An Interview with Gara Ishan





    Gara Ishan was a descendant of Makhtumkuli's father, of the sixth generation, who died in 1992 at the age of 53.  He spent most of his adult life gathering information about Makhtumkuli and collecting his manuscripts.  He had interviewed many Turkmen elders, especially of the Gokleng tribe, and accumulated a wealth of information, , part of which was used by some writers without his name being mentioned. He gave a vivid account of previous interviews with elders of the Gbkleng tribe and others. The information he provided is regarded as valuable and reliable because it cites many sources, as you will notice in the following interviews conducted on 30,h  August 1988. He died after his only visit to Turkmenistan.

Gara Ishan (right) with afriend

Interviewed by Haji Murat on 3 Ist September 1987 in Jergelan, Gerkez (Iran)

   Question: Well, what do you know about facial features of Makhtumkuli?

   Answer: I have heard various stories: they are all similar to each other.  Many questions are asked at present on how Makhtumkuli looked.  Now, questions are asked on how we know Makhtumkuli and what kind of a person he was: let us put them all aside, because more questions are asked about how he looked.  I might have mentioned before that a man from Gyzyiarvat (in Turkmenistan) who was over one hundred years old had said: "I saw Molla Makhtumkuli in Gyzylarvat.  He was sitting on a sogy (a large mortar made of wood) and having his head shaved.  N%en I was told he was Molia Makhtumkuli, I took a good look at him: he was blondish, with sheep's eyes and he had a blondish and rather sparse bears: with a biondish beard ...

   This was confirmed by other elders of the Gerkez.  Makhtumkuli died and when people talked about him - about what kind of a person he was - and when people who saw him were asked, they all said it was like that - blondish with sheep's eyes - a rather small man and very good-looking who attracted the attention of a person who looked at him.  His beard was biondish and sparse. (Masha) has a book in which it was written that he had hair in his ears and so on.  These were written after they were heard from elders.

   A Teke (a man from the Teke tribe) once said: I went to Mckka (on pilgrimage).  In Mekka, everyday very early in the morning I went to (the mosque) for prayer.  And every time I noticed that a young Turkmen was sitting in front of me.  At last I asked him "Who are you?  You come here even earlier than I".  He said "I am Molla Makhtumkuli".  However, his poems do not confirm this.  In his poems he talks about not being able to go to Mekka: "I wish to see Mecca... " Perhaps he had written this poem before going to Mekka.  However, (the Teke) said: "I saw the person called Molla Makhtumkuli in Mekka.  He was blondish with a rather bony face and sheep's eyes and blondish beard: he had a rather sparse beard".

   Question: Was there anyone among the people of Gerkez- among the Gerkezes of the past who looked like him?

   Answer: Yes.  Among the people of the Gerkez in the past those who had seen Makhtumkuoi were asked about how he looked.  When this travelled from mouth to mouth then it was said that there was a man among descendants of Makhtumkuli (descendants of his father) called Gulcha Ishan.  People used to say that this Gulcha Ishan could be mistaken for Makhtumkuli. Guicha Ishan himself did not have any children.  However, I asked people who saw him when he was an old man how Gulcha Ishan looked.  They said.  Gulcha Ishan was rather small, blondish with yellow eyes and had a blondish beard which was rather sparse.  This was what they said.  People before him too said that if you wished to see Makhtumkuli, you should see Gulcha Ishan.

   If we consider all these stories among the Gekez, or if we think about the information we have gathered, the existing portrait of Makhtumkuli does not resemble Makhtumkuli.  His beard and nose are not correct.  The beard in the portrait is thicker. His eyes are perhaps right, but the nose does not look like his.  The nose is larger than what had been explained and the beard is thicker.  Other parts of the portrait might be correct.  However, these are what we have heard.

   Question: (Indistinct)

   Answer: There is a tribe among our Turkmens called Nokhurly We gathered information from their elders.
Molla Makhtumkuli went to Garry Nokhur together with Durdy Shahyr (Durdy the poet).  We went to see elders to enquire why he went there and where he stayed.  They said that Molla Makhtumkuli and Durdy Shahyr came here.  There was a dispute among the Nokhurs.  The Begler and Kbrler (tribes) had some conflict.  They had this conflict and they came to settle it. Then Durdy Shahyr wrote a poem called "My Nokhur".  He mentioned many names in this poem. When we initiated these names, they happened to belong to people who lived later than the time of Makhtumkuli.  The poem belonged not to the Durdy Shahyr of Makhtumkuli's time, but another Durdy Shahyr who lived much later.  The poem was his.  He mentions Ugurly Haji and Owez Hoja.  Then he mentions Niyaz Peliwan, Ady Ketkhuda and so on.  I do not remember them all.  It was a good poem; I wrote it down.  I do not know it by heart.  Therefore, I cannot read it for you now.  When we went and talked to the descendants of Niyaz Peliwan, Ady Kethkhuda, Ugurty Haji and Owez Hoja and asked when they had lived, they said that they did not live at the time when Makhtumkuli lived.  Then another Durdy Shahyr has lived after the one who was Kakhtumkuli's contemporary.  I met a man from Sakgar division of the G6kleng tribe who was ninety years old and was called Haji Mamednefes.  He said: "There was a man called Durdy Shahyr.  I fell in love with a girl from the Keyik division of the Gbklengs who was called Akjagul.  I asked him to write a poem for her".  He then said that Akjagul and Durdy Shahyr were from Keyik division of the G6kleng tribe and were from Garry Gala.  The above-mentioned poem might belong to this Durdy Shahyr.

