The Khodja-Akhrar ensemble is a complex of memorial, religious, and spiritual-educational buildings that developed in the 15th – 20th centuries on the outskirts of the ancient cemetery of Dzhakerdiz in the southern suburban area of the city of Samarkand. The radical restructuring of the ensemble, completely changing its original appearance, was carried out in the first half of the 17th century. Additions were made in the 19th and 20th centuries. The emergence of the ensemble is associated with the name of a prominent religious and statesman Maverannahr Sheikh Nasyr ad-din Ubaidallah ibn Mahmoud Shashi, better known as Khodja Ahrar Wali. His grave, which is located on the territory of the complex, is one of the most revered shrines of Islam in Central Asia.
The beginning of the construction of religious buildings in the village of Kafshir south of Samarkand was laid by Khodja Ahrar himself. In the second half of the 15th century, he built a khanaku here, which was called the Makhautai-Mullayan (Mullah Habitat). The area around the Sufi hostel was surrounded by a stone wall, and an octagonal pool - hauz was dug in front of the building. Hanaka Khoji Ahrara lay on the same axis with the pool - hauz, and its side facades were parallel to the faces of the pool. The building has not survived to the present day, but it has been definitely established that most of it was built in the madrasah of the 17th century. There is reason to believe that the domed building of the mosque at the madrasah was also originally part of the khanaka of Khodja Ahrar. Nasyr ad-din Ubaidallah died in 1489 and was buried in the southern part of the complex he built. By order of the Timurid rulers, a white marble stele was installed over the grave of Khodja Ahrar. The epitaph carved on it is one of the masterpieces of Islamic calligraphy. Almost immediately, the tomb of the Hazrati Imam became an object of worship, and next to the dahma inside the walls surrounding the complex, burials of noble Samarkand began to appear.
The next stage in the formation of the ensemble is associated with the name of the dignitary of the Bukhara khan, a dignitary from the Uzbek arlat family, Nodir Mirzai Tagay, Devonbegi. In 1630/1631, next to the Mazar of Khodja Ahrar, the vizier of Imamkuli Khan begins the construction of a large madrasah, using elements of the khanaki for this. The courtyard facades of the madrasah retained the names of the direct executors of the will of the all-powerful court: the main architect was Dust Mohammed, and he supervised the construction work usto Khodja Hashim. The construction of a theological educational institution was completed in 1635/1636. At the same time, a summer mosque was erected in the immediate vicinity of the mazar. Not later than the beginning of the 19th century, a winter mosque and a second summer aivan were added to it, which now form the central part of a group of religious buildings stretched out in one row.
In the future, work in the complex was more of a restorative nature. Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah was badly damaged by an earthquake of the beginning of the XIX century. The decorative cladding of the building partially crumbled, the arches of the hujras cracked, the dome of the mosque at the madrasah collapsed. Repair of damaged structures was completed in the second half of the 19th century. The remains of the drum of the dome of the mosque were also dismantled to the bottom, and the opening formed in the roof was blocked by a wooden ceiling. The 1907 earthquake had much more severe consequences. The southeastern part of the madrasah was almost completely destroyed. The building has lost almost all its decoration. The unique mosaic of the tympanum of the entrance portal was showered, and the design itself deviated from the axis by one meter. Hasty fortifications could no longer save the situation. The masters of the beginning of the 20th century completely dismantled the upper parts of the portals, ready at any moment to collapse, and replaced them with simple brickwork. The hastily carried out repair of the surviving hujras introduced additional distortions into the original appearance of the building. Of the new buildings during this period, a group of utility rooms and a small minaret, erected in 1909 by the architect Sagdulla, appeared on the territory of the complex, and mosques aivans were re-painted.
The restoration of the Khodja-Ahrar ensemble began in 1978. She was preceded by many years of painstaking work to restore the original appearance of the Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah. Based on the preserved descriptions of the building, found in the archives of photographs of the 19th century and the analysis of the few surviving decor elements, the specialists of the Uzbek Scientific Research and Design Institute of Restoration managed to almost completely recreate the exterior of the building. Restoration work was carried out by restorers of the Samarkand special scientific and restoration production workshops under the supervision of usto Abdugaffar Hakkulov. In 2007, the museum-workshops of national crafts of Uzbekistan began to work in the building of the madrasah.
The Khodja-Akhrar ensemble is an example of solving the problem of combining buildings with multidirectional axes into a single architectural complex. The rational use of the territory in combination with the skillful organization of spatial zones allowed the architect to combine the composition around one core, which became the ancient house.
