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Timurids Dynasty And Arts History Essay

In this paper, Timurid dynasty and its arts, language, religion, literary and culture were concerned with the specific details. Timurids could adapt to Persian culture without loosing their Mongolian identity. It has been discussed that the history of the Timurids was influential on other dynasties and Tamerlane who led their armies to the conquest of much of his territory was the greatest conqueror the world has ever seen. The important locations where they have conquered and lived were also argued under the discussion of their characteristics derived from different cultures. It is also pointed that the tribes were related to central leadership and the state formation had different mechanisms.

In order to collect data, I tried various ways that are possible. First, I took an advice from my professor in order to have an idea about alternative sources. Then, I made a research in the library for different books about Timurid dynasty and Tamerlane. I collected some books and names of some journals. At last, I made a selection among my sources and I chose the most important ones which are the most related to my subject.

I have four significant books about my subject, Timurids. Lamb (1928) is an old book so the information in this book is not sufficient. However, this book is similar to Manz (1989) which is written in more modern conditions and it includes more beneficial information for my research. I think Marozzi (2004) is the best book among my sources, because it has the latest information. It is apparent that it’s established by the latest technologies, because it has illustrations and photos about the architecture and the culture of Timurids. My fourth book, Yücel (1989) is written in Turkish, so I believe that it would be more helpful for me to understand than others. All of my books discuss that Timur was a great conqueror, so all of them states the main points in conquests. In all of my books, I can have information about the different empires that have been conquered by Timur and his army. Even if Lamb (1928) is the oldest book among my sources, I think it provides me the basic information about the dynasty. This source also gives information about both its political history and cultural areas. In gaining knowledge about the social and cultural interests of the dynasty, Marozzi (2004) is the most beneficial book, because it’s describing Timurid’s political history by defining its culture. So, it makes it easier for me to compare different fields from the same perspective.

Timurids were Persianate dynasty which takes place in Central Asia. They were originally Turco- Mongol and their empire involved the whole Central Asia, Iran, and modern Afghanistan. They also included Pakistan, India, Mesopotamia and the Caucasus. They were mainly Sunni Muslim. The Timurid dynasty was established by the conqueror Timur in the 14th century. He was known as ‘Tamerlane’ in English. He lived in the 14th century and he was the conqueror in Western and Central Asia. He wanted to be the leader of all Turks.

Their origin comes from the Mongolian nomads who are known as Barlas. Barlas people come from the Mongol army administered by Genghis Khan. When Mongols conquered the Central Asia, the Barlas were located to Turkistan. Then, they were assimilated by the Turks and they were completely Turkicized. Their language and habits became similar to the Turks’. Central Asian Turks and Mongols were mostly Muslim. When they chose Islam as a religion, they also chose the Persian literary and culture. Even if Timurids come from the Barlas, they mostly adopted the Persian culture. They altered the Persian culture into Islam and they used this converted culture in Turkestan and Khorasan. So, the Timurids had multiple characteristics that represent Turco- Mongol and Persian culture together.

Timurids’ language was mostly Persian. Both the spoken and the official state language were Persian. The Chagatai language was also spoken in Timurid dynasty. The language spread by the assimilation and the Persian poetry played an important role in this assimilation. Persian poetry also influenced the transition from Timurid elite to the Perso- Islamic culture. ‘Zafarnameh’ [1] – a bibliography of Timur- was one of the most important Persian works in Timurid dynasty that also played an important role in spread of the language. Nur ud- Din Jami has important and impressive poems in this era and he was also one of the most important poets. Timurid Sultan Ulugh Beg had an important astronomical works which were written in Persian. Persian art was also influenced by many others’ cultures such as Safavids, Persia and Chinese. Timurids started to use Persian techniques in art. They used paper, calligraphy, illumination and illustration together as they had learned from the Persian art. Seljuq traditions were influential in architecture. We can see it clearly from the turquoise and blue patterns on the buildings, especially on mosques. They used geometric shapes in order to decorate the buildings. We can see these kinds of decorations on a blue ribbed dome in Samarkand (Marozzi, btw. 136- 137.) Timur’s territory in Samarkand was known as his ‘blue- domed capital.’

