Maqbara-i Manas
Talas, Kyrgyzstan
The Gunbad or Ghumbez-i Manas is a mausoleum dedicated to Manas, the famous hero of great Kyrgyz epos. It is situated on the bank of the Kenkol River near its confluence with the Talas River along the Kirghiz Mountain range. Popularly referred to as the 'Manastin Kumbuzu', the mausoleum stands at the foot of a mountain, known as the 'observation post of Manas'. Attributed to Manas's wife Kanikey or to his son Semetay, the mausoleum's construction date was determined in the past century. Studying its inscriptions and architectural style, archaeologists M.E. Masson and G.A. Pugachenkova concluded that it was built in 1334. The monument has emerged as a quintessential component of Kyrgyz identity and is featured as a national cultural treasure on banknotes and state emblems.

The structure is one of many historic relics in the Talas valley, the closest of which are an ancient burial ground of the Hun period and the ruins of a stone fortress first built in the thirteenth century, atop a hill. The mausoleum is built of baked bricks and clay mortar with a modest, near square plan measuring 4.38 by 4.48 meters. Baked bricks were used to pave the inner chamber's floor while ganch (local gypsum plaster) was used on the window latticework of the sidewalls. A monumental pishtaq and a dominant pyramidal dome mark the exterior appearance of this austere monument. The sixteen-sided, ribbed dome conceals an inner lancet-profiled dome. Engaged columns topped with tiny cupolas frame the wide portal screen and accentuate the vertical emphasis of the pishtaq. The entryway is set in an arched niche flanked by colonnettes. The niche arch consists of radially arranged voussoirs without a central keystone.

The spandrels of the portal arch feature an arrangement of four medallions, each formed by eight petals. Unlike the unadorned sidewalls are unadorned, the pishtaq is profusely decorated with carved terracotta slabs. These tiles create alternating wide and narrow ornamental frames around the entryway, composed of simple eight-pointed star, eight-petalled rosette, circle patterns, and Kufic and Divani inscriptions referring to the patron Kenizek-Khatun, the daughter of the Emir Abuka, who was probably Manas's wife. Several mausolea built earlier in the Talas Valley such as the tombs of Babadji-Khatun near the Djambul Village and the Tomb of Sulpukor near the Aral Village appears to have influenced the Manas Maosoleum. Its basic typology was widely replicated in the northern regions of Central Asia, especially in Kyrgyzstan, between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the Ghumbez Ozoke near Kenaral village, Ghumbez Arzymat near the Kumushtak Gorge are near exact replicas of the Ghumbez-i Manas.

Teams of Soviet archaeologists and historians, including prominent scholars V.A. Kallaur, V.V. Bartold, B.P. Denike, P.P. Ivanov, M.E. Masson, A.M. Belenitski, A.N. Bernshtam, B.M. Zima and G.A. Pugachenkova were instrumental in establishing the mausoleum's import and credentials in the early twentieth century. M.E. Masson and G.A. Pugachenkova's seminal monograph titled 'The Gumbez of Manas' in 1950 is the most exhaustive work on the monument. Restoration efforts were intensified with the birth of the independent Kyrgyz Republic in 1991.


Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture, 297, 536. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

Peregudova, S. "Mausoleum of Manas." The Kyrgyzstan Freenet Website. [Accessed February 18, 2007; inaccessible November 13, 2013]
Talas, Kyrgyzstan
ca. 1334/ca. 734 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Manas Mausoleum
Gunbad-i Manas
Building Usages