The madrasah of Nodir Devonbegi has a traditional layout for buildings of this type in the form of a four-yard courtyard surrounded by one-story khuras, but at the same time it has one unique difference. There are no angular lecture halls - darskhans in the madrasah. Instead, the corners of the building are designed as five-sided niches that have doorways leading to the hujras (except for the southwest corner). The replacement of darshan with niches was forced and was the result of the extension of the Madrasah to the khanaka of Khodja Ahrar. The general asymmetry of the building, due to the bevel outside its southeast corner, is also unusual. The builders of the madrasah were forced to take into account the existence of a ritual trail leading here to the mazar. In the first half of the 19th century, a small gatehouse was attached to this part of the wall of the madrasah - darvazahana, from which the path to the resting place of Khodja Ahrar began.
The main entrance portal is on the eastern facade of the madrasah. It is made in the form of a U-shaped frame decorated with a geometric pattern - a girih made of glazed bricks and typesetted stone mosaics. At the base of the portal there is a marble panel, on the pylons - mosaic panels with floral patterns. Of particular interest is the tympanum of the entrance portal. Its pattern reflects the scene of a tiger-lion hunting a gazelle. A similar motif is available at the Sherdor Madrasah in Registan Square, as a result of which the Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah was popularly called the “mirror of Sherdor” and “the external Sherdor”.
A mosque is located on the same axis as the entrance portal. This is the structure of the portal-dome composition. The square premises of the mosque with deep niches are covered with a sphere-conical dome decorated with blue tiles, which lies on a high cylindrical drum. In the western niche is a mosaic mihrab. Passages to two-chamber galleries, covered by small domes, open through side niches on both sides. The portal of the mosque differs from the entrance portal in more harmonious proportions. Its corners are flanked by three-quarter stylized columns decorated with a spiral pattern. On pylons in decorative niches panels with floral ornaments with stylized bouquets in figured vases. On the tympanum of the portal is a vegetable mosaic pattern.
The Aivans of the north and south facades of the madrasah are also decorated with portals. Northern aivan is deaf and not marked on the outside. South aivan, on the contrary, has a through passage leading to the courtyard of the complex, and is also decorated with a portal on the outside. On the sides of the aivans there are sections of one-story hujras, which on the southern facade have exits to the courtyard of the complex. There are twenty-seven hujras in the madrasah. The decor of the courtyard of the madrasah used sets of glazed bricks and marble panels at the base of the walls. In the design of tympanums of portals and small tympans of hujras, mosaic mosaics with simple plant patterns are used. The wings of the south and the left wing of the east facades once had a similar design. The total area of the Madrasah is 84.5x50 meters.
The Khodja-Akhrar Mosque is a complex of alternating open aivans and indoor premises for various purposes, pulled in a line from south to north. The length of the complex is slightly more than 60 meters, width from 6 to 13 meters. The closest aivan Madrasah to the building is a modern building. Located in the southern wing of the complex in the immediate vicinity of the mazar, the section with a closed winter building dates back to the 17th century. Her wooden aivan with coffered ceiling rests on the side brick walls of the building and two wooden columns with marble bases and stalactite capitals. At the base of the walls is a ceramic panel with majolica fragments, in which a mihrab is embedded. Dark blue colors interspersed with yellow, orange and white colors prevail in the decoration. The general style of the section design, the materials and ornaments of the mosaic patterns used for its decoration indicate that the structure was built at the same time as the Nodir Devonbegi madrasah. In the north wall of the section there is a doorway leading to a closed winter room. It is slightly lower than the ceiling of aivan. The front facade of this building is divided by two arches. The geometric pattern of its exterior decoration is a continuation of the iwan ornament.
The dating of the winter mosque and central summer aivan is difficult, since this part was significantly rebuilt in the 20th century. The square in terms of aivan sections from three sides rests on brick walls, and its central part is supported by six paired wooden columns. The first pair has painted stalactite capitals. The aivan ceiling relief is formed by many small painted planks between the beams, a star-shaped caisson - a hawzak and a cassette with wooden stalactites. There is a mihrab in the western wall of the section. In its side walls on both sides there are entrances to adjacent covered rooms. The walls are decorated with arched niches with mosaic inserts on tympans. Opposite the aivan on the banks of the 15th century pool - hauz, a five-meter minaret with a hexagonal section is installed.
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