   Among our Nohurly brethren there is a tribe called Ayi.  I met elders of the Ayi.  I asked them to give some information about Makhtumkuli.  There was a man among Ayis of the past called Isaguly.  The great grandson  and the great great grandson of Isaguly are living now.  I went to see them.  One of them said: "When Isaguly, our maternal great grandfather was a young man looking after sheep in the mountain said 'I had a wound in my ear.  Because of this two people who looked distinguished came to me.  One of them said: 'Dear son you have a wound in your ear'.  And he gave me a clip on the ear saying'You have a wound in your ear'.  I had a pain in my ear, but it healed afterwards.  Then when I came home the big news was that Molla Makhtumkuli and Durdy Shahyr had come to the village.  My mother and father were happy that Makhtumkuli had come to GarryNokhur: they were talking about this event with much happiness'.  "When asked what kind of a person he was and how he looked, he said: "He passed me by, gave me a clip on my ear".  Then remembering Makhtumkuli's facial features, he said that he was blondish, with sheep's eyes and yellowish beard which was rather sparse.

   Another man from the Hoja tribe called Hiimmet Hoja who died years ago said that Makhtumkuli Molla had come to Garry Nokhur and was seen sitting with a book in his hand under the willow tree of one of our relatives called Sbyiin Hoja.  He was a respectable man.  In those days young people or any ordinary people would not go to sit next to a scholar who was highly respected.  Now we are all equal.  In those days an elder was like an elder and a young man was truly a young man.  A despicable man or a person who was not a devout Muslim and did not pray, or a young man would not sit next to such respectable people. People who could not see him before, would look at him from a distance.  He said that someone had seen him.  He even mentioned his name.  I had written down his name.  He said that he saw him under the willow tree of Sbyiin Hoja reading a book in his  hand.  He did not know whether this book was a Koran or his own book.  Then he said that Makhtumkuli Molla
looked like that.

   Furthermore, when we study the chronological chart of our Gerkez people, we see that it is written up to Makhtumkuli and Garry Molia.  We know about Makhtumkuli because it is written.  However, there are people who know about ancestors of Makhtumkuli.  We know someone called Hally Haji who thinks he is the same age as Ata Ishan.  He says that in Makhtumkulis time Such and Such persons were living and they did this and that.  He even says that when Makhtumkuli died he was carried on a white camel and the person who brought the camel had said that the camel belonged to Jaanaan Aga.  Jaanaan Aga had lived much earlier, at the time of Garry Molia.  He says that Makhtumkuli's body was brought on a white camel and buried in Ak Tokay.  This story may have been made up later, but (I believe) that it must be true.  When we initiated iaanaan Aga, we found out that he had lived at the time of Garry Molla and he had a white camel.

   There is also an old man called Gara Babek Aga.  He is now over eighty years old.  He has a book ofMakhtumkuli which is said to have been written by someone who had seen Makhtumkuli.  This goes back to Makhtumkuli's time and the story also goes back that far.  His father was called Torum, Torum's father was called Garababek and Garababeles father was called something (as heard).  He had it written.  A man called Molia Durdy Goshshukly (sentence incomplete).  Yes, at that time various people were enemies to each other.  During this time of hostility, enemies raided the village where Molla Makhtumkuli was living.  They plundered the village.  When they were carrying everything including his book on a camel, the camel slipped and fell into the Etrek River and his own manuscript too fell into the river: "Flood took my manuscript, thus leaving me behind with tears in my eyes".  This story existed before this poem was known.  A man called Agajaan Aga from (the name of the tribe indistinct) gave this information.

   Then some people heard this and were sorry.  They wrote the poems dictated by Makhtumkuli.  Then when a "sum", which is a house built by digging in the mountain, caught fire, the book was burnt.  A man called Molladurdy Goshshukly collected the remainder and wrote down poems recited by others.  He tells two stories - one is about Molla Makhtumkuli going berserk when he was a young boy when his mouth was foaming.  He was sleeping.  There was a wedding.  Arazgul Bibi (his mother) and Garry Molla did not wake him up.  They went to the wedding leaving him behind.  Then they were told that Makhtumkuli was in a strange state with foam in his mouth.  They went back home and Garry Molla said: "What is happening to you dear son". His first poem "By night when I was asleep... - Revelation -" emerges on this occasion.  Molla Durdy Goshshukly, who had seen Makhtumkuli, but not very well and long enough like the previous writer - he had seen Makhtumkuli from a  distance, but did not have a chance to sit together with him and talk to him - was sorry for this incident and collected the poems.  He was asked if he had seen Makhtumkuli and how he looked, he said that he was rather small, biondish with sheep's eyes and sparse beard and his beard was yellow and he was a rather small man.  Many years later, some people said that if one wanted to see Makhtumkuli, one should see Gulcha Ishan.  I asked someone who had seen Gulcha Ishan how he looked.  Then he gave me a similar explanation.

