Boysun represents a space of original folk culture and unique landscapes. It is located in the southwest spurs of the Guissar mountains. The mountain relief, location of deserts and rivers are such that the major road goes through the narrow “door” of Boysun connecting the southern and northern regions of Central Asia. Since ancient times, the international caravan and strategic routes crossed here. Farming and cattle breeding still remain the basic branches of Boysun’s economy, and the district is rich in coal and curative springs. The railway “Tashguzar-Boysun-Kumkurgan” will be built along Boysun’s ancient routes in the next few years. It will be the shortest railway from Central Asia to Afghanistan. Today’s Boysun district is a part of Surkhandarya region, the southernmost territory of Uzbekistan. The area of the district is 3,713,000 square kilometers. Population – 86,000 people, of which 60% are Uzbeks from the clans of Qungrad, Qatagan, Qenagasi, Korakolpok, Tanghimush and Tokchi; and 40% – Tadjiks of the Sherhoji, Ghiesi and Samaghi clans. The majority of inhabitants are bilingual, speaking both Uzbek and Tadjik languages. Boysun is located 145 kilometers from the ancient city of Termez, which lies northern at the border with Afghanistan on the bank of the Amu Darya. In district are seventy one villages; the biggest are Derbent, Pulhokim, Kofrun, Machai, Rabad, Sairob, Kurgancha, Panjob and Munchak. The population of Boysun town is twenty seven thousand people. The town includes five ancient settlements: Avlod, Pasurhi, Sariosie, Karabuyin and Kuchkak.
The second year successively in the south of Uzbekistan, in fantastically beautiful places of Boysun in Surkhandarya region has been held the Open Folklore Festival “Boysun bahori”. This event is connected with the fact that in 2001 UNESCO included Boysun in a list of nineteen cultural spaces, which were awarded the title “Masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. Revival of ancient traditions, national values and their further development is one of priorities in development of culture of Uzbekistan. In this region national traditions and customs, songs and dances, crafts and rituals, historical style in dressing have been preserving almost in absolute purity, which inhabitants of Boysun hallow. This rich heritage became a basis of already traditional Festival “Boysun bahori”, which again welcomed on its concert stages national ensembles from Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, modern designers of national costume from our country and Kyrghyzstan.
In comparison with literature and history that are as if fixed memory of the people, various, wise and well constructed, the folklore (both poetic and musical) is in a greater degree eternal, not getting old feeling of boundless and unexhausted forces – equally in pleasures and in troubles. Even in complicated and refined, if to view in the aspect of subject, rhythm or musical – verbal character, folklore genres we are always captured and amazed by spontaneous perception of the world, natural emotions and opinions in their expression. Typical national features of each people, its way of thinking, specificity of mental and emotional models are shown in full extent in national songs, folk tunes and epic legends. As a specific phenomenon of the national culture it concentrates the poetic, musical, theatre and ethnographic traditions. Obvious evidence for that became the Second Open Folklore Festival “Boysun Bahori” in Boysun of Surkhandarya region, which was held on the date of the second anniversary of UNESCO proclaimed the cultural space of Boysun as “Masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. Four festival days became a bright holiday for Boysun’s inhabitants, for whom national songs, instrumental folk tunes, dances, legends, dressing, pieces of the applied arts, rites and customs form a natural way of life. The Festival became also an art parade of folklore ensembles from Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, epic storytellers and young fashion designers. It became a scientific and creative dialogue among art critics, philologists, ethnographers, historians and architects from France, Germany, Korea, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan. With warm heart Boysun welcomed visitors and participants of festival “Boysun Bahori”.
