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Kukeldash Medressa

Every city in Uzbekistan has a central ensemble – Registan. Tashkent's own Registan centres on the Kulkedash Madrassa, a 16th-century Islamic school built of mud bricks decorated with majolica and painted ceramic tiles. The grand Kukeldash medressa sits beside Tashkent’s principal Juma (Friday) mosque on a hill overlooking Chorsu Bazaar. The monument is raised on a high pedestal, emerged on the ancient cultural layers. On warm Friday mornings the plaza in front overflows with worshippers.

The Madrassah Kukeldash is indeed one of most significant architectural sights of 16th century. For many years it has been the center of the city’s life: situated nearby was the market square, caravanserai, craftsmen's quarters; the heralds proclaimed edicts of rulers, public executions were held; the residents shared news and rumors. In the 18th century it was converted first into a caravanserai for merchants trading at the nearby bazaar, then into a fortress. Finally, it was used as the setting for public executions: women in particular were stoned to death with rocks hurled from the parapet of the central portal. Earthquakes in 1866 significantly damaged the structure, and it sadly lay in ruins until it was restored in the mid 20th century.

The towering archway that marks the entrance to the madrassa is decorated with stars; the lancet niche above the doors serves to emphasise its height (19,7 m). Once inside, follow the corridor through to the central courtyard, looking out for the darskhona (lecture hall) on the left as you pass by. The cells around the yard once housed the madrassa's students; their modern counterparts study in more comfortable, though li ss picturesque, surroundings. The courtyard is bordered by two-storied hostels in the form of sections. Each section consists of a room and entrance niche - ayvana. Two or three students occupied each room. The towers (guldasta) at the corners serve for muezzins (azanchi), when they call believers for worship (namaz). The madrasah proportions: outward: 63 x 45 m., courtyard: 38 x 87 m.

Today Kukeldash is still the center of the so-called “Old Town”: bazaar is still there, caravanserais were replaced by Chor-su Hotel; as for the craftsmen's quarters, despite the development of industry the secrets of the masters are still passed from generation to generation.

Kukeldash has seen a lot: it was used as a fortress and a hotel, it survived two earthquakes. Now there, like four centuries ago, under the authority of the Religious Board of Mawarannahr Moslems, is a regularly acting mosque with a primary school that teaches the basis of Islam. From the towers on the corners of the building the people are summoned to prayers. The cells are inhabited by students; the building’s left side is for religious services. 

Once in Tashkent, will certainly visit the madrassa Kukeldash. It is not only an interesting historical monument, but a great start for a short trip to "old" city.

History of Kukeldash Madrassah

Built in 1570 by Governor Dervish Khan, known as Kukeldash, which means “milk brother” of khan, it is as originally a Muslim school. Preserved vakuf letter of Dervish-Khan (1569-1570) leaves a caravansarai in favor of the madrasah that indicates the existence of the finished building at that time.

According to the Tashkent merchant Nur-Muhammad, whose story was recorded in 1795 by the Orenburg expedition, the madrasah in the late 18th century was used as a caravanserai. Apparently, the collapse of the crowns of the towers - guldasta also dates back to that period. Existing until 1800 the blue domes above the mosque and darskhona, and also the second floor of khujras were dismantled to brick in 1830-1831 during the reign of the Tashkent ruler Bekler-bek. After that, there was the repair by Tashkent masters who left their names in the inscriptions on majolica tiles above the entrance doors. The madrasah was used by Kokand khans as a fortress (in 1860 the Tashkent rebels were taking cannon fire from the fortress), and as the place of execution (before the conquest of Turkestan by Russia in 1865, the wives, proved of being unfaithful were dropped in bags off the parapet down to stone yard).

Madrassah have repeatedly fallen into ruins. Tumbled by an earthquake in 1866 and 1886, the portal was then restored. Madrassah was renovated in 1950-1960-1977 years.

Kukeldash Madrasah is one of the largest madrasahs to remain intact in 16th century in the Central Asia. The monument is elevated on a high pedestal, emerged on the ancient cultural layers. Its plan is traditional - a rectangular courtyard with khujras, stately decorated front facade with high portal, arches and minarets covering the corners. The lobby had elbowed passages, rectangular courtyard with a large number of khujras (living cells of madrasah students) located in one, two-storey, the entrances to which were decorated by arches.

To the north-east of the Kukeldash madrassah, there is preserved a monument of an earlier time, construction of which is connected with the name of Khoja Ahrar. It’s Friday mosque.

All these buildings are organically woven into the exotic flavor of bazaar, with its bright colors, noise and bustle. Market has long attracted the attention of Russian and Western European travelers and tourists.