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Pakhlavan Mahmud’s Mausoleum



The necropolis of Pahlavan-Mahmud is the religious center of Ichan-Qala. It formed around the tomb of Khiva’s patron Pahlavan-Mahmud (1247-1326). He was a poet, philosopher and wrestler. He was esteemed as a patron of wrestlers and poets as well as healer throughout Khiva, Iran and India. Tradition has it that the poet was buried in his own workshop. The cemetery had formed around his buriai place in the 14th-17th centuries. When Shirgazi-khan built a madrassah at the beginning of the 18th century, he oriented it towards the tomb of Pahlavan-Mahmud.

The early mausoleum of Pahlavan-Mahmud was built in 1810 by Muhammad-Rahim-khan I (1806-1825). The new mausoleum had included the old tomb and khanaka with a high Double dome, whose silhouette became a symbol of Khiva. A memorial courtyard was set before the entrance. The gates of the old cemetery became an entrance portal to the Pahlavan-Mahmud Necropolis. In the early 20th century Asfendir-khan (1910-1920) ordered the building of a two-storied korikhona in the western sector of the courtyard and summer aivan mosgue in the eastern part. The majolica facing has many cartouches with religious writings, verses by Pahlavan-Mahmud and the names of masters.

Muhammad-Rahim-khan I reconstructed the mausoleum of Pahl-avan-Mahmud in order that the necropolis of Qungrad dynasty arose “at the foot” of Khiva’s saint. The tomb of Pahlavan-Mahmud is behind a low fence in the western wing. The tomb of Muhammad-Rahim-khan I was set on a central axis of the mausoleum in a pentahedral niche. Later, in 1825, an eastern wing was added, where Allakuli-khan (1825-1842) was buried. The gravestones of these three tombs are decorated with refined majolica.

The marble gravestone of Abulgazi-khan (1603-1664) and probable gravestone of Anush-khan, bearing the date of 1681 were transferred into the mausoleum. A portal pylon bears a marble plate with an epitaph to a courtier of Ilbars-khan II (1728-1740). Another Khiva Khan, Asfendiyar, in advance prepared a large family tomb in the korikhona of Pahlavan-Mahmud Necropolis. His mother, Kutlugbiki-khanum, was buried in this spot. However, Asfendiyar-khan himself was not. He died outside of Ichan-Qala, and Khiva mortuary rites determined that the dead body could not cross the city walls.
Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum

A beautiful emerald green dome topped with a large brass finial marks the Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Mahmoud – the holiest site in Khiva. It is the shrine of Khiva’s patron saint, Pakhlavan Mahmud, who was a fur hat maker and a famous poet of Khiva, and the dynastic burial complex of the Khiva Khans. Pakhlavan Mahmud was also a superb wrestler, winning every single of his wrestling matches as well as the hearts of the Khiva citizens who built a modest mausoleum for him on the site of his furrier workshop.

The ensemble lies south of Khiva’s famed Allah ad-Din tomb, near the Islam Khodja Complex in the Ichan-Kala (inner fortress). The complex today consists of a domed monastic hall (khanqah), yard and gate pavilion (darvaza khana) along north-south axis, with a summer mosque, Quran reading rooms (qori khana), kitchen and other ancillary structures arranged on either side.

Viewed from the west, this monumental dome sits atop an unrelieved brick mass and rises above the adjacent graveyard’s cluster of domes and half-domes. The tile motifs and large medallions on the dome reflect the decorative traditions of the region.

The interior of Pakhlavan Mahmud’s Mausoleum displays an array of Khiva’s famed woodcarving, ceramic painted decoration, metal chasing and inlay craft traditions. All of the complex’s main rooms were faced with painted majolica tiles in 1825 under the patronage of Khiva ruler Allah Kuli Khan. The wooden doors are exquisitely carved and inlaid with copper and ivory. The latticed brass grille at Muhammad Rahim Khan’s gravestone is particularly noteworthy.

Today the Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum is carefully preserved as a national cultural treasure. The World Heritage Status conferred on the Ichan-Kala in 1991 has attracted increased world attention and sparked several conservation projects.

Don’t miss the view from the tombs to the left of the Pakhlavan Mahmoud ensemble which is one of the loveliest in Khiva. The glinting green of the dome contrasts with the glittering majolica blues and turquoises whilst the Juma Minaret soars in the background.

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