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TOURISM: SURKHANDARYA REGION

In Soviet times, Termez was practically closed to foreigners. And today more and more tourists come to the city on the Amu Darya, wishing to touch the mystery and beauty of the dawn epochs in the local places of Buddhism. Here, every hill keeps an unknown, every monument is a legend.

That is why today many Japanese associate it with one of the largest centers of development of Buddhism. And it is this story that is the starting point, when representatives of travel companies offer the Japanese a trip to Uzbekistan.

Many years of research by scientists, archaeological excavations have revealed that this peaceful, calm city has a long and rich history. For thousands of years, Surkhandarya and its main city, Termez, were part of many empires - Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Amir Temur, sharing their destiny with them.

In the era of the ancient Kushan kingdom, formed in the 1st century AD, the city receives the name of Termite and becomes a major administrative and religious center of Northern Bactria. The Kushan possessions stretched from Darband in the north of Surkhandarya, where powerful border walls were erected, to present-day Pakistan. The Kushan kingdom reached its highest power under the rule of Kanishka I. Kushan kings held toleration, and along with Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and other religions, the cult of Buddhism flourished here. From here to the north to Sogdiana, to the west to Margiana, to China and Tibet, there were missionaries carrying the teachings of the Buddha.

An outstanding event in the world culture was the discovery, in 60 kilometers from Termez, near the town of Shurchi, of the Dalverzintepa settlement - a remarkable archeological monument of the Kushan state era. The settlement is surrounded by a defensive wall with a thickness of up to 10 meters with towers, inside of which there were casemates and galleries, and on the crests of the walls there are platforms for throwing guns and slingers. The central part of the city was occupied by the quarters of wealthy townspeople, built up by multi-room houses with front and backyards. In the southern part were workshops of artisans. Numerous archaeological finds of objects of Indo-Buddhist and Hellenistic cultures indicate that Dalverzintepa stood on one of the oldest branches of the Great Silk Road, which ran from the Termite through the Surkhan valley. Further caravan routes led to the Stone Tower, presumably located in the region of present Tashkent and mentioned in the Geography of Claudius Ptolemy, who described the path from Syria to China.

In the suburban zone of Dalverzintepa, the ruins of the Buddhist sanctuary are found, judging by the coins found here, founded around the 1st century AD. In the church there was a stupa, a prayer room and the so-called “Hall of Kings”, richly decorated with sculpture, representing cult and secular Buddhist and Hellenistic images. One of the most remarkable sculptural images is the head of the Kushan ruler in a pointed headdress. Elements of Greco-Bactrian culture are present in architectural details-attic bases of columns, acanthus leaves, in the folds of clothing of sculpted characters.

Here was found the second Buddhist complex with Buddha and Bodhisattva statues, as well as a Bactrian temple with wall paintings depicting priests and babies. A bright monument of the era is a “golden” treasure weighing 36 kilograms, found during excavations in Dalverzintepa and consisting of objects and jewelry made of gold, silver and precious stones.

On the territory of Surkhandarya, archaeologists have excavated several sites - Khalchayan, Zartepa, Fayaztepa, Ayrtam, testifying to the wealth of material and spiritual culture of the people who inhabited this land.

Finds of monuments of Buddhist culture continue today. In the last decade, joint research by Uzbek and Japanese scientists has been conducted at the ancient settlement of Koratepa. Recently, there were found dwellings of Buddhist monks. The stone steps, which are not less than two thousand years old, are led downwards, under the earthen dome of five meters in diameter. Nearby are simple objects with which monks maintained their modest way of life, sculpted images of a dragon, a winged lion. At some distance, a Buddhist monastery with a well-preserved stupa was opened.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)