The Legend of the Burana Tower
Situated about 10 km to the South of Tokmok is the Burana Tower. The tower is thought to have been part of a minaret, once much taller than it is now …...however we Kyrgyz have a much better explanation of the origins of the tower……………
Legend tells of a powerful Khan who had a beautiful daughter named Monara. The Khan adored his daughter and wished to protect her from the affections of the local djigits (young skilled horsemen).
In his quest to keep Monara safe the Khan summoned all the local clairvoyants and fortune tellers and demanded of them what they foresaw as her future. Each one told of a happy long life for the girl, all except one. This one aksakal (ak – white, sakal – beard) disagreed with the others and said to the Khan “Even though you may execute for what I say, I can only tell the truth. Your daughter’s fate is a sad fate. She will hardly reach her 16th birthday when she will be bitten by a poisonous black spider and she will die immediately!”
Although very angered by the prediction the Khan felt that he could not ignore it. To protect Monara he built a tower. In a small room at the bottom he incarcerated the aksakal, and his daughter was placed in isolation in another room at the top of the tower.
Monara grew up in the room at the top of the tower looking out through the four windows in the cupola, each window facing one of the compass points, North, South, East and West. Food was taken up by servants using ladders outside the tower, and before they were allowed to ascend the servants, the food and the crockery were inspected to ensure that there was no spider hiding in them.
On Monara’s 16th birthday the Khan was so happy that the aksakal’s prediction had proven to be false that he climbed to his daughter’s room bearing a bunch of grapes as a gift. Greeting her with a kiss the Khan congratulated her and presented her with the grapes. As she accepted the grapes she inexplicably collapsed and died. Dumbfounded the Khan examined his gift ….. and there found a small black spider.
The Khan was so grief stricken and sobbed so loudly that the whole tower shook, the top part eventually falling down and creating the ruin that we see today. The fate of the aksakal is not recorded.
A brief history of the Burana Tower
The ancient city of Balasagun was built by the Sodhgians (an Iranian people) in the 9th century. It was still in use by the 11th century when the Burana Tower was built. Initially the tower was 46 metres high but this has now reduced to 24 metres following several centuries of earthquakes and misuse. The city of Balasagun was overrun by the Monguls in 1218 and renamed Gobalik (pretty city). Following the Mongul invasion the city started to go into decline but there are records of the Nestorian Christians still using one of the graveyards as late as the 14th century. Partial restoration of the tower was carried out in 1970. Initially it is believed that the tower had an internal and external staircase. Close to the tower there are petroglyphs and the balbals. Balbal is thought to come from the Turkic word meaning “ancestor” and the petroglyph carvings are thus thought to be of ancient ancestors.
Some scholars think that Burana is a mispronunciation of the Arabic manara (or monara) meaning lighthouse or minaret.