Heritage of Art of Termez

Archaeological research in Termez has given us numerous materials related to the history of its culture, in various forms of material and art culture. The excavations made visible embodiments of artistic culture in architecture in the form of ground-level monuments, remnants of buildings, as well as applied art.

Early specimens of fine art-sculpture, paintings and household articles-were revealed during excavations of two Buddhist monasteries, the cave at Karatepa and the ground-level monument at Fayaztepa. Articles of applied art usually made of ceramics were found at the location of the ancient town of Old Termez.

Specimens of sculpture and painting studied at the above mentioned monasteries are connected with Buddhism, the religion brought to Tokharistan during the Kushan dynasty from subjugated India. These objects were connected with universal themes and images taken shape in India but in some artistic artefacts, one can find some local impact.

Painting was found on the walls of rooms for prayer in the both Termez monasteries. The foundation for the walls in Karatepa was a clay plaster with gypsum coating, covering the rocky basis. In Fayaztepa this plaster was applied to raw packed clay. The wall has suffered significantly over time; have lost a great deal, yet the remnants make it possible to understand the general content of the compositions and the theme of the pictures.

The paintings were composed of lines and wide brush-strokes. There were black, red, yellow and dark-blue colours on a white background. In the Karatepa some part of the walls were covered by ornamental motifs in the form of small squares, six-points star, and four-pedalled rosettes. Fragments of clearly expressed Buddhist themes where also found there. Among recently found paintings are scenes of worship of the Buddha, who is standing or sitting crossed-legged in a pensive pose. On both sides there are monks depicted against the background of trees, or women with arms folded.

The motifs on the walls of Fayaztepa are also traditional. On one wall of the sanctuary was an extended composition, of which only the lower part has been preserved. There are two episodes the Buddha standing in the centre in a long called a sankhati. On both sides there are women worshipers with prayerfully folded hands in long draped clothes and cloaks of ornamented fabrics. All the figures are standing on an ornamented carpet.

On the opposite side of the sanctuary are multi- figured compositions with the main hero in the centre and four persons on the each side, all of them dressed in typical narrow costumes, tight kaftans (long tunic with waist-girdle), wide trousers and high boots. The costumes are like those depicted on the coins of the ruler Kanishka. Undoubtedly, this scene depicts representatives of the Kushan nobility worshipping as Buddhists.

Excavations in the Surkhandarya region (Khalchan, Dalverzintepa, Ayrtam) demonstrate the development of sculpture in Northern Bactria. In Termez we find this tradition represented only by fragments. The motifs reflect, on the one hand, the Hellenistic art of the Greek-Bactrian era, but, more generally, they reflect the Buddhist themes of the Kushan epoch. The material for this kind of sculpture is white marble-like mergelist limestone, in which the Amu Darya region is rich.

For example, there was found a plate of the Greek style with a leaf-bearing sprout the capital of a pilaster, in the centre of which, between volutes and over two rows of acanthus, there is a figure under an arch. In fact, this plate is a fragment of a famous frieze from the first century A.D. Buddhist temple in Ayrtam, 30 km. from Termez on a steep bank of the Amu Darya. On the frieze, within two rows acanthus, there are of goddesses with musical instruments or in their hands. Among the findings from Old Termez there is a typical white stone plate. On it are two similar sculptures one above the other-Buddha figures in the traditional meditation pose with hands on knees, against the background of a thick leaf-bearing tree. He is in a mantle behind a nimbus. On both sides are figures of worshipers (their heads, as well as that of the Buddha, were broken probably by Moslims). The general plastics of pictures speak about the experience of the master who made this plate. The theme is Buddha's enlightenment when he was sitting ia meditation beneath a fig tree in the forest near Benares and the reception of his doctrine by his disciples.

Another kind of sculpture widely spread in the region is the terracotta statuettes, found both in Termez and other ancient sites in Surkhandarya. Potters made these from a model created by specialists. This type statuette was widespread in connection with both Buddhism and ancient folk religions. There were also small figures of animals-keepers-, which were affixed to clay pots and baked in the kiln. Sculptures stamped on terracotta plates represent a special group. Some of them were images from Buddhism; for example, sculptures of sitting in the pose of meditation with hands in the gesture of "mudra". There were little of young male Buddhist worshippers, standing in frontal pose, young, half-naked, but with necklace and bracelets.

