The Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum is the shrine of Khiva's patron saint, Pahlavan Mahmud, and the dynastic burial complex of the Qungrat Khans. The ensemble lies south of Khiva's famed Allah ad-Din tomb, near the Islam Khwaja Complex in the Ichan-Kala (inner fortress). It was built in the fourteenth century around the tomb of Pahlavan Mahmud, who is believed to be a gifted poet, soldier, furrier, professional wrestler and healer of diseases. The complex today consists of a domed monastic hall (khanqah), yard and gate pavilion (darvaza khana) along north-south axis, with a summer mosque, Quran reading rooms (qori khana), kitchen and other ancillary structures arranged on either side.
A cemetery grew around the venerated mausoleum until the seventeenth century, when an individual named Shah Niyaz Khan is recorded to have built a gate pavilion (darvaza khana) at the southern edge of the complex. In 1719, Sher Ghazi Khan, Khiva's Governor under Persian occupation, built the Yakub Bey Khwaja Madrasa south of the cemetery and oriented it towards the Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum. A local builder named Mullah-din Mohammed Murad is recorded to have supervised the complex's expansion in 1810, during the reign of Qungrat ruler Muhammad Rahim (1806-25). Pahlavan Mahmud's mausoleum was incorporated at this time as the eastern wing of a new domed hall that was to house the burial-vaults of the Qungrat dynasty. Tombstones of former Qungrat Khans including Abdul Ghazi Khan (d. 1663), Anusha Khan (d. 1681) and Ilbars Khan (1732-41) were arranged in the northeastern corner, next to the five-sided niche set aside for Muhammad Rahim's tomb. Muhammad's successor, Allah Quli Khan (1825-42) is also buried in a deep niche within the central hall of the shrine.
Reconstructions over subsequent centuries have recast the two-cupola shrine as the ensemble's compositional center point. A major remodeling initiative in 1825 extended its main hall eastwards. A new two-storied structure was constructed in 1913 to accommodate the burial vaults of Qungrat ruler Isfandiyar Khan's (1910-18) family. Later, a lofty iwan and summer mosque were built to the west of the shrine to create an enclosed yard with a shady tree and well. By the end of the twentieth century, four Quran reading halls (qori khanas) and a madrasa enveloped the ancient cemetery. Three small chambers were subsequently constructed along the western wall of the shrine; the middle chamber accommodates a prayer hall (ziarat khana) that is entered from the shrine's central hall. The northernmost of these chambers provides access to the front yard.
The Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum's blue tile-covered dome commands Khiva's skyline. Viewed from the west, this monumental dome sits atop an unrelieved brick mass and rises above the adjacent graveyard's cluster of domes and half-domes. However, the shrines's high iwan screens all but the dome's large brass finial to visitors approaching from the primary southern entrance. The tile motifs and large medallions on the dome reflect the decorative traditions of the region. The interior of Pahlavan Mahmud's Mausoleum displays an array of Khiva's famed woodcarving, ceramic painted decoration, metal chasing and inlay craft traditions. All of the complex's main rooms were faced with painted majolica tiles in 1825 under the patronage of Qungrat ruler Allah Quli Khan. The wooden doors are exquisitely carved and inlaid with copper and ivory. The latticed brass grille at Muhammad Rahim Khan's gravestone is particularly noteworthy.
Today the Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum is carefully preserved as a national cultural treasure. The World Heritage Status conferred on the Ichan-Kala in 1991 has attracted increased world attention and sparked several conservation projects.
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