Thursday, October 23rd 2014

The tomb of Tamerlane / Timur – Gur Emir mausoleum in Samarkand

One of the main attractions of Samarkand is Gur Emir mausoleum. It is the mausoleum of the conqueror Timur (also known as Tamerlane) where his tomb is located.                The mausloleum is a part of Muhammad Sultan ensemble which you can easily reach  from the Registan square.

Muhammad Sultan ensemble in Samarkand

The masoleum plays an important place in the history of Islamic Architecture as the precursor and model for the great Mughal tombs of Humayun in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Tamerlane’s / Timur’s descendants, the ruling dynasty of North India.
Main Gate of Muhammad Sultan ensemble in Samarkand

Main Gate of Muhammad Sultan ensemble in Samarkand

Timur (8 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), Tamerlane in English (from Persian: Timūr-e Lang, “Timur the Lame”), was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until 1857. Timur is his Turkic name, which means ‘iron’. In his life time, he has conquered more than anyone else except for Alexander.

Timur-Tamerlane

Timur / Tamerlane

Timur was in his lifetime a controversial figure. He sought to restore the Mongol Empire yet his heaviest blow was against the Islamized Tatar Golden Horde. He was more at home in an urban environment than on the steppe. He styled himself a ghazi (warrior) while conducting wars that severely affected some Muslim states, in particular the Sultanate of Delhi. A great patron of the arts while his campaigns also caused vast destruction.

His armies crossed Eurasia from Delhi to Moscow, from the Tien Shan Mountains of Central Asia to the Taurus Mountains in Anatolia. From 1370 till his death 1405, Temur built a powerful empire and became the last of great nomadic leaders.

Map of Tamerlane's Empire

Map of Tamerlane's Empire

The same as Jenghiz Khan, Timur rose from a nomad ruler; however unlike Jenghiz Khan, he was the first one based his strength on the exploitation of settled populations and inherited a system of rule which could encompass both settled and nomad populations. Those who saw Timur’s army described it as a huge conglomeration of different peoples – nomad and settled, Muslims and Christians, Turks, Tajiks, Arabs, Georgians and Indians.

Decoration of the main entrace to Gur Emir Masoleum in Samarkand
 
 Timur’s conquests were extraordinary not only for their extent and their success, but also for their ferocity and massacres. The war machine was composed of ‘tumen’, military units of a 10,000 in the conquered territories. It consisted of his family, loyal tribes particularly the Barlas and Jalayir tribes, recruited soldiers from nomadic population from as far as the Moghuls, Golden Horde and Anatolia.
Inside Gur Emir Masoleum

Inside Gur Emir Masoleum

Timur and his army were never at rest and neither age nor increasing infirmity could halt his growing ambitions. In 1391 Timur’s army fought and won in the great battle of Kanduzcha on June 18. Following his campaign in India, he acquired an elephant corps and took them back to Samarkand for building mosques and tombs. He led the attack and victory on the Ottoman army in the battle of Ankara on July 28 1402.

Timur also built a tomb in Shahrisabz for himself. However, when Timur died in 1405 on campaign on his way to conquer China, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in, so he was buried here instead. Under Ulugh Beg’s government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over the grave of Tamerlane – see below.

Tomb of Tamerlane in Gur Emir, Samarkand
Tomb of Tamerlane in Gur Emir, Samarkand

Next to Tamerlane’s grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and Shah Rukh and also of grandsons – Muhammad Sultan and Ulugh Beg. Tamerlane’s spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here.

With great interest in trade, Timur had a grand plan to reactivate the Silk Road, the central land route, and make it the monopoly link between Europe and China. Monopolization was to be achieved by war: primarily, against the Golden Horde, the master of principal rival, the northern land route; secondarily, against the states of western Persia and the Moghuls to the east in order to place the Silk Road under unified control politically; and finally agaist India, Egypt and China.

Inside mosaics of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Inside mosaics of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Inwardly mausoleum appears as a high and large chamber with deep niches at the sides and diverse decoration.

Inside decorations of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Inside decorations of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Walls are decorated with refined paintings. Large parts of them are gilded and painted.

Inside mosaics of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Inside mosaics of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Outwardly the Gur Emir mausoleum is a one-cupola building. It is a structure crowned by an azure fluted dome. The outside decoration of the walls consists of the blue, light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical ornaments.

Azure dome of Gur Emir in Samarkand

Azure dome of Gur Emir in Samarkand

After visiting the tomb of Tamerlane I was thinking that I had not really known or probably just forgotten many things. And never connected Samarkand to Tamerlane, or that Tamerlane lived on the territory of the present day Uzbekistan.

After seeing the wonders of Samarkand like Gur Emir masoluem or the Registan square with its madrassahs i want to make more trips around Uzbekistan, visit Khiva and Buchara as well as visit more places in the central Asia.

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2 Comments on “The tomb of Tamerlane / Timur – Gur Emir mausoleum in Samarkand”

  1. Great pictures! I wish I could go to Samarkand! I have read a lot about the Silk Route!

    1. Thank you, Anna. i really liked Samarkand, will definitely go there again.

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