Tomb of a holy man marked by flags

Mausoleums have always played an important role in Khorezm where Islamic and pre-Islamic Shamanist beliefs have mingled to produce a strong folk Islamic flavour. It has been said that life revolved around the 'mazar' (tomb) and the bazaar as Khivans would visit both with eagerness, hoping to leave with a bargain brought or a favour sought. Mausoleums would spring up around the tombs of saints, such as Sayid Allaudin or Pakhlavan Mahmoud, where supplicants would swear solemn oaths or pray for prosperity, children, guidance or a marriage partner.

A false oath in those circumstances is unknown, for it is firmly believed that whoever forswears himself over the tomb can only save himself from eternal punishment by dying on the spot.

'Captain Nicolai Muraviev 'Journey to Khiva through the Turkoman Country1819-20 ' 1871

Woman praying at a tomb

As in all Mohammedan countries, the women do not mix with the men in a social way. They have their own entertainment and they visit each other; they are not supposed to have any part in religion, and never go to the Mosque for prayer. But there are many shrines, or graves of saints, where they go to wail and pray when they want a child or a husband, or when they are in trouble or difficulty.
There was a very popular shrine just opposite, where we could hear the women wailing from the early morning. It was the grave of a female saint called Anna Bibi, but what she had done in her lifetime to have the power to help those who called upon her, I do not know. The women who were looking for husbands knelt before the tomb, putting their hands into two holes while they cried and wailed by the hour. I sometimes suspected their prayers were answered pretty quickly, for I often saw youths wandering about near the shrine, furtively inspecting the supplicants.

Lady Macartney 'An English Lady in Chinese Turkestan' 1931

As increasing numbers of people began to pray to dead saints, wealthy citizens would often build their own mausoleums around a tomb in the hope of gaining favour with the respective saint. Khans also ignored the Koranic injunction against venerating holy men and began to build impressive mausoleums for themselves or locate their tomb in an existing mausoleum, thus ensuring a steady stream of pilgrims upon their demise.
Mausoleum styles and sizes varied and include the grand mausoleums of Pakhlavan Mahmoud and Mohammed Rakhim Khan II to the smaller mausoleums of the Sayid Allaudin and the Three Saints. Such tombs invariably include poles on which votive flags are hung. These are replaced each year in March during a ceremony where the local 'mullah' (Muslim priest) recounts the saint's deeds and followers pray for a good harvest and prosperity. The more important mausoleums are usually continually attended by a mullah or an old woman who prays with pilgrims and accepts their offerings of food or money on behalf of the saint.
be asked to remove their shoes.

Historic view of pilgrims in the Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum courtyardMausoleums in Khiva are often considered more sacred than other religious buildings (including mosques) and visitors should maintain an attitude of respect and may

Tour Links:  
'Three Saints Mausoleum' 'Palvan Kari and Abdul Bobo Mausoleum'
'Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum' 'Tort Shalbaz'
'Said Allaudin Mausoleum' 'Chadra Hauli and Gandimyan'
'Said Magrumjan Ensemble'  
Guidebook Links:
'Death and Dying' 'Islam in Central Asia'

Aywans | Madrassahs | Mausoleums
Mosques and Minaretes | Yurts | Tiles