"Po-i-Kalyan" is a word-combination, which in Persian means "the foot of the Great". This title was given to architectural complex (on Bukhara map Poi Kalyan Complex), which is located at the foot of the great minaret Kalyan. The complex is unmatched in Bukhara, forming unique silhouette of its historical center. The place where the complex is located remembers a few completely ruined buildings in the past. In pre-Islamic era right here was located the central cathedral of fire-worshippers. Since 713 here, at the site south of the Ark, several edifices of main cathedral mosque were built then razed, restored after fires and wars, and moved from place to place. In 1127, the Karakhanid ruler Arslan-khan fulfilled a construction of most significant of past architecture ensembles at this place - the cathedral mosque with the minaret. Greatness of these structures was so amazing, that it made Genghis-khan to consider mosque mistakenly to be khans' palace. Nevertheless the building of mosque was not spared by the fire, and for many years after the conflagration it was laying in ruins. All that remained intact of former ensemble is the magnificent minaret Kalyan (Minara-yi-Kalyan).
The minaret is most famed part of the ensemble, which dominates over historical center of the city in form of a huge vertical pillar. The role of the minaret is largely for traditional and decorative purposes - its dimension exceeds the bounds of the main function of the minaret, which is to provide a vantage point from which the
muezzin can call out people to prayer. For this purpose it was enough to ascend to a roof of mosque. This practice was common in initial years of Islam. There were also cases when for this purpose Moslems used towers of Roman sanctuaries, belfries of Christian churches, "fire-towers" of fire-worshippers and other vertical structures. The word "minaret" descends to
Arabic "manara" ("lighthouse", or more literally "a place where something burn").
Probably an idea of minarets of Islam was adopted from
"fire-towers" or lighthouses of previous epochs. In some of the oldest mosques, such as the Great mosque of Damascus, minarets originally served as
watchtowers illuminated by torches (hence the derivation of the word from the
Arabic "nur", meaning "light").
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