Beket-Ata Underground Mosque, Mangistau region, Kazakhstan.
Excursion to Becket Ata Underground Mosque.
The underground mosque Beket-Ata is located in the foothills of the Ustyurt plateau, geographically related to the Mangystau region on the Mangyshlak peninsula in Kazakhstan. Getting to her is not so easy. You need to overcome hundreds of kilometers through the desert, and then walk a few more kilometers. However, despite the difficult accessibility, the Becket Ata mosque is an object of pilgrimage for a huge number of people. It was founded by one of the most revered Kazakh religious figures and preachers of Sufism Beket-Ata, who during his life was famous for the gift of healing not only the body, but also the soul. The saint’s grave is located right in the mosque. This is a place with special energy. Believers say that after visiting the necropolis, real miracles happen to them.
Location Becket Ata Mosque.
Mangyshlak Peninsula is one of the most beautiful and mysterious places on the coast of the Caspian Sea. It is separated from the deserts of Central Asia by the Sarykamysh depression and the Ustyurt plateau, known to travelers for its fantastic landscapes with stone sculptures, which in ancient times were the bottom of the ocean. The plateau is unsuitable for human life. Even nomadic tribes never stayed here for a long time. But the territories bordering it provide people with slightly more suitable conditions for existence. But in any case, these places, even in the 21st century, are still extremely far from civilization. It is even more strange that most of not only natural, but also historical monuments of Kazakhstan are located here.
Becket Ata Mosque is located on the border of the Ustyurt plateau. The distance from the nearest settlement Senek is 115 kilometers. And from the nearest city of Zhanaozen to the mosque, about 150 kilometers. It is hard to believe, but at the end of the last century, believers traveled all this way on foot. I had to go under the scorching sun. Today, few pilgrims decide on such a test. Most come here by car. For a long time it was possible to get to the mosque only on a dirt road, which created certain difficulties. But more recently, a highway was laid to the shrine.
Some residents of western Kazakhstan complain about the appearance of a good road. Earlier it was considered possible to receive a blessing from a saint only by following a difficult path. When people come here in comfortable conditions in air-conditioned cars - this is already a violation.
In front of the underground mosque, believers try to visit another important shrine - the Shopan-Ata mosque. It is located on the road to the necropolis of Becket Ata. This is an earlier building dating back to the 12th – 13th centuries. Two religious sights are tightly interconnected, since Sopan-Ata played one of the key roles in the life of Becket-Ata, even though they have been separated for centuries.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, wandering ascetics came to Mangyshlak who preached Sufism. There are several legends about their appearance. All of them are connected with the name of a real person by the name of Khoja Ahmet Yassawi, who was one of the first Sufi preachers. Traditions say that Khoji Ahmet threw the staff of wisdom towards Mangyshlak, after which he sent 360 of his students in search of him. When the students found the staff, he had already grown into the ground and turned into a tree. So the followers of Yassaui remained on the peninsula to spread his philosophical teachings. You can find small details about some of them; there is no information about others at all. However, the inhabitants of Mangyshlak call it “holy land”, relying on the fact that 360 saints once lived and preached here. The most famous of them are Shopan-ata, Masat-ata, Kenti-Baba, Sultan-epe, Shakpak-ata, Koshkar-ata.
The main places of religious worship were structures unexpected for the area - underground mosques. At that time, several such structures appeared on Mangyshlak at once. For Islam, the construction of underground temples was unusual. But for Christianity with its rocky monasteries and cave churches, this was quite traditional. Most likely, the appearance of mosques underground is associated with the mixing of a large number of cultures that appeared and disappeared on Mangyshlak. As a result, something completely new was formed.
The cult of saints also does not fit into Islam, but is important for Sufis. Becket-Ata has become a key figure for the adherents of Sufism. He is revered as a saint. He loved people very much, was indifferent to their burdens, taught them to be fair and kind.