   According to elders of the Gerkez, in the present portrait of Makhtumkuli, his nose and beard do not look like Makhtumkulis. His height is not right either.  We heard in many places that he was short.  I told you before that Tachhally Garry (Tachhally the elder) had seen Makhtumkuli's sister.  Tachhally Garrys explanation of facial features of Zubayda are similar to Makhtumkulis. "She was a blondish and rather small woman.  She had a robe made of camel wool.  She had a blue kerchief on her neck. She was bashful near elderly women.  But she showed her face to us since we were children'.  An elder who was 60, 70 or 80 years old had said that when he explained this to his mother he explained it like this when he was a child.  This old man explained it to Anagurban Ishan like this.  According to Tachhally Garry, Zubayda too must have been a small lady.  She was once seen crying.  When asked why she cried she said that her brother called Makhtumkuli had died and that was why she was crying.  I do not know when this happened, but I heard she cried like this.

   There are many other stories like this.  However, remarks by elders of the Gerkez on facial features of Makhtumkuli focus on the change of the above-mentioned parts of his face.  Experts or artists are quite skilful people.  Perhaps they acted according to the data they had received and maybe they are right.  Nevertheless, our study shows it to be like what I have already said.

   I have heard another story from Nokhurs.  You know the poem "Forgive Us".  According to our previous information Makhtumkuli was imprisoned and the ruler asked him to recite a few poems if he was a poet and he recited this poem thus providing the release of a few Gerkez.  Well, three Nokhurs were captured by Kurds.  Some people tried hard to secure their release by paying money or goods, but it was not possible.  I do not know if they were guilty of something or not.  Anyway, they asked Molla Makhtumkuli to mediate.  He went and asked for their release, but they did not give them back.  Then he recited this poem.  And they were impressed and asked Makhtumkuli to undo the cloth belt by which he had wrapped his waist three times.  He undid it and opened it up.  He did not know what they would do.  They filled it with gold and gave it to him. So, Makhtumkuli with three released men before him and his belt filled with gold on his back returned home.  Nokhur people have much faith in Makhtumkuli; because they believe that he had shown his power.  When he went for mediation to the tribes called the K6r (Kbrler) and the Beg (Begler), the Kors did not accept his mediation (K6r means blind).  They believe that members of this tribe became blind after that.  Previously, this tribe had another name.  These tribes still exist.  We heard that they live in such and such villages.  Makhtumkuli says: Gargishim dashlary nurda erider/Dal pudak yayrayar alkish kilanim, which means "My curse makes rocks melt/ Spread out like branches those who receive my blessing".  It is said that these verses were written then.  The Begler tribe enjoyed themselves and lived prosperously, while people of the Kbr tribe went blind.

   Question: What about the tree planted in Khiwa?

   Answer: Oh yes.  There was an Uzbek called Haji Eke who escaped to Iran after the Leninist Revolution.  After coming here, he had to live in hiding for a long time here and there.  At the end he lived in (Talaw) Mountain and the poor man died there. He was a white-bearded elder.

   He used to come to our house.  They called Eke (actually in Uzbek this word means'uncle'Y.A.) and we called him Haji Eke. The poor man liked me very much.  Because he taught us the poems of Makhtumkuli.  He was a knowledgeable and talkative man.  He taught us and he said once that there was a school in Khiva called Shir Gazi where Makhtumkuli had studied and in the middle of this school was a mulberry tree.  He said that Makhtumkuli had planted this tree by his own hands and it was called Makhtumkuli's mulberry tree.  He said "I was the son of a great religious figure in Khiwa; I was highly respected and since I was from a religious family I fled my home.  I know all parts of Khiwa, house by house.  I was searching for this information and I saw the mulberry tree which Makhtumkuli had planted by his own hands".  He said so.
  At the time of the father of Molla Makhtumkuli there were two tribes among the Gerkez people called Khangeldi and Jangeldi.  The "yashuly' (the elder) of one of them was called Ataniyaz, the other one was called Kadry.  After they died, they could not find anyone who would lead the Gerkez people.  If one said "Let us choose this man as our elder", they would find an excuse for him saying "He is so and so".  If someone else said "Let us make this one a'yashuly" people would say "oh, he is not a devout Muslim".  There was a young boy with blond "gulpak" (young boys' heads are shaven and only a patch of hair is grown in the back of the head or on both sides of the head which is called 'gulpate) who was playing around.  He had a very pretty mother.  Molla Makhtumkuli had caressed his gulpak.  Then people said "If you have a pretty mother even Molia Makhtumkuli
will like you".  Then, after a few years when this boy grew up, with the advice of Makhtumkuli he was chosen as a khan to those people.  It is said that he died in the battle against the Qajars near the Gyzylja Pass and his tomb was there.

