Saturday, December 30, 2017

History of Beruniy (Kat / Kath)

Top of Form Beruniy is located on the northern bank of the Amu Darya (Oxus) and is the administrative seat of Beruniy District. It is located 41.69 latitude and 60.75 longitude and it is situated at elevation 101 meters above sea level. It has a population of 50,929 making it the 3rd largest urban area within Karakalpakstan.
Historically, Beruniy was known as Kat or Kath and served as the capital of Khwarezm during the Afrighid dynasty and owed both its glory and demise to the Amu Darya (Oxus).Silt deposits from the river made the surrounding land fertile, and its water, through a network of man-made irrigation canals, has aided agricultural growth on vast scales since ancient times, at the same time, the nearly flat alluvial plain on which the lower course of the Amu Darya (oxus) flows has caused the riverbed and adjoining canals to shift over time, accordingly, Kaṯ has had to be relocated due to flooding at various times.
From historical reports that such a natural shift was in progress during the 10th century, when Kaṯ was at the zenith of its prestige. According to a Chorasmian tradition related by Abu Rayḥān Al-Biruni's Āṯār, one of the Afrighid Kings, whose reign began in AD 616 in the era of Alexander (and the Seleucids) built his castle at Fir on the outskirts of Kaṯ; this citadel consisted of three concentric forts, in the middle of which rose the royal palace. Fir’s fortifications were so high that they would be visible from a distance of fifteen km or more. The citadel Fir (or Fil) was conquered by the Arabs in AD 712. In terms of size and splendour the capital of Chorasmia rivalled the other major urban centres of Central Asia. According to Al Biruni, who eye-witnessed the flooding of his hometown before his emigration at the age of twenty-five (in 998) to Iran, Fir “was broken and shattered by the Oxus, and was swept away piece by piece every year, till the last remains of it had disappeared” in the year 1305 of the Seleucid era (AD 994).

Kat was a commercial hub with a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population. The 10th-century text on geography the Ḥodud al-ʿālam describes Kat as a town with abundant wealth, a “resort of merchants,” and an “emporium of all Transoxiana’. Its major products were cotton cushion covers, quilted garments and felt carpets which suggest that cotton then played an important role in the rural economy of the region, just as it does today. Kat also had many non-Muslim inhabitants. It is reported that Kat was the seat of bishopric of the Christian church in the 8th century (Tolstov). It was probably in Kat that there lived and worked the Christian scholar ʿIsa b. Yaḥyaʾ Masiḥi, a colleague of Abu Rayḥan Al-Biruni, himself a native of  of Kāṯ. There must have also still been a Zoroastrian community in Kat from whom Biruni obtained the rich research data on Zoroastrianism in his Āṯār al-bāqia. The Ḥodud al-ʿālam adds that Kat was the gate of Turkestan and that the townspeople were warlike and active fighters for the faith.

In AD 995 Kat lost its status as the capital of Chorasmia to Gorgānj across the Oxus, synchronous with the dynastic change from Afrighids to Maʾmunids. Three centuries later, in AD 1333, Ibn Baṭṭuṭa , on his way from Gorgānj to Bukhara, passed through Kat, which he portrays as a small but prosperous town. Some forty years later, Timurs army devastated the town (and most of Khorezm) but later he had the destroyed walls reconstructed.
The modern history of Kat has been marked by more flooding and population shifts but also by name changes. In the 17th century, another wave of flooding washed out the old canals. As a result, Anusa, the Khan of Khiva (1663-85), ordered he construction of the Yarmis canal and built a fortress on the left side of the Oxus to which he transferred the remaining population. Meanwhile, the ruins of old Kat on the right side of the river became known as Sheikh Abbas Wali, after a local mausoleum.

In the 19th century the inhabitants of the new Kat once again were relocated across the river around the mausoleum the settlement becoming known as Sobboz (being) renamed Berunyi in 1957 in honour of the medieval scholar and polymath Al-Biruni who was born on its outskirts. It gained the status of city in 1962. In 1969 the Amu Darya River overflew its banks. As a result many buildings in Beruniy were badly damaged. However, the town was quickly repaired and continues as an important centre.

Beruniy today is the administrative center of Berunyi district (tuman) which appears on satellite maps as a vast continuum of built environment and farmland, with a network of canals branching out from the Amu Darya.

Sources: Wikipedia and YouTube (