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Agra  

R. Nath

City and administrative seat of the district of the same name, in Uttar Pradesh, India. Situated on the Yamuna River in the fertile north Indian heartland, it is 200 km south of Delhi and 55 km south of the ancient city of Mathura. A centre of Mughal culture and government in the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra has numerous monuments of that period, including the famed Taj Mahal (see §II, 1).

Agra’s antiquity is indicated both by a living literary and religious tradition and by occasional archaeological discoveries of ancient pottery, bricks, pillars and sculpture in and around the city. Pilgrimage centres upstream on the Yamuna are associated with the great epic the Mahābhārata, and nearby Mathura is one of the ancient sites identified with the worship of Vasudeva Krishna. The name Agra may derive from the ancient Hindu sage Angira. The area was ruled by Rajput chiefs prior to the Muslim conquest (...

Article

R. N. Mehta and Jonathan M. Bloom

Reviser Sheila S. Blair

[Ahmedabad]

City in western India, until 1970 the state capital of Gujarat.

Remains of bones and tools indicate occupation in the area around Ahmadabad during the second millennium bc. The earliest permanent settlement, called Ashaval after its founder Asha Bhil, was established on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati River in the 8th century ad and prospered in subsequent centuries. In 1391 Zafar Khan was appointed Governor of Gujarat by the Sultanate rulers in Delhi. In 1403 his rebellious son, Tatar Khan, proclaimed himself Sultan of Gujarat at Ashaval but died a few months later, possibly from poisoning. His father regained power and, assuming the title Muzaffar Shah I, proclaimed himself Sultan of Gujarat. On his death he was succeeded by his grandson, Ahmad Shah I (reg 1411–42), who built a capital at Ashaval, naming it Ahmadabad. Ahmad’s reign chiefly involved the expansion of his realm and the propagation of Islam....

Article

Ajmer  

Asok Kumar Das

[anc. Ajayameru]

City in Rajasthan, India, that flourished from c. 12th century. Ajmer was an important centre of Jainism in the 8th century, but it was not until c. 10th century that the area came into prominence under the Chahamanas (Chauhans) of Shakambhari. King Ajayapala is said to have founded the city in the 12th century, naming it Ajayameru after himself. He is also credited with building the now ruined hilltop fort called Taragarh. His son and successor Arnoraja (also called Anaka) constructed the massive embankment that created Ana Sagar Lake. The Chahamanas, especially Prithviraja (1178–92), constructed numerous temples and other buildings at Ajmer, as well as bathing ghats at Pushkar Lake some 11 km west. None of these are preserved in their original state.

Ajmer was sacked by Mu‛in al-Din Muhammad of Ghur in 1192 and again by Qutb al-Din Aybak in 1193, the latter incorporating it into the Delhi sultanate. The Sanskrit college complex of Visaladeva and numerous temples were destroyed, and the building materials were reused to raise an impressive mosque in ...

Article

Aligarh  

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Senake Bandaranayake

[Anurādhapura]

Ancient city and religious centre in north-central Sri Lanka on the Malvatu Oya River. The site (see fig.) extends over an area of about 64 sq. km. At its centre are the vestiges of a fortified inner city, surrounded by several ancient Buddhist monastery complexes and four large, man-made lakes. The founding of Anuradhapura as a major urban complex is traditionally ascribed to the semi-historical figure of the pre-Buddhist period, King Pandukabhaya, in the 4th century bc. Recent excavations indicate the existence of settlement, import ceramics and early writing from a horizon of the 5th century bc or earlier, indicating the possibility of urbanization taking place from c. mid-1st millennium bc. The earliest rock shelter monasteries at the site date from the last few centuries bc.

Anuradhapura was the country’s principal political and religious centre for nearly a millennium and a half, until the closing decades of the 10th century ...

Article

Ayodhya  

B. B. Lal

[Ayodhyā]

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 ...

Article

Balkh  

City in northern Afghanistan, believed to be the site of Bactra, capital of ancient Bactria, and a major city in the province of Khurasan during the Islamic period. Located on a fertile plain, Balkh commanded trade routes between India, China, Turkestan and Iran. It was already a wealthy city under the Achaemenid dynasty (538–331 bc) and a centre of Zoroastrianism. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, it became important under the Bactrian monarchies (323–87 bc) and then under the Kushana and Hephthalites, and it was a Buddhist centre. The most substantial remains from the early periods are the mud ramparts, which stand more than 20 m at several places. The circular plan around the citadel (modern Bala-Hisar) may date back as far as the Achaemenid period. The only other monuments to survive from the pre-Islamic period are four Buddhist stupas. That excavated at Tepe Rustam in the south of the city is the most monumental found north of the Hindu Kush (platform 54 m on a side; cylindrical dome 47 m in diameter; total height ...

