Near Juma Mosque, inside a labyrinth of narrow streets, there towers a large turquoise dome with a kuba golden ball. This is the dome of Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum.
The people have always honoured pahlavans - strong men. A genuine pahlavan deserved a legend of his own. Pahlavan Mahmud from Khorezm was the one who was given such an honour. He was furrier by trade, a hercules by build, a philosopher by spirit and poet by vocation. In general, he was a man of many gifts, like many other great figures of the Renaissance, whose dawn he caught.
This Khorezmian traveled a lot and earned his living as a furrier. He pleased his soul, though, by composing excellent verses, and became famous for his rubaee poems. In them he praised courage, honesty, humanity. Maybe in contrast to it, he also practiced the national wrestling, and was rather good at it. He always defeated those who wrestled with him except only once when he learned that his opponent would be executed if he lost.
In his philosophical theories Pahlavan Mahmud developed various ethical principles, including those of courage and valor. He was one of the pillars of Sufi school Javonmardlik (‘Bravery of Youth’) whose basic principles were generosity of soul, mercy, modesty and obedience to God.
Pahhlavan Mahmud became recognized and famous both in Khiva Khanate and far beyond already in his lifetime. After his death people began to revere him as a peer – a patron saint of Khiva. His plain grave became a shrine. According to the legend, the poet was buried in the workshop near his home. The memorial complex that can be seen there today was built in the 19th century. Some fragments of adobe brickwork of the earliest mausoleum still remain inside the walls of the mausoleum built in 1810. Later the interior and exterior walls of the mausoleum were covered with beautiful majolica.
Within the ornamental interlacing one can make out lines from one of the verses by Pahlavan: ’Will I be remembered over my ashes?’ The tombstone of Pahlavan Mahmud is decorated with very fine and elegant ceramic mosaics. The construction of the mausoleum was carried out under supervision of the well-known Khiva’s architect Muhammad-Murad. The names of the ceramists who took part in the decoration of the mausoleum are also known: they are Sufimuhammad Niyaz and Abdullah, who developed Khiva’s style of architectural decoration to be used for dozens of years to come.
Besides Pahlavan Mahmud’s tomb there are in this mausoleum the graves of Muhammad Rakhim-Khan I, Abdulgazi-Khan and Elbars II. In the extension built in the early 20th century members of khan’s family were buried. Thus the mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud also became the mausoleum of Khiva’s khans. The memorial complex also includes a madrassah and a summer mosque. The door that opens to a small yard next to the mausoleum is decorated with beautiful carvings. In the yard there is a two-story ziaratkhona structure for praying. Across from it stands an ayvan pavilion with pillars. Near it there is a deep well with crystal-clear water.
Pahlavan Mahmud Complex is one of the best examples of the medieval architecture and one of the pearls in the necklace of Khiva’s historical and cultural heritage.