One of the madrassas with the most gorgeous decoration is Tilla Kori Madrasssa at Registan Square in Samarkand. Astonishing in its beauty, makhrab of the mosque is decorated with golding painting in “kundal” style. This painting and decoration were restored and today we see original view of year 1660.
Madrassa became compositional conclusion of the Registan. On the left there is Ulugbek Madrassa, the oldest one. On the right there is Sher Dor Madrassa – “dwelling of lions” – which was built two centuries later by Yalangtush Bakhadur. And the last one of TIlla Kori Madrassa, built ten years later. Compared to modest and ascetic madrassas of Sher Dor and Ulugbek, Tilla Kori is a true example of Oriental luxury. Exterior of the madrassa is decorated with majolica and mosaic with geometric and natural patterns. Main hall is rich with golding which gave the name to the Madrassa – Golding Madrassa. Yalangtush Bakhadur, ruler of Samarkand, passed away short before the construction was finished, and left a lot of mysteries connected with this architectural creation.
The main secret is that there is no mosque inside Sher Dor which is really strange because it is not characteristic of the period. Students had to cross the square and pray at mosque at Ulugbek Madrassa. There is only one niche at Sher Dor headed east, without platform, and probably it served as place for preachers as only above this niche there were sayings from Koran (yet it was not decorated as mekhrab). Other paintings are admonitions to students. Why one of main madrassas was built without a mosque?
There are different versions.
One is that Sher Dor is a mirror reflection of Ulugbek Madrassa yet Yalangtush was eager to outdo Ulugbek and made his madrassa higher. It was made exactly to the high which would not upset overall composition of the Registan. But construction of the mosque on eastern side was impossible as mekhrab should be headed east, towards Mekka.
Another version is that the ruler forgot about the mosque or saved money of its construction having thought that the mosque in neighboring madrassa could be used. It is possible that after ten years of remindings from the clergy of inappropriateness of such circumstances, the ruler decided to expiate the “sin” and build the madrassa with a mosque which would eclipse his error, architectural peculiarity (the square is located on sand and probably it was impossible for it to hold heavy dome) or forgetfulness. Yet possibly, he had had an idea to build third madrassa with gorgeous mosque long ago, on the site of old caravan-saray.
Finally, Tilla-Kori appeared which is amazing in its beauty of decoration even today. Persian craftsmen were working there and embellished the mosque with rich and florid decoration. Massive wooden doors are adorned with cutting of finest vegetative ornament. For long time, the madrassa has served as cathedral Friday mosque where not only students were praying but townsmen as well.
Today, the madrassa is a part of world heritage of UNIESCO as well as the whole Registan Square. It is one of Samarkand’s pearls, its pride and mystery.
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