Reviews

Well-known for his works on traditional male sociability in Persian-speaking Central Asia, R. Rahimov deals with a special version of the legend of the mazar of Burkh-i Sarmast-i Wali (Saint/Prophet Baruch the Delighted), one of the most prosperous and venerated Islamised holy places of present-day Tajikistan, in the mountainous valley of the Khingaw (or Khingab) River, the confluence of which with the Surkhab marks the beginning of the large Wakhsh River. Collected and published in the 1930s by famous Soviet ethnographer N. A. Kisliakov (“Burkh – gornyi kozel: Drevnii kul’t v Tadzhikistane,” Sovetskaia etnografiia 1934/1-2: 181-9), this version is analysed classically from the viewpoint of the survivals or reflection, within it, of ancient religious systems and practices attested in the region before and parallel to the arrival of Islam, like what the author calls the cult of caves, like also Buddhism and yoga through the identification of Burkh-i sarmast (one of the saint’s vernacular denominations) with Bodhisattva. Characteristic of the present state of ethnological studies on Tajikistan, where fieldwork, observation and collection of data have for decades given way to theorisation and elaboration, from afar, of transversal interreligious comparative systems, this study shows extremely conservative in the energy spent by the author for proving the pre-Islamic vernacular, Aryan character of this local cult ― with little interest in the alleged Biblical ascendency of the saint buried in the Khingaw Valley.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.D-414