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Home / Culture / Wisdom Revealed in Epigraphy

Wisdom Revealed in Epigraphy

On October 17, 2016, Uzbekistan Today News Agency, the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan and the National Association of Electronic Mass Media of Uzbekistan are hosting a presentation of the project ‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan's national independence and the 10th anniversary of Uzbekistan Today News Agency. The event will be held under the slogan “Messages from the Depth of Centuries: Education, Enlightenment, Peace and Creativity in Uzbekistan’s Architectural Epigraphy” in Tashkent.

The presentation, which will be held as a roundtable, will summarize the first results of the project and will include film demonstration and speeches by leading scholars, who have contributed to the project, as well as representatives of the international public. The event will be attended by members of Uzbekistan’s scientific community, representatives of governmental and public organizations as well as international organizations, diplomatic missions and media outlets.

The roundtable will present 12 recently published albums dedicated to epigraphic inscriptions on architectural landmarks in Karakalpakstan, Andijan, Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Navoi, Namangan, Surkhandarya, Fergana and Khorezm Regions and Tashkent city as well as two albums on two architectural historical landmarks, Registan and Shahi-Zinda, in Samarkand. The albums are in Uzbek, Russian and English.

As is known, epigraphy is the most significant and spectacular part of the cultural heritage of not only Uzbekistan and the Muslim world, but also the entire global civilization. Moreover, Uzbekistan is one of the world leaders in terms of the amount of architectural epigraphy. However, due to certain circumstances, these inscriptions have not been studied and published until recently. According to our estimates, only 10% of inscriptions on monuments of Amir Temur’s era have been explored, read and partially published. Consequently, the most remarkable and significant pages of our cultural legacy remained out of the reach of science as well as our nation and visitors to our country. The research has helped to read and translate inscriptions on more than 1,500 epigraphic landmarks (most of them for the first-ever time), which include over 200 poems, edifications, maxims, names of over 100 masters and calligraphers, 300 religious and 150 dedicatory inscriptions, 150 chronograms, 100 historical dates and around 100 edicts by rulers of the days gone by.

‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ is the only project of its kind whereby the government works to explore, collate and sum up all the architectural epigraphy found in the country, something that no country in the Muslim world has done before. It is noteworthy that this work became possible thanks to the advent of Uzbekistan’s independence, which reinstated the monuments’ worthy place in history.

The series of books represent the first phase of the project which will be continued. The next series will encompass the remaining unexplored epigraphic inscriptions across Uzbekistan. All told, 25 volumes are expected to be published.

It is notable that each inscription on the multitude of historical architectural landmarks in Uzbekistan conveys wise messages, exhortations, good wishes, poetic maxims and historical events that call on people to aspire for education, enlightenment, peace and creative, which has been made the slogan of the upcoming presentation.

It is for a reason that the covers of the architectural epigraphy books designed in national style feature an embossed inscription from the 14th-century Al-Hakim at-Termizi memorial complex located in Termez in Surkhandarya Region: “He who seeks knowledge is sought by Paradise”, which has become a symbol of the series of albums.

Each book presents dozens of similar epitaphs, maxims, appeals and calls for good. For example, the central medallion in the Usta Alim Nasafi Mausoleum at the Shahi-Zinda Complex features an epigraphic inscription in gilded letters that talks about peace: “There is no peace except in concord, no togetherness except in the Verity, no modest behavior except in forgiveness, no friendship except in fidelity.”

Heightened interest and fascination by our memorials and careful attitude have led to efforts to explore them. The texts presented in the books are diverse. They include, for example, purely historical (dedicatory) inscriptions, or gravestone epitaphs that also present samples of not only calligraphic art but also full literary and historical monuments. The creative group has studies and deciphered inscriptions on world-famous architectural landmarks such as the Shahi-Zinda Complex, the Gur Emir Mausoleum, the Amir Temur cathedral mosque, the Bibi Hanum Mosque and Registan Square in Samarkand. Research into epigraphic inscriptions in Khiva has helped to decipher inscriptions on thirteen architectural complexes, including gravestone texts at the Pahlavan Mahmud complex.

For the first-ever time, the album dedicated to the architectural epigraphy of Karakalpakstan provides translations of epigraphic material at the Narinjan-baba complex and full readings and translations of epigraphic inscriptions that have survived on another famous landmark, the Mazlumhan-Sulu sepulchral and memorial complex, located in the ancient Mizdakhan settlement. Another album, focusing on Shakhrisabz, is particularly interesting from the viewpoint of studying the history of not only Central Asia but also the entire Muslim Orient. These albums present unique samples of inscriptions and provide information about important events and historical figures.

The album “The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan. Surkhandarya” provides full translations of inscriptions featured on landmarks such as the mausoleum and gravestone of outstanding Sufi sheikh Hakim at-Termizi, the Jarkurgan minaret and the Sufi Allayar Complex, the first time this has been done since efforts were started to study Surkhandarya epigraphy of the Islamic era.

A book devoted to the monuments of Namangan for the first time presents fully read inscriptions on the monuments of Hoja Amin, Mullah Kirgiz, Mawlawi Namangani and others. The book presents the most original writing artifacts – epitaphs containing unique data and the date of death of a number of well-known sheikhs and scholars of the past. The album dedicated to the epigraphy of Andijan will finally disprove the widespread belief that Andijan does not have many noteworthy sites and that most of them have not survived. It features unique monuments such as Jami, Gumbaz, Madrassas Mirzakul bulish, Ata-Kuzi and Kutaiba ibn Muslim Mausoleum among others.

Equally interesting are albums focusing on epigraphy in Bukhara, Fergana, Navoi and, of course, Tashkent city that offer a wealth of interesting and valuable information.

The results of years of efforts by the creative group of scholars, who painstakingly study the epigraphic inscriptions destroyed by time, are encapsulated in the ‘Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ series of albums published in Uzbek, Russian and English by Uzbekistan Today News Agency. The fundamental project will now store the mysteries of epigraphic inscriptions on the pages of the books, and even if the physical landmarks succumb to the ravages of time, “The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan” books will carry this spiritual legacy through ages to coming generations. 

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