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Walter Smith

[anc. Koil]

City in Uttar Pradesh, India, 135 km south-east of Delhi. A Rajput stronghold, Koil fell to Muslim invaders in ad 1194. Several later monuments were built on the foundations of its Hindu temples, no early examples of which survive. During the first half of the 15th century Koil figured in the confrontations between the Sharqis of Jaunpur and the armies of the Delhi Sultanate. The fort, built in 1524 during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi, was rebuilt by Sabit Khan in 1717 and extensively redesigned by the French in the early 19th century. Several monuments attributed to the period of the Mughal emperor Akbar (reg 1556–1605) in the Bagh-i-Gesu Khan (now a public cemetery) include a pillared pavilion with a low dome and the remains of another double-storey pavilion; the supposed tomb of Gesu Khan, an official of Akbar, is a red sandstone structure set on a plinth with lattice screens and crowned by a low dome. The Jami‛ Masjid, at the summit of a long, steep slope called the Bala Qila, was begun in the 17th century but almost completely reworked in ...


J. B. Harrison

[anc. Prayaga]

City of religious, strategic and administrative importance in Uttar Pradesh, India. Located at the confluence of the sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mystical Saraswati, Allahabad has drawn Hindu pilgrims for centuries. The earliest monument is a stone pillar, inscribed with edicts of Ashoka (reg c. 269–c. 232 bc), a panegyric of the Gupta king Samudragupta (reg c. ad 335–76) and a record of its re-erection in 1605 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (reg 1605–27). Brooding over the Sangam (sacred bathing area) is the massive sandstone fort of Akbar (reg 1556–1605), built in 1584 to guard the river-route to Bengal. As at Agra, Delhi and Lahore, the fort enclosed residential quarters and palace buildings, but these were substantially altered during British tenure in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some indication of their former splendour is given in aquatints by Thomas and William Daniell family.

Mughal residences and gardens straggled along the Yamuna from the fort to the city. Prince Salim, the future emperor ...



B. B. Lal


City in Faizabad District, Uttar Pradesh, India. Located on the right bank of the River Sarayu, it was the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom, one of whose kings, Rama, is regarded by Hindus as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Excavations in 17 different parts of the ancient mounds have revealed that the first occupation at Ayodhya commenced c. 700 bc, as is indicated by the occurrence of the earliest variety of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) and a few sherds assignable to a late stage in the production of Painted Grey Ware (PGW). The NBPW is very well fired, thin-sectioned, with a shining surface and showing a variety of colours: steel grey, coal black, indigo, silver, even gold. In the earliest levels the houses were of wattle and daub, but later they began to be constructed of kiln-fired bricks. Terracotta ringwells were used for disposing of sullage water. Concomitantly, systems of coinage (punch-marked and uninscribed cast coins) and weights (cylindrical pieces of jasper, chert etc) also came into being, laying the foundation of urbanization in the Ganga Valley around the middle of the 1st millennium ...


Erberto F. Lo Bue

[Buḍhā Nilkaṇṭha]

Village 8 km north of Kathmandu, Nepal. It is the site of a stone image of the Hindu god Vishnu lying on the coiled mass of the serpent Ananta (l. 7 m), the largest sculpture in the Kathmandu Valley and one of its outstanding masterpieces.

The Jalashayana Narayana of Budhanilkantha village is second in importance only to Changu Narayan in the worship of Vishnu in Nepal. It was carved from a single block of a variety of basalt found a few kilometres outside the Kathmandu Valley. Several artists must have contributed to the sculpture, although it appears to have been conceived by a single mind. Notwithstanding its huge size, the figure is well proportioned and seems to float in the spring-fed pool surrounding the cushion-like coils of Ananta, who shelters the god under the canopy of his eleven hoods. The statue was consecrated in ad 641–2 by Vishnugupta, a de facto...


Gautam Vajracharya

[anc. Yāpriṅ]

Capital of Nepal, situated on the Bagmati River. According to legends recorded in Hindu and Buddhist texts, in ancient times the entire Kathmandu Valley was a lake—a story given credibility by the type of alluvial soil found in the valley. The city of Kathmandu appears to have developed out of two small towns that grew partly because of the fertility of the soil and partly because a principal trans-Himalayan trade route passed through them. The limits of the two towns are still vaguely remembered in the designated routes and areas for such traditional cultural activities as chariot festivals and processions of an image of a local divinity.

In the Lichchhavi period (c. ad 300–800) the two sections of this city were known as Koligrama and Dakshina (‘southern’) Koligrama. A massive inscribed stone threshold has helped to identify the location of a no longer extant Lichchhavi palace known as Dakshina-rajakula (‘Southern palace’), situated in the southern section on part of the site where the Hanuman Dhoka palace now stands. An older palace was located at Hadigaon, about 6 km north-east of the Southern Palace. Little survives of Kathmandu’s Lichchhavi-period monuments, though art historians have identified a range of works from this period in the city and its environs....


R. N. Mehta

[Cambay; Khambhayat]

City at the mouth of the Mali River, c. 84 km south of Ahmadabad in Gujarat, India. Although it was a flourishing commercial centre from the 8th to the 18th century ad, Khambhat’s many Hindu and Jaina temples were destroyed by ‛Ala al-Din Khalji (reg 1296–1316) in 1299, and it suffered further invasions between the 14th and 17th centuries, including a Portuguese raid in 1538. Several European factories were built during the 17th century. However, the final decline of the city was caused by the depredations of the Marathas in the late 18th century and the silting up of the harbour, which diverted trade to nearby Surat.

