“Start your journey from Seyit Jamal ad-Din… When you come to him, ask…” – with these words many pilgrims begin their journey to the ruins of magnificent historical monument of the 15th century, located few kilometers east of Ashgabat, next to the village of Anau. Many people believe that wishes made here come true, and they leave in place things that speak about the nature of their requests.
A salanchak, baby cradle, means a request for a child, a hairpin symbolizes a girl, while an alchiki (sheep’s heel bones, which have been used since ancient times in Asia) – a boy. Also here you can see small cars, houses. The key left here means that the one begged for help cannot resolve a life situation on his own.
Almost completely destroyed by the Ashgabat earthquake in 1948, the medieval Seyit Jamal ad-Din mosque differs from other historical monuments by the unique mosaic decoration of the portal. Although images of animals and mythical creatures are a unique phenomenon for Muslim world’s buildings, here above the main arch, the image of two dragonheads could be seen, which, according to historians, were considered as totem by local tribes.
The mosque was built on the top fortress wall of a medieval settlement near the grave of Sheikh Seyit Jamal ad-Din. Once there was a complex consisting of four structures: the mosque itself, the buildings above the sheikh’s tombstone in front of the mosque, and two large buildings with high domed halls. The restored dragon mosaic decor has been reconstructed; today its fragments are kept in the Museum of Fine Arts.
In the inscriptions on the main facade of the mosque, where the name of the ruler of Khorasan Sultan Abu-l-Kasim Babur (1446-1457) is mentioned, there are such words: “This building was built during the reign of the Sultan the Great, the ruler of his people, asylum of countries and epoch of Abul Kasim Babur Bahadurkhan, may the Most High perpetuate his power and his kingdom. ” Other inscriptions say that the mosque was built by the vizier Muhammad Hudaydot, who chose a place to build near the grave of his father, Jamal al-Din, a native of Anau. It was built in 860 AH Islamic year that correspondence to the year of 1456, in memory of his father.
An exhaustive explanation of the origin of such unusual decor on the portal of the mosque has not yet been found by researches. Scientists know the use of dragons in design elements, which origins go back to the history, as snakes, the so-called “rain dragons”, crawling out of the underworld, were popular in ancient Bactria and Margiana and symbolized water. While a small vegetative ornament, which started from the jawed mouth of each dragon-azhdarha, symbolizes the ideas of fertility, the origin of life and the coming spring.
There is a legend recorded by the main researcher of this monument, Academic Galina Pugachenkova in the middle of the last century, from the words of a 70-year-old man – a natıve of Anau. The legend says: “During the reign of the just and wise Queen Jemal (according to another version, the ruler was Seyit Jamal), a pillar with a large bell was installed near the fortress wall of the city. Every traveler in need of help could ring a bell and receive it.
Once the townspeople heard a particularly alarming beep. Running at the city gates, people saw that a huge dragon-azhdarha had called. At the same time, he with a gesture pointed to the mountains, then to the two masters with axes and saws standing in the crowd. The wise queen ordered the masters to follow the dragon, which began to retire to the mountains. There they saw another dragon wriggling in terrible agony: he swallowed a large horned mountain goat, whose horns were stuck in the dragon’s throat. Brave masters entered the serpent’s open mouth, sawed off the horns, saving the dragon from torment.
The next day, early in the morning, the ringing of the bell awakened the residents. When people opened the gate, they saw two dragons, who brought many treasures in gratitude for their salvation. Putting gold and precious stones at the feet of the queen, the dragons retired to the mountains. The wise ruler ordered for these funds to build a large mosque and on her portal to depict dragons that gave untold wealth. Perhaps their images served as amulets for residents of Anau at those times.
The burial site of Jamal ad-Din was and remains a place of ziyarat pilgrimage for not only residents of Ashgabat and the surrounding area, but also for Muslims from other distant areas, as well as attracts the attention of foreigners and tourists, of course.
The ruins of the majestic Seyit Jamal ad-Din mosque, which attracted filmmakers, was depicted by the lens of a movie camera many times. The whole building can be seen in one of the first films shot by the Turkmenfilm Film Studio in 1936 – the movie Umbar. And the present ruins have become the background for one of the scenes of one of the most popular and favorite films in Russia, Officers (Ofitsery).