One hundred years ago today’s Navoiy Street, one of the widest and most beautiful avenues of Uzbek capital, was called Sheikhantahur Street. It had been named after Sufi sheikh Khavendiy at-Takhur (Sheikhantahur), very much respected by Moslems. His mausoleum is located in this part of the city. The memorial of at-Takhur is believed to be the oldest structure in Tashkent. It was built over the grave of the sheikh by Amir Temur’s order at the end of the 14th century.
The personality of Khavendiy at-Takhur attracted many of his contemporaries as well as generations to follow, who considered the sheikh to be ‘the wisest of the wise’. Early in life he made a trip to the town of Turkestan where for a few years he lived with dervishes in their khanaka, studying the mysticism of Ahmad Yassaviy. After long travels he returned to Tashkent and settled near a holy spring. According to the legend, at this spring there was a heathen temple of Water and Fire in pre-Islamic times. Sheikh at-Takhur, who died in 1355, willed to be buried in this very place. Until recently, near the grave of the saint there grew millennium-old trees. They had lost their leaves and had almost petrified because of the age. The trunk of one of them is still inside the mausoleum of Sheikhantahur, besides his grave.
The brickwork of the mausoleum is enlivened with little insets of blue majolica in lancet niches and small entrance timpanum. The mausoleum consists of two parts. The first, with a 12-facet dome on a cylinder, encloses the tombstone of at-Takhur. The second smaller one, with a dome on an octahedral base, hosts the graves that are believed to be of saint’s wife and son.
During the next centuries around this memorial there appeared burial vaults of Tashkent rulers and their confidants. Thus, by the end of the 19th century, there was formed a necropolis on this place. Today the complex consists of three structures.
At a distance of 20 meters from the mausoleum of Shekhantahur there stands a small cubic building made from baked bricks. It is topped with a pyramidal dome, unusual for Central Asian architecture. Behind its ancient carved doors is a burial compartment decorated with deep niches with gunch stucco stalactites. This is the mausoleum of Tashkent ruler of the mid-18th century – Toliy-biy nicknamed Kaldirgoch-biy (‘swallow’). He came from Kazakh Duglat clan relating to Seniour Juz. Toliy-biy became well-known among his contemporaries as a impartial judge and a wonderful inspiring orator, the leader of the struggle against Jungar-Kalmyk invasion. At the same time he was a stalwart of Hajji Ahmad Yassavi’s philosophy. And when fate decreed that he got Tashkent Province to rule over, he became an ardent follower of Sheikh Khavendi at-Takhur.
A little further is a grand Mausoleum of Yunus-Khan of Mogolistan. Very impressive is the size of this 15th-century structure with a portal and a high lancet arch of the main entrance. The dome of the main hall of the mausoleum lies on a complex of intersecting arcs and pendentives. The facades are decorated with calligraphic Arabic characters and girikh pattern. This splendid mausoleum is worthy of being the place where Yunus-Khan, an outstanding personality of those times, found eternal rest.
The khan belonged to Jagatay Ulus and came from the clan of the Chingizeds, who ruled the nomadic herdsmen of Mogolistan. He was closely related to the Temurids as one of his relatives was Mirzo Ulughbek’s wife, and his daughter Mikhr Nigar was the mother of Zakhiriddin Bobur. Yunus-Khan was born in 1416. At the age of 13 he lost his father, and had to spend the next 20 years in Iran ‘in honorary exile’ where he got a thorough education from the well-known Amir Temur’s court historian Sharafaddin Ali Yezdiy.
In 1456 Yunus-Khan returned home and was proclaimed Khan of Mogolistan Ulus. He maintained close kindred and allied relations with the Timurids and thus managed to get power over a few districts in Ferghana Valley and to annex Tashkent to his domain. In 1485 he was stricken by a paralysis and had to pass on power to his sons. He cloistered himself with Sufi dervishes near the mausoleum of Khavendiy at-Takhur, and it was here that he was buried in a mausoleum built for him by his sons.
The three mausoleums of Sheikhantahur Complex have forever become the pearls in Uzbekistan’s necklace of medieval architectural monuments.