known as Kunye Urgench, or Old Urgench, now in Turkmenistan, and not be to confused with New Urgench, in Uzbekistan just east of Khiva), none of the contemporary Persian accounts of the Mongol invasion that I am aware of say anything about Khiva. Ala'iddin Ata-Malik Juvayni (1226–1283), for instance, in his book Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conqueror, gives a harrowingly detailed account of the fall of Urgench, but as far as I can tell, given the confusion over name places, he makes no mention of any Mongol attack on Khiva. Yet Khiva was a prominent city in the thirteenth-century and would have been a tempting target for plunder during any invasion of the region. Indeed, local people insist that Mongol forces did sack Khiva in late 1220 or early 1221 and recount numerous local legends about the seige and ultimate destruction of the city. 
The bas-relief of Chingis shown on the cover of Juvaini’s book can be seen at Khökh Nuur in Khentii Aimag.
You will recall that Chingis Khan himself, after leading the attacks on Bukhara and Samarkand, spent the winter of 1220-21 camped on the banks of the upper Amu-Darya at a place known as Sali-Saray. The area known as Khorezm (or Khwarezm and a host of other alternative spellings) on the lower Amu Darya had not yet been attacked by the Mongols. In the fall of 1220 Chingis dispatched an army led by his two sons Chagatai and Ögedei down the Amu Darya with orders to take the Khorezm capital city of Urgench. They would have had to pass by Khiva and presumably they plundered the city before moving on to Urgench farther on down the Amu Darya. 

The current City Walls of Khiva, which have been restored, were according to locals built sometime after the destruction of the city by the Mongols. The previous city walls were reported leveled by the invaders. The Djuma Mosque, originally dating to the tenth-century, was also destroyed during the sack of the city. This Arabian-style structure with a flat roof held up by hundreds of columns was said to be the only mosque of its type in Central Asia. It was later rebuilt in the same style with a total of 213 columns. According to some sources as many as twenty-one of the columns from the old mosque survived its destruction by the Mongols and were incorporated into the new building. Some of them are ornamented with 10th–12th Arabic inscriptions in Kufic Script. My guide, a history researcher at a local institute, was only able to point out three and possibly four columns which pre-dated the Mongol invasion. These then would be some of the few artifacts which have survived the destruction of the city by the Mongols in 1220-1221.
 Some of the 213 columns holding up the flat roof of the Djuma Mosque
 One of the columns which locals claim pre-date the Mongol Invasion. 
 Another column said to pre-date the Mongol Invasion
Base of one of the columns
 Carving on one of the columns said by local experts to be typical of the 10th-12th centuries
Another column which may pre-date the Mongol Invasion

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mongolia | Kalachakra | Vesna Wallace

A translation by Vesna Wallace of Chapter Four of the Kalacakratantra  has recently been released. See The Kalacakratantra: The Chapter on the Sadhana Together with the Vimalaprabha. As noted, this translation includes the commentary known as the Vimalaprabha, according to tradition written by Pundarika, the Second Kalkin King of Shambhala (ruled 177 BC - 77 BC).
You may recall that Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, founder of the Jonang Sect to which Taranatha, the previous incarnation of Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, belonged, believed that he was a reincarnation of Pundarika and claimed to have visited Shambhala by visionary means.

Professor Wallace has also translated Chapter Two of the Kalachakratantra: The Kalacakratantra: The Chapter on the Individual Together with the Vimalaprabha. 
The Kalacakratantra: The Chapter on the Individual together with the Vimalaprabha (Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences)
She has also written a commentary on Chapter Two, including an overview of the whole Kalacakratantra: The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual.
The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual
She has also contributed two essays—“The Body as a Text and Text as the Body: A View from the Kalacakratantra’s Perspective” and “Medicine and Astrology in the Healing Arts of the Kalacakratantra”— to As Long As Space Endures: Essays on the Kalacakra Tantra in Honor of the Dalai Lama
As Long As Space Endures: Essays on the Kalacakra Tantra in Honor of the Dalai Lama
Professor Wallace returns to Mongolia each summer with the regularity of a Demoiselle Crane to continue her studies of Kalachakra in a Mongolian context and other aspects of Buddhism in Mongolia and since the Appearance of the First Wildflowers is not far off we can look forward to her imminent arrival for the 2011 season. When she does reappear she should be heaped waist-deep in laurels for her continuing efforts to provide translations and elucidations of the Kalacakratantra. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Nukus | Fifty Forts Region

From Khiva I wandered on down the Amu Darya River (also known as the Oxus)  to the city of Nukus. Actually I did not want to go to Nukus. I was much more interesting in the ruins of the old Silk Road cities and fortresses scattered along the north bank of the Amu Darya, but my driver insisted that all tourists who come this way go to Nukus to visit the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art. Unfortunately he did not point out why all tourists go to the Karakalpakstan State Museum. It turns out, according to A Recent Story In The New York Times, that this “museum in the parched hinterland of Uzbekistan . . . is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Russian avant-garde art.”

I did not know this at the time. I did peek through a few doorways into galleries containing what looked like avant-garde art, but of course I did not go in, since I have not the slightest interest in anything avant-garde and indeed little interest in any art created since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. I did spend an enjoyable couple of hours examining the museum’s fair to middling collection of Zoroastrian Ossuaries, which were especially interesting to me since I had just recently visited a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence, also on the banks of the Amu Darya, where human corpses were stripped of their flesh so their bones could be collected and placed in funeral urns like these. I also drooled over the museum’s small but mouth-wateringly delectable collection of antique Turkmen Carpets.  

But enough of that. From Nukus we proceeded eastward along the northern bank of the Amu Darya through what is known as the Ellik Kala, or Fifty Forts Region. The area is dotted with ruins of cities and forts dating from perhaps the third or fourth century BC to the seventh century AD. At one time many of these settlements would have served as important way-stations on the Silk Road between Bukhara and Samarkand to the east and Kunya Urgench, farther on down the Amu Darya. 
 Kyzyl Kala (Fortress)
 Ruins of Toprak Kala, dating to about 2000 years ago
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
  Ruins of Toprak Kala
Aerial view of the ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala. Built sometime in the 4th–7th centuries AD, the fortress may have been destroyed during the Mongol Invasion of Khorezm in the 1220s (see Enlargement). The ruins of the old city can be seen to the left of the fortress. 
Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
 Ruins of the lower fortress of Ayaz Kala
Just north of the Lower Fortress on a higher summit is another larger fortress dating back to the 4th century BCE.

Aerial View of Upper Fortress (see Enlargement)
 Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala
 Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala
Ruins of the upper fortress of Ayaz Kala