Registan means a sandy place, a desert in Persian language. But Registan of Samarkand is a different story. In the ancient city of Samarkand, ruled by the Timurid dynasty it was the heart of the city. A public square, a trade centre or bazaar, a caravanserai -a place for resting for weary travelers on the Silk Route, where people gather to hear royal proclamations starting with blowing on enormous copper pipes called dzharchis. This was where public executions also took place. It is a mute spectator of eras gone by….. Today it is a tourist destination, having three marvelous madrasas, one of them figuring in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The first Madarsha built here was by Ulugh Beg, grandson of Tamurlane, between the years 1417-1420. More of a scholar than ruler, he had a keen interest in astronomy. This is evident from the fact that the main portal of the Madrasa has a beautiful ten-pointed star symbolizing the sky and astronomy. This spectacular building facing the Registan is flanked by high minarets at the corners. It also houses a mosque, lecture rooms, dormitory cells where students lived and deep galleries decorated with stylized geometrical patterns. Originally, this used to be a two-story structure with four doomed lecture rooms or darskhonas at the corners.
Ulugh Beg Madrasa, in the fifteenth century was one the leading clergy university of Islam. It is said Ulugh Beg himself used to conduct classes here.Qadi zada al Rumi and Jamsid Al Khasi, noted scholar of astronomy and mathematics of that time taught here too. The madrasa held classes on astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, theology. It boost of students like Abdul Rahman Jami, the great Persian mystic poet and scholar and Alisher Navoi , national poet of present day Uzbekistan.
It will not be out of place to mention that the five Jantar-Mantars built by Maharaja Jai Singh II was inspired by Ulugh Beg’s observatories and his works ,which were translated into English for the first time by Oxford University in 1648.
The construction of second Madrasa in Registan took place after two hundred years. The ruler of Samarkand, Yalangtush bakhoduri built Sher Dor Madarsha between 1619-1639. Zorastrian influence is very visible here as both side of the entrance arch of the madras depict tiger mosaics with beam fringed rising sun with human faces on their back striding after white deer. Depiction of living beings on the religious buildings are not permitted in Islam. These look more like Mitharic religious motifs. This is now Uzbek national symbol. The façade of this madrasa is but a reflection of Ulugh Beg Madrasa with wonderful mosaics in shades of blue forming kaleidoscopic pattern. Noteworthy is the swastika on the avian.
Ten years later Bakhoduri ordered construction of yet another madrasa, which was started in the year 1646 and got completed in 1660. It played the role of a majestic mosque apart from a residential collage for student. The mosque and the madrasa are covered with ornamental floral and linear designs esthetically glided. The name Tilya-Kori Madrasa is derived from this, which simply means trimmed with gold. The mosque here has an imposing blue tiled doom with two tall minarets on either side. This madrasa,has the most spectacular external walls.
All most all the original décor was lost to time’s claim and natural disasters, but got very methodically restored in the latter half of twentieth century. This magnificent architecture found its place in UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.reclaiming some of the lost glory .