Istaravshan city (Ura-Tyube)
Istaravshan is one of the ancient cities of Central Asia, sprang up more than 2500 years ago. The city is situated at an altitude of about 1000m above sea level on the Aksu mountain river at the west side of the Turkestan Ridge.It is believed that Ura-Tyube was established by Persian king Kir. The city became an extreme point of his great state in the Nord-East. Accordingly to the Greek sources, in 329 B.C. this city named Kiropol was conquered by Alexander the Great. But accordingly to the notices of sultan Baber, the city was the capital of Utrusana land and had the same name.
As Ura-Tybe (“ura” –hole, “tepe” -hill) it has been known only since 15th c. (after an Uzbek invasion). And on the 10th November 2000 the government of Tajikistan decided to return the city its historical name Istaravshan (translated from Persian “istaravshan” means a bright star). A legend about the city’s origin tells that Istaravshan, situated on a high rock, was as leading light for numerous caravans, went along the Great Silk Road. Ura-Tyube is an original museum in open air. At present on its territory and suburbs are represented more than 150 historical, cultural and art monuments. Among them are:
Ak-Tepa temple of fire (4-7th cc. B.C.). The ancient building consists of a center room surrounded by corridors on every side and strengthened by four corner towers.
Nur-Tepa town, Kok-gumbaz mosque-madrasah (the first half of the 16th century, turned into madrasah in the middle of 17th century) with the central domical hall (the dome is not saved), Bobo Tago Mausoleum (the 16th century), Sari-Mazar complex (16-19th cc.), wire frame houses of the 18th- early 20th centuries with ornament patterns are also of big historical interest. In the northward direction are represented ruins of Kimpirduval mound, protected the city from raids of nomads in old days.
The city is also renowned for knifes- and musical instruments “Karnay”-maters, whittlers, artists and “Syuzane” embroiderers. The handicrafts (fabrics, shoes, knifes decorated with carving, dishes and decorative needlework) always have great value in Central Asia.
Istaravshan is a museum city, the ancient center of trade and crafts, one of the most ancient cities of the Central Asia. In 2002 Istaravshan turned 2,500 years old.
The city was founded in the sixth century B.C. by a Akhemenid king Cyrus who fortified the settlement by means of three wall lines and a citadel.
In the second -seventh centuries B.C. the ancient sentiment Mugteppa was located on the territory of Istaravshan. Mugteppa was the residence of the local aristocracy who erected there numerous palaces distinguished by original expressive architecture. The evidence of that was found in Bundzhikat (Kala and Kakh-Kakh) and Chil’khudzhra settlements which had fortified structures with palaces and cult buildings decorated with paintings and carved panels. For example in Bundzhikat the archaeologists found the painting with the image of a she-wolf feeding two babies – the symbol of contacts between the West and the Orient.
Only the gate with a dome and columns on the sides has survived on Mug Hill where the residence of the local governor used to be. During the years of Arabian sovereignty Istaravshan became a province Arabian Caliphate. It was at this time when Islamic architectural structures of portal-dome design such as mosques, madrasahs, mausoleums, minarets, etc. started to appear. The rapid development of Istaravshan is connected with the rule of the first ethnic Tajik Samanid dynasty (the 9th – the 10th centuries). In the 13th century the city was destroyed by Mongols. The second period of Istaravshan development began in the 14th century when the powerful Timurid Empire was formed. Now the city is called Ura-Tube. In the 16th century Maverannakhr (along with Ura-Tube) lost its significance as a result of formation on a new Shejbanid state with the capital in Bukhara. In the 18th century Ura-Tube entered another stage of its development. It was then that the citadel and the fortress walls were restored and reinforced and new structures capable of resisting attacks of numerous nomadic tribes were erected. In 1886 Ura-Tube became a part of Russia. Today Istaravshan has a number of interesting historical and architectural monuments which bear the evidence of its bright historical past.
Khazrati-Shokh Mausoleum (18th century)
If you ask any local resident who is buried in Khazrati-Shokh Mausoleum you will get the answer that this sacred place is the tomb of St. Khazrati-Shokh -the brother of Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad buried in the 11th century in Samarkand complex of Shakhi Zind. This is the way the legend is told in this place.
The mausoleum itself being one of the most ancient landmarks of Tajikistan is a part of the historical-architectural complex “Khazrati Shokh” located in the old part of Istaravshan. The complex consists of three cult structures: Khazrati-Shokh Mausoleum, Khudoyor Valami Mausoleum and Khazratishokh Mosque (also known as Namozgokh) built in the 19th century. All three structures stand in a semicircle. Each of them was erected at different times and has its own history of creation and purpose. In the past the city cemetery and the madrasah were also a part of the complex.
Today Khazrati-Shokh Mausoleum is a modest two-dome brick building with a tomb (gurkhan) and a chapel (ziyoratkhon) which has been repeatedly restored.
In front of the mausoleum there is a spring the water in which is considered holy and medicinal. According to a legend the spring was formed after caliph Ali dropped his crosier into a high-mountain Lake Ojkul. The crosier emerged at the feet of Khazratishokh buried in Ura-Tyube right where the spring was born. It was from this spring that the history of the mausoleum started. According to the scientists the Moslems consider a spring as a source of life; this is why the burial place of the honored religious figure appeared there. Later the mausoleum was erected above his tomb.
The complex is dated the 18th century though historically it emerged much earlier – in the 10th – 11th century.