By the names of places in Kyrgyzstan, we can get pretty much information about the historical background of the country. What I am going to introduce you today is also called “San-Tash”. If you noticed, it is not the first time you see this word “tash”, is it? You probably already know what it means (“Stone”, in case you forgot), so what about “San”?
From Kyrgyz language, “san tash” is translated as “counting stone”. The place actually has nothing that exquisite as monuments or arts. All you can see is the huge amount of stones collected together. It will surprise you though, when you find out what those “counting stones” were used for.
One of the legends say that they were great Tamerlan’s stones for counting his soldiers! Really impressive, is it not?! Before leaving for one battle, Tamerlan told the soldiers to take one stone and gather up in one place and when they came back, each took one stone back. The remaining stones told how many soldiers were lost…
We have not yet finished the tour around ancient Tokmok city, although it seems pretty small to us. The heritage arounf the city is big enough to even write a nice book. Last time our talk was about beautiful Burana tower and now we will take a look at the territory around it.
Right next to the tower, you will see an open-air gallery of ancient arts; more exactly, the sculptures that remind people! Kyrgyz people call them “bal-bal”s. Most of them are very cute, looking like a smiling man. However, not all of them are the sculptures are “humans”. There are such rocks, on which the ancient artists left some scripts with Arabic letters.
There is no exact information about why those statues were built and put together in one place. This kind of monuments were found in many other regions of the country as well, but this is the biggest gallery of stone monuments.
Today I would like to share an interesting story about the tower of Burana that you read about in the last post. I just mentioned that it was situated in that ancient city of Tokmok, the capital of Karakhanid Empire. However, there is something more interesting that is worth to know about this beautiful tower.
According to some local legends in Kyrgyzstan, Burana was actually built just for one person – a young princess. The day when she was born, a fortune-teller came to the king and told that his precious little girl will die from a poisonous insect’s bite when she reaches the age of 18. Shocked by this, he hurriedly orders people to build the highest tower possible for the princess.
The beautiful tower was finished and poor princess started living there far away from the outer world, in order to protect herself. Unfortunately, one day, her servants brought her some grapes and there was that insect… The guess was right and young princess left the world…
How does the trip to the ruins of an ancient city from 11th century, that once used to be the capital of some great empire sound? Exactly, it sounds intriguing and full of adventures. So what to wait for, let us get the travel going! Our destination is the city of Tokmok, which is located just an hour away from the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek city.
According to the historical scripts, Tokmok was the capital of the great Karakhanid empire in the south. They were really good at developing the cities and this is what they did with the empty lands of Tokmok. Unfortunately, the city was not able to remain whole till our days, however, you can still see the ruins of an ancient city on the area.
One and only memory from the empire is the tower of Burana. Its upper part was destroyed due to the natural disasters, but you can still have some idea of how the buildings looked like back then. You can even go up the tower and observe a beautiful scenery of fields and mountains around.
The ancient stoned hotel, about which we talked about last time, definitely leave people impressed at the level of knowledge those people had. If we look closer to the ancient civilizations, we will find that people were keen at not only constructions, but also other branches of arts, such as drawing. What surprises the most is that when there were neither pens nor paper, people still found the way to picture variety of moments of their lives! This was the very art of petroglyphs.
Cholpon Ata town of Issyk Kul region in Kyrgyzstan keep the big part of those stoned treasures at the open air museum. The stone paintings at the territory belong to the Bronze Age. These art galleries were first created by Andronic or Arian tribes (the middle II millennium – VIII century B.C.) and included about a thousand petroglyphs. The Saka tribes (VIII-III centuries B.C.) were this rock painting and made big contribution to the art as well. The Saka’s had the unique style of art, called Saka-Scythian. This style mainly included the paintings of animals or process of hunting.
Such interesting the petroglyph museum is. It gives much visual information about the lifestyle of ancient people, their daily lives and values. This make the rock paintings the treasure of society.
The Great Silk Road was incredibly long and taking a trip along it was exhausting. So here comes a question about how people spend nights in foreign countries, how did they relieve stress after long day on the way? Were there any hotels for travelers after all?
The hotels that we have now started existing back in those times and fortunately, some of them still remain in some places in the world. Ancient caravanserai Tash Rabat is one of those treasures that is hidden in Kyrgyzstan. Located in Naryn region of the country, Tash Rabat served as inn for tradespeople and travelers.
This Silk Road inn’s name literally means “Stone Door” because of the fact that it is made of limestone. Its walls reach over 20 meters in height. Tash Rabat was laid out as a maze of 30 rooms surrounding a large central domed room, the condition in which you’ll still find it today. It sits in the green folds of the area’s mountains as a majestic, commanding structure.
The original of Tash Rabat is shrouded in mystery. There’s debate as to which century it was actually built in. Most people believe it was first erected in the 15th century. One thing that people do agree on is that it was used as an inn for Silk Road travelers and caravans traveling from the Chuy and Fergana Valleys to Kashgar to protect them from the elements and marauders.
No wonder that everyone knows about the Great Silk Road.It is the route that actually was the first step to future business relationship and cultural experiences between countires of the world from the third century B.C. until the 16th century. We can definitely call The Great Silk Road as one of the most significant achievements in the history of World civilization.
The most significant part of the road passed through the territories of Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan. The most ancient city of the country Osh (3000 years old) can be the witness to that experience of long way and its historical events by its still existing eastern bazaars, caravansarays and mausoleums.
Another important city in Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road history is Ozgon. It was known as Yu in Silk Road times. In the 10th century, Karakhanid Dynasty brought Islam to the Kyrgyz nation and Ozgon was the capital of the empire in the region. Three mausoleums and a minaret are all left from those days as historical heritage.