Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gur Emir Mausoleum of Timur - Samarkand

Guri Amir, also known as Gur-e-Amir, Gur-i-Amir and Gur Emir, is the mausoleum of Timur, also known as Tamerlane, located in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Timur lived from 1336 to 1405 and had a huge empire which stretched from India to the Mediterranean. He made Samarkand his capital. 
Painting of Timur in the mausoleum.
The mausoleum was very important architecturally and the precursor and model for later mausoleums, including the Taj Mahal.  The name is Persian for "Tomb of the King." It contains the tombs of Timur, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah, and grandsons Ulug Bek (aka Ulug Begh) and Muhammad Sultan. 
Statue of Timur's grandson, Ulug Bek.
It also contains the tomb of Timur's teacher, Sayyid Baraka. 
The archaeological remains in the foreground are the madrasa and khanaka which have not been restored.

The entrance portal.
Detail on the upper entrance portal. 
View of the mausoleum through the entrance. 
The complex was originally built by Muhammad Sultan as a center for Islamic education. It included a madrasa, to teach the children of Samarkand's nobility; and a khanaka or khanqah,  a spiritual retreat for Sufis. After the death of Muhammad Sultan in 1403, Timur's heir apparent, Timur had his grandson's body temporarily placed in a room of the madrasa and ordered construction of the mausoleum on the site.  

The mausoleum had an entrance portal, a single decorative wall, and four minarets, one at each corner.  
Back of the mausoleum.
Side view.
Timur did not live to see the mausoleum completed. He died in 1405 while on a military campaign in China. Timur had already built a smaller tomb for himself in Shahrisabz, near his Ak Saray Palace. However, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in and so Timur was buried in this mausoleum in Samarkand instead. His body was perfumed with rosewater, musk and camphor and put in a coffin decorated with precious stones. Ulug Bek, another grandson, completed the mausoleum and it became the family crypt for the Timurid Dynasty. Ulug Bek is also buried there. 

The exterior consists of blue, light blue and white tiles organized into geometric and epigraphic (inscriptions as writing) ornaments on a background of terracotta bricks.  The bright blue dome is heavily ribbed. 

Inside, the mausoleum has a high chamber with deep niches. The lower walls are covered with onyx slabs decorated with paintings. Large parts of the walls are covered with painted plaster and ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches (a carved tablet or drawing representing a scroll), gilded and painted. The inside of the dome is gilded with six and a half pounds of gold. 
Inside the dome - sparkling with gold.
Amazingly gold. 

Lower wall panels are made of onyx.
The carved fake sarcophagi indicate the location of actual tombs underneath. Ulug Bek had a solid block of dark green jade put over Timur's tomb, the largest known specimen of jade in existence.  Soviet scientists opened Timur's tomb in June 1941 and confirmed that he was tall, just under five feet eight inches, and was wounded in the leg and arm and would have walked with a pronounced limp. 
Various tomb markers. Timur's is the green jade.
Timur's green jade marker (above his tomb). 
Timur's mausoleum has been restored, but the madrasa and khanaka are still in ruins. 
Local women visiting the mausoleum.

1 comment:

  1. Another incredibly beautiful architectural gem. I loved this one, and having learned the story of Timur from our lecturer, it was even more enjoyable.