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.

5 comments:

  1. I tried to leave a comment yesterday, but it appears as though Blogger has eaten it. Nothing stops Blogger when Blogger is hungry.

    Anyway, LOVE the beautiful blues in the tiles! Of course, as a Mesopotamian and all, they immediately bring to mind the Gate of Ishtar. : ) Not that I'm biased or anything.

    The Body, Speech, and Mind Triad similarities between Buddhism and Zoroastrian beliefs are interesting to contemplate, too.

    On another note, have you ever noticed that the symbols for the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda and the Assyrian Ashur are very similar? Haven't done much research on the topic as to why.

    Great post (again)!

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  2. I too am a big fan of the Gate of Ishtar. Too bad it had to be hauled off to some second-rate sinkhole like Berlin.

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  3. Exquisite tilework. Thanks for the photos! Two more books added to my ever growing Amazon wish list. It appeared to me that the green tiles may have been added at a later date since the work looks like the rectangles were excavated and then the tiles were embedded and held in place by little wads of clay. Not at all the sophisticated work of the blue tiles. Could they have been a later addition?

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  4. If you are referring to the books by Burnaby and Vambery, you might want to give Burnaby a miss. Apparently a superb soldier, not much of a writer. Vambery was a European Jew wandering in disguise as a Muslim. Interesting if you are into the time and place. The walls of the Harem are heavily restored. I assume that the Zoroastrian symbols were there in some setting originally, but it it true that the restoration work is a bit crude in places. By the way, modern-day reproductions of the symbols are for sale in the local souvenir shops. I bought one myself.

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  5. Very nice photo of the stolen Gate of Ishtar! : ) Lovely woman in the photo, as well.

    -a mes.

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