The Boysun people have seen and have heard ceremonial songs and dances of various regions of Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, enjoyed the art of national storytellers – bakhshi and akyns, admired the modern models of national clothes created by designers from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. During festival days was working the festival fair of Boysun national crafts’ products and the exposition of the Uzbek folk musical instruments of the Tashkent master, Mukhammadnazyr Yunusov. The Festival shows and concerts were arranged not only in Boysun, but also in kishlaks of Sairob, Derbend and Shurob; visitors and participants of the festival were warmly welcomed by inhabitants of Djarkurgan and Sherobad districts of Surkhandarya region. All festival actions, concerts, competitions and fair were held in the historical and ethno – folklore park “Boysuntog”, but the inflow of spectators was such huge that concerts and performances of folklore ensembles and national storytellers simultaneously were arranged on improvised stages in Boysun itself. The Festival concerts and shows were concerts of folklore music on a background of natural landscape. It is worthy to see how the performances of folklore ensembles and bakhshi were merging together with the unique nature and foothills of the Boysuntog. The specific “concert aura” at the festival has been filled up not only by the breath of the spectators (in most cases the youth from Boysun and neighbouring kishlaks),butby the voices of nature, an atmosphere of everyday life and noisy holidays. In a word, everything becomes not only adequate, but even required when we want to let know to the listener the true destination of folk songs. I seem a moment has come when a person wants beauty, great and deep sincerity and a natural melody, which would penetrate into heart. And this music sounding from the stage of the folklore festival satisfied hearing, but also awaked all best strings of a person heart, a person living today. National songs bewitching tunes of sybuzgy, chang-kobuz or dombra – all of them becoming a treasure of the listener, brought him true pleasure, caused the pride in a person, and to a certain extent made people better, helping them in their life and activity. Plasticity, ease, tempo and depth of improvised reactions in reply to the changes of scenic conditions is a main feature of folklore art. Instant transformation of role, genre of performance, a program and a scenic manner is one of the necessary properties of any folklore ensemble, which aspires to reproduce authentic folklore on the concert stage of the festival “Boysun bahori”.
Each ethnos is rich in its history of culture and life, which externalized essence of national traditions. But no culture can keep its vitality just remaining a keeper of traditions. Traditions exist in order to be developed and to add new values to ancient ones that were accumulated for centuries of cultural progress. Such approach is capable to feed a fresh tree of culture and life of the people, to form a character of our contemporary. The super task of a folklore concert is overcoming “artificial concert form”, that is each folklore ensemble by means of its concert program or the subject action, reproducing a certain ritual or tradition tries to make the concert fresh and dynamic and “to stir”, to make active its participants, involving them in a dialogue with the spectators. The performance of folklore ensembles and leading artists of Surkhandarya at the opening ceremony of the festival was recognized a national holiday – sayil. Performances of the national folklore ensemble “Boysun” with original and ritual songs along with original national dances typical of the southern areas of Uzbekistan presented by the dance group of Regional Association “Uzbekraks” formed a core of the holiday. Twelve groups took part in the show of folklore ensembles, including three children’s folklore ensembles, “Zilola” from Kamashinsky district of Kashkadarya region, “Kuralai” from Boysun district of Surkhandarya region and “Gulguncha” from Boysun district of Surkhandarya region, whose concert program included children’s songs accompanied with original ritual games. The folklore ensemble “Baiozi kukhiston” from Tadjikabad district of the Republic of Tadjikistan demonstrated the most ancient ceremony of rainmaking, accompanied with ancient ritual songs and dances with proper attributes, such as doll dressing. Ancient labour songs formed a core of the subject concert program of the folklore ensemble “Sarbozi” from Kattakurgan district of Samarkand region. Very expressive and emotional was the concert program of the folklore ensemble “Doston” headed by National bakhshi of Uzbekistan, Abdulla Kurbonnazarov from Khoresm.
