Khorogh (also Khorog) has one of the best educated populations of any town in Central Asia. English seems much more widely spoken here than in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital. The open space in the image is the future site of “The Ismaili Centre Khorog,” next to the beautiful botanical garden built my Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
By Muslim Harji
Badakhshan is dotted with Ismaili prayer houses. Every town and village has a prayer house, either as a free standing Pamiri house, a designated room in a Pamir home, or a quasi-commercial building where members of the jamat congregate to say the morning and evening prayers. As was noted by Dr. Ali Muhammad Rajput in his fantastic photo essay, see Photo Gallery: Ismaili Portraits From Tajikistan (I), there were only a couple of officially registered jamatkhanas in Tajikistan. The country requires that official places of worship be registered according to specific guidelines. The prayer houses should not therefore be construed as official jamatkhanas but rather as spaces that are used by members of the jamat to meet for prayers as well as to engage in social activities. However, it is not uncommon for many Ismailis in the Pamirs to refer to these houses as jamotkhanas for lack of a better term.
The foundation for an Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana in Khorogh has already been laid, and inshallah Badakhshan will soon have an officially designated Jamatkhana in Khorogh.
The symbolism of specific structural features of the Pamiri house goes back over two and a half thousand years and its distinctive architectural elements are found in buildings in several other areas close to the Pamirs. What to the untrained eye looks like a very basic — even primitive — structure, is, for the people who live in it, rich in religious and philosophical meaning. Tajik writers consider that it embodies elements of ancient Aryan and possibly Buddhist philosophy — some of which have since been assimilated into Pamiri traditions. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
A typical Pamiri ceiling inside the prayer house at Dar-al-Noor in Khorogh, a cultural centre which Dr. Ali M. Rajput of Birmingham, England, helped to establish. Generally, Pamiri homes are considered as symbols of the universe and are used as places for private prayer and worship. A skylight, the design of which incorporates four concentric square box-type layers known as ‘chorkhona’ (four houses) representing, respectively, the four elements earth, water, air and fire, the latter being the highest, touched first by the sun’s rays. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
A typical Pamiri kitchen and dinning area in an Ismaili home in Rushan. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
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