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Home / Culture / Inspired by Epigraphy

Inspired by Epigraphy

“I was born and raised among epigraphy and calligraphy, as my parents’ house is located in the old part of Bukhara, but I never thought that deciphering the inscriptions preserved on the territory of our country would be my first big fundamental scientific work,” said Komiljon Rakhimov, the youngest member of the national creative team of ‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ project.

Komiljon, you are said to be one of the few scholars who have visited each architectural monument in the country that has epigraphic inscriptions. Is it true?
“When the project began, we were faced with the lack of information about all the architectural structures of the country that contain inscriptions. With the members of a scientific expedition we traveled all the monuments to film them for further study. The group has changed in each region, but with the creative team leader I was able to determine the location of each inscription.”

Who helped you to locate the monuments?

“The regional offices of protection of monuments provided us with general information about the location of monuments, and regional creative teams at local administrations helped us to get to each of the regional center. Local elders who know the monuments very well helped us in the work on them. We are grateful to them, because there was a lot of monuments, which had little epigraphy, and only older people knew about them. Not for nothing they say that the old people - the guardians of wisdom and values.”

What do you remember most about the project?

“Typically, this kind of large-scale project is financed from the state budget and various funds. Our project has turned national. It supported by the government and the people. Everyone helped us: civil society organizations, donors, civil society activists, administrations. For example, when we were working on Oqsaroy in Shakhrisabs and Poi Kalon complex in Bukhara, we needed a crane to get to the inscriptions, located at the top of the building. Employees of local transport companies that have the special equipment helped us. When local residents learned for what purpose the creative team came, they assisted in everything: found the guides and invited to their dastarkhan. Local administration and entrepreneurs provide us with transport and accommodation.

Darakchi newspaper office provided a perfect camera for shooting. At the time of the shooting, as we know, there were only three such cameras in the country. Technical base and printing preparations were organized by Uzbekistan Today News Agency, while the research was conducted by the Oriental Manuscripts Center staff at the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, the Center of Bahauddin Naqshband memorial complex, the Academy of Sciences, an independent directorate on restoration and utilization of the architectural ensemble of Registan and others.

Reading the inscriptions is a special art that requires hard work. Your colleague Bakhtiyar Babadjanov said in an interview that during the Soviet period the calligraphy school almost disappeared, as well as the people who can properly read epigraphic inscriptions. How do you acquire these skills while being so young?

“The interest in epigraphy I inherited from my mother. My grandfather Narzullo-qori Nuriddinov, mother’s father was a calligrapher, a restorer of manuscripts, bookbinder and was fluent in Arabic, Persian, and old Uzbek languages, and was good in classical calligraphy, but died early. I was not born yet, and grandfather ordered my mother called me Komiljon to continue his work. The art of calligraphy and epigraphy I learnt from my grandmother Mukaddas Shahbaeva, who was a competent and respected woman. She handed me the manuscript of my grandfather and cupboards with calligraphic pencils and often said that my grandfather wanted me very much to follow his footsteps.

The old part of Bukhara possesses many architectural monuments, decorations on which have epigraphy. Even our old home rooms in accordance with local traditions were decorated with inscriptions. When I walked around the town with my grandmother, we often stopped near the monuments, she read and translated all the inscriptions and taught me to read. So I got the basic skills of reading texts in Arabic, Persian, and old Uzbek languages.

Great role also played a hobby group organized in our home, which brought together the same educated women, like my grandmother. They talked a lot about preservation of culture, calligraphy, monuments, talking on Sufi themes, and the poetry of the East. I treated them with tea and other refreshments. Therefore, I heard what they said, and it imprinted in my memory. Our family tradition is the educational talks in the evenings after dinner.

Besides, I should note that the member of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, Doctor of Arts Akbar Khakimov and his brother, Doctor of History Zafar Khakimov are nephews of my grandfather Narzullo-qori Nuriddinov.

I honed my skills, becoming a student of the Faculty of Philology at the Bukhara State University. My favorite subjects were Arabic, Persian, and old Uzbek languages, reading manuscripts. In the Mir-Arab Madrasah I learnt the secrets of calligraphy from the famous calligrapher Mir-Arab Abdulgafur Razzoq Bukhoriy. One year of internship at the Cairo University in Egypt gave me much. I was sent there to the recommendation of the Uzbek-Egyptian Center at our university. There I started to give lectures on epigraphy and calligraphy at the Faculty of Oriental Architecture and at the Architects Association. I also published more than 10 articles in the Egyptian newspapers Al-Ahram, Al-Massai and others. I gave interview to the major Egyptian channel Nil culture on the scholars of Uzbekistan, and the role in the Islamic world.”

How often do you get to visit your grandparents?

“I live in two cities: in Tashkent, I prepare my scientific thesis on source study, and in my native Bukhara, where my wife and two daughters live, as well as parents, and almost all the relatives. When in Bukhara I visit the graves of grandparents, and then their home. Now, my uncle’s widow with children lives in that house.”

What difficulties have you encountered while working on the ‘Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ series of albums?

“Following the publication of the first 12 volumes, over which we have worked for almost six years, I forgot about all the difficulties. We have 13 more books to publish, and I set myself for at least two years of hard work.

We faced the difficulties, the main of which was the composition of the creative team and providing it with the scope of work. Then the question: “Do we have specialists who will be able to implement this grand project?” was very serious. Today I can say that the project manager, the chairman of the editorial board, the Honored Journalist of Uzbekistan Firdavs Abdukhalikov coped with the task to compose a creative team, which could successfully continue the work on the project.”

What does it means to you to personally participate in the project?

“I want to dedicate my scientific work to the restoration of Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage, to show the world the contribution of our scientists in the development of civilization, to enter their manuscripts into scientific circulation. Therefore, reading epigraphic inscriptions for me, first of all, the study of a huge source of information. It should complement the picture of the history of our country, to reveal its unknown pages, to help deeper understand the historical significance of the particular monument. 

In addition, it is possible to talk a lot about the monuments of epigraphy as a cultural phenomenon. Today we can say that our epigraphy has absorbed all the best from the calligraphy of the Muslim world. It is illustrated in the aesthetics of its performance, and multilinguality. And texts on the walls of the magnificent architectural structures of Uzbekistan carry information about the monument. They keep many verses of outstanding poets of the East and the Arab world, sentences on the most relevant topics related to education. They brought us the wise instructions of ancestors to live in the peace and good, the benefits and the need to acquire knowledge, and calling for constant learning.”
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