Blacksmith's Craft in Bukhara
Established lifestyle, traditions and customs of the nation and its achievements in the historical past play an important role in spiritual development of contemporary inhabitants of Uzbekistan. Today one of the national policy directions is the conservation of the cultural heritage with all its intrinsic specificities and high artistic standard that evolved through the efforts of many generations of master craftsmen and artists. The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. A. Karimov "On Government support to further development of traditional crafts and applied arts" (1997) is the evidence of the national strategy in the area of reviving spiritual historical roots of the people of Uzbekistan and their traditional crafts in particular. An important area is also the revival of the traditional training system known as usto - shogird, set up of new museums dedicated to particular cottage industries. Among them a museum of blacksmith's craft in Bukhara (1, pp. 33-35), where there has still survived "The Charter of Blacksmiths and Tinkers" [Risola-i okhangari va mis-gari] (2).
As well known, the territory of Bukhara oasis for many centuries has been one of the centres of cottage industry development. During the years of independence skilled craftsmen of Bukhara revive and preserve the crafts that historically existed in the region, such as silk weaving, textile dyeing, gold-embroidery and blacksmith's work, chasing, and wood and gypsum carving, which were partly lost during the 20th century. Albeit selected crafts are undergoing noticeable transformation in the process, which primarily has to do with changing socio-economic situation (3), the traditions largely preserve their significance. For instance they maintain the former methods of training young generation; this practice includes, in particular, the ritual of initiation of an apprentice into a master, which is held in a ceremonious and festive atmosphere. The mentor announces to the students that now they are ready to work independently, and the parents of the young masters dress their teacher in a national gown and a sash as a sign of esteem and gratitude.
According to usto M. Juraev, this initiation rite is also practiced in the trade of silk-weaving, yet here it happens the other way round: the master dresses his apprentice in a gown, girdles it with a cotton gauze sash (5-6 m long), and, as a token of his blessing, gives him a piece of fabric and tools and installs a dast gokh in the apprentice's workroom (a traditional loom). The master announces the appearance of another master to all his colleagues. Meanwhile, according to Sh. Kamalov, a hereditary blacksmith from Bukhara, "a youth from a family of masters of many generations does not have to go through the initiation rite. Blacksmiths-to-be are taught the skill from childhood. First the apprentices perform simple operations, but gradually tasks given to them become more complicated, and by the time they reach fifteen, adolescents work peer with adults".
One of the risola tells about the origin of miyan baste and kamar baste rites (ordaining into a master) and the making of a special ritual sash. The same term (kamar baste) was used to refer to master weavers who achieved a certain level in their mastery. According to the risola, the master dresses the apprentice in a gown and girdled him with a sash tied in three knots.
Blacksmith's trade was and is considered respected and prestigious. Traditionally, blacksmiths were believed to have magical and healing powers (especially considering that there were many Lyuli gypsies among blacksmiths). As E. M. Peshchereva reports (4, pp. 71-77), sick people often came to a smithy. They were present during the work process and brought with them a jar with boiled water, into which a master dropped a piece of hot metal: water with silver ions has bactericidal properties. Even Herodotus mentioned that "silver" water had amazing qualities, noting that in the 6th century B.C. the Persian King Cyrus kept water in silver vessels during his expeditions, thus improving its quality. Perhaps, together with metal, a blacksmith added silicon into water (healing properties of silicon water are scientifically proven). By drinking such water a sick person recovered. We found evidence of such practice in one of the copper-smiths' risola (5) that did not contain any technological information, but was almost entire dedicated to healing instructions. Bukharan blacksmiths still use traditional healing methods, for example, to cure temiratki disease (allergic skin eruption). Blacksmiths banish the disease with heated metal, by moving it above skin surface. This procedure is usually performed on Wednesdays and Saturdays by an experienced blacksmith who says "kursi" ayat three times.
