Legend of Bibi-Hanum and the Snake - Turkestan Travel

Legend of Bibi-Hanum and the Snake

Legend has it that one day a dervish came to Bibi-Hanum and during a conversation predicted, among other things, her death by a spider bite. Bibi-Hanum, who was not embarrassed by such a prediction, turned to Amir Temur and calmly explained to him her impending death and her wish not to be buried in the ground according to Muslim custom, but above it in a coffin.

Grief and horror seized the Amir. The distraught husband tried with all his might to distract her from her melancholy thoughts of death, but when Bibi-Hanum, despite his entreaties and admonitions, persisted in her conviction once expressed and believed with all her soul in its correctness, Amir Temur ordered the building to be constructed. He ordered his masters who were constructing the walls of the building to take the main material for the work – clay – from under the building. Whether the construction work took longer or shorter, a huge dungeon was created under the building and the craftsmen eventually invited Bibi-Hanum to visit the building. The beauty, together with her husband, went to the place where her body was to find its final resting place.

Let me tell you frankly that such a beautiful building should have served only for joy and pleasure in life and not as a house of sad memories. Amir Temur himself was very pleased with the work of the builders and hoped that this wonderful building would distract his beloved wife from her gloomy thoughts. And how could one think of death when looking at the joyful beauty of the flowering walls of this building?

The construction workers also rejoiced at the appreciation of their work. Moreover, they were treated to a veritable feast at the construction site – Amir Temur himself distributed cooked pieces of meat to the workmen. The musicians and singers tried to shine in their art.

Bibi-Hanum was still inspecting the building when suddenly a snake crawled out of the dungeon and started basking in the sun. The workers wanted to kill the snake immediately because they feared it might bite someone. But Bibi-Hanum stopped them by saying, “Leave it alone, it will not harm anyone; why take the life of this creature that you don’t know where it came from and where it will disappear to?”

After basking in the sun for some time, the snake allowed Bibi-Hanum to approach her and nodded affectionately to her, while the ruler stroked her head like a tame kitten and said, “Oh, my faithful animal! You are not afraid of me and I am not afraid of you”.

At the height of the celebrations, when the Muezzin¹ announced prayer time, the snake disappeared unnoticed and was never seen again. The incident was completely forgotten by the townspeople.

No one knows how much time has passed since then, but one day Bibi-Hanum was sitting in the circle of her female servants, distributing grapes on a tablecloth (dostarkhan) spread on a carpet. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in her hand and when she looked at it, she saw a large spider running away on the carpet, which had previously hidden in the grapes. The spider’s bite was very dangerous.

The ruler ordered Amir Temur to be informed about it, and when he came in, anxious and worried, she said to him, smiling softly:
-Well, was it not true what the wandering dervish said, that I would die of a spider’s bite? Now these words were justified.
-No, no! – Amir Temur began to persuade his beloved. – It is only a spider bite and not poisonous at all.

By nightfall, however, a feverish and painful fog had settled over the beauty. Her strength left her in a flash, and pain permeated every cell of the ruler’s body like an all-destroying earthquake.

The last thing she asked for was the fulfilment of her wish not to be buried in the earth, but to have her body laid to rest in the very beautiful building that had been built opposite the Friday Mosque in the capital.

The next morning, the soul of Bibi-Hanum was transferred to the realm of the Almighty forever.

Allah fulfilled her request in a holy manner. He ordered her to be dressed in rich clothes, precious necklaces of double strands of coral and pearls to be placed around her neck, and her beloved rings and earrings of rubies and diamonds to adorn her eternal solitude. Then the lid of the tomb was nailed up with gold and the coffin placed in a dark vault where no ray of sunlight or sound from the earthly world penetrated.

The rumour about the wealth of those buried with Bibi-Hanum spread quickly among the people. However, there were ten thieves among the people who decided to steal from the grave. They made their way to the tomb in the dark night, tore off the necklaces, took the golden nails and wanted to leave the tomb. At that moment, a snake crawled out of the tomb and killed them all on the spot with its poison.

In the morning, the people gathered were at first puzzled as to where the ten dead men had come from. But when they saw the scattered objects, they no longer doubted that the dead thieves had been punished by an unknown power for their heinous crime.

It was decided to put the objects back in the tomb, but no one dared touch them for fear of suffering the same fate as the numerous dead lying in front of the tomb. The bodies of the thieves were thrown down from the city wall to a rubbish dump, where they fell prey to stray dogs and carrion birds.

Finally, one of the elders, after saying a prayer, reverently took the stolen objects, entered the building with them and put them in their place. As he was about to go back in peace, the door leading to the exit suddenly closed by itself, so firmly that he could not open it. The poor old man remained buried alive. It is said that he has remained alive in the locked building to this day. The angels chose him to keep order. After all these years, some of them come to the door of the tomb, put on their ears and hear the soft words of prayer.

Until now, no one has visited the tomb where Bibi-Hanum is buried. And this is the will of Allah! Why disturb the peace of the worthy believers?


¹The Muezzin (Arabic: مُؤَذِّن‎) is the person who proclaims the call to the daily prayer (ṣalāt) five times a day (Fajr prayer, Zuhr prayer, Asr prayer, Maghrib prayer and Isha prayer) at a mosque. The muezzin plays an important role in ensuring an accurate prayer schedule for the Muslim community.

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