Termez, Uzbekistan

Old Termez was formed on the right side of the Djaikhun - Amu-Darya in a place convenient to cross the river, at the intersection of Great Silk Road routes, five kilometres to the northwest from the city of Termez. Over centuries it was developing as one of the leading city of Bactria and then Kushan Empire.

The long-term scientific research and archeological excavations have proved that this peaceable placid town has a long and rich history. For thousands of years Surkhandarya area and its main town Termez were part of and shared the destiny of many ancient empires - empires formed by Alexander the Great, Chingis khan, Amir Temur.

Modern Termez sprang up at the end of the 19th century and looked like a typical semi-Asian, semi-European town: with exclusively single-storey buildings, with public offices built from the baked bricks, with dwelling houses built from the adobe, with oriental flat roofs and western-like disposition of windows, that is overlooking the streets, with verdure of the gardens surrounding the houses, with customary acacias, elms and plane trees along side walks. Today Termez is a modern town, the center of Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan.

The site of ancient settlement of Old Termez, located on the area of about 500 hectares, consists of a citadel - kala, two shakhristans and suburban part - rabad. The settlement dates back to the 4th century B.C, which means that Termez is more 2500 years old. In the 3rd century B.C. there was formed here the urban settlement-fortress named Demetria.

In the epoch of the ancient Kushan Empire, formed in the 1st century A.D., the city got the name Termit and became a large administrative and religious center of Northern Bactria. The Kushan's domain stretched from Darband in the north of Surkhandarya region where massive border fortification walls were constructed, up to the territory of modern Pakistan. Kushan empire reached its highest might during the reign of Kanishka I . Kishan kings adhered to religious toleration, and alongside with Zoroastrism, Hinduism and other religions Buddha worship was prospering here. It is from here that many missionaries used to leave for Sogdiana in the north, for Margiana in the west, for China and Tibet, where they propagated Buddha's teaching.

The discovery of site of ancient settlement of Dalverzintepa, which was situated in 60 kilometers from Termez, not far from Shurchi town, was the notable event in the history of the world culture. Dalverzintepa is a splendid archeological monument of Kushan Empire. The 10-metre thick defense wall with the towers, inside of which the casemates and galleries were situated, surrounded the site of ancient settlement; on the crests of the walls there were the areas for the missile weapons and slingers. The central part of the town was occupied by the residential quarters of rich citizens, with many-roomed houses and household yards. In the southern part of the city the craftsman's workshops were situated. Numerous archeological finds representing articles of Buddhist and Hellenic culture are the evidence of the fact, that Dalverzintepa was situated on one of the most ancient branches of the Great Silk Road, which went from Termita along the Surkhan valley. Further caravan routes led to the Stone Tower, presumably situated in the region of modern Tashkent and mentioned in "Geography" by Claudius Ptolemy, who described the way from Syria to China.

In the suburban area of Dalverzintepa the archeologists discovered the ruins of Buddhist sanctuary, built up here approximately in the 1st century A.D., judging from the coins found at the site. There was the stupa, the room for praying and so called, "king's hall", richly decorated with the sculptures representing religious and secular Buddhist and Hellenic images. One of the most wonderful sculptural images is the head of a Kushan's ruler in the pointed headdress. The elements of Greek - Bactrian culture are presented in the architectural details - in the Attic bases of the columns, in the acanthus leaves and in the garment folds of the sculptural figures.

Also, there was found the second Buddhist complex with Buddha and Bodkhisatva statues, as well as a Bactrian temple with the wall paintings, which pictured priests and infants. The vivid monument of the epoch is the "golden" treasure, weighing 36 kilograms, which was found on the excavations in Dalverzintepa and consisted of the articles and trappings made of gold, silver and precious stones.

The remains of Buddhist monuments are being found up to the present day. During the last ten years Uzbek and Japanese scientists have been carrying out the joint investigations on the site of ancient settlement Koratepa. Recently, there have been found the dwellings of Buddhist monks. The stone steps, which are more than two thousand years old, lead down under the earthen cupola 5 meters in diameter. Nearby, there have been found simple things, with the help of which the monks maintained their modest life, the sculptural images of a dragon and a winged lion. The Buddhist monastery with well-preserved stupa has been discovered not far from there.

On the Surkhandarya territory the archeologists excavated several sites of ancient settlement, such as Khalchayan, Zartepa, Fayaztepa, Airtam, which are the evidence of the rich material and spiritual culture of people inhabiting this land.

