NEWS AND EVENTS
December 24, 2014
Varakhsha: A City Lost in the Sands
It took several centuries for the Kyzylkum Desert to bury a long-flourishing oasis under tons of sand. An amazingly beautiful palace was the glory of the oasis. It filled with wonder both contemporaries and those watching its decline.
“There was a palace in Varakhsha, the beauty of which is told in a proverb”, wrote Narshakhi about the country residence of the Bukhara rulers. Narshakhi, a historian of the 10th century, was famous for his book History of Bukhara.
Excavations of the sand-covered ruins of the Varakhsha palace were initiated in 1937. The work was done by an archeological expedition of the Uzbek Committee for Protection of Old Relics and Monuments. In 1947-1948, the excavations were resumed by the efforts of the expedition headed by V. Shishkin. Archeologists had the luck to discover unique monuments of the early medieval art.
The Varakhsha exposition occupies a special place in the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan. A colorful representation of the palace, based on a reconstruction made by architect V. Nilsen, can give and idea of the exterior view of the building.
According to archeological data, the palace with two towers dominated the locality. Its platform, a fifteen-meter-high and almost square in plan stylobate, was surrounded by strong five-meter-thick outer walls. It should be noted that the walls were even wider at the base. The walls, made of large sunbaked mud bricks, might have looked depressing, if it had not been for a wonderful architectural “trick”: the vertical grooves cut in the thin pakhsa coating divi- ded the bricks into separate blocks located chequerwise. From the fortification standpoint, the stylobate was practically unassailable. In the south, the palace facade was partially encircled by the fortress wall and opening onto the north. The three-span reception ayvan with thick pillars made of circle bricks attracted all eyes by its grandeur. Flanking pylons of the ayvan were decorated with twin half-columns. The pillars, walls and arcs were covered with carved stucco. You can judge about the exquisiteness and elegance of decor by the museum exhibits, which are panels and medallions formed by geometrical and vegetative ornaments, or by female head full of beauty and plastic expressiveness, or by vivid and concrete details in the images of a bird-woman, a hunter with his bow, a ram pierced by an arrow, and small fishes splashing in the waves.
The Varakhsha palace comprised a real complex of premises erected in the technique of combined brickwork which implied alternation of mud bricks and clay layers. The interior decor of reception rooms included murals and friezes. The artists of Varakhsha executed wall paintings in tempera creating unique cycloramas with intricate plots.
The Varakhsha paintings give an idea of how people of that time looked like. They show some details of their clothes, fragments of their environment and everyday life. The decor of the Bukhara rulers’ palace, with murals, sculpture and carved stucco, testifies to amazing artistic achievements of Sogd. According to Narshakhi, the Varakhsha palace had no equal.
(Source: “Uzbekistan Airways” magazine)