The ancient family rite and national songs accompanying the ritual “Beshkarti” was performed by the ensemble “Zomin saikali” from Zamin district of Djizak region. Rites and rituals of Surkhandarya region connected with calendar and family celebrations were shown by the folklore ensemble “Bubilguio” from Shurchin district of Surkhandarya. A theme of the native land, makhallya, the careful relation to nature sounded in the performance of the folklore ensemble “Mardona” from Vobkent district of Bukhara region; the ancient family rite “Aidar of tui” (cutting of boys’ hair) accompanied with ritual songs in the program of ensemble “Amir tulkini” from Nukus of the Republic of Karakalpakstan; a public holiday ceremony accompanied with a variety of national songs and dances was demonstrated by the folklore ensemble “Khilola” from Karsha district of Kashkadarya region. During the recesses between performances of the folklore ensembles the spectators were applauding the improvised termas, fragments from dastans and poetic dialogues between Uzbek bakhshi and Kazakh akyns – winners of traditional storytellers’ competition in Termez within the program of the festival “Boysun bahori” -Shodmon bakhshi Khujamberdiev (the 1st premium), Etmishbai Abdullaev (Khoresm), Abdumurod Rakhimov (Kashkadarya) and Boboraim Mamatmurodov (Surkhandarya, the 2″ premium each), Abdanazar Paionov (Surkhandarya), Abdukahhar Rakhimov (Kashkadarya) and Jumabek Subanov ( Tashkent region, the 3r premium each) and others.Twenty designers participated in the competition of national dressing style and design. In comparison with the last year the geography of participants extended – Tashkent, Bukhara, Zerafshan, Boysun, Shurchi and Kyrgyzstan. Grand Prix was won by Kuchina Natalia (Tashkent), Boibetova Galina, Syztkazieva Nurkabai, Bekmambetova Zuhra (Kyrgyzstan) and Tatyana Budilova (Zarafshan) were also awarded; the young designer from Boysun Dilfuza Saidova received the monetary premium from Andrea Loenberger. Within the festival program were held the International scientific conference “Problems of National Cultural Traditions Preservation” and a meeting with UNESCO experts, where was approved the long – term program on the operation and technical equipment of the Boysun complex scientific expedition and of the Center of Boysun folk crafts, preservation and development of folk applied arts.
Successful was the presentation of the first issue of “Boysun Scientific Expedition” (Tashkent: Scientific Research Institute of Fine Arts and SMI – group, 2003). The festival was finalized with a bright concert of the group “Yalla” headed by the National artist of Uzbekistan, Farrukh Zakirov, which became an exciting event left a deep trace in hearts of the Boysun people. The Second Open Folklore Festival “Boysun bahori” became a real holiday of folk culture, and it has proved that folk songs, dances, traditional clothes, crafts and rites are not just preserved, but continue to live actually. And our rich treasury of folk songs is a component of the culture too, and its carrier, the people, has been still perfectly performing them. Perfect demonstration of that at the festival has become the best source for education of the youth.
Boysun is a land of deep rocky canyons and famous karst caves. The vertical walls of the 10-20 meters wide canyons cut out by the Machai-sai and Shurob-sai reach a height of several hundred meters. Usually the roads to the far mountain kishlaks run along the bottom of such canyons. The abundant spring rains quite often cause destructive mudflows in the mountains, and mountain “sai” can easily carry heavy stone blocks up to several tons in weight. Such mudflows crush everything crossing their path: bridges, roads and communication lines marooning the mountain kishlaks. The Boysuntog Mountains contain a lot of unique caves, used in the past ritual for dwelling, economic and purposes. The famous cave of Sezam in Boysun featured in the Uzbek-Indian film “Ali-baba and the forty thieves”. The Uralsky cave is 565 m in depth and 2500 m in length. The system of “Festival -Ledopadny” caves is 625 m in depth and 3000 m in length; the cave of “Boi-bulok” measures 1160 m by 14270 m; that of Zaidman – 506 m by 1500 m. Very popular among speleologists is one of the deepest caves of Central Asia – the cave of “Boi-bulok” with elevation changes of 1415 m, located near the kishlak of Kurgancha. It has two holes 27 m and 20 m deep and several shelves; the remaining part is formed by a narrow meander.
The legendary Iron Gates were located in Boysun. They consisted of an artificial barrier in the mountain canyon, built to regulate the caravan trade and customs. They were well-known at the Great Silk Road. According to Chinese traveller Xuan Tzang, in the 7th century there were wooden gates coated with iron, with numerous bells. The customs station operated for many centuries, and the beginning of the 15th century still brought, good income to Amir Temur. The Iron Gates were located on the old road in the canyon of Dara-i Buzgala-khana 3 km to northwest from Shurob kishlak. The canyon is 2 km in length and from 10 to 50 m in width. “Dara-i Buzgala-khana” means “Canyon of the Fallow-Deer’s House”, that could be connected with a legend about Chinggis-khan who met a talking-fallow-deer at the Iron Gate and followed its advice to stop his conquest. The “Cave” sura from the Koran also mentions the construction of a metal barrier against wild tribes of Goghs and Magoghs initiated by Iskander Zul-i-Karnain (Alexander the Great). The oriental tales about Alexander refer to it as the Iron Gate, and Alisher Navoi called it the “Bank of Iskander”. Such a legend could have arisen from the fact that during two millennia at the strategic mountain pass of Boysun there were first the defensive structures of the Greco-Macedonians, which then became a part of Kushan defensive complex and later, the customs station with the Iron Gates.