Article

Jeffrey A. Hughes

City in the Chambal Valley, Rajasthan, India. It was an important strategic and commercial location from the beginning of the Islamic period and became increasingly important during Mughal family times, culminating with the construction of a lavish palace complex during the reign of Shah Jahan (reg 1628–58). The area first came to prominence in 1021 when Mahmud of Ghazna (reg 998–1030) led a punitive expedition to Bari. The earliest permanent fortification was erected between 1345 and 1351, and in the 15th century Buhlul Lodi (reg 1451–89) brought the region under his control.

The first Mughal emperor, Babar (reg 1526–30), visited Bari as early as 1525; he liked the surrounding countryside and soon instigated a building programme to beautify the arid location with gardens and irrigation tanks. Mughal involvement in the area intensified under Akbar (reg 1556–1605), when, according to Akbar’s historian Abu’l-Fazl, Bari became one of the most favoured imperial hunting grounds. Bari continued as a hunting retreat under Jahangir (...

Article

Bhopal  

[anc. Bhūpāla]

Capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India. Palaeolithic tools dating from c. 600,000 to c. 50,000 bp have been found in and around Bhopal, and rock shelters in hills north-west of the city contain early historic paintings estimated to date from c. 8000 to 2500 bc. Bhopal itself was founded by Bhoja (reg c. 1020–47) in the 11th century ad, but little survives from this time apart from a few fragmentary sculptures from the 10th and 11th centuries (Bhopal, Archaeol. Mus.). Dost Muhammad Khan (d 1726), a general of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (reg 1658–1707), laid the foundations for the present city and built the Fatehgarh fort, now ruined. In the 19th century the nawabs of Bhopal built a number of palaces, fortifications, mosques and other public buildings. The most notable of these are the congreagational mosque, Jami‛ Masjid (1819–37), built by Kudsia Begum, the Moti Mosque (...

Article

Bidar  

George Michell

[Bīdar]

City in Karnataka, India. Once the capital of the Bahmani and Barid Shahi dynasties, it flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. Bidar displaced Gulbarga as the capital of the Bahmani family dynasty when Shihab al-Din Ahmad (reg 1422–36) shifted his headquarters there shortly after acceding to the throne. Under this ruler, royal palaces were laid out and the fort was strengthened. Bidar’s outstanding personality and most notable builder in the second half of the 15th century was Mahmud Gawan, minister of Shams al-Din Muhammad III (reg 1463–82). After Mahmud Gawan’s murder in 1481, the Bahmani kingdom disintegrated rapidly. A former slave of Turkish origin, Qasim Barid, declared himself chief minister; his son, Amir Barid (reg 1527–43), after raising a succession of puppet rulers to the throne, established the Barid Shahi dynasty. Under Amir Barid, Bidar once again experienced prosperity, and the fort was renovated. In 1619...

Article

Bijapur  

George Michell

[anc. Vijayapura: ‘City of victory’]

City in Karnataka, India. Set in the arid tract between the rivers Bhima and Krishna, it was the capital of the ‛Adil Shahi dynasty and flourished from the late 15th century to the late 17th. Bijapur was one of the centres of Yadava power that fell to Muslim forces under ‛Ala al-Din of the Khalji dynasty in 1294. That there must have been extensive building at the site before the conquest is evident from the stone pillars and slabs from earlier structures incorporated into the city’s numerous mosques and tombs. The importance of Bijapur increased after 1347, when the Bahmani family dynasty took control of the Deccan. In the reorganization of the Bahmanid kingdom carried out in the 15th century by its chief minister Mahmud Gawan, Bijapur was constituted as a separate province with its own governor. After Mahmud Gawan’s murder in 1481, the governorship of the city fell to Yusuf ‛Adil Khan (...

Article

Frederick M. Asher

and Gaya [Bodhgayā and Gayā]

Pilgrimage centres and towns located on the Phalagu (Niranjana) River in Bihar, India. From an early date Gaya has been a site for the performance of śrāddha, rites for recently deceased parents. This ancient tradition and the general sanctity of Gaya in the 5th century bc probably drew Siddhartha Gautama to its outskirts, to the place now known as Bodhgaya, where, following profound meditation, he became a Buddha (Enlightened One). The tree under which he meditated (the bodhi tree) became an object of veneration; initially it was surrounded by a hypaethral temple (Pali bodhighara), the general form of which is known from relief sculptures of the 2nd–1st centuries bc at Bodhgaya and other sites (see also Indian subcontinent, §III, 3). A stone slab (Skt vajrāsana) at the site, dating to the 3rd century bc, carries motifs similar to those found on contemporary Mauryan pillars (see...

Article

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...

