Kutlug Murad Inak is the first two-storey madrasa in Khiva, built according to the scheme of Bukhara, with some simplifications of the structure, large halls of the Darskhona were omitted, there are no deep aiwans in the courtyard, hujshras were built in their place.
Bumpy domed benches were removed in front of the main facade. Its flat paved roof served as a parade ground in front of the entrance to the madrasa. There is an interesting story about the construction of the tomb of Kutlug Murad Inak, who wanted him to be buried in the madrasa he built, like most rulers of Khiva.
But he died in Dishan-Kala, and it was decided that it was not a good sign to carry the deceased through the city gates to Ichan-Kala. And so the clergy resorted to a trick: the walls of Ichan-Kala at the east gate were destroyed and the madrasa was in the territory of Dishan-Kala.
The body was carried through a hole in the wall and buried in the madrasa under the floor of the central room. In the courtyard of the madrasa is a spring – the sardoba – which is covered with a dome. The corner towers of the main façade are decorated with glazed and terracotta tiles with embossed patterns.
According to the inscriptions on the carved doors, the madrasa was built in 1804 – 1812 by the uncle of Khan Khiva Allakulikhan, the ruler of the region (Muzofot) Kungrad, a military leader Kutlug Murad Inak.
The madrasa has two floors, 81 hujrasas for the students, a comfortable darskhona and a mosque. In the courtyard of the madrasa is an underground structure in the form of a sardaba (water basin), which is locally called “teyi zamin” (an underground water basin).
Most of the city’s population (Ichan-kala) used to get their drinking water from this underground water basin. For the madrasa, 24634 tanaps of the land was allocated as Waqf grant.
The craftsmen from Khiva, who built a two-storey madrasa for the first time in the rebuilt city, tried to take an example from already known models. They relied on a complex structure of the madrasa Abdulazizkhan in Bukhara.
In order to save costs, the architects who built the madrasa simplified its structure somewhat, dispensing with summer aiwans as well as two large rooms at the wings of the portal. Instead, they contented themselves with the construction of ordinary cells.
The masters of Khiva introduced an innovation into the old complex, i.e. they decorated the portals of the courtyard with patterns. Within the eastern portal of the madrasa is a summer mosque, above which a wooden bolakhona is placed at the level of the second floor.
The elements of innovation can be seen in their composition: the northern and southern bolakhonas (native “talaq” – light superstructure above the ground floor) are wider than the western and eastern ones. In this way, an attempt was made to make the courtyard look more picturesque.
The Kutlug Murad Inak madrasa differed from the earlier madrasas built in Khiva, which resembled a fortress in shape, by having a more luxurious facade. Such a result was achieved thanks to the device on the portal of pentathedral arches and Bukhara-style niches and by increasing the number of different ornaments.
The carved gates of the madrasa are noteworthy, as well as the doors of the mosque and the Darskhona. Each door is a remarkable example of the high art of wood carving.
The surfaces around the vaults are decorated with a variety of majolica, while the corner towers of the madrasa are decorated with exactly the same majolica; the examples of ganch carvings inside the portal give it a beautiful appearance.
Although all these architectural elements alter to some extent the overall appearance of the building, the openings and the tall, strong corner towers that adorn the two wings of the main façade give the structure a fortress-like appearance.
Although the masters tried to introduce some innovations in the decoration of the exterior façades based on the new plan, we do not notice such a circumstance inside the madrasa. The mosque and the Darskhona are also very simplified and do not have any decorations. Only on the dome of the Myonsaray and the dome of the Summer Mosque are there isolated examples of simple ornamentation.
The rest of the madrasa rooms are similar hujshrasas in the form of a rectangular quadrilateral, covered with a balkhi vault. The hujschras are lit by daylight through panjara windows above the entrance doors.
There are also niches and supas (elevations for sitting and resting) in the hujras. Some hujras have shelves made of wood in the shape of the second floor, which occupy almost half of the hujras and are used to store food and necessary household items.
The Kutlug Murad Inak Madrasa is the only madrasa in Khiva to use the embossed terracotta characteristic of Bukhara architecture, which decorates the corner towers of the madrasa.
For its time, the madrasa was a great place of knowledge and the following information has been preserved about its activities: “In 1275 (Hijra), on the fourth day of the month of Safar (13 September 1858), 1880 batman of grain were taken from the Kutlug Murad Inak madrasa on the basis of Waqf and distributed as follows – “to the poor as ‘Ushr’ (tithes) or Kavsan (donation to the poor) 50 batman (the batman of Khiva is equivalent to 20 kg. ), a mutevelli for 180 batman, a farrash (cleaner) for 50 batman, a barber for 30 batman, two akhun for 324 batman, a muazzin with the imam of the mosque for 130 batman and the remaining 1. 160 Batman were distributed among students, For higher students (29 of them) 21 Batman each, making a total of 616 Batman, for middle students (18 of them) 10.5 Batman each, making a total of 191 Batman, and for lower students (48 of them) 5 Batman each, making a total of 255 Batman. As per this document, there were 95 students in this madrasa in 1858 and they were taught by 2 akhuns.
There were also the Mutavalli (the person authorised to run the madrasa), the Imam, the Azanchi (Muazzin), the Farrash (cleaner who cleans and keeps clean the premises of the madrasa) and the Barber who shaves the beard and moustache of the students in this madrasa.
There was a large square in front of the madrasa, surrounded by rows of stalls and a small market. The students who graduated from the madrasa passed exams. The special commission (khayat) was appointed by the Khan. The members of the commission were sometimes the khan himself, in most cases the heir to the throne, the kazi-kalon (chief magistrate), the kazi-urda (municipal magistrate) and a number of scholars-ulama.
The students who passed the examinations were given the titles of Mufti, A’lam, Ahund, Mukarrir (a teacher who conducted practical lessons and repeated the studied subjects with the students, who also performed the duties of a madrasa librarian – Kitabdar).
Among the graduates were poets, historians, writers, calligraphers, scholars and educated people. The well-known Uzbek poet Avaz Utar and the Karakalpak poet Berdakh studied at the Kutlug Murad Inak Madrasa in Khiva.
On the 18th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the madrasa was restored and a permanent exhibition of famous masters of fine arts from Khorezm was opened there.
A total of 52 paintings by Khorezm artists depicting the life, lifestyle, culture and customs of Khorezm are on display. Among the paintings are the works of famous artists Tura Kuryazov, Kichko, Khudaiberganov and A. Allaberganov. The area of the madrasa is 140 square metres.
In the courtyard of the Kutlug Murad Inak madrasa are the workshops of the artisans of Khiva.