Tag Archives: gur-e-amir

In Search of Zoroastrianism

Twin Inverted Triangle

The pre-Islamic history of this region is rich with the stories of fire worshippers. Now, Zoroastrians are loosely regarded as fire worshippers but clearly, not all fire worshippers are Zoroastrians. That being said, some interesting artifacts and historical accounts associated with Zoroastrianism have survived and symbolism associated with fire worship has been carried forward into Islamic architecture and design.

At the Afrosiyob Museum, built around the excavations of Marakanda (ancient Samarkand), I was shown terracotta ossuaries (containers for the bones of dead people) from the 6-7th century. Etched onto some were Zoroastrian fire altars tended to by two mobeds (Zoroastrian priests) with nose and mouth covered, similar to the way they dress today. Incidentally, ‘mobed’ is an old Persian word meaning wise counselor. I also saw some coinage from that period bearing this very symbol. But this is no surprise. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion throughout Central Asia for many …

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Mosques, Mausoleums and Me

Shah-i-Zinda

Today was my day to break away from Nisha (since she has been to Samarkand twice already) and visit the glorious Timurid structures with a local guide, who’s name turns out to be Timur! I quite relished the idea of traveling through Timur’s living legacy with his namesake.

The sights I saw were simply awesome. As Timur said to me, Samarkand was then and still is, the centre of the centre of Central Asia. What really struck me after 8 hours of non-stop walking, was the fascinating balance of scale versus detail. Take Gur-e-Amir, Timur’s stunning mausoleum. It has the most majestic dome in Central Asia but his actual jade tombstone is comparatively simple, a little bigger than perhaps the man himself. The pillars of the dome are inscribed with dramatic, large kufic calligraphy, not for the sake of scale alone but to enable the viewer who stands small, almost 60 …

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Day 6: To Samarkand!

Nisha's Tiles

We lugged our rather large bags to the train station at Tashkent to board our train to Samarkand. (Note for next trip: travel light! Balancing big strolleys and self over sleet covered paths is not fun.)

Uzbek trains are quite comfortable and the locals travel like us – with loads of luggage. They also have in-train entertainment. So we got to see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Double Impact in Uzbek while a young couple on the seat next to us played Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” [listen] on their mobile phone. It didn’t stop me from sleeping but Nisha was clearly disturbed by this clash of cultures.

Samarkand was also snowed in when we arrived. Our hotel overlooked the Gur-e-Amir (we insisted on getting a room with a “view”) and we trooped off to see the mausoleum despite the snow. Samarkand’s monuments have always been captured in bright summer …

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