Quite a lot is known about Becket-Ata. He was born in 1750 in the village of Kuysary. From an early age, he experienced an incredible craving for knowledge and had a living mind. As the legends say, at the age of 14, Beket-Ata came to bow to the ashes of Shopan-Ata. During an overnight stay in a mosque, the sage appeared as a young man and gave the order to study. So, the young guy went to distant Khiva for knowledge. He graduated from the madrasah (the emphasis is on the last syllable) - a Muslim religious education school. After studying, Becket-Ata began to practice medicine. He even undertook the treatment of nervous patients and people with disabilities, achieving great results in this matter. Legends go about his incredible physical strength and orator's talent.
Having reached 40 years, Becket-Ata became a Sufi. The doctrine of Sufism suggests that in this life a person can know God and come closer to him. They devote themselves to self-improvement. Their path of spiritual development was called "tariq".
Becket-Ata devoted great importance in his teachings to questions of morality, dignity, and unity. People went to him for help and advice. But that is not all. He was a jack of all trades and dismantled in construction. During his life, Becket-Ata built four mosques. By the way, all of its buildings are still in good condition. Followers do not allow them to fall into desolation, their faith and the personality cult of the creator are so strong. The underground mosque of Becket-Ata is rightfully considered the most ambitious of its creation.
Becket-Ata died in 1813 at the age of 63 years. He asked to be buried in an underground mosque. Here, believers today seek his support. People come here from all over Kazakhstan. Some come to the mosque several times a year. Pilgrims ask the saint for mercy. Everyone’s questions are very personal: someone prays for health for themselves and their loved ones, others for peace in the family and the accomplishment of a good deed. Kazakhs believe that even the pronunciation of the name Becket-Ata in itself can ward off misfortune.
Beket-Ata mosque features.
The Becket Ata necropolis is unique in its structure. To get inside the mosque, visitors need to go down about 1,500 meters. The mosque has amazing acoustics. In every room, the voice sounds different.
On the way to the underground mosque, meet a healing spring, from which, as they say, Beket-Ata himself took water. In this place you can often see wild goats, foxes and roe deer. The thing is that Becket-Ata at one time forbade hunting in the surrounding lands, so animals are used to approach people at fairly close distances.
The mosque consists of 4 rooms. The saint himself is buried in one of them. In the other lies the ashes of his sister Akkuash, only women can enter here, here they have the opportunity to tell about their burdens and ask for help. In the third room, the staff of Becket-Ata is kept. And the fourth room is adapted for a chapel. According to the rules, in order not to offend the spirits, leaving each room should only be back forward.
Scientists believe that the mosque served as a kind of Becket Ata observatory, from where he could observe the celestial bodies. This also indicates the versatility of his nature. Based on what is happening in the sky, the sage predicted the weather, determined how severe the winter is expected and how hot the summer will be.
Also in the Becket-Ata complex there is the so-called Traveler House. It can stop any pilgrim. Many believers try to stay here for the night.
Information for tourists about Beket-Ata mosque.
Many are interested in the question of whether those who are not pilgrims are allowed into the underground mosque. For a long time, the shrine was a place intended exclusively for believers. But recently, it has become one of the points on the tourist route along the Ustyurt plateau. However, a visit to Becket-Ata out of idle interest is not welcomed either by the ministers or by the pilgrims. People come to the mosque in difficult moments of life, and not in order to satisfy their curiosity and take a couple of unusual photos. In addition, photographing or shooting video inside the mosque is strictly prohibited.
You can watch the Becket Ata mosque without approaching it at close range so as not to offend anyone's feelings. Without faith, it is better not to enter.
How to get to the Becket Ata mosque.
The distance from Aktau to Becket Ata is approximately 280 km. In time it will take about 5 hours. Almost all the way will go along a good asphalt road, which was built recently.
Coordinates of the underground mosque Becket-Ata: 43.597117, 54.069884.
If we take the city of Aktau as a starting point, then at the first stage you need to get to the city of Zhanaozen (Novy Uzen) through the village of Zhetibay. This is approximately 150 kilometers. Then, after 25 kilometers, the village of Kyzylsai will appear. From about this moment, guide signs to Becket Ata will begin to meet. The road will go through the mosque of Shopan-Ata. Almost all believers visit it along the way, this is a kind of tradition. From Shopan-Ata to Beket-Ata it remains to overcome another 70 kilometers.