Gawhar Shad Mausoleum

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Gawhar Shad Mausoleum
2009 Musalla Complex Herat Afghanistan 4112214558.jpg
Affiliation Islam
Location Musalla Complex, Herat
Country Afghanistan
Architect(s) Qavan ud-din
Type Mausoleum
Style Persian

The Gawhar Shad Mausoleum, also known as the Tomb of Baysunghur, is an Islamic burial structure located in what is now Herat, Afghanistan. Built in the 15th century, the structure served as a royal tomb for members of the Timurid dynasty and is part of the Musalla Complex.



The mausoleum forms a cruciform shape, with a dome covering the centre. [1] This dome is the most impressive feature of the structure, in that it is actually three domes superimposed over one another: a low inner dome, a bulbous outer cupola and a structural dome between them. [2] The outer cupola is decorated with flowery light-blue-green mosaics. The inner dome is adorned with gold leaf, lapis lazuli and other colours which form intricate patterns. The interior of the tomb itself is a square chamber with axial niches. [3]

Due to the widespread habit of tombstones being taken and re-used, it is unknown how many burials there are in the mausoleum. Though some sources claim there were as many as twenty grave markers at one time, at present there are only six. [4] These are oblong shaped and made of matt black stone, with floral patterns carved on them. [5]


The mausoleum was originally constructed to house the remains of Prince Baysunghur, a son of the Timurid ruler Shah Rukh by his chief wife Gawhar Shad. [4] [6] It was commissioned by the latter (for whom it is named) within a madrassah which also bore her name and was completed in 1438. [2] [7] Its location in the Musalla Complex was convenient due to the close vicinity to the royal residence in the Bagh-i Zaghan. [8] As such, over the following years, further members of Baysunghur's family were interred alongside him. These include Gawhar Shad herself and her brother Amir Sufi Tarkhan, [9] her other son Muhammad Juki, [10] Baysunghur's sons Sultan Muhammad [11] and Ala al-Dawla, as well as the latter's son Ibrahim. More distantly related Timurids, Ahmad and Shah Rukh (sons of Abu Sa'id Mirza), were also buried in the mausoleum. [4] Baysunghur's father was briefly interred as well, before later being transferred to the Gur-e-Amir in Samarqand. [12]

By the 20th century, the mausoleum had been extensively damaged, with the cupola in particular being severely deteriorated. Intervention in the 1950s resulted in drastically changing the appearance of the building, with an entirely new eastern façade being built and the hexagonal Mihrab being demolished and replaced with a rectangular one. This, along with later restorations, were of poor quality and used inappropriate materials. [13] In 2014, UNESCO and the Afghanistan government coordinated to attempt to preserve and replicate the tile work on the exterior dome. [14] UNESCO is presently considering the nomination of Herat (in which the mausoleum is specifically mentioned) as a World Heritage Site. [15]

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Timurid Empire Empire in the ancient Persian territories founded by Timur

The Timurid Empire, self-designated as Gurkani, was a Persianate Turco-Mongol empire comprising modern-day Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, the southern region of the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, as well as parts of contemporary India, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey.


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Shah Rukh Timurid ruler

Shah Rukh was the ruler of the Timurid Empire between 1405 and 1447.

Gawhar Shad chief consort of Shah Rukh, the emperor of the Timurid Empire

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Great Mosque of Herat

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Ghiyath ud-din Baysunghur, commonly known as Baysonqor or Baysongor, Baysonghor or (incorrectly) as Baysunqar, also called Sultan Bāysonḡor Bahādor Khan was a prince from the house of Timurids. He was known as a patron of arts and architecture, the leading patron of the Persian miniature in Persia, commissioning the Baysonghor Shahnameh and other works, as well as being a prominent calligrapher.

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Abu Sa'id Mirza was the ruler of the Timurid Empire during the mid-fifteenth century.

Musalla Complex

The Musalla complex, also known as the Musallah Complex or the Musalla of Gawhar Shah, is a former Islamic religious complex located in Herat, Afghanistan. The 15th-century complex is in ruins today. The complex ruins consist of the five huge 55 metre Musallah Minarets of Herat, mausoleums of Mir Ali Sher Navai, Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara and the ruins of a large mosque and a madrasa complex. Construction on the complex was begun in 1417 under Queen Goharshad Begum, the wife of Timurid ruler Shah Rukh who established Herat as the capital of the Timurid Empire.

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Timurid Renaissance Cultural movement from the 14th to 17th century

The Timurid Renaissance was a historical period in Asian and Islamic history spanning the late 14th, the 15th, and the early 16th centuries. Following the gradual downturn of the Islamic Golden Age, the Timurid Empire, based in Central Asia ruled by the Timurid dynasty, witnessed the revival of arts and sciences in the Muslim world. Its movement spread across the Muslim world and left profound impacts on late medieval Asia and Early Modern Period. The French word renaissance means "rebirth", and defines a period as one of cultural revival. The use of the term for the description of this period has raised reservations among scholars, some of whom see it as a swan song of Timurid culture.

Musalla Minarets of Herat

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Rukn-ud-din Ala al-Dawla Mirza, also spelt Ala ud-Dawla and Ala ud-Daula, was a Timurid prince and a grandson of the Central Asian ruler Shah Rukh. Following his grandfather's death, Ala al-Dawla became embroiled in the ensuing succession struggle. Though he initially possessed a strategic advantage, he was eventually overtaken by his more successful rivals. Ala al-Dawla died in exile after numerous failed attempts to gain the throne.

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