The remarkable congregational mosque (Jami‛ Masjid), dated by inscription to 1325, consists of an inner courtyard surrounded by a colonnade constructed of pillars from local temples and a prayer-hall with bays marked by low domes; each dome, apart from those above the three prayer niches, or mihrabs, has a corresponding window perforated with lattice patterns in the traditional Gujarati style. Attached to the south side of the mosque is a square, pillared chamber with a ruined circular inner court, housing the intricately carved tomb of the wealthy merchant ...



Doris Meth Srinivasan

[Mathurā; Madhupura, Madhupurī, Madhurā, Mahurā, Mathulā Muttra, Uttar Mathurā]

City on the Yamuna River, 150 km south of Delhi in Uttar Pradesh, India, established c. 6th century bc. During the 1st–3rd centuries ad Mathura achieved renown as the first centre of a school of art serving the three major Indian religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism—as well as several folk cults. The influence of Mathura dominated Indian art for several centuries, thereby establishing the first artistic conventions that can be described as ‘pan-Indian’. The Mathura model consisted of a codified visual language expressing divine power as well as a distinctive sculptural style using the characteristic local plain or spotted red sandstone. Although it was once a major centre with many important monuments, only fragments of the buildings of Mathura survive. However, a large number of sculptures have been retrieved. Many were found in wells and the Yamuna, where they appear to have been thrown for safekeeping during upheavals and invasions. Others were recovered in the course of urban construction, notably the extraordinary finds of Buddhist art unearthed at ...



J. Marr

Town about 35 km south-east of Panaji in Goa, India. It passed to the Portuguese in 1764, but before this date it was one of the places of refuge for Hindus persecuted in Portugal’s early coastal settlements. Like much of the interior of Goa, Ponda retains a much more Hindu flavour; even the Christians there, converted at a later, more tolerant period of Portuguese rule, retain many features of Hindu social organization.

The fort (ruined) in Ponda was founded by the ‛Adil Shahi family kings of Bijapur in the 16th century. One of them, ‛Ali ‛Adil Shah I (reg 1557–79), constructed the Safa Masjid (1560), which is characterized by typical Deccani arches. Much of the construction is of laterite, visible below the stuccoed upper part, and the pitched roof suits the heavy rainfall of the area. Unusually, the ablution tank is on the south side. Several Hindu temples of the 17th and 18th centuries clearly show the influence of Portuguese church architecture. One is the Shanti Durga Temple (...



City on the Kaveri River c. 400 km south-west of Madras in Tamil Nadu, India. An important Hindu religious centre since the 7th century ad, it is dominated by an immense granite rock some 85 m high, on the summit of which is a modern shrine dedicated to the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Hewn into the rock on the south side are two caves, the uppermost dating from the time of the Pallava king Mahendravarman I (reg c. 570–630) and the lower to the Pandya era (c. 8th century). The façade of the upper temple is of squat, octagonal pillars bearing Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions executed in beautiful Pallava script. Inside, at the east end, is a bare cell; opposite this is an important sculpted panel representing the descent of Ganga into the hair of Shiva, who is shown surrounded by devotees. The lower cave is a columned hall (...


M. E. Heston


City, capital of the state of Kerala, India. It was named Tiruvanandapuram (‘city of the sacred Ananda’) after the reclining form of the Hindu deity Vishnu, to whom the Padmanabhasvami Temple at the heart of the original town was dedicated. The temple is mentioned in the Śilappadikkaram, an early Tamil narrative poem (2nd–5th century ad), and was praised by the Vaishnava saint Nammalvar (c. 8th century), although the earliest elements of the present complex seem to date from the 12th century. The Ay dynasty, which claimed Padmanabhasvami as its tutelary deity, ruled over most of southernmost Kerala until the 10th century. These territories, together with the areas north of and including Trivandrum, subsequently became the Venadu district of the Kulashekhara kingdom of central Kerala. After the demise of that kingdom in the 12th century, the former Venadu governors ruled as an independent dynasty, assuming the special prerogatives associated with the temple that were formerly claimed by the Ays. Tiruvanandapuram became the capital of ...


M. A. Claringbull

[anc. Kāsī: ‘City of Light’; Kashi; Vārāṇasī; Banāras; Benares]

Sacred city and pilgrimage centre on the banks of the Ganga River between the Barna, or Varuna, and Asi rivers in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the most holy of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism (the others being Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchipuram, Ujjain and Dwarka) and has been the focus of Brahmanical learning and religious pilgrimage from ancient times.

The existence of the city from earliest times is attested by myriad references in the sacred texts. The kingdom of Kashi is mentioned in the Vedas, and the kings of Kashi are referred to in the Mahābhārata, although not until the Puranas is Varanasi mentioned as the capital city of Kashi. Around the time of the Buddha (600 bc) 16 great city states flourished in north India, the three most prominent being Maghada, Koshala and Varanasi. Owing to its strategic position at the confluence of the Ganga and Varuna rivers, Varanasi was a significant trading and commercial centre. In many tales of the previous lives of Buddha (Skt ...