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Timurid renaissance: The era of revival of art and science in Central Asia

The Renaissance is a place where dreams are sold. The Renaissance sells dreams. However, very few people know about the Timurid Renaissance. This Renaissance also made a significant impact on history. The 15th-century Timurids established the Timurid Renaissance, a remarkable artistic, cultural, and scientific era. It is therefore contemporaneous to the Western Renaissance, according to Derya Soysal (Universite libre, Bruxelles), professor of geography, environmental scientist, and PhD researcher in hydrogen.

The Timurids descend from Timur (Tamerlane), who was the emperor and ruler of the Timurid Empire (today’s Uzbekistan). The century-long revival of culture and arts that Timur left behind was a result of the empire he bequeathed. Samarkand was the crown jewel of this revival.

The Timurid Renaissance was initiated by Shah Rukh (Shahrokh Mirza), the son of Emir Timur and Goharshad Begim. He developed an innovative artistic, cultural, and scientific policy in Samarkand that covered the whole 15th century.


Timurid Empire, 15th century:

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The revival of science and art was facilitated by the Timurid dynasty from Central Asia. It was compared to the Italian Renaissance in its splendor. “Combining military activities with artistic patronage to suck tremendous effect, the fifteenth century became known as the era the Timurid Renaissance, a match of glory for the Italian Quattro centro. Ruggiero, G. (2007).

Shahrokh Mirza married his wife, and they attracted artists, philosophers, and poets to the Empire, as well as to their court. Today, Djami is among the most well-known poets in the world. Ulugh Beg, their eldest son and governor of Samarkand was an outstanding astronomer.

The Timurid Renaissance can be summarized by the reconstruction of Samarkand, Herat (equivalent of Florence of the Italian Renaissance), and the schools built in Ulug Beg’s name (grandson to Emir Timur).


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Mausoleums and madrasas were constructed. Large-scale construction projects were also created and executed. In the 16th century, firearms were mastered and mathematical and meteorological studies were revived. Samarkand was an important stop along the Silk Road connecting China and the West (DICKENSM. 1999).

Timur was not only a great conqueror but also a great builder. The most striking thing about Timur’s monuments are their size. Timur constructed both religious and secular monuments in his capital. He also built palaces with gold, silk, and carpets.

The Muslim world’s most important centre of intellectual and artistic life, Herat, became a major center during this time. Samarkand was a hub of scientific research, and it became the heart of the Timurid Renaissance because of their constructions during this period.

The Timurid period saw the construction of three main structures: the Summer Palace and the Bibi Khanym Mosque. The Taj Mahal, one the most famous wonders of the globe, was built by Shah Jahn, a Mughal emperor and descendant of Emir Timur.


Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Samarkand, Uzbekistan:

The Registan, which is the heart of Samarkand’s ancient city, was once called “the noblest square in the world” by Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India in 1888. He wrote, “I don’t know of any East that approaches it in its immense simplicity and grandeur.” “No European spectacle can be properly compared to it. We are unable to point out any open space in a Western town that is commanded from three sides by Gothic cathedrals. (Blunt, W. 1973)


Registan, Samarkand:

Ulugh Begh was the grandson of Emir Timur. He was an astronomer, mathematician and more scholar than a military or religious leader. Ulugh Beg decorated Samarkand with magnificent monuments and parks.

Ulugh Beg’s madrasa was a scientific institution in that period. Ulugh Beg actually built the Samarkand Astronomical Observatory between 1424-1429. It was fitted with astronomical instruments that were not available before then (Golombek Lisa, Donald Wilber 1988).


Ulugh Beg Mdrasa, Samarkand

Like everywhere else in Samarkand the decoration of the madrasa emphasizes the color Blue with both light and dark blue tiles. Blue is a common color in Samarkand. The star-shaped faience mosaic that adorns the entrance is a tribute to astronomy.

Ulugh Beg, the ruler of Timurid Renaissance, was a great symbol. It is due to his trigonometric tables, that he holds his place in mathematics history. In 1961, the International Astronomical Union renamed a lunar crater and an asteroid after him (2439) Ulugbek (Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union).

Timurid art has a lot of miniature paintings. Painting wasn’t limited to paper, many Timurid artists painted intricate murals. Anatolia even had Timurid art. Marthe Bernus Taylor (1997) wrote “The decoration in Bursa of the “Green Complex”, a reflection of Timurid Art.”


Timurid miniature

The uniqueness of the Timurid cultural movement lies in its contribution to Chagatay’s development (Ortayli I.). Babur, a descendant of Amir Timur, was able to write his biography, the Baburnama in Chagatay Turkic (Maria E. Subtelny, 1994).

Under the Timurids, women played an important role in economic and political life. (Mukminova R.) Mukminova stated that women held a prominent place at the court of Amir Timur as well as the Timurids. They were invited to the festivities, where high dignitaries, ambassadors took part in mausoleum constructions, madrasas and women became managers. (T.Fajziev, 1994).

The Timurid Renaissance was similar to the Western Renaissance in that it was based on science, art and architecture. It is clear that polymathy was a common feature of Central Asia’s Timurid Empire. This era made history and many historians are proud to have seen the Timurid monuments at Samarkand.

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