The town reached its heyday in the Middle Ages, when it had turned into the largest commercial and artisan center of Tokharistan. The famous historian of the 10th century Istakhri wrote: "Termez is situated on the Djeikhun bank. The buildings are constructed from clay, but majority of urban quarters and trading sections - bazaars are made from baked bricks". The architectural monuments, which have been preserved on the territory of Old Termez and its suburbs, attest to the town's glorious times.

One of the highly worshipped monuments of Moslem world is the burial-vault of Khakim at-Termezi, the spiritual patron of the town, the scientist-theologian, the founder of the dervish order "Khakimi" His thousandth anniversary was celebrated in 1990 year in accordance with the decision of UNESCO. The architectural complex was being built from early 9th century and during several subsequent centuries. It consisted of a mausoleum, an aivan mosque and khanaka - the house for pilgrimaging dervishes. Originally, the mausoleum consisted of a dome construction with simple and ascetic decoration, but later the building interior was decorated by a rather rich ornament. In the late 14th century a new burial - vault with the grand carved marble tombstone was erected next to the mausoleum's facade. The instructive description of the saint's life with the final apophthegm about human life caducity was inscribed on the walls in Arabian characters.

Somewhat below the site of ancient settlement of Old Termez there lies the Paigambar island which has become the nature-reserve. In its southern part, among the tugai thickets, there towers the mausoleum of the legendary prophet Zul-Kifl. According to the legend, the prophet ordered to let his dead body go in the boat and to burry him at the place where the boat would pull in to the shore. The boat stopped in the middle of the river, not far from Termez. At this spot there quickly rose an island where the deceased was buried thereafter. The architectural complex, constructed in the 11th-12th centuries, consists of the mosque with the adjoining premises: a burial vault and two commemoration rooms.

In about 3 kilometers from Old Termez, surrounded by the verdure of the gardens, one of the suburban historical monuments is situated - the castle of the 9th century with the romantic name Kirk-Kiz, or Forty Girls. According to the legend, it was in this very castle that the queen Gulayim with her companions-in-arms from the "Kirk-Kiz" epos repulsed the siege of foreign invaders. The historical information indicates that this fortified castle with the massive towers at the corners used to be the patrimony of the well-known Samanid's dynasty.

Among architectural monuments Sultan-Saodat complex is the most remarkable one. This compound ensemble was being built within 5 centuries, from the 9th century to the 14th century, and is a kind of peculiar museum of the medieval architecture. Khasan al Emir, the founder of Seyid's clan in Termez, is buried in the northern mausoleum. The huge dome crowns the walls separated by three vaulted niches, decorated with rich ornaments, while the figured brickwork of flat twin bricks gives the building a bulk effect and delicate austerity.

The historical investigations and archeological excavations prove that since the 9th century Termez grew into a large trade and handicraft center, connected with China, India, Byzantium, Parphia, Egypt, Rome, Afghanistan, Black Sea coast. A large number of goods including wheat, cotton, silk and wool, tufted carpets and palases (pileless carpets) were brought in the city as well as were exported.

The potter's, blacksmith's and glass-blower's workshops functioned in Termez and its suburbs. Weaving, namely the production of cotton fabric, prospered here too. The discovery of the mineral deposit favored the development of the ancient metallurgy. Blacksmiths produced various tools, military equipment and household utensils. During the excavation work there were discovered different metal things - cauldrons, table wear, candle-sticks, jugs. The splendid articles manufactured by potters and glass-blowers from Surkhandarya region were known outside the country.

Like many Asian towns, Termez suffered from the destructive Chingis Khan invasion in 1220. But in contrast to, let us say, Merv, for which this event was fatal, Termez managed to revive as a trade town, out of which a great number of goods were exported to other countries. At that time, Termez was used as a reference point for calculating distances between the points of destination along the caravan's routes of the Great Silk Road.

Wars and internecine strife were narrowing the town's vital space. By the second half of the 18th century it was completely destroyed; only two kishlaks remained in the suburb. In one of them, viz Pattakesar, at the end of the 19th century Russia built the frontier point called "Termez Tract".

During the Soviet period Termez was practically closed for the foreigners. Today, on the contrary, the town on the Amudarya is visited by ever increasing number of tourists, who wish to touch the mystery and the beauty of the past epochs. Each hill here keeps something unknown, each monument is a legend. Modern Termez still functions as the outpost of independent Uzbekistan, the connecting-link with the neighboring states.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 February 2016 08:01