Monday, January 3, 2011

Devkesken - Vazir Qala

The ruins of a number of ancient towns and cities are found along of the Great Silk Road. One of the most interesting and most isolated is that of Vazir whose history dates back to VI-III century BC. Located some 100 km west of Nukus and 70 km north west from Kounya-Urgench (Northern Turkmenistan). The ruins of the town are  dramatically located on the edge of the t'chink an escarpment on a south western peninsular of the Ustyurt Plateau that projects out into the Kara Kum desert very close to the old western arm of the Amu Darya that used to run into the Sarykamysh Lake.
Map of Tartraria showing Vazir by Elizabethan merchant Anthony Jenkinson in 1558

In the middle of XVI century the Vazir citadel was the residence of Sultan Ali an early Khoresmian Khan. His successor moved the Khan’s residence to Urgench in 1573 after the Amudarya started to flow into the Aral Sea, leaving Vazir almost waterless.

The ruins of the citadel can be seen from up to 20km away. The citadel fortress was intended as a final point of defense and it still has the distinctive corrugated defensive walls. It is protected by moats and its walls are intact on three sides. Within its ruins you can still trace the relief of the beautiful cylindrical facades that were typical of the architecture of the early medieval pre-Arabic period. Next to it is a mosque built of solid stone with its arched dome supported by pillars and the egg shaped cupola of architectural ensemble of Said Madrasah built during the XIX century. Also of interest two mausoleums dating from the IV Century AD.

Archaeologists found numerous utensils: ceramic vessels with colored glaze, utensils, bronze mirrors, and ornaments ( beads made from semiprecious stones, bronze, silver, gold earrings and rings). In addition among the findings and the remains of cereals: rice, wheat, millet, buckwheat and beans.

In local language Devkesken translates into “the fortress built by a demon”. According to local folk-law once a long time ago in the regions of Daryalka and Sarykamysh (the ancient route of the Amudarya River) ruled a powerful Shah named Ekhdem. He had a beautiful daughter Shirin who fell in love with a stonecutter Farkhad who also very much in love with her. Determined to prevent the marriage but not wishing to upset his beloved daughter with a direct refusal, Edhem Shah said that he would let her marry only such a person who could build a moat around the fortress. Although Farkhad was a skillful stonecutter, such Herculean task was beyond his abilities. However Shirin had a cunning plan – Farkhad was working alone during the day, while at night-time she had her slaves continue his work. After a while Edhem Shah was told that the moat was ready. Amazed and angry he said that something was wrong and the that the moat was made by a Dev (i.e. evil spirit).

Nevertheless he had to fulfill his promise. However still determined not to let Shirin marry a commoner, the Shah resorted to trickery. He told his slaves to make the moat deeper in one place and in the morning he said: "You see, Farkhad didn't work today, it was a Dev who did it. Farkhad is a liar and I won't let you marry him!". Stricken by grief and sorrow Farkhad took his life. That explains the name of the fortress – Devkesken means "Strangled by Dev". After Farkhad's death Shirin it is said died of a broken heart. It was for them that the two mausoleums were built next to each other in the southern part of the city on the edge of the plateau.

Source:  and Wikipedia

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