The study of risola texts gives an insight into matters concerning specialization of craftsmen. For instance, the Risola-i okhangari (6) lists more than forty professions in the blacksmith's trade. This is one of the rare instances when specializations are distinguished in a craft. There is also the risola of mata weavers that lists specific professions in weaving and the names of fabrics: sha-nabafliq, nakshinbafliq, futabafliq, bah-malbafliq, alachabafliq, rismanbafliq, pashmanbafliq... The blacksmiths' risola mentions narrowly focused professional specializations such as temirchiliq - blacksmith's work, kalitgari - key maker, misgari - copper moulding, dav-otsozi - bronze casting, degrezi - cast-iron moulding, derazagarliq - metal-ware for windows, jushgari - locksmith, kalamgarliq - making items for writing, kordgari - knife-maker, dukongar-liq - making items for a workshop, or a tool, orogchiliq - making sickles, nahalchiliq - horseshoe making, mikhchagar-liq - nail making, charhdorliq - potter's wheel making...
It should be noted that the author does not list all forty plus industry branches, but mentions perhaps the most common and important ones, in his opinion. Besides, he mentions the names of the most prominent masters in a particular branch of a trade: kalitgarliq - Abu Said Nukhdin; mikhchagarliq and derazagarliq - Ma-sudin; golagari - Abu Tolibdin; temirchiliq - Mansur Muslimdin; jushgari - Salaf Fatobdin; urchukchiliq -Forsdin; degrezliq - Usto Balkhiddin; misgarliq - Ustod Khurdakdin; zargar-liq - Saiddin; kordgari - Akhmad Mukh-tardin; dukongarliq - Khumanadin; charhdorliq - Ustod Abdul Malikdin. Thus, the blacksmith's industry distinguishes several isolated specializations independent from one another. With such specialization in place, a master focused on manufacturing only one particular kind of items (for example, knives or kitchenware).
As the manuscript dates back to the second half of the 19th century, one may infer that during that period the identification of independent narrowly focused industries in many larger trades proceeded particularly intensively; this had to do with the expansion of a trade within the framework and boundaries of one sector, as well as with the emergence of its new kinds.
When comparing this risola to other specimens of similar documents, it should be noted that it does not bear any mentioning of blacksmiths' duties. Perhaps, the copyist, following the wish of his client, abridged the manuscript content and deemed possible simply not to mention them. One may also suggest that only selected sections of the risola were copied that contained specific information.
Thus, the revival of the industry has become a link between the past and the present. Nowadays, due to the government support and the efforts of craftsmen the cottage industry traditions live on and develop. An important role in this process belongs to the surviving texts such as risola.
1. Альмеев Р.В. Бухара - город-
музей. Ташкент, 1999; Гребенюк А.
Музей кузнечных ремесел // Народ
ное слово. (Ташкент), 2006.
№ 22. С. 5.
2. This risola is made in Persian
language and dates to the 18th centu
ry. The total number of pages in it is
40 and its size is 15 by 20 cm. To this
day the apprentices (shogird) read
the risola once a month, following its
instructions. For instance, when en
tering a workshop they recite fotikha
sura, refreshing the workplace. In our
view, risola are not merely treatises
on various branches of a craft con
taining instructions for the craftsmen;
but they also tell about the organiza
tion of certain professions and occu
pations typical for Central Asian cit
ies; the examples are the risola of tea
house keepers, the risola of the mili
tary, the risola on tending animals,
3. Полевые записи. Центр разви
тия ремесел. Бухара, 2007.
4. Пещерева Е.М. Organizations of
craftsmen in Central Asia in the late
XIXth and early XXth centuries // Тру
ды XXV Международного конгресса
востоковедов 9-16 августа I960. М.,
1963. Т. III.
5. Рисола медников // Туркес
танская туземная газета. (Ташкент),
1902, № 29.
6. Рисола-и охангари. - Рукопись
ИВ АН РУз. Инв. № 12708. Л. 1 а-ЗЗб.