Nadir Divan-Begi Khanaka

Impact of Nadir Divan-begi

Historical background

Divan-begi is a title that designated the post right after khan in the Bukhara khanate. Nadir Divan-begi held this position during the reign of Imam Quli-khan (1611-1642), the strongest khan of the Ashtarkhanid (Janid) dynasty (established in 1599). The rulers of Janid dynasty was alien to powerful Shaibanid feudal lords, therefore Imam Quli-khan hardly retained his power by force. The devotion to Islam tradition in the state under Janid dynasty was pale before the eagerness of the time of prominent Shaibanid khans. These two important peculiarities of the power were soon expressed in remarkable architecture tendency. In 1619 Yalantush-biy who virtually independently governed Samarkand had begun the construction of grand madrasah (Sher-Dor Madrasah). The rich colored finishing and the depiction of sun, tigers and antelopes tell of a pioneering approach to artistic expression, unique in the Islamic world.

The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah (1622/23)

In three years Nadir Divan-begi followed Yalantush-biy by construction of his own revolutionary structure (Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah). Originally Nadir Divan-begi intended the building to be a caravanserai (not that it was allowed to portray human or animal figures on them either but it was marginally better than on a madrasah). But at the inauguration ceremony, Imam Quli-khan unexpectedly proclaimed the supposed caravanserai is to be a madrasah. So Nadir Divan-begi was obliged to rearrange the caravanserai, by adding on to the front the loggias and angular towers. He also constructed an additional storey with cells (hujras). At the same time the madrasah does not have a lecture room!

The entrance portal has depictions of 2 phoenix birds, 2 misshapen white deer and a "man-in-the-sun" face.

The Khanaka of Nadir Divan-begi (1619/20)

This Khanaka a rectangular edifice topped with a dome. The building has non-traditional narrow and prolate main portal along with two lateral entrances. The hall (dhikr-hana) has excellent acoustic properties. The inner walls of the hall are recessed with niches fringed with stucco moldings. The dwelling space occupies corners and lateral exterior walls of the building. The finishing of the main entrance gate is made quite conservatively, with an exception of some floral elements in ornamentation. The edges of the main portal are overworked with epigraphy ornaments. The main front of the khanaka is cornered with towers cut at a level of the walls.

The khanaka, owing to its location and size (side of the square hall is 11,2 m. - 36,75 ft.) in the course of centuries was the prominent cultural and religious centre of
Bukhara.

The story

According to local story, when Nadir Divan-begi built the Khanaka, near the site of the building there, was a large holding, owned by an old Jewish widow. Nadir Divan-begi had decided that this site would be the perfect place for pond. However, the widow turned down his offer to buy the property. Then Nadir Divan-begi brought her before Imam Quli-khan in the hope that he would coerce her into selling. Imam Quli-khan ordered a congress of muftis to inquire into the question. However, these specialists in Muslim law decided that there was no legal way to purchase the property, other than with the widow's consent, since Jews had rights on a par with Muslims if they paid the Jizyah or poll tax on non-Muslims.

Therefore, Nadir Divan-begi had to build a small reservoir near the house of that stubborn Jewess. Nevertheless, he dug an aryk - an irrigation ditch - to his new pond in such a way that the water ran right near the Jewish widow's house, although it was more expensive. Soon the water began to undermine the foundations of the widow's house. When she came to Nadir Divan-begi for justice, he confirmed his readiness to buy her house for fair price. The widow rejected the money, laying down her own conditions instead. She promised give up her property if the
Bukhara rulers would give to her another piece of land with permission to build a synagogue. In return for the widow’s holding Nadir Divan-begi gave her a plot of land, belonging to him, in residential area, which later was named the "Jewish quarter" (Mahalli Kuma).

Soon the first synagogue at
Bukhara and a large pond, the last element of the complex, were built. People started to call it the "Lyab-i Hauz", which means "at the pond". The date of its construction is about 1620. However, folk memory retains another epithet - "Haus-i Bazur" i.e. "made with a force".

The pond

Today Lyab-i Hauz is a right-angled pond (46 x 36 meters), which stretches from the east to the west. Its edges have the form of the descending staircase made of massive blocks of yellowish limestone.