Article

E. Errington

[Chārsada; anc. Pushkalavati]

Town at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, some 27 km north-east of Peshawar, Pakistan. Pushkalavati, a capital of the ancient region of Gandhara, is mentioned in the Rāmāyaṇa epic as having been founded at the same time as Taxila. In 327 bc the city surrendered after a short siege to part of Alexander the Great’s army under Hephaistion and was garrisoned by Macedonian troops. The site associated with these events is Bala Hisar, a large settlement mound (about 241×201×17.5 m) of the 6th–1st century bc, to the north-west of Charsadda. The Indo-Greek city at Shaikhan Dheri, north of Bala Hisar, flourished c. 150 bcad 150. Flooding forced a move eastwards across the Swat River to Shahr-i-napursan. This extensive, largely unexcavated site is the probable location of the city visited by the Chinese pilgrims Songyun (ad 519–20) and Xuanzang (632), for superficial investigations suggest that occupation continued until the 10th century....

Article

Clare Harris and M. E. Heston

[Kuchi Bandar]

City on the coast of Kerala, India. Facing the Arabian Sea, Cochin experienced strong contacts with Europe and other parts of Asia from early times, and signs of Portuguese, Chinese, Jewish, early Christian, Dutch and British influence are evident everywhere.

Clare Harris

St Thomas the Apostle is said to have visited the area in ad 52, making Cochin the oldest European settlement in India. The Moplah Christian colony dates from this period, and the first Jewish community in Cochin is said to have been established at around the same time; both Jewish and Syrian Christian communities are reported to have been well developed by the 8th century. A friar named Jordanus was in Cochin in 1347, Chinese travellers stopped there in 1409, and a Persian visited in 1442. Many of the early visitors to the port were seeking spices from the Kerala hinterland: in 1500 the Portuguese explorer Pedralvares Cabral (...

Article

Delhi  

R. Nath and C. Uday Bhaskar

[anc. Ḍhillikā, Ḍhillī; Arab., Pers., Urdu: Dihlī.]

Capital of the Republic of India, situated on the west bank of the River Yamuna. Delhi has grown and prospered due mainly to its location on the river, its proximity to the ‘granaries’ of north India (the fertile lands between the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna as well as those of Haryana and Punjab) and its strategic position in the corridor leading from the mountain passes of Afghanistan to the Gangetic plain. Delhi’s role as a capital during the period of Muslim rule (c. 1200–1857) made it the premier centre of Islamic architecture in India. A majority of the city’s 1300 listed monuments date to this period. New Delhi was inaugurated as the capital of British India in 1931.

Archaeological excavations indicate that Delhi (see fig.) was settled as early as 1000 bc. At the Purana Qil‛a (Urdu: ‘Old Fort’; 1a) archaeologists uncovered shards of Painted Grey ware (a fine grey earthenware often with designs in black) datable to about the ...

Article

Dhaka  

Perween Hasan

[Dacca.]

Capital of Bangladesh, located about 160 km above the mouths of the Ganga on the northern bank of the Buriganga River (known to Muslim historians as the Dulai River). The city gained ascendancy in the 17th century as a provincial capital of the Mughal empire.

Dhaka was part of the ancient region of Vanga. Its earliest history is unclear, but terracotta plaques with seated Buddha images as well as post-Gupta-period gold coins (Dhaka, N. Mus. Bangladesh) of the 7th–8th centuries ad discovered at Savar, 25 km to the north of Dhaka, indicate the antiquity of local settlements. The area was brought under the sultans of Delhi in the 13th century; these rulers were then replaced by the independent sultans of Bengal in the 14th century. The settlement of Muslims in Dhaka is attested by two stone inscriptions, one recording the building of Binat Bibi’s mosque in 1457 (ah 861) and the other of a gate in ...

Article

R. Nath

[Fatḥpur Sīkrī; Fatehpur Sīkri.]

Town in Uttar Pradesh, India, 40 km from Agra. It is situated adjacent to a lake (now dry) on a long narrow ridge (see fig.); red sandstone of fine quality was quarried from the ridge from an early date, and the town is known mainly for a red sandstone palace complex built by the Mughal emperor Akbar (reg 1556–1605).

Article

Gaur  

Perween Hasan

[Lakṣmaṇāvatī; Lakhnautī]

Ruined city situated on the international border between Bangladesh and India. The southern suburb, with the most important monument in the area, the Chota Sona Masjid, is in Nawabganj District, Bangladesh. The walled city and the inner citadel to the north, still called Gaur, are in Malda District, West Bengal, India.

Before the 12th century Gauda was the name of a kingdom comprising the city and surrounding area. In the 12th century it became the capital of the Sena dynasty of Bengal and was known as Lakṣmaṇāvatī after King Lakshmanasena (reg c. 1178–1206). In the 13th century, when the sultans of Delhi conquered parts of Bengal, they made Gaur their capital. It was known as Lakhnautī to Muslim historians. Difficulties in controlling Bengal from Delhi led Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq (reg 1320–25) to divide the region into three administrative units, Lakhnautī, Satgaon and Sonargaon. By the middle of the 14th century Bengal was ruled by independent sultans. Gaur served as a capital for these kings until the 16th century, except for the period from ...