   There are various stories about Makhtumkuli which I had heard from some elders in the past.  I have not read them or heard from a radio broadcast.  I have heard many stories from elders of the Gerkez people.  Before I begin talking (about these stories), I shall explain how I happened to know about Makhtumkuli.  There was a woman in our house called Tajin Garry (Tajin the elder) who died at the age of eighty something years.  She had a son who had died.  Then I was named after her son and she adopted me.  She looked after me in her house.  Our house then was like a shrine; people - elderly men and women - came to visit and when they gathered in long winter evenings they talked mostly about Makhtumkuli Firagi.  I remember them.

   Makhtumkuli had a sister whom a woman called Tachhally Garry had seen and our mother Tajin had seen this woman. Well, according to the information by Tachhally Garry and another elderly lady called Enejik Garry provided on Gerkez - on Gerkez and not Makhtumkuli - the Gerkez people had lived between Garry Gala (today in Turkmenistan) and Garashor (in Iran) - in Garrygala, Chendir, Ak Tokay, Haji Gawshan and around Kaialeh (Ay Derwish), and Garashor.  They lived in these places.  I do not know about the western boundaries and its eastern boundary was in this region.  The Gerkez people have lived in an area which covers these places.  Makhtumkuli was born somewhere in this area; he lived here and died here.  However, he travelled to many other places. (She said) when it was heard that the daughter of Garry Molla had moved house my grandmother and others went there to help her set up her yurt.  She said: "I was a little girl and followed them.  My mother carried me on her back and when her back was aching I had to walk for a long distance; I could understand her very well.  We walked on the bank of a stream and through thistles.  Then my mother and others helped the daughter of Garry Molla to set up her house (yurt)". She said: "Zubayda covered her face against elder women.  However, she would show her face to us since we were young children.  Then I saw her face, she was a blondish, rather small woman.  She had a blue scarf on her head and a long robe made of young camel's wool.  She had a robe and a blue scarf and she was a rather small woman.  At that time she was sad and had tears in her eyes; she cried, she said 'l had a brother called Makhtumkuli, he has died, lcry for that"'. I would not know when he had died.

   Then, when people asked where this place was, Tachhally Garry could not find it.  She did not know where it was. Whether it was around Garry Gala, or around Haji Gawshan or Garshor, or around Aktokay, she could not remember.  She only remembered walking along a stream and a place full of thistles.

   According to this elderly lady, Makhtumkuli was born in Ging Sawma to the north of Haji Gawshan from a woman called Arazgul.  There is not a great deal of information about Makhtumkuli from his birth until he was nine years old - some talk about him looking after sheep and goats, going to school and so on - I do not know.  When he was nine years old, he had a dream.  There was a "sadakd' (an occasion when people are served food as a form of thanksgiving: it could be during a wedding or a funeral or a similar occasion) in his village.  Since this was a sadaka and the boy had not reached the age of praying, his parents did not wake him up in the morning and left him behind.  A sack (presumably of wheat or barley) fell over him.A person who has some weight on him (while sleeping) might have a nightmare.  Makhtumkuli had a dream - a nightmare. After he woke up he had foam in his mouth and was struck dumb and could not speak.  Then Dowletmamed, his father was informed of this; he left the sadaka and came to see his son.  He came and asked his son "What happened to you my dear son?" Makhtumkuli explained to his father what he had seen which became the subject of his first poem "Revelation": Bit gice yatirdim tuning yarinda/Bir Tort atli gelip turgil didler (By night when I was asleep/Four holy men arrived and said "arise").

   Makhtumkuli used to go to elderly men and women and listen to old and historical stories.  He used to ask questions of them.

   Makhtum had a rather poor life.  He went to Bukhara to study with the help of his maternal uncles.  In Bukhara poets like (?Rizwan) Hoja and Allahyar Beg did not favour him and talked against him near the Khan.  Then he became friends with Nuri Kazim.  Later, Makhtumkuli left this school.  He went to Afghanistan and wrote a poem about Ahmad Durrani.  From there he went to India.  In India he met European scholars.  Perhaps they were journalists or something else.  People used to talk about him sitting with mullahs of Europe.  Of course, there is no mullah in Europe.  They must be scholars or perhaps religious figures.

   In many of his poems Makhtumkuli predicted certain events; lie talked about both future and past.

   He has a poem which has not been printed: (Bir zamandir garga kimin ucharlar/Bir zamandir suwi renglep icherler) (sometime they fly like crows/Sometimes they add colour to the water and drink it).  We used to hear this poem and we did not know what it was.  Then he also says: Ayagi baddandir, yuregi Otdan (Its legs are made of air and it has a heart made of fire).  This reminds me of the vehicles of this time, but I cannot find in which poem this verse is.  He has predictions like this.  He must have heard it from those scholars whom he had met.  Then he noticed that in those countries people did not care about shame. He was worried that the same might happen in our country and he must have predicted.after seeing them.  He might have been inspired by those scholars.

