One of the most famous minarets of Khiva is the unfinished Kalta Minor (also called Kuk Minaret or Unfinished Minaret) by Muhammad Aminkhan. The shape of the minaret is a kind of truncated cone, which looks very impressive even when unfinished. There are many stories and legends among the local people about what happened.
It is said that the Khan of Khiva ordered a large and tall minaret to be built in the city: “One should be able to see Bukhara from the minaret”. The Emir of Bukhara, who had heard about this, came to the master who built the minaret, spoke to him and promised to give a lot of money; he planned to build the similar tower in Bukhara too. The Khan of Khiva heard about it and ordered the master builders to be thrown out of the tower after the construction work was finished. The Khan did not want the same minaret to be built elsewhere. When they learned this, they built wings or knotted a rope and used this rope to climb down and escape, or so the myths and legends tell us.
Assuming dynamic contraction from the Kalta Minor in Khiva, it should reach a height of about 100 metres when completed and be the largest and tallest minaret in the world. The current tallest minaret is in Delhi, it is the Qutub Minar with a height of 72.5 metres, 15.5 metres diameter, 2.5 metres diameter at the top (Kalta Minor in Khiva has a diameter of 14.5 metres, is 29 metres high and 15 metres deep at the base).
The top of the minaret is reached by a staircase from a second-floor level, i.e. one can access the minaret via wooden spiral ladder steps leading upwards. These ladder steps have been restored from time to time.
The construction of the Kalta Minor was started in 1853 by Muhammad Aminkhan and stopped in 1855 after the assassination of the Khan during the campaign from Khiva to Northern Iran and the accession of Abdullakhan.
The missing inscriptions in Arabic script in Farsi, on majolica, which had fallen off the top of the minaret over time, were restored in 1997, on the eve of the 2500th anniversary of the city of Khiva.
Rustam Tahirov, master restorer of majolica art, restored the letters on the majolica. The content of their text is approximately as follows: “A tall minaret has been erected that brings joy to the human soul. Heaven has not yet seen such a thing. Its glory has reached the emirs of the earth. Its sides are free from faults and shortcomings. If you look at it with the eyes of righteousness, the cypress tree before it will be like fine straw. It is better than the tubo tree to soothe the hearts. Its beautiful appearance has changed the face of earth and sky like a paradise. It has become a kind of pillar of heaven that the mind cannot comprehend”.
For this reason, the poet Muhammad Reza Agakhi wrote the year of its construction: “The Endless Pillar of Heaven, built in the year of Hijrah 1271 (1855)”. About the construction of the minaret, Mullah Alim Makhdum Hoji writes the following in his work “History of Turkestan”: “After the completion of the construction of the madrasa, a decree was issued by order of the Khan about the construction of the highest minaret near the madrasa.
During the continuation of the construction of the minaret (1855), Muhammad Aminkhan undertakes a campaign in Iran and dies as a martyr (Shahid), as a result of which the minaret he started to build remains unfinished.
In fact, the story of this event is as follows: Muhammad Aminkhan was killed in the Hijrah year 1271, on the second day of the week, Dushanbe (Monday), of the month of Jumadul Okhir in the territory of Qonlitepa, which is under the Serakhs.
He was about thirty-five years old when the Turkmen killed him and cut off his head, which was taken to Tehran, the Shah’s palace, along with his headdress (kulakh), crown and other things on the fifteenth day of that month.
But Nasriddinshah was not pleased with this act of the Turkmen. Because the ruler of Khivak and the son of the Khan of Khorezm, starting from his fathers and grandfathers, and the Shah of Iran served Allah faithfully and respected the fundamentals of Imam Mawlai Hanif Ahmadiyya, in the interest of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.V. ), (he) without much hesitation, issued the decree of the Shah to build a mausoleum with a high dome in Tehran, near the central gate of the state, in which all his belongings and provisions were buried along with the Khan’s head, a memorial prayer from the Quran was recited and donations were given to the poor and needy to appease his spirits.
The basis of the story of Qonlitepa is that Muhammad Aminkhan made a military campaign (chapovul) every year to punish the disobedient Turkmen of Merv and Serakhs, including the Iranians.
In one of these campaigns, at the battle of Qonlitepa, a person named Niyazkhan ibn Urazkhan Serakhsi beheaded the Khan and seized his possessions and equipment. Among the viziers and commanders, 14 persons who were half-brothers of father’s side, a total of 32 persons, were killed in the battle. Among them, the Qozi of Khorezm, Bekchan Divanbegi, Khudayarbiy, Abdulla Mahram, Davlatyarbiy, Bekchan Sardar, Niyazkuli Mingbashi, Allakuli Yuzbashi, Haknazar Mingbashi, Davlatyaz Yuzbashi, who came to the rescue at the head of 1000 horsemen.
Bekmurad and Muhammad Sheikh Arbab repeatedly raided (chapovul) Khorasan with 2000 horsemen. Of these, 70 men were killed. Jafar Okai, who was the ruler and his vizier Mirahmad Jamshidi, they were both seriously wounded.”
Nevertheless, even in this state, the minaret looks majestic and beautiful. It is decorated with majolica tiles in different colours. At the beginning of our century, after glorifying it, people nicknamed it “Ulli minar” (“The Great Minaret”). “Kok minar” (“Blue Minaret”).
Contemporaries described Muhammad Aminkhan thus. Mirza Rizakulihan Sherozi Lalabash, who came as ambassador from the side of the Shah of Iran, tells it this way in his Book of Travels: “In this vilayat there are no brawls, quarrels, thefts or refusal to return borrowed money.
No one argues with another, even raises his voice. If a person, no matter what class he belongs to, has something to communicate, he can go to His Highness, Khan Muhammad Aminkhan and voice his concern (complaint) without any obstacles.
If it is a secular matter, he takes the decision himself, but if it is a Shariah matter, he entrusts it to the Qozi Kalon. The Imam has no other claim on other people’s property.
When it comes to zakat, he charges one out of forty parts; he does not oppress in matters of money. Everything is cheap in this land, the fruits are plentiful and very tasty and their melons are excellent, the fruits of the mulberry (tut) are tastier than in Shamran and the anjirs (figs) are better than in Mazandaran.
But the grapes are not so good. The farms and canals are full of water. The Khan of Khiva took it upon himself to provide water and land for his subjects. Each of them was allotted a tanap of land, each of them who went on a journey was given a horse, and each of them was given two camels to load their loads for the journey.
Therefore, his ten thousand soldiers, who know nothing of it (from the enemies), will appear as thirty thousand and will strike fear into the hearts of the strangers. The area around the palace (of Urda) they dig up.
If anyone’s horse or camel dies on the march, the owner is compensated for the loss in money of its value, and each person returning from the march receives five tomans. The salary of each man does not exceed fifty tomans.
For this reason the Vilayat is prosperous and its coffers are never empty,” he concludes his description of the behaviour and manners of the local people. Muhammad Aminkhan’s madrasa was restored and converted into a hotel in 1979.