The ancient town of Varakhsha (V-VIII cent.) located 40 km from Bukhara was the pearl of the Bukhara oasis until it was conquered by the Arabs. With the area of more than 100 hectares it was a fortified fortress and cultural center of Bukharhudars.
The triangular settlement occupied approximately 9 hectars and is still surrounded by a mostly intact city wall in places 10 meters high. The topography indicates that the settlement had two city gates, a 20 meter high Citadel and was surrounded by a large moat. The city was established in the 1st century BC as the last stop on the Silk Road prior to the crossing of the desert between Bukhara and Khorezm. In the 12th century AD the site was abandoned just prior to the Mongol invasions.
In addition to being a fortress it was a very important centre of trade being at the intersection of Bukhara and Khorezm. Unfortunately, in the 11th century due to advancing sands and problems in the irrigation system life in the city falls into decay.
Until now, the ruins of the fortress are a dumb witnesses of the brutal battles that were taking place under its walls during the anti-Arab war. According to historical information of Narshahi, Varakhsha had a very strong fortress, inside which was a well-planned irrigation system consisting of 12 channels. Varakhsha played an important role in the anti-Arab war of the local population, important battles took place under its walls.
Near the southern fortress wall, to the west of the ancient settlement was built a beautiful palace. The Varakhsha Palace is located directly at the southern fortress wall of the ancient settlement to the west of the citadel. The building of the palace arose, as the excavations showed, in the 5th century AD. e. and existed until the end of the VIII or the beginning of the IX century. The palace building had three large parade rooms located in a row - Eastern, Red and Western. The walls of the ceremonial halls were richly decorated with scenic scenes of various contents: for example, the royal reception headed by the king himself sitting on the throne, is depicted. In the Red Hall, the walls were painted with scenes of hunting for predatory and fantastic animals. The presence of wall paintings is also confirmed in the Western Hall.
The palace of the local rulers (Khunuk-Khudats) in the old city of Varahsha within the Bukhara oasis gives us a good idea of the appearance of rich houses in Bukhara. This palace still existed and was inhabited at the time of the Samanids. It was a part of the citadel placed on an artificial stylobat (foundation) some 15 m high. Principal elements of this palace were a yard with an entrance arch which rested upon two pillars, several big halls, a number of rooms of less importance, and corridors. In pre-lslamic times people said that «the beauty of the palace was well known». The palace owes much of its reputation to the decor, remains of which have been unearthed by archaeologists.
Murals, carved gypsum, carved wood columns, and ceilings were organically interlaced with the architecture of this building. Paintings in the Varahsha palace were diversified in subjects. They tell epic Soghdian plots; mounted heroes on elephants fight with attacking cheetahs. A scene in the palace shows the throne of the ruler resting upon the figures of winged camels (it is interesting that ancient Chinese records speak of the Bukharan rulers having thrones such as this). There are also images of a ruler with his wife and young son near a sacred fire.
Every 15 days the town squares were turned into bazaar, and at the end of the year a fair lasting 20 days was organized. Archaeological excavations of the ancient settlement began for the first time in 1930 by archaeologist V.Shishkin.
Even today, the ruins of the fortress amaze with its size. Unfortunately, there are only some fragments of walls, ceilings and towers left. But even that small amount of preserved architecture surprises with its regal dimensions and layout of the citadel.