   When he was studying at the ldris Baba Madrassah in the village of Gyzyl Ayak, he might have come back to his own village or might have sent a message, I do not know.  He was in love with Mengli.  He fell in love with the daughter of his maternal aunt.  When he was told that Mengli was sold to someone called Shykhym Kharpyk, he said: (Didim olsun gish taparmen taze Nowruzdan seni) (I said let the winter pass, I will find you in Nawruz).  It seems from this poem that he came the second time to the village.  This meant he would elope with her in Nowruz.  Turkmens had such a custom.  This poem shows that he had revisited his village.  It is said that Makhtumkuli recited this poem before the people of Gerkez.  There is such a story.

   Then he left his school and came to Khiwa to study at the Madrassah of Shir Gazi Khan.  He had two classmates called Nazarali and Rakhmanberdi from a village called Orme.  They were really good friends.  We asked elders of Tekes who these people were and to which tribe of the Teke they belonged.  We asked if their descendants were living. They did know Rakhmanberdi.  Someone said that the tomb of Nazarali was near the
Gylych Ishan Mosque.  There was a religious figure, an akhun who was named after Nazarali and he was called Kertik Akhun.  He was the imam of the Gylych Ishan Mosque.

   In this way we are collecting information.  If we hear that an eighty year old man or a 120 year old man is living somewhere we go after them.  When we were looking for such a person, someone said that he saw the daughter of Nazaraii, the classmate of Makhtumkuli (must be Nazarali II.Y.A.) when she was 80 years old.  He had seen the daughter of Nazarali 30 years ago.  He was called Kertik Akhun.  Everybody knows himin the plain of Gara Balkan.  His tomb with a dome on it still exists.  When we went to visit this tomb thinking that it belonged to Gylych Ishan, we were told that it belonged to Kertik Akhun. -Allen we asked who Kertik Akhun was, they said that he was Nazarali. When we asked to which tribe of the Gbklengs he belonged, we were told that he was a Teke.  Then we realised that this conformed to the information given by the Doyduk Tekes.  Doyduk Tekes said that he was the mullah-imam of the Gylych Ishan Mosque and he died there.  We had our information from two sources, both have proved right.  He must be the classmate of Makhtumkuli, or someone who was named after his classmate.  He is called Nazarali and his tomb must be in Gara Balkan.

   Yes, then he studied at the Shir Gazi Khan Madrassah and he travelled which made his world outlook much wider.  At this madrassah, one year he became the best student, the second year he became a "damuild' (tutor) and the third year he became a I'mudarris" (lecturer) of the madrassah, in other words a substitute teacher; when the teacher was not available he would teach instead of him.  People were surprised to see Makhtumkuli catching up and even leaving behind his teachers.  As it was mentioned in one of Kerim Aga's poems, he overtook his master and had his blessing and returned to Etrek.

   When he came to Etrek he suffered various unhappy events and difficulties.  He was a thinking man.  He was a thinking man and understood everything and people did not.  Turkmens then were mostly illiterate.  Khans and Begs subjugated the poor. Makhtumkuli was aware of the sufferings of people and suffered because of them.  If he spoke out about the truth the number of his enemies would increase.  It is said that because of his fury over injustices and his poetic feelings he had drunk wine. He was a poet then.  He tried to make people understand certain issues by giving them advice.  And it is said that there was not a single house which Makhtumkuli had not visited.  When a person appears frequently among people he loses his popularity. He, however, tried too hard to make the Turkmen people understand that they should unite and to save them from tyranny. He used to say "Be independent; why do you call such a person 'Agd?  What is the use of calling him Aga?" He talked a great deal about such subjects, and nobody paid any attention to him.

   Since there was no radio or recording facilities, religious figures and singers were valuable people.  It is said that he wrote many poems for. singers to sing.  Then he began to write poems, and his poems were not ordinary ones; this is obvious even today.  It was great literature.  People even called him Makhtumkuli Diwana (meaning a madman, but here it means a holy mad man).  There were two reasons why he was called "Makhtukuli Diwand'.  First he used to read out poems impromptu, and he was called "Makhtumkuli Diwana".  Secondly, in his books (meaning manuscripts written by others) it has been written that when he met Niyazguly Khalifa he had said that he did not need poets talking nonsense like Makhtumkuli.  However, we have heard this from elders that this was Shah Gurbat.  His tomb is now near Garry Molla's.  This was Sha Gurbat Diwana - he was
called "Diwana" for being a dervish.  Because he was stoic.  When Makhtumkuli went to greet him, he asked one of the Mullahs who served Shah Gurbat if he could visit and greet him.  When the mullah conveyed the message and said that the person who wanted to see him was a Turkmen called Makhtumkuli, he said "We do not want a poet like him who talks nonsense; tell him he is not allowed to see me and to go away'.  Then Makhtumkuli recited his well-known poem "Bilinezming?" ("Do you not know?").  He recited this poem, but one stanza does not exist in the books (of poems of Makhtumkuli): Ishkym bardir Mejnmundan yetmish esse ziyada/Kuwwatim bar kirk yillap ders aydarin Ferhada (I have a love which is seventy times stronger than Majnun's/I have power to teach Ferhad for forty years).  He means Ferhad and Shirin.  Ferhad must have been very knowledgeable; he was the son of a king.

