To crush one hundred Caucasian mountains with a pestle, To languish a hundred years in prison, To colour the sky red with the crimson blood of one's own heart, Is easier than to spend one moment with a fool.
So writes the strongman, Pakhlavan Mahmoud (1247-1325), whose wise words adorn the wall above his tomb. Today Khiva-s greatest hero is fondly remembered as a poet, a philosopher, a fur hat maker and a wrestler of gargantuan proportions. Over the years he has also become the patron saint of barren women, despite his own lack of children which apparently was his biggest regret. One story states how, as a youth of fifteen, he was running across the roof tops when his foot shattered a skyline and he fell into the amorous embraces of an anonymous woman. As she attempted to seduce him, he decided that the female sex only brought problems to young men and vowed never to succumb. However some say that Pakhlavan Mahmoud had a secret lover named Bibi Ravieya whose grave can be found near the Khievak well.
In his twenties the young wrestler moved from Kunya Urgench to Khiva where he opened a shop for making and selling fur hats. However it was his consummate strength and skill in wrestling which gained him popularity, rapidly enhanced by his generosity in sharing his winnings with the poor. Mahmoud also showed compassion to the weak and the oppressed. It is said that only once did he ever lose a fight and this was to save the life of his opponent, an Indian slave condemned to death should he be defeated. The mighty fur hat maker lifted the slave above his head and then fell to the ground with the slave on top of him, ensuring the fortunate slave instant victory (a painting of this incident is displayed in the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassah). As his fame spread he became known as 'Pakhlavan' or 'Strongman' Mahmoud and even today wrestlers as far afield as Iran still whisper his name in prayer before a match.
Pakhlavan Mahmoud travelled throughout Central Asia and India, wrestling and discussing philosophy as well as poetry. Influenced by his friend and teacher, Sayid Allaudin, he wrote a book called, 'Treasure of Truth' in which he discusses his thoughts on Sufism (the mystical branch of Islam) and emphasises the importance of humanity. He states that there was no bravery in brute force but that true bravery should be strong enough to help the weak and maintain modesty, 'If everything is solved by brute force, a scoundrel can defeat an honest and brave person using dishonest means.'. Pakhlavan Mahmoud also composed over 330 poems, written in a four-line style, touching on the themes of romance, human virtue, freedom of thought and the transience of the physical world. His many proverbs also became famous and are still quoted today.
It is easier to spend one hundred years in jail or to climb one hundred mountains than it is to persuade a fool of the truth.
To adore oneself, if in self satisfaction, is to waste the richness of the creed. Beware my friend, to desire a woman without marriage, is to be doomed to an eternal fire.
There is a way to find the world of the sour reflected in a mirror of tiles filled with charm. The patterns like the flowers of spring, a keepsake from Abdullah to mankind.