Saturday, December 19, 2009
Kharaghan Twin Towers
The Kharaghan Towers are mausoleums that according to their remaining inscriptions were built in 1093 CE and 1067 CE. Located on the plains near Ghazvin, they house the tombs of two Seljuki era princes, Abu Saeed Bijar son of Sad and Abu Mansoor Iltai son of Takin and are built over the two burial sites 90 feet apart. The inscriptions on the towers identify the architects as Muhammad ibn Makki al-Zanjani and Abul-Ma'ali ibn Makki al-Zanjani in the later tower, who is probably the former's son or brother.
The brick structures stand 15 meters tall and 4 meters wide, and make extensive use of geometry. Inside the older mausoleum there is a lamp and paintings. The both have a non-conic two-layered dome; the exterior domes have not survived. Both towers have octagonal chambers with engaged pilasters at every corner. Each of the eight facades of the two towers is adorned with a decorative panel. Each tower is made of thick brick walls onto which the decorative brick panels have been attached. The east tower has a north-east facing entrance while the West tower's entrance is to the north. Two of the buttresses at the eastern tower contain spiraling staircases within them. This is different at the Western tower where only one buttresses contains a staircase.
The common feature of the panels in both towers is a decorative niche flanked by a pair of slender columns. Framed by the corner buttresses, these panels are minor variations of the same decorative theme. In the west tower, the panel within the niche has been divided into two parts by three small, slightly protruding, arched niches. The top and the bottom parts of the panel have been decorated differently with varying weave patterns. In the east tower, built first, these panels have been left uninterrupted and only include one pattern per panel. All panels are distinguished by a different decorative pattern but are unified in their use of a brick unit as the primary constructive element.
The interior, also octagonal, is covered with plaster. Inside the chamber of the eastern tower can be found illustrations that are among some of the most well preserved examples of early Seljuk mural painting. One of the illustrations, framed by a keel shaped arch on the lower side of the interior walls, is a depiction of a mosque lamp hanging with three chains and is inscribed in Kufic: "Blessing to its owner". The other illustration is a stylized design of birds sitting in the branches of a pomegranate tree.
These are remnant examples of architecture that exist from the Seljuk dynasty of medieval Persia. Since these twin towers are located in a desert, they were abandoned unprotected for many years, however more attempts have been made to increase the security measures by constructing one-meter high wall around the area.
Both towers were significantly damaged by earthquakes. These were in a good state of preservation prior to the rupture, suggesting it was one of the most powerful in the region for approximately 900 years. Although the Manavi, Aladdin, and Taher shrines were also destroyed in the quake, a paramount importance has been attached to Kharaghan towers due to their antiquity and unique brick works decorations.
Estimates show that the twin towers of Kharaghan took some 50 percent damage and the dome of one of them totally collapsed while the other has lost its stability. Large and serious cracks had developed on the body of the two towers, large parts collapsed and brick works decorations sustained extensive damages and partially destroyed. As of 2007 the domes of the towers had been completely restored and just restoration of their decorative designs remained.