Kukeldash Madrassah

 

Kukeldash Madrassah in Chorsu Square ranks as the largest madrassah in Tashkent and one of the leading Moslem theological education establishments in the whole Central Asia. In this very place in the ancient times there was crossroads of caravan roads – ‘chorsu’, and the main town’s trading square was formed, surrounded by the workshops of craftsmen. Here public criers announced Khan’s decrees and the townspeople exchanged the news. Near the Friday mosque there were caravanserais and bathhouses. From here ran the roads to Samarkand, to Chagatay steppes, and to Kashgar. These names are still present in the names of the nearby streets and neighborhoods.

The madrassah was constructed in the 16th century by the powerful vizier Kukeldash, a foster-brother of Barak-Khan, the ruler of Tashkent Province. A high hill was chosen for the construction of the madrassah, and it served a kind of a pedestal for the building. Just like most of the large buildings of those times, the madrassah was made from baked bricks and only partly was decorated with majolica and tiled ceramic patterns. The high portal of the main entrance is decorated with a splendid star pattern. The height of the entrance arch is emphasized by a lancet niche over the doors. To the either side of the portal the façade has two tiers of loggias. Massive minarets complete the construction at the conners.

Through the lobby and along crooked passages you can get to the rectangular yard, which is surrounded by galleries and hudjra cells. Two deep ayvan terraces that face the yard have portals almost as large as the one at the main entrance. To the left of the entrance there was a darskhona (hall for lectures), to the right of it there was a mosque. The madrassah was reconstructed several times, but its layout remained unaltered. In the 18th century the building was used as a caravanserai. In the 19th century, for a short time, it served as a fortress for Kokand Khan’s governor-general.

The windows in the outer walls of the buildings appeared after one of the reconstructions. Initially these 9-meter-high strong walls resembled the fortified fortress. For a few centuries Kukeldash Madrasah towered over neighbouring adobe constructions, symbolizing the greatness and power of its builder. Even today its huge portal rivals the modern many-storied buildings that surround the square. Higher are only the nearby Chorsu Hotel and the large trading complex on the hill on the opposite side of the square. At the bottom of the madrassah walls, just like many centuries ago, there stretch the rows of trading stalls of Tashkent’s largest bazaar.