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Legend of Amir Temur

Legend of Amir Temur: A look at the legacy of an important ruler of Central Asia

The Emir of Shakhrisabz Bekbuwa invited an astrologer to his house one evening and asked him: “Tell me, learned soothsayer, who shall wrest power from me over this land!”. And the learned astrologer, whom Bekbuwa had specially commissioned from Persia, after guessing the stars in the evening, said: “O Lord! You will perish at the hands of a strong warrior named Temur. Then the ruler asked, “Now where does this warrior live by whose hand I am to perish?” Thereupon the astrologer answered, “This warrior has not yet been born; he will not be born for two months. The child’s mother lives in the village of Ilgar near the capital of your wealth”. The ruler decided to destroy the unborn child. Warriors were sent to the village to capture the pregnant woman and destroy her in the womb of the one by whose hand the child was to die.

The conversation between the ruler and the astrologer was overheard by a maid. She was the childhood friend of Temur’s mother. The maid swung herself onto the horse, took the shortest route to Taragan’s house and told him about the threat. The master of the house set off for the Bey’s warriors and sent his wife on a long journey accompanied by a maid and two servants, one of whom was Haqqul.

After several hours of travelling, the pregnant wife felt ill and begged Batyr Haqqul to stop. But he would not hear of it because he was afraid that they would be caught up by pursuers. The young woman went into labour prematurely, either because of the speed of the journey or because of the excitement. Then Batyr Haqqul decided to stop his little caravan. In the distance, the travellers saw a flickering light. It turned out to be the lonely house of a farmer. Here the fugitives found shelter. Soon the young woman gave birth. A boy was born. He was named Temur. And the place of birth was called Chirahchi, which means “shining one”.

When the farmer who sheltered the night owls saw the boy, he said, “This child is destined to grow up to be a great warrior and a conqueror of many lands. Even though I, as a farmer and breadwinner, do not want wars to be fought, fate has willed it so and there is no escaping it.

The next day, the woman in labour, in order to save the baby from the impending disaster, went down the river Kashkadarya to the town of Karshi with her companions on a kajuk (a wooden raft). There she found shelter with the local prince and lived with Tamerlan for three years. Then she returned to her homeland. The ruler of Bekbuva did not forget the fortune-teller’s prediction and tried to drive Temur out of the world by all means.

The boy grew up lively, enjoyed playing war games with his peers, and at the age of ten began to wander with his father, Sultan Taragai. The young boy was taught jigging and the use of spear and sabre by Palvan Haqqul. The boy was industrious, persevering, could go all day without eating, did not get out of the saddle for a long time, was not inferior to the adults on long journeys and military missions.

When the boy was twelve years old, he met the Emir of Shakhrisabz, who held a wrestling competition (kurash) in his palace. It was customary to hold them at court on the days of the great festivals. People flocked from all over to such contests and the winner received an honorary title and a prize.

The first event was the Dzhigit competitions for the younger age groups. The son of the Bek of Shakhrisabz, Hüseyin, usually won them all. He was physically developed, strong and resilient. In those years, rulers tried to prepare their sons for a difficult life, because being a ruler meant constantly proving not only one’s intelligence and education, but also one’s claim to power. When no one was willing to fight Hüseyin, Temur volunteered, even though he was two years younger than his rival.

Everyone present followed the fight between the two princes – the heir to the throne of the Bey of Shakhrisabz and the son of Sultan Taragai – with particular excitement. Temur fought a fierce duel from which he emerged victorious. He was to receive the honorary title of batyr and a leopard skin as a reward. But the Emir Bekbuwa, enraged by the outcome of the fight, ordered his warriors to capture Temur and execute him. The young Batyr was bound and brought to the throne. The people, however, cried out indignantly, “This is not fair! The victor will not be condemned!” The emir had no choice but to let Temur go.

But Emir was not one to let the daredevil go easily. By order of the ruler of Shakhrisabz, Temur’s legs were broken so that he could never go into battle again. Since then he limped with his right leg. He, the future world ruler, was to become known in Europe as Tamerlane – from the Turkish word “Temirlang”, meaning “the iron lame”.

Although he had become lame, he did not lose his temper, he was not afraid. The young man became physically and mentally stronger and with enviable perseverance began to improve himself, practising martial arts and training his body for future campaigns and battles. By the age of sixteen, Tamerlane was already stronger than anyone else in the area.

One day, together with his father, he gathered a large retinue, marched to the Emir of Shakhrisabz and attacked his palace. In this battle, as the astrologer had predicted, Bekbuva was killed by Tamerlane. But in the same battle Temur lost his father, Sultan Taragai.

The victor did not punish the son of Bey Hüseyin of Shakhrisabz, but decided to win his friendship. As a sign of his friendship, he swore an oath to Hüseyin, securing him by blood ties, and married the sister of the Bey’s son, Uljan Turkan-aga. The new Bey Hüseyin and the young Sultan Temur ruled together in Shakhrisabz, and in a short time they strengthened the city considerably, gathered a strong army and subjugated the entire area.

At this time, Kasangai Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, was ruling Samarkand. When he saw two young strong rulers coming to power in Shakhrisabz, he decided to make them his followers by promising them power in all the Uidahs adjacent to Shakhrisabz.

Kazangan Khan was not destined to stay in power for long – he was defeated by another descendant of Genghis Khan, Tugluk Temur Khan. He did not like the two young rulers of Shakhrisabz. The new ruler of Samarkand gives his son Keles Khan written orders to capture and kill Temur. But Temur’s loyal warriors intercept the messenger with the order. Temur is thus alerted to the threat he faces. With loyal friends, he sets off for the mountains. On the way they are caught up by Kelles-Khan with a large army and defeated by a small group of fugitives.

Temur takes the rest of the group to his old teacher, Palvan Haqqul. The latter listened to the young sultan’s story and said: “My son, I do not think it is time for you to oppose Kelles Khan. You have not yet gained power, the people have not yet followed you. I think you should become strong and invulnerable, then you will conquer Samarkand. You should assemble a good retinue, prepare it for battle, teach the warriors to master their weapons, and fight in the mountains and steppes against the city walls.”

Temur asks his teacher, “Where can I train my warriors? The whole neighbourhood will hear about it and inform the governor of Samarkand, and he will of course be happy to deal with us. Haqqul-palvan replied: “I know an ancient cave in the mountains where the whole troop can be accommodated. Temur followed the advice. After five days of travelling, he was already in the mountains, together with young warriors from the surroundings of Shakhrisabz. Here, in one of the gorges, Temur found the cave indicated by Haqqul-palvan.

The terrain proved to be amazing. It was as if it had been specially created to prepare for future battles in secret.

Temur was only 23 years old at the time. After investigating the cave and finding it suitable for training future warriors, he sent his warriors into the area to select young men for his retinue. In two months, nearly one and a half thousand young men had gathered in the cave. They were strong, brave young men. They were divided into divisions and groups, and the training began.

Temur camped in the cave for almost a year. The young leader prepared his army, identified those who were best able to lead others, and chose commanders from among them.

Soon Temur and his army approached the walls of Samarkand. The enemy forces outnumbered the advancing army, and the city was guarded by twenty thousand soldiers. Temur was confident, however, that he could defeat the enemy. The young leader’s military skill and the courage of his force of one and a half thousand men ensured success. Temur became the ruler of Samarkand. From battle to battle, Temur strengthened his army, crushed the enemy and became master of all Mawara’unnahr.

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