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The palace of Varakhsha
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The Varkhsha palace (V.A. Nil’sen’s reconstruction) Source: Shishkin, Varakhsha (1963), facing p. 96

The palace of Varakhsha

The palace is the only archaeologically known Sogdian architectural structure, which has a written history. Indeed, in the Tarikh-i Bukhara composed in 332 AH/943-4 A.D. by Muhammad ibn al-Narshakhi there is a special passage devoted to this building. According to Narshakhi it was built “more than a thousand years ago”. “This palace had been destroyed and abandoned for many years when Khnk Khudah restored it. It again fell into ruins, and again Bunyat b. Toghshada, Bukhar Khudah, rebuilt it in Islamic times and made his court there till he was killed in it. [Narshaki - Frye 1954, pp. 17-18]

The original building of the palace dates to the reign of Khunak (689-709 A.D.). The first remodeling took place during the reign of Toghshada and the paintings on the blue background (the Eastern Hall and an early layer of paintings in the Red Hall) most likely belong to the period of his “apostasy” around 719. The new paintings of the Red Hall belong to the later part of Toghshada’s reign, which ended in 738 A.D.. The fourth stage in the history of the building was connected to the enthronement of his son Qutaiba b. Toghshada (738-753 A.D.). Finally, Buniyat b. Toghshada (753-782) was responsible for the major reconstruction of the palace and the first stucco decoration. He was assassinated for his supporting of Mukanna’s anti-Arabic insurrection (70-80 of the 8-th c.)

The content and genre characteristics of the Varakhsha paintings as well as their fate reflect the political instability of the time and the dubious position in which the rulers of Bukhara found themselves. Bukhar Khudas had to balance between their own pretension to rule over the Bukharan oasis and the overwhelming power of the Arabs. This position required a sophisticated maneuvering between the old national and religious traditions on the one hand and the attempt to present themselves to Arabs as pious converts to Islam on the other.


1. Dmitriy Page. The Guide to Bukhara. History and sights.

2. Дмитрий Пэйдж. Бухара. Путеводитель по архитектурным и историческим достопримечательностям

See also

1. Дворец Варахша
2. Warahscha Palast

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Dmitriy Page. The Guide to Bukhara. History and sights

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