Besides the Buddhist themes, terracottas of other types are met. For example, figures of men in typical Kushan dress, probably the image of the orthodox Buddhist Kushan ruler.

In the plastics of Termez, there is a typical image of a woman, sometimes in the form of a statuette, but more often stamped on a plate. This has nothing to do with Buddhist art; it is clearly an image connected with another religion. It is thought to be Anahita, a goddess who was especially respected among women of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. The goddess is in a tunic with dropping vertical folds, a variation of the Greek tunic, and a cloak on her shoulders. Most of them are without heads, probably because of the protest of the Moslim era. Some heads have been found, with broken faces, but preserved coiffure with rows of locks.

The motifs of art sharply changed during the Middle Ages, with Islam playing a central role. Islam came to Tokharistan after the Arabs occupied it and gave the people access to the Moslim religion. As a rule Islam had a strict ban against the depiction of live creatures, especially human beings. The incorporation of the conquered Central Asian region into the Arab Khalifat, and introduction of Islam as the sole religion, played a decisive role in the character of local art.

Positive aspects of political and ideological unification with the Arab world included the development of mathematics, especially of geometry, as well as adoption of the common Arab written language. Geometrical theory found practical application, especially in the field of architecture. Sculpture and artistic themes and images incorporated ornament of simple and complicated geometrical structures. Geometrical ornament added stylized plant motifs, and sometimes stylised magic images. The basis is the construction of a pattern on a geometrical grid, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, called girih. Two such examples in Termez are monuments of XI - XII centuries, the mausoleum Hakim at-Termizi and the court of the Termez rulers. Girihs are formed by stylised plant motifs, sprouts and leaves, which are also subjected to curvilinear geometrical traces. Epigraphic designs, connected with the history of the construction (names, dates) and quotations from the Qur'an play a major role and all is subordinated to the common underlying geometrical pattern.

Heraldic images of two lions, approaching each other or joined with the one common head, as well as winged creatures (found in the fragments) are notable artefacts in the palaces of the Termez rulers.
Epigraphic motifs were very important. The Arabic written language entered the culture of Central Asia at immediately after its conquest by the Arabs, first for use in documents, then in book trade and soon in the architectural decor. In the mausoleum of Hakim ad-Termizi and in the palace of the Termez rulers one can see wonderful strips and borders with epigraphs, where two types of scripts exist geometrical kufi and flexible writing - naskhr. They contain instructive sayings or, sometimes, historical information connected with Termez and its personages. The Mongolian invasion did irrevocable damage to Termez in many ways, including the development of art. There was an artistic revival during the Temurid period, vividly represented in the monumental architecture of XV-XVII centuries in the decorations of which there were no innovations. A new style was reflected in the monumental gravestone in the mausoleum of Hakim ad- Termizi, which was placed in the XV century. It is made of pink marble and covered with fine with geometrical figures and calligraphic.

Among the applied art of medieval Termez the household ceramics are worthy of note, especially those of X-XI centuries. The specimens of glazed and non-glazed ceramics are representative of the ceramics of that time. In non-glazed ceramics pots of various forms prevailed, in the glazed ceramics are predominantly cups, plates, dishes and jugs. Non-glazed jugs are sometimes decorated with a stamped ornament. Glazed ceramics became widespread as they did in other regions of Central Asia. On white background (sometimes also on colored) were painted ornament ranging from the simple in the (form of spots, to pictures of plants and even zoomorphic characters images of birds and animals). Inscriptions are often met, such as good luck symbols or simply words. The colors of the paintings are red, brown, black and green. In XI century ceramics appeared imitating Chinese painting with cobalt on a white background achieved the highest perfection. In windowpanes and glass dishes, Termez displays an interesting selection of glass medallions. These were found during excavations of the palaces of the Termez rulers and may have been sections of the incrustation of the rulers' throne. Large plate tiles decorate the relief pictures printed on hot glass. They depict eight scenes, among them a picture of a wild bird, digging its claws into an escaping animal. The figure of the animal is against the background of a plant, with images of a woman, a horse and a bird above them, along with a big rosette and balls. Especially interesting are the medallions with images of armed horsemen. The inscription «Mulk» is on one of the medallions. These medallions were undoubtedly of some special significance clear to the people of that time, probably connected with the expression of power and strength. The small pieces of art and applied art antique and medieval Termez, coming to us in fragments, still characterize it as one of the centres of artistic culture in the Central Asian region.