Showing posts with label Khoresm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Khoresm. Show all posts

Friday, October 15, 2021

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Uzbekistan | Khoresm | Zoroastrians | Tower of Silence

Zoroastrianism, founded in Persia in perhaps the 6th century BC by the mysterious character known as Zoroaster, a.k.a Zarathustra of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” fame, is probably the world’s oldest “revealed” religion, and as such Zoroastrians are even regarded as “People of the Book”, along with Christians and Jews, by at least some Muslims (sorry, Buddhists remain garden-variety Idolators). The major premise of Zoroastrianism, as you no doubt know, is the vast cosmic struggle between Ahura Mazdah, the God of Light (very roughly speaking), and Ahriman, the principal of Darkness and Evil. Zoroastrianism was very widespread in the Transoxiania and Khorezm regions before the arrival of the Islam in the eight and ninth centuries. For an utterly titillating account of Zoroastrianism see In Search of Zarathustra. For still more see Magi

Zoroastrian Burial Practices are of special interest. Bodies were placed on high hills or man-made summits and exposed to scavengers who soon stripped the bones clean. The bones were then preserved in containers known as ossuaries. A high place where the bodies were laid out was known as a Tower of Silence. One such Tower of Silence is located on the right bank of the Amu Darya River northeast of Khiva. After my stay in Khiva I wandered by this Tower of Silence.
Tower of Silence on the north bank of the Amu Darya 
This particular Tower of Silence a man-made structure on top of a natural hill
Closer view of the man-made platform at the top of the hill
The south side of the platform
View south from the entranceway
The flat top of the burial platform with the Amu Darya in the distance
Another view of the flat top of the platform. Bodies were left here to be stripped down to the bones by vultures.
Irrigated lands next to the Amu Darya
Another view of irrigated lands next to the Amu Darya
The Amu Darya from the top of the Tower of Silence

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Uzbekistan | Khorezm | Khiva | al-Khwārizmī

After viewing the Summer Mosque in Khiva I wandered outside the city walls and soon found myself in front of the statue of Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (c. 780–c. 859). Sources vary on the birthplace of al-Khwārizmī, but at least one historian, Ibn al-Nadim, asserts that he was born in Khorezm (also known as Khwarizm), and local boosters insist that despite all the various nay-sayers he was born right here in Khiva, hence his statute here on the main drag in front of the city walls. Al-Khwārizmī was a celebrated geographer, astronomer and mathematician and is acknowledged as the inventor of Algebra, a dubious accomplishment which has earned him the well-deserved opprobrium of generations of high school students the world over.
Statue of Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (c. 780–c. 859)
Al-Khwarizmi's most famous (or perhaps most notorious) book, in which he formulated the basis principles of algebra, was entitled Hisab Al-Jabr W'al Mugabalah, translating roughly as "the science of reunion and reduction”.
A page from al-Khwārizmī's Hisab Al-Jabr W'al Mugabalah
Our current word algebra is indeed a corruption of the word “Al-Jabr in the title. This book is still in print for the benefit of those few interested in such folderol: The Book of Algebra.

I myself have no interest whatsoever in wasting any more of my time discussing anything so jejune as algebra; if you are really interesting in this subject and have nothing better to do see A History of Algebra: From Al-Khwarizmi to Emmy Noether and/or Al-Khwarizmi: The Inventor of Algebra.

On a more salubrious note, later translations into Latin of al-Khwārizmī's other books, notably On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals (c. 825), led to the introduction of the so-called Hindu-Arabic Numeral System (complete with a decimal point and the all-important value of zero), and “Arabic Numerals” (i.e., the numbers we now use), into the Occidental world. Otherwise we would probably still be hammering Roman numerals into granite with a chisel. So al-Khwārizmī did have his redeeming qualities. 

In any case, al-Khwārizmī eventually washed up in Baghdad, where he became an integral part of the so-called Bayt al-Hikmah, or House of Wisdom, an institute of advanced studies in various sciences which had sprung up during the time of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, he of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights fame, and eventually flowered under the patronage of his son al-Mamun (r 813–833 AD).  

Indeed, I have just recently added The House of Wisdom to my Scriptorium and even more fortuitously a Review has just appeared in the New Year Times:
Abdullah ­al-­Mamun, caliph of Baghdad in the early 9th century, was indispensable to this intellectual flowering. The city was only four decades old but had already become the largest in the world. In this vibrant setting, al-Mamun established an institute, the House of Wisdom, the likes of which had not been seen since the great library at Alexandria. The author compares Baghdad in those days to Renaissance Florence or Athens in the age of Pericles. At first, the caliph followed his great-grandfather’s practice of pushing his savants for Arabic translations of Greek books in the country’s possession, a legacy of Hellenistic rule for several centuries after the conquests of Alexander the Great. Over the next two centuries, more works of Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes and Hippocrates, as well as Persian and Indian thinkers, were rendered into Arabic. It became a lucrative business, abetted by advances in papermaking learned from captive Chinese soldiers. Other wealthy patrons, not only the caliph, supported the translation movement, al-Khalili points out, “in part for the practical benefits it brought them in finance, agriculture, engineering projects and medicine, and in part because this patronage quickly turned into a de rigueur cultural activity that defined their standing in society.” A modern budget proposal from a science-funding agency could not have put it better.
 The Bayt al-Hikmah has now been recreated in cyperspace. See The House of Wisdom, a blog about the latest developments in Arabic science.
Stamp commemorating al-Khwārizmī's 1200th birthday. Al-Khwārizmī also has An Area On The Moon named after him.

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 
Tilework
Tilework
Tilework
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.