The Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum is the largest dome in Khiva. The structure in Ichan-Qala is covered with blue glazed tiles and has a sparkling gilded top. Pahlavon Mahmud (1247 – 1326) was born in Khiva.
From anywhere in Ichan-Qala you can see the only turquoise dome in Khiva, perched high on a drum – the Khanaka dome at the tomb of Pahlavon Mahmud – poet and thinker, philosopher and professional wrestler.
The mausoleum was built in honour of the famous poet of Khiva and a man known for his heroic strength, Pahlavon Mahmud.
There are legends about his strength and courage. Pahlavon Mahmud, like all philosophers of the time, had a profession that supported his family. He was a furrier and sewed fur coats.
The Muslim clergy elevated him to the rank of saint after his death. Initially, the mausoleum was modest and small, but it quickly became a place of pilgrimage with many hujras, khanakas and mosques.
In the 17th century, the entrance portal to the mausoleum was built on the south side. Members of the Khan of Khiva’s family were buried in the family tomb attached to the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum. The marble tombstones of Abdulaziz-khan (1663) and Anush-khan (1681) were transferred to the new building and placed behind the burial niche of Muhammad Rahim-khan.
In 1719, Shergazi-khan built a new madrasa to the south of the cemetery and aligned it with the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mahmud.
In 1810, after a successful raid on Kungrad, Muhammad Rahim-khan I decided to radically change the ensemble. Later, the building was extended from the original mausoleum to the east and partly to the south.
In the works of Shamsiddin Samii “Komus up-apam” by Lutf Alibek Ozar “Otashkada”, as well as in the book “Manokib”, there is information that he created a masnaviy called “Konzul hakoyik” (“Treasure of Truth”). His rubai is widely known.
The priceless poetry of Pahlavon Mahmud, which has educated several generations, has reached us through the centuries. The books like “Hazrat Pahlavon Hikoyalari”, “Pahlavon Mahmud Manokiblari” have been written on the life of the clergyman.
In Khorezm, Pahlavon Mahmud was also known as Pahlavon Pir and in literary publications he is known as Hazrat Pahlavon and as Mahmud Pirivaliy. As a Tariqat servant, Pahlavon Mahmud earned his living as a furrier, just as Hazrat Bahauddin wove multi-coloured patterns on cloth. For the Tariqat servants lived from the fruits of their labour. They adhered to the holy scripture of Prophet Muhammad alayhissalom:
“Read the Qur’an and follow it.
Do not be alienated from it and strive to understand it more deeply.
Do not make mistakes by indulging in your own speculations,
Do not enrich yourself by making it a means of existence.
As the legend testifies, Pahlavon Mahmud lived in Iran and India for several years. According to “Manokib”, Pahlavon Mahmud fought against the enemies of India and saved the Indian king Raja Rapoy from death during the battle.
When the king wanted to thank him and asked what he wanted, Pahlavon Mahmud expressed his only request, which was to free the captured countrymen who had been taken captive a few years earlier.
The king was very surprised by Pahlavon Mahmud’s generosity, for he was willing to give him half of his kingdom and his daughter in marriage. The king let the captives go and gave them food and horses for the journey. Pahlavon Mahmud and his countrymen returned to Khoresm.
He built a mausoleum with his own money to commemorate his compatriots who had died in the battles against the Mongol Tatars and made it a place of pilgrimage. When Pahlavon Mahmud died, a mausoleum was built over his grave in Khiva.
The majolica panelling that adorns the dome, the entrance portal and the tombstone was the main feature of the structure. The majolica facings were created by the masters who were imbued with the spirit of Pahlavon Mahmud’s poetry, as if trying to match their amazing blue and white patterns with the poems of the cleric.
The grave of Pahlavon Mahmud was elevated to the rank of a saint by the clergy and since the poet belonged to the Kungrad family. In the 19th century, the Khans of Khiva elected him a saint of the Kungrad dynasty.
Since then, the complex around the mausoleum has become a memorial to members of the Khan’s family – Khans Abdulaziz, Shahniyaz, Muhammad Rahim Khan I, Temurgozi and other rulers of the 17 – 18 centuries are buried here.
During the reign of Allakuli-Khan, the building was decorated with majolica panelling. In 1810, the master Adina Muhammad Murad from Khozarasp supervised the construction.
The majolica panelling dates back to 1825 when the other side of the gallery was built by Nur Muhammad son of Usto Kalandar Khivaki and Sufi Muhammad son of Abdal Jabbar.
The author of the drawings was Abdullah Jin and Nadir Muhammad made the carved wooden door in 1893 – 1894. In 1913, a two-storey building was constructed in the courtyard in front of the mausoleum.
In the rooms of this building are the tombs of Isfandiyar-khan’s mother and sons, as well as a tomb for Isfandiyar himself. According to the accepted version, Isfandiyar died outside Ichan-Kala, in the palace of Nurullabai, and was not buried in the place prepared for him.
His son Temur Gazi, who was poisoned, was also not buried here, but in the Said Mahir Jahan Mausoleum next to his grandfather. The construction of the magnificent architectural complex was completed with the erection of aiwans with carved columns in the south-eastern part of the courtyard.