The mausoleum of Muhammad Bashoro

The mausoleum of Muhammad Bashoro - a Hadith (sayings about the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad and his associates) expert from the first period of Islam - is a fine example of the golden age of Central Asian architecture. It is situated among apricot orchards and juniper trees and was built in the 11-12th centuries, combining the functions of a mausoleum and a memorial mosque. The building consists of a spacious central domical room, on the left and right of which are several vaulted compartments. The main facade of the mausoleum faces a mountain river to which the road leads.

Initially the mausoleum was built without a portal. The portal was attached in the 14th century, decorated with carved terracotta of unique beauty and complexity. Such a technique required a high level of expertise, careful attention to detail and precision in assembly. The portal is two-coloured – a double frame made of turquoise enamelled bricks borders pink terracotta patterns. Its precise date of completion is preserved among the inscriptions - year 743 of Hijra, which corresponds to 1342-1343 A.D. The portal decoration is a masterpiece of Tajik medieval art, and one of the most outstanding works of decorator craftsmen after the Mongolian conquest.

In the central room of the mausoleum there is a clay mehrob (an alcove in the mosque wall showing the direction to the Kaaba – the most sacred place of Islam) of great artistic value with fine ornamental and calligraphic inscriptions. The steps of the mausoleum are decorated with carved terracotta and are also of great interest.

There are many puzzles about the architecture of the mausoleum, and even now it is providing new discoveries. First of all, it is necessary to determine whether Muhammad Bashoro, who died in 866, was, in fact, buried here. If this is true, then at the location of his grave an older mausoleum may have existed, possibly made from mud bricks which has not survived to today. Some hold the opinion that the building was initially a mosque and not a mausoleum – the normal orientation of a mehrob in this type of buildings to the south-west suggests this. Later, when somebody (possibly other than Muhammad Bashoro) was buried in the mosque, it was no longer used as a mosque and another building was attached to it for small mosques. A new portal was added to this building early in the 14th century which changed the position of the entrance.

The purpose of numerous vaulted corridors placed within the wall adjoining the hill and going into the slope is also unknown. They are not high and lack light. It is assumed that they were used as chillakhona (a room for forty-day fasts and prayers). Possibly they were intended to prevent damp in the walls in the most vulnerable part of the structure. Answers to these questions may become clear after deeper study into this important monument of Tajik architecture.

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