Timur was an ambitious conqueror. He wanted to be the leader of all Turks. In the last decades of the 14th century, whole Asia started to hear his name. From Delhi to Damascus, Siberia to the Mediterranean, his name was spread all over the great cities of Asia. His army conquered lots of great cities in Asia, Africa and Europe. By 1370, he started to expand his army and his kingdom started to extend. Timur was born in Khoja Ilgar, near Shakhrisabz, south of Samarkand. So, he started to his conquests from this point. In 1370, Timur became so great that he was enthroned in Balkh, northern Afghanistan, where was made famous by Alexander the Great. Tamerlane started to be known as the most devastating warrior- king alongside the Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan (Marozzi, p. 86.) He was the founder of a nomad conquest dynasty and he used the resources of Turco- Mongolians while he is also using the resources he had found in the regions he conquered. Transoxania’s Turco- Mongolian tribesmen were the best followers of Timur, even if they remained related to their Mongolian traditions. These tribesmen and Timur were using Persian culture. So, they could adapt to a new culture without loosing their Turko- Mongolian identity (Manz, p. 110.) Timurids adopted Persian’s language, art and architecture techniques and culture; and they could keep their main Chagatai language- which comes from Mongolians- was also spoken in “homelands.” (Manz, p. 96)

Shah Rukh and Ulugh Beg cared about the development of miniature. Their success in art of miniature was so developed that it became a model for the Persian art schools. After the death of Timur, a new Timurid style started to spread. The conception of space started to be important in this era. [2] In miniature painting, objects and figures were painted largely without any complexity. Lots of objects could be drawn within simplicity due to the large areas left in the paintings. We may notice that in every piece of art, there is something hidden in the painting and it is difficult to interpret. There were two significant schools playing an important role in the development of the art. One of them, the school of Shiraz, was founded by Sultan Ibrahim in 1414. In this school, earlier Timurid styles were being used. They used the Persian techniques of painting in bright colors and using papers with complex illustrations. Those paintings were used in the decoration of the constructions due to their characteristics of being bright and colorful in this era. In this school, Ibn- Husam had a great artwork which was known as ‘155 miniatures of Khavar- Nama.’ [3] The second important school was Herat. This school had developed more modern techniques and technologies. The last Timurid prince, Sultan Hussain ibn Mansur ibn Baiqara, was influenced by the Persian painting. So, in the paintings that are made in Heart, we can observe lots of effects of Persian art. Their success in miniature art was considered as the climax of Persian painting. In this new style of painting, there were more details and a great composition that was being told in the painting. Human figures started to be shown up in the paintings. Heart school of arts had two significant artworks; one of them is ‘Kalila wa Dimna’ [4] and the ‘Golestan’ [5] by Sa’adi.

Even if Timur was a great conqueror, he was also a great builder. After he conquered a city, he started to build monuments, structures, buildings etc. Timur’s monuments were perfect representations of a man who made the earth shake in his time (Lamb, p. 45.) Even if Timur cared much about the architecture in Samarkand, he also constructed buildings in other cities. In Shahr- i Sabz, he erected Aq Saray. In Turkestan, he built a mosque and mausoleum for Hoja Ahmed Yasavi. [6] Some of these structures were destroyed by Russians. Some of the structures remained in good conditions in “holy place.” [7] Samarkand’s architecture was the most impressive one. However, they were destroyed and we can only learn their existence from the writings remained from that era. Gold, silk and carpets were used in the architecture in Samarkand. There were great walls, gardens, floors and religious monuments. Timur wanted his city, Samarkand, to be full of monuments, structures and buildings. He wanted Samarkand to be a center of architecture and he tried to expand it through other cities.

Among the Timurid builders, the most passionate person for architecture was Shah Rukh’s wife, Gawhar Shad. She led the construction of a mosque at Meshed. [8] There is also a combination of mosque, madrasah and mausoleum in Herat and the construction of this combination was also led by Gawhar Shad. However, these buildings couldn’t survive in good conditions. We can only have the ruins of these buildings. They were destroyed in wars and also by earthquakes. Herat became the capital city of Timurids due to the replacement of the architectural attention to this city. They also kept constructing significant structures and monuments in Samarkand. Ulugh Beg was the son of Shah Rukh and he was governing the city. So, he was also governing the constructions of these buildings. They used several pottery techniques in the decoration of Timurid monuments. Timur was responsible for three significant monuments in Samarkand: Gur-I Amir, the Bibi Khanum mosque and the Shah-i Zindeh. [9] After the death of Timur, they continued to imitate his architecture techniques. The madrasah and observatory of Ulugh Beg are the two important examples for these imitations. Also, Taj-Mahal was constructed by a Timurid person, Shah Jahon.

When we consider all the mentioned points above, I can say that Timur’s name was ranked among the most powerful conquerors in the world. He was so ambitious that he conquered much of Central Asia. Timurids adopted the Persian culture, used their language and developed their architectural techniques, without forgetting their Turco- Mongolian origin. Therefore, they had a dual character that includes both Persian and Turco- Mongol culture. Timur gave importance to the architecture of his city, Samarkand, as much as he cared the expansion of his territory. That was the main reason of the great constructions in Samarkand and Herat, where was started to be concerned about its architecture after the death of Timur. We can conclude that Timurid dynasty was magnificent and impressive by both its conquests and architectures.

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