   When Shah Gurbat who appreciated knowledge heard about it he said "What have I done?  We need him.  I must have annoyed him and should find him".  Then he got on his nag, leaving his students behind,  Makhtumkuli had left earlier; he was riding a donkey.  Shah Gurbat could not catch up with him.  There were villages between Khiwa and Ak Tokay; they must have been Teke villages which must have had rather narrow streets.  Makhtumkuli passed these streets on his donkey and Sha Gurbat Diwana followed him on his nag; everybody knew him.  When he asked people of the villages if a man - a Turkmen with a red robe on a white donkey had passed by, they would say "He passed by only a short while ago".  Of course, Makhtumkuli too was
quite well-known; they knew him.  "What did you want him for?" they would ask and he would say "I have to see him". Then the villagers would ask each other "\Vho is this man who is chasing the man on the donkey?" And some would answer "Sha Gurbat Diwand' - diwana means a dervish.  People were sitting around doing nothing.  When someone asked "Who was that man who passed by before him?" Someone else would say "It was Makhtumkuli Diwana!"

   Makhtumkuli reached Ak Tokay.  His father Garry Molla was getting ready for the mid-day prayer.  Makhtumkuli said "Wait a little father, someone is coming".  This might not be true, or maybe Makhtumkuli sensed it.  Then three of them prayed together.  Later Sha Gurbat learned that Garry Molla did not have a wife at that time and married his daughter to him. Therefore, his daughter became Makhtumkuli's step-mother.  Sha Gurbat died there later.  His tomb is in Ak Tokay.  It is said that Garry Molla had told his people that Sha Gurbat was a lonely guest away from his homeland and we were among our own Turkmen people.  He advised people who wished to visit his tomb after he died, that they should go and visit Sha Gurbat's first, then visit his tomb.

   When Makhtumkuli was among the Gbkleng Turkmens in Ak Tokay, there was a man called Khanali Khan or Khanguli Khan from the Yedi Yangy tribe of the Gbklengs.  He worked with Nadir Shah.  He was his representative.  In other words he had a position like the leading official of a district.  Makhtumkuli despised him for his cruelty against the poor and innocent people. (He says in a poem): Azipdir Gbkleng Khanlari/Ken gorer bize bu hallari/Goyman surdi bar mallari/G6z tikip durmali boidum. (Khans of Gbkleng have been spoiled/They think we don not deserve any comfort/They took away all our belongings/ We could not do anything but watch them).  He also says: Shalarda galmadi hbkm-i adalat/Bir pul uchin kazi beret rowayat (Rulers dispense no justice anymore/Muftis issue justice for a farthing).  You see, he even criticises mullahs.  They did not like such words from Makhtumkuli.

    It is said that he was jailed twice - once in Mashhad and once in Teyhran.  However, we know that Makhtumkuli, in his poems talks about the Safavid dynasty rather than Nadir Shah or KerimKhan Zand.  And if we consider his poem to Akhmad Shah durrani, he must have lived at the time of Nadir Shah.  He had struggled against Khanali Khan.  We learned a great deal about the association of Khanali Khan to Nadir Shah from Gurban Kari in his village.  He said that Shahabad was built by Nadir Shah for Khanali Khan.  Nadir Shah had said: "I shall die and after my death Turkmens will kill you".  He built a fortress for him in the mountain which is now called Shahabad.  Nowadays, they might call it Islamabad, but under the Shah, it was called Shahabad.

    It is a fact that Makhtumkuli fought against him and it is also a fact that Khanali Khan had lived at the time of Nadir Shah. We gathered information from many places.

    There is a story that Makhtumkuli fell in love with a girl called Mengli and this girl's father was jailed.  Now, we shall talk about the imprisonment of the father of Mengli and we shall, for the time being, set aside the story of Makhtumkuli.

    The father of Mengli was Medet Pelwan (Medet the Wrestler) and her brother's name was Begmyrat.  The above-mentioned Khanali Khan had a son called Mamet.  The Khan wanted Mengli for his son.  Medet said "I want to give her to Molla Makhtumkuli".  Then he charged Medet with something and put him in jail.  He was in jail for some time and after that the ruler was informed that a number of Turkmens from Garry Gala, Chendir, Ak Tokay and other places around Gonbad were in prison.  They were interrogated one by one.  Every person was asked why he was imprisoned and he would explain.  Mengli was from the Shykh Beki tribe of the G6kleng Turkmens.  There are many divisions among the Gerkez.  For example there are divisions called Gyshyk and Gotur who are divided into many sub-divisions.  Mengli belonged to the Gyshyk division.  We too are Gyshyk.  Makhtumkuli too was a Gyshyk.  Makhtumkuli belonged to the Yerke tribe of the Gyshyk and Mengli was from
the Shykh Beki tribe of the Gyshyk.  Ata Ishan and we are relatives of Makhtumkuli and among relatives of Mengli - if we want to mention someone famous - is Dini Gerkez (a famous Turkmen poet in Iran who died about a decade ago).  She was from the tribe of Dini Gerkez.

