Po-i Kalyan

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The Poi Kalyan Complex

Kalyan Minaret
Kalyan Minaret

Kalyan Mosque
Kalyan Mosque

Miri Arab Madrasah
The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah

Miri Arab Madrasah

Miri Arab Madrasah

Miri Arab Madrasah

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The Poi Kalyan Complex

"Po-i-Kalyan" is a word-combination, which in Persian means "the foot of the Great". This title was given to architectural 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 Kalyan minaret

The minaretis 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").

The architect, whose name was simply Bako, entwined his name (as well as the date of construction and the name of Arslan-khan) with epigraphic ornaments of the Minaret. Local inhabitants believe that the architect was buried somewhere among houses of the neighboring residential quarter. Bako made a minaret in the form of a circular-pillar brick tower, narrowing upwards, of 9 meters (29.53 feet) diameter at the bottom, 6 meters (19.69 feet) overhead and 45.6 meters (149.61 feet) high. There is a brick spiral staircase that twists up inside around the pillar, leading to the landing in sixteen-arched rotunda - skylight, which based on a magnificent stalactite cornice (sharafa).

The Kalyan Mosque

Kalyan Mosque (1514) is equal with Bibi-khonym Mosque in Samarkand by the scale. The mosque is able to accommodate 12 thousand people.

Historical background

After the death of Shaibani-khan in 1510 the most of local rulers (emirs and sultans) recognized central government only partially. The capital of the Shaibanid state was in Samarkand. In 1512 the nephew of Shaibani-khan young prince Muizz ad-Din Abu-l Gazi Ubaidullah became sultan of Bukhara. He inherited the power from his father Mahmud-sultan, who was the cadet brother of Shaibani-khan and his faithful companion-in-arms. Till 1533 Ubaidullah-sultan was successful governor of Bukhara, when he was enthroned as a khan of whole Shaibanid state - khan of Maverannahr (Ma wara'u'n-nahr). In spite of this he refused to move his residence to Samarkand - the capital of the State. Moreover he later made Bukhare the capital of the Shaibanid state. After that the state governed by Ubaidullah (Ubaidulla) received new name - Bukhara khanate. Thus Ubaidullah-khan (gov. 1533-1539) became the first khan of Bukhara khanate. While Ubaidullah-khan was the khan of Maverannahr, his son Abdul-Aziz-khan was the khan of Bukhara. They considered Bukhara as their family lot. They were patriots of Bukhara, and therefore they constantly were anxious for success of the city.

The fact that governor of Bukhara in 1514 built such grand mosque, which could rival with the symbol of royal Samakand - the Bibi-khonim Mosque, shows a tendency to make eventually Bukhara the capital of the Shaibanid state. By the construction of Kalyan Mosque Ubaidullah-sultan started formation of new capital, rather than to fight for domination over Samarkand, which by the way has forever hostile feeling to Shaibanids.


Although Kalyan Mosque (Masjid-y kalyan) and Bibi-Khanym Mosque of Samarkand are of the same type of building, they are different in terms of art of building. 288 monumental pylons serve as a support for the multidomed roofing of the galleries encircling the courtyard of Kalyan Mosque. The longitudinal axis of the courtyard ends up with a portal to the main chamber (maksura) with a cruciform hall, topped with a massive blue cupola on a mosaic drum. The edifice keeps many architectural curiosities, for example, a hole in one of domes. Through this hole one can see foundation of Kalyan Minaret. Then moving back step by step, one can count all belts of brickwork of the minaret to the rotunda.

The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah (1535-1536)

The construction of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah ( Miri Arab Madrasah) is ascribed to Sheikh Abdullah Yamani of Yemen - called Mir-i-Arab - the spiritual mentor of Ubaidullah-khan and his son Abdul-Aziz-khan. Ubaidullah-khan waged permanent successful war with Iran. At least three times his troops seized Herat. Each of such plundering raids on Iran was accompanied by capture of great many captives. They say that Ubaidullah-khan had invested money gained from redemption of more than three thousand Persian captives into construction of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

The war with Iran, heated up by ideas of holy war between two historical branches of Islam (Shi'as and Sunni), was considered as piety. Persian military man wore turbans with 12 red stripes in honor of 12 Shi'a Imams. Therefore, Turkic-speaking Sunnis gave them contemptuous nickname "kizilbashi" (red-headed).

Ubaidullah-khan was very religious. He had been nurtured in high respect for Islam in the spirit of Sifism. His father named him in honor of prominent sheikh of the 15-th century Ubaidullah al-Ahrar (1404-1490), by origin from Tashkent province.

The portal of Miri Arab Madrasah is situated on one axis with the portal of the Kalyan Mosque. However, because of some lowering of the square to the east it was necessary to raise a little an edifice of the madrasah on a platform.

By the thirties of the 16-th century the time, when sovereigns erected splendid mausoleums for themselves and for their relatives, was over. Khans of Shaibanid dynasty were standard-bearers of Koran traditions. The significance of religion was so great that even such famed khan as Ubaidullah was conveyed to earth close by his mentor in his madrasah. In the middle of the vault (gurhana) in Mir-i-Arab Madrasah is situated the wooden tomb of Ubaidullah-khan. At his head is wrapped in the moulds his mentor - Mir-i-Arab. Muhammad Kasim, mudarris (a senior teacher) of the madrasah (died in 1047 hijra) is also interred near by here.


1. Dmitriy Page. The Guide to Bukhara. History and sights.

2. Дмитрий Пэйдж. Бухара. Путеводитель по архитектурным и историческим достопримечательностям

See also

1. Пои Калян
2. Poi Kalan
3. Bukhara Map

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  © 2005-2014
Dmitriy Page. The Guide to Bukhara. History and sights
 This article is associated with conformable article of Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, initially contributed by the author of this site.

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