Photographer Iulia Galushina is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From her project ‘Rooted in the Past‘.
Uzbekistan is famous for centuries-old sycamores. Sycamore tree is included in the Endangered-Species List of Uzbekistan.
Uzbeks pray that the wood-cutters would not get to the ‘Holy places’. In these ‘Holy places’, there are sycamore trees more than thousand years old. These trees are huge: it requires ten people holding hands together to hug a tree. Cult of sycamore is known by aborigines of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Greece, Central Asia from the ancient times. “Holy places” are quite popular in “public” Islam. Local people believe in the sacred origin of the trees and pray near them.
Alexander the Great, the legendary commander, rested under the tree and contemplated a strategy for his next crusade. One hundred years ago the Alexander the Great’s sycamore was considered the biggest one in Central Asia. People gathered in its hollow as if it was a hall. In the 1930’s it contained a local tea house which was a community center of Hodjikent. One of the accounts states that in the year of 1919 the sycamore served as a hiding place to the Anti-Soviet Osipov rebels.
Recently a restaurant opened nearby. It has its own eastern look. Travelers rest under the sycamore just like hundreds years ago.
The famous singers Nikitins sang of a sycamore in Brichmulla: “Golden Brichmulla is like a voluptuous poison… where sycamore is snuggled under the rock, under the rock…” The famous sycamore grows on a sacred spot called Kadamjo and it is 850 years old. There is a gazebo for prayer under its trunk. Behind the tree there is an altar. Narrow hollow in the tree looks like a pocket. Pilgrims drop their donations into it. Kadamjo is a place of power for those who start a new business or prepare for a long trip. Word “Kadam” in Kyrgys language means “a step”.
From the distance the top of the sycamore tree looks like a forest. “Seven comrades” is the largest tree in the area. The immense maternal trunk is about 21 meters in diameter and is hidden underground. It has seven mature branches and every year new branches spring up by dozens. Five-fingered leaves resemble palms of hands, folded together for a prayer.
At the bottom of the sycamore tree called “Seven Comrades” there is a small room hidden. Residents of Handaylik recall that several years ago a guy lived under the tree. Once he lost everything instantly and found his refuge in the “Seven Comrades”.
Local people reinforced the bottom part of the sycamore with rocks. Recently local people surrounded the tree by a fence and installed two mud structures under it. These structures serve as tables for celebrations. Local people come to the sycamore when they experience a misfortune.
The Garden of Chor-Chinor ,Urgut
There are 121 sycamores in this garden, one of them is 1300 years old. It has a carved door. A hollow behind this door has been used by Sufis for meetings and meditations. In the old times a hollow in the sycamore often served as a refuge to many pilgrims. During Revolution it was used as a secret meeting place by the Bolsheviks. Years later the hollow was turned into a school in which blind children studied Koran. During Soviet time it was used to store coal. Later – a Pioneer camp. Boys used to hide inside from their supervisors and play “heads and tails” for small change. Table and chairs inside the tree are over 600 years old.
In the 1970’s people tried to cut the trees down but a tractor could not even move them – the trees buried their roots very deep.
Hodja Amon mausoleum surrounded by sycamores.
Sayrob Village, Surkhandarya Region
The main landmark of this village is the two long lasting sycamore trees growing along the main road.
In the old times Khan ordered the big trees to be cut down. The wood was then used to make carved windows and doors in his palace. In spite of this the trees survived, the roots produced new branches and the hollows in the trees served people for different purposes.
In the last century the hollow was used as a school for 20 students. During the civil war, it was used as division headquarters, and later for a village council and an office of a local coop.
Today the tree hollows contain a local history museum.
The museum ‘care-taker’ is a local man. For about 15 years Ahadkhon Usmanov takes care of the trees, he invites visitors inside the sycamores where they can sit in silence and pray, listen to his stories. Sometimes they stay in the tree hollow for a night. There are no hotels nearby.
Parkent City, Tashkent Region
There is a sacred sycamore in the western mountains of Tian Shan. One has to walk a very steep trail, pass a village in the mountains and power through 60 steps.
Movjuda Agzamova (pictured above) is 90 years old. She came to pray for her family. Most important is not to forget anyone, especially because she has 10 children, 30 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.
In the last years this ancient sycamore has become very popular among pilgrims. Next to it a mosque has been built.
By Photographer Iulia Galushina