    We had an elder called Berkeli Aga who said that her name was not Mengli, but Yangybeg and she was a healthy, strong and pretty girl with a dark complexion who despite being a girl, was capable of doing the job of three or four weaker men.  She could also read and write.  Many poems of Makhtumkuli were retrieved from Mengli, after they were lost by falling into the river. She could also read and write and was a good horse rider and could handle weapons like bow and arrow.  She must have been a strong woman and the prettiest of the women with a dark complexion.  Some people talk about the beauty spots of Mengli which are usually noticeable on fair complexions.  I do not know if she had any beauty spots or not.  However, according to this elder she must have been a lady with a dark complexion.

    When Medet was asked why he was jailed he said "I had a daughter whom Khanali Khan wanted for his son and I did not give her to him and was jailed.  The ruler said "People should be jailed for political reasons; what you said has nothing to do with politics and your imprisonment is not fair.  Are you not lying?".  He replied "I am telling the truth'.  Then the ruler asked "What was your profession back in your village?" He replied "I was a horse trainer".  The ruler said "If you are a horse trainer enter my stable where you will see about 20-30 horses.  I shall give you one of these horses.  Pick one and I shall know whether you are a horse trainer or not.  Pick whichever you like".  He chose an Arab horse from the Euphrates or Baghda.  It must be Baghdad and not Arabia.  They called it "Arabi horse".  Then he chose one horse and said "If I had to pick one I would pick this
one".  The ruler said "You are really a horse trainer".  It was not a specially attractive horse, but only horse trainers would notice it. He said "I believe you are a trainer, but this horse has been castrated.  I mated it with my own mare which gave birth to a pony.  I had it castrated so that other people would not have a similar horse.  You found the right horse and I shall give it to you". Then he gave his favourite horse to him - to Medet Peliwan.

    The ruler wrote a letter to Khanali Khan and asked him to treat Medet Peliwan well.  When he returned, saying that he had a letter from the ruler, Khanali Khan claimed the horse and took it from him.  Now, let us set the story of the imprisonment of Makhtumkuli aside and finish this story.  News about the illness of Nadir Shah spread.  Then the Gayi and Dodurga tribes of the G6kleng - we have not heard about Yomuts being among them - got together and went to visit Nadir Shah.  On the way they heard that he had died.  Then when the question of leadership was raised the Gayi and Dodurga tribes were separated (Gara Ishan giggles YA).  Khanali Khan used to bring a Gbkleng girl home every day to comb wool and slept with her at night. He was involved in such evil acts.  He used combing wool as an excuse and kept girls at home.  He had done all this.  So, when they returned if they said "Khanali Khan is one of us and let us forget about the past and be united". it would not be sensible. If they did not do this and ignored him, then they would regard themselves as traitors.  Discussing this, they put on the black "Tangka" (a large ewer to boil water on an open fire) and began to have their tea.  They were a big crowd - about 500-600 or one thousand horsemen.  Later, Khanali Khan arrived and said "The Dodurga tribe is a despicable tribe.  They are not reliable. Let us destroy them.  "When he said so, a good for nothing khan from the Gayi tribe said: "Khanali aga, you came as a brave man, so pass by as one.  They are a small tribe".  When Khanali Khan heard this, he began to pass by together with his horsemen. At this moment the crowd emptied the tangkas and teapots.  At the village opposite them a Gerkez tribe called Kokana lived. There was an old friend of Khanali Khan here called Dodam Bay (Dodam the wealthy) and some people called him Esen Deli (Esen the madman).  However, elders of an earlier time told me he was Dodam Bay.  They were friends.  He had his mare  mated with Khanali Khan's horse from which he had a pony which became his horse later.  So, he chased Khanali Khan and caught him.  He was warned "You incestuous bastard Dodam, you might catch him and not kill him; if you do not kill him, we will kill you".  Khanali Khan too had heard this.  He caught Khanali Khan and told him that they were old friends and could flee together.  He said "We cannot go on like this.  Come and kill me".  Then Dodam stabbed him with bayonet and he fell off the horse.  After that the Dodurga people reached and cut his throat by a razor they used for shaving their head.  Medet Peliwan, the father of Mengli who had suffered a great deal at the hands of the Khan drank his blood and died there.  So he died at the same place as Khanali Khan.