One of the most visited places in Boysun is the salubrious spring of Omonkhona. Its water has a temperature of about 13°C and posses properties to cure liver diseases. For improvement of health it is recommended to drink this water during 7-10 days. A good curative effect may also be obtained by taking a bath filled by the water of Omonkhona. At the end of the last century a small sanatorium was build near the spring. Treatment here use not only water but also tinctures and oils from rock herbs and wild almonds. The spring is in a very beautiful canyon. Overhanging rocks create natural niches canopies to shelter visitors in hot weather. Near the spring is a cave used by local inhabitants as a refrigerator. Foodstuffs in the cave can be stored for up to half a year. Local inhabitants consider Omonkhona as a holy place. On a high rock is the mazaar of Khoja Sulton Vali. The name “Vali” in Central Asia is usually given to people has the gift of foretelling the future. At the spring were buried the Saint himself, his mother and three sons. The holiness of Omonkhona is also proved by the presence of numerous clans of ishans and khojas in the nearby kishlak; in the past reached thousands of people. According to local legend Omonkhona was the last haven of the spiritual pir (master) of Amir Temur. This perhaps refer to Sayid Umar, the son of Baha ad-Din Naqshband’s mentor Sayid Amir Kulal. It is known that he died in a place called Band-I Ohanin or Darband-i Ohanin, and was re-buried after one year. His grave is generally considered to be in Gur-i Emir Mausoleum, nearthat of Amir Temur.
Since the end of the 3rd century B.C. the nomads began to press the northern boundaries of Greco-Bactria. According to the archeological data defensive structures were built to protect the mountain passes at Derbent: one near to the river of Shurob at the Iron Gate, and another (Qapchigai-tepa) at the exit from the canyon of the Machai river. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 2nd century the nomadic tribes of Yuech-chi came round the Derbent passes from the east and west and invaded Greco-Bactria. Eater, in the first centuries A.D. the rise of the Yuech-chi clan of Kushans led to the formation of the powerful Kushan empire including Bactria, today’s Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India. Boysun became a country of Kushan fortresses whose powerful rammed earth walls have been preserved in ruins: Shurob-tepa, Uzundara, Machaikurgan, Munchak-tepa, Qalai Bolo and Saryband. The largest fortress was discovered at the place of old Greco-Macedonian fortress of Poenkurgan near Boysun town. In the 1 st – 2nd centuries A.D. the strategic canyon at Derbend was blocked with a wall 1.5 km in length and 6 m in thickness, built of adobe bricks with stone and earth filling. The wall became the northern Kushan border. The line of this wall is clearly visible today. When at the end of the 2nd century the Kushan empire had come to decline, the territory of Boysun was deserted and only in the Bandykhan oasis the fortress and Saryband settlement continued to operate in the Kushano-Sassanian period up to the mid-4th century.
The ancient kishlak of Sairob is located to the south from the Iron Gate at distance equal to one day’s walk. The ruins of a medieval settlement (11th -beginning of the 13th century) are preserved on the natural terrace of the right bank of the Sherabad Darya. A long rocky ridge resembling a dragon’s back protects the kishlak on the east. Sairob is one of the major centers of folk crafts in Boysun. Carpet weaving and artistic embroidery, woodcarving, manufacture of leather products, yurts, musical instruments and felt are made here. Caravans once stopped in Sairob, and now long-distance buses do. The first sight of Sairob is a grove of centuries-old plane trees. Two of them have huge hollows which could hold up to ten people. The museum of folk crafts is located in them. In the center of Sairob, over against the grove, is a spring with sacred fish taken care of by the local people. It is said that looking at silvery fish could improve eyesight. The Mazar of Khodja Muhammad Shah is located on the cemetery mound. The old gravestones -“kabrtosh” of yellow-red stone, can be nearby.