Uzbekistan local time  

The last residence of Kokand sovereign

Khudoyar-khan Palace. Kokand. Ferghana ValleyKokand, one of the ancient cities of the Ferghana Valley, is known worldwide for its numerous historical and architectural monuments. Jami Mosque, built in the 1800s under Umarkhan, Kamal-kazi Madrassah, Norbutabiy Madrassah, Miyan Khazrat Madrassah, Dakhma-i- Shakhan Royal cemetery, Modarikhan Mausoleum – these and other ancient constructions fit into Kokand modern townscape. But the largest and most opulent among the architectural monuments of the Ferghana Valley and a real masterpiece of ancient oriental architecture is Kokand urda architectural complex, generally known as Khudoyar-khan's Palace.

This majestic creation of architects and craftsmen was constructed in the very centre of ancient Kokand, on a man-made earthfill. What makes the palace more attractive is the fact that this is one of those rare monuments with inimitable architectural layout which have survived to the present day.

Another name inseparably connected with Kokand urda is that of a famous Uzbek poetess - Nodira (Makhlar-oim). When in 1822, after the death of Umarkhan, her juvenile son Muhhamad Alikhan (Madalikhan) ascended the throne, Nodira started to rule the country in the name of the successor to the throne. Patroness of sciences, arts, and culture, she also sponsored the construction of mosques, madrassahs, mausoleums, caravanserais, markets, public baths, and khanaka – a Muslim hospice serving as a dwelling for wondering dervishes. Under Nodira, and at her initiative, there was started the construction of the royal palace complex. The construction was not yet finished when she died and the works were restarted only in 1863 during the reign of the last Kokand ruler Khudoyar-khan after whom the palace was later named.

According to historical chronicles, 29 khans reigned in Kokand within 150 years, but the most famous among them was the last khan, Khudoyar-khan. He succeeded to the throne in 1845, when he was a 12-year-old boy, and became the brother-in-law of powerful military leader Mingboshi Musulmonkul. During his 30-year reign Khudoyar-khan lost his throne four times, and each time he reinstated his sovereignty.

Khudoyar-khan Palace. Kokand. Ferghana ValleyKhudoyar-khan palace, built in 1871, was the ruler's seventh mansion and was intended to surpass all the previous constructions in terms of its dimensions and splendour of decoration, thus symbolizing the might of Kokand ruler. The palace building, indeed, occupied 4 hectares, was 138 metres in length and 65 metres in width. The palace was constructed on a three-metre-high platform with a ramp leading to the main entrance; at the bottom of the ramp there once were cast-iron and copper cannons. On the portal, between two guldasta-towers, above the huge fretted entrance gates, there is an Arabic inscription made of majolica tiles, which states "Seyid Mukhammad Khudoyar-khan – the great ruler". The palace was surrounded by an impressive carved stone fence. On the right flank of the palace there was constructed a faceted minaret faced with ceramic tiles whose colours imitate Ferghana abr silk.

The construction of this magnificent palace with 7 small inner courtyards surrounded by buildings was carried out under the guidance of architect Mir Ubaydullo Mukhandis. The best craftsmen from all over the Ferghana valley were involved in decoration works alongside with decorators from Bukhara, Samarkand and other big cities of the region. The ceramic tiles for façade decoration were manufactured by craftsmen from Rishtan – the ancient ceramic centre. The names of some craftsmen are still known: Usto Abdullo, Usto Jamol and Usto Jamil. The entrance portal of the palace was faced with tiles by Usto Zakir from Pskent.

The palace featured 119 rooms which were decorated with lace-like carving on ganch, ornamental tempera paintings, gold-plated alabaster cornices. The most ornate premises were the throne room and waiting room. Adjoining them were the treasury, depository and arsenal. There was also a special hall where khan administered justice to his subjects. Besides, there were private premises of Khudoyar-khan and his four wives. The rooms for his four sons and two daughters were also beautifully decorated. One of the courtyards housed the harem for 40 concubines. Smaller rooms were for numerous servants.

Khudoyar-khan Palace. Kokand. Ferghana ValleyOf great interest is the decoration of the palace façade. Ornamented portal slightly protrudes from the wall surface. Its corners, as well as the corners of the façade itself, are decorated with guldasta- towers topped with lanterns. Similar lantern crowns the cupola. The sunlight penetrating through the grillwork of the lantern lightens the interior of the cupola. The walls of the main facade are ornamented with geometrical girih patterns, vegetal ornaments, and calligraphic inscriptions in Arabic. The upper part of the façade contained modahili- merlons, three of which survived to the present day. Exquisite paintings, splendid architectural decoration of the ceiling are the distinguished features of the premises meant for chancellery and treasury. Next to these premises there is a room which once was assigned to minister of war Atabek-Naib. This is the only room containing a fireplace. It was built by Usto Mamasadyk and its entire surface is decorated with carved ganch panel. The decoration of the throne hall of the palace represents fine majolica tilework, carving, and ganch and wood paintings. The decoration of the ceiling is really unique: pyramid-shaped, stepped hollows "hauzyak" visually expand the space and bring airiness to the hall. An aivan-gallery connects the throne hall with a small, richly decorated reception hall.

In 1865 Russia annexed Tashkent – the former possession of Kokand khanate. However, by that time the relations between the khan and his Ferghana subjects were far from being satisfactory. The khan stopped paying remuneration to his military leaders and soldiers, and cruel treatment of peasants and townsfolk caused civil unrest and numerous rebels which were suppressed with ruthless severity. The year of 1875 became the last year of Khudoyar-khan's reign. He had to flee the country and to seek asylum in Russia. Soon after that, meeting no strong resistance on the part of the local people, the Russian troops took Kokand, and in 1876 Russia annexed the Kokand khanate.

Escorted by Ural Cossacks, Khudoyar-khan, together with his courtiers, wives and harem, left for Tashkent. Besides, they were accompanied with packhorses loaded with thirty boxes full of gold and jewelry from the khan's treasury. However, by the time the caravan reached the residence of Russian general-governor of Turkestan and the khan handed him over the seal of Kokand khanate, little had left of the treasure. Rumour had it that either Cossacks plundered Khudoyr-khan's gold, or the khan himself secretly transported his riches to Afganistan where after long wandering in other countries he finally settled down in a small village, dissipated his fortune and died in poverty. Anyway, today several big museums feature unique exhibits from Kokand Urda. For instance, in the Hermitage in St.Petersburg one can see Khudoyar-khan's throne decorated with precious stones.

Over the years, the interior layout of the khan's palace has undergone considerable changes. In 1925 the palace accommodated the City Local lore museum. The collection of the Museum features many exhibits which tell the visitors about Kokand's historical past. The majestic place is under the protection of the state and is restored regularly. Its amazing ornaments decorating the palace façade and interior premises still impress with their variety and finesse of colour combinations, and testify to the unfading glory of the Ferghana Valley ceramists.