   Makhtumkuli lived at a time when pillage was a common place task.  People used to attack each other with the aim of plundering.  This was called "alamar@'.  This meant attacking, plundering and taking people prisoner. When one tribe raided another tribe, this was called "alamat@'.  They attacked before dawn; looted their homes and took many people hostage. Makhtumkuli too was taken hostage together with his brother-in-law, his mother and maternal uncles and people of Gerkez at the time of Nadir Shah.  He was in prison.  Makhtumkuli was not famous at that time.  He was only a poet.  He was called sometimes Makhtumkuli Diwana and used to recite poems.  He was not so famous at that time. \Vhen he was in prison, Arazgul, Makhtumkuli's mother served an officer, a ruler or any other high-ranking person.  She had some illness in her hands and feet and could not work. \Vhen she was asked why she became ill she said that back home others used to serve her and now she was serving others.  She was asked who her husband was and she said her husband was a respectable man called  Garry Molla and people used to come and visit them and they would not let her work and they served instead.  She said "my hands are not used to serve".  Then he said that he would set her free and asked her if she had any relatives among the prisoners.  She said that she had a son and a son-in-law.  The ruler told her that she could ask for the release of one of them.  She said "I want my son-in-law'.  He freed Arazgul and her son-in-law in Mashhad.  He was surprised why she did not ask for the freedom of her son. The ruler then asked Makhtumkuli what was wrong and why her mother did not ask for his freedom and for her son-in-lanvs instead.  Makhtumkuli said "My brother-in-law is a poor man and has no one and if he stayed here he might die.  I am a poet and know how to speak and I can survive wherever I live.  Perhaps she thought her son would survive and asked for the release of her son-in-law".  Then he asked "Are you a poet?  Do you write poems?".  Makhtumkuli said "Yes".  The ruler said "If you are a poet and if you write poems I would like to test your capacity as a poet".  He was a spoiled ruler and wanted to make fun of him or in some way blacken him.  He did not know who Makhtumkuli was.  He asked his servant to organise a gathering in a mosque the following day.  Makhtumkuli was brought to this mosque.  He asked him to recite his poetry if he was a poet. That was when he recited his poem about the Twelve Imams.  He says "forgive us" in this poem.  He wants him to forgive him for the sake of virtues of each of the Twelve Imams.  The ruler was impressed very much by this poem and asked his servants to free all the Gerkez people who were in prison.  And after that Makhtumkuli was much appreciated.

   He was freed and living freely in his village when enmity was incited among the Turkmens in connection with being for or against one ruler or another and in this connection Makhtumkuli was imprisoned for the second time. when he was in jail his leg was chained.  This chain then was called "Gara Bugrd' (meaning black double-humped male camel).  The chain was undone.  He was chained at night and in the morning his leg was free.  Then the ruler told his servants to chain both his legs. So they did.  The following morning they noticed that the chain was undone again.  Then he told them to use three chains. They were all opened.  They thought that this was a sign of power and tortured him a great deal.  However, they did not free him.  Then it was found out that a Turkmen called Mamedali who was a servant of the ruler had opened the chain.  When he was weak and suffering in chains he recited his famous poem "Achayin disem achilmaz, ne agir uykulidir" (It will not open if I want to do so; what a heavy sleeper it is), or Bilmeyin soranlara ayding bu garip adimiz/Asli Gerkez, yurdi Etrek, adi Makhtumkulidir (Tell those who do not know me and ask my name/That I am a Gerkez, I hail from Etrek and my name is Makhtumkuli).  He was too weak and thought that he would die under torture. \Vhen he said that he was Makhtumkuli and that he would die, the above-mentioned freed him and he himself stayed in his place. \Vhen people came to hang Makhtumkuli, they noticed that he was not Makhtumkuli.  The ruler asked where Makhtumkuli was, he was told that his servants had sold him for so much gold and the ruler hanged the servants.  In the meantime, somehow both Makhtumkuli and Mamedali achieved their freedom.  Mamedali later visited Makhtumkuli and it is said that Makhtumkuli wrote for Mamaedali his well-known poem which reads: (Hile hem bir bat yirlikdir yerindeloni basharmaga kishi gerekdir) (Even cheating is bravery at an appropriate situation/A real man is needed to achieve it).  I had heard this man's name as Arazmamet, but a mullah who was the prayer-leader of a mosque in Bojnurd said that his name was Mamedali.  However, we had heard his name as Arazmamet or Arazmamet Khan.  Nevertheless there is a certain Arazmaet Khan, but he must have been an enemy of Makhtumkuli. He was a khan of the Gbldengs, but he must have been an enemy of Makhgtumkuli.  This is another matter.  There was someone called Arazmamet Khan at the time of Makhtumkuli, I shall talk about him later.

  Makhtumkuli was against some mullahs and ishans and pseudo-mullahs - those who were interested in receiving donations and did not think about anything but their own interests.  He speaks of mullahs having turbans like onions and says that any ordinary person cannot be a mullah and speaks of some of the mullahs as appearing at every door.  There was a mullah called Zaman Ishan who was from the Gyzyl tribe of the Gbklengs.  Thinking that nobody would suspect him, he arranged the murder of two traders and took their gold.  Nobody would think that a mullah like him would be involved in such acts. However, Makhtumkuli knew about this.  When he was at a gathering he was told that Zaman Ishan had arrived.  Makhtumkuli then said that he was not Zaman Ishan, he was Zaman the Butcher.  It is said that he recited some of his poems  about mullahs at this gathering, Makhtumkuli accused him of the murder and proved that he was the culprit.  Zaman Ishan was regarded as the
murderer of the above-mentioned traders.  Nobody would suspect him.  He was a white-bearded man who was known as an honest and decent person.  But he was involved in evil deeds in secret.  Makhtumkuli knew about this.

 translated by Y Azemoun