Pahlavan Mahmud Necropolis

Necropolis of Pahlavan-Mahmud is the cultic center of Ichan-Qala. It was built near the tomb of Khiva’s patron Pahlavan-Mahmud (1247-1326) who lived in the severe years of Mongol rule in Central Asia. He earned fame as a professional wrestler and poet-philosopher. His wrestling victories made him famous as far as India and Persia. Apparently, Pahlavan-Mahmud was a Sufi teacher of high rank. In the biography of Baha ad-Din Naqshband he reports on the meeting with the followers of the sheikh poet-fighter. In favor of his status of Sufi says Pahlavan’s profession – a skinner (tanning and processing of hides). This “professional” quality expressed the essence of Sufi teacher’s skill – how can “profane” be made “high.” A special feature of his school was that Pahlavan trained his students’ spirit through the art of wrestling. He died at the age of about 80 in his “workshop” in Khiva, where he was buried.

A cemetery arose around the holy burial place during the 14th-15th centuries. So Shirgazi-khan, building his madrasah in the early 18th century, purposely oriented it to the necropolis of Pahlavan-Mahmud. The Pahlavan-Mahmud grave is behind a low fence in the northwestern part. The early mausoleum was rebuilt in 1810, by Muhammad Rahim-khan I (1806-1825), so that the new mausoleum included the old tomb and a khanaka with a high double dome. At the entrance of the necropolis there was built a memorial yard and the gates of the old cemetery became the entrance portal of the necropolis. At the beginning of the 20th century, Esfendiyar-khan (1910-1918), the son of Feruz-shah ordered to be built a two-storied korikhana in the western sector of the yard and a summer aivan mosque in the eastern part. In the three lower hudjras Esfendiyar’s mother Kutlugbiki-khanum and two members of the Khan’s family were buried. Other rooms were for Koran readers.


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