Ancient Places: Benares

Extract from “The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India” by Nundo Lal Dey, Luzac & Co., London, 1927.

Bārāṇasī: Benares situated at the junction of the rivers Barṇâ and Asi, from which the name of the town has been derived (Vâmana P., ch. III). It was formerly situated at the confluence of the Ganges and the Gumti (Mbh., Anuśâsana ch. 30). It was the capital of Kâśi (Râmâyaṇa Uttara, ch. 48). At the time of Buddha, the kingdom of Kâśi formed a part of the kingdom of Kośala.

According to James Prinsep, Benares or Kâśi was founded by Kâśa or Kâśirâja, a descendant of the Pururavas, king of Pratishṭhâna. Kâśirâja’s grandson was Dhanvantari; Dhanvantari’s grandson was Divodâsa, in whose reign Buddhism superseded Śiva-worship at Benares, though it appears that the Buddhist religion was again superseded by Saivism after a short period. In 1027, Benares became part of Gauḍa, then governed by Mahîpâla, and Buddhism was again introduced in his reign or in the reign of his successors Sthirapâla and Vasantapâla. Benares was wrested from the Pâla kings by Chandra Deva (1072—1096) and annexed to the kingdom of Kanauj. Towards the close of the twelfth century, Benares was conquered by Muhammad Ghuri who defeated Jaya Chand of Kanauj (James Prinsep’s Benares Illustrated, Introduction, p. 8; Vâyu P., Uttara, ch. 80).

In the seventh century it was visited by the celebrated Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsiang. He has thus described the city and its presiding god Viśveśvara, one of the twelve Great Liṅgas of Mahâdeva:

“In the capital there are twenty Deva temples, the towers and halls of which are of sculptured stone and carved wood. The foliage of trees combines to shade (the sites), whilst pure streams of water encircle them. The statue of Deva Maheśvara, made of teou-shih (brass), is somewhat less than 100 feet high. Its appearance is grave and majestic, and appears as though really living.”

The Padma P. (Uttara, ch. 67) mentions the names of Viśveśvara, Bindumâdhava, Maṇikarṇikâ, and Jñânavâpî in Kâśi (Benares). The present Viśveśvara, which is a mere Liṅga, dates its existence since the original image of the god, described by Hiuen Tsiang, was destroyed by the iconoclast Aurangzebe and thrown into the Jñânavâpî, a well situated behind the present temple. There can be no doubt that Benares was again converted into a Buddhist city by the Pâla Râjâs of Bengal, and Śiva-worship was not restored till its annexation in the eleventh century by the kings of Kanauj, who were staunch believers in the Pauranic creed. The shrines of Âdi-Viśveśvara, Veṇimâdhava, and the Bakarya-kuṇda were built on the sites of Buddhist temples with materials taken from those temples.

The temple of Âdi-Keśava is one of the oldest temples in Benares: it is mentioned in the Prabodha-Chandrodaya Nâṭaka (Act IV) written by Krishṇa Miśhra in the eleventh century A.D. The names of Mahâdeva Tilabhâṇḍeśvara and Daśâśvamedheśvara are also mentioned in the Śiva Puraṇa (Pt. 1, ch. 39). The Maṇikarṇikâ is the most sacred of all cremation ghats in India, and it is associated with the closing scenes of the life of Raja Hariśchandra of Ayodhyâ, who became slave to a Chaṇḍâla for paying off his promised debt (Kshemeśvara’s Chaṇḍ-kauśika; Mârkaṇḍeya P. ch VIII).

The old fort of Benares which was used by the Pâla Râjâs of Bengal and the Rathore kings of Kanauj, was situated above the Râj-ghâṭ at the confluence of the Barṇâ and the Ganges (Bholanath Chunder’s Travels of a Hindoo, vol. I). Benares is one of the Pîṭhas where Satî’s left hand is said to have fallen, and is now represented by the goddess Annapûrṇâ, but the Tantrachūḍāmaṇi mentions the name of the goddess as Viśâlâkshî.

There were two Brahmanical Universities in ancient India, one at Benares and the other at Takshaśilâ (Taxila) in the Punjab. For the observatory at Benares and the names of the instruments with sketches, see Hooker’s Himalayan Journals, Vol. 1, p. 67).

By James Prinsep (British Library [1]) [Public domain], <a href=

Benares is said to be the birth-place of Kaśyapa Buddha, but Fa Hian says that he was born at Too-wei, which has been identified by General Cunningham with Tadwa of Tandwa (Legge’s Fa Hian, ch xxi; Arch. S. Rep., XI), nine miles to the west of Śrâvasti. Kaśyapa died at Gurupâda hill. But according to Aṭṭhakathâ of Buddhaghosha, Kaśyapa (Kassapa) was born in Benares and died at Mrigadâva or modern Sarnâth (JASB., 1838, p. 796.) In the Yuvañjaya-Jâtaka (Jâtakas IV, 75), the ancient names of Benares are said to have been Surandhana, Sudarśana, Brahmavarddhana, Pushpavatî, and Ramya.


Featured image, courtesy Harini Calamur. Reproduced with Permission.


Extract | Architecture & Acoustics of the Gol Gumbaz

The Gol Gumbaz

This is an extract from the book, “Bijapur: The Old Capital of the Adil Shahi Kings” by Henry Cousens, published for the Archaeological Survey of Western India. This book was published in 1889. The entire book is available as a free download from, here in various formats. The text has been presented as is, from the book. Other open-source references have been added to aid understanding of concepts used in the extract.

4082: Gol Gumbaz
Gol Gumbaz, Tomb of Ali Adil Shah I, Bijapur, KA, India

By far the largest and most conspicuous building in Bijapur is the mausoleum of Muhammad, (or Mahmud as he is sometimes called) Adil Shah.

Muhammad Adil Shah of Bijapur
Portrait of MUHAMMAD ADIL SHAH (1627-56) of Bijapur. British Museum. See page for author [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the time of the “Merry Monarch” Bijapur attained its zenith of architectural greatness. Luxury held her court within its walls, and the Sultan and his nobles worshipped at her shrine. One of the first concerns of the king on ascending the masnad was to build his own tomb, and to set about it at once, so that there might be a chance of completing it before he died. In this there was naturally great rivalry, for each monarch wished to leave such a tomb behind him as would eclipse those of his predecessors, leave no room for improvement to his successors, and so single out his name conspicuously from them all. And Muhammad certainly succeeded in doing this in a manner beyond anything attempted before or after him. Ibrahim II., his father, had just been buried in his own tomb the like of which was not to be found anywhere in the Dekhan. With its lavish abundance of decoration, its slender and graceful minarets, its exquisite proportions, and surroundings of lovely gardens, it made his father’s simple tomb sink into insignificance and become a hovel beside it. Here was a puzzle for this ‘Old King Cole.’ How was he to surpass it ? In this last work the architects and builders had done their very best, they could do no more. The only thing left to him then was to substitute quantity for quality. If he could not surpass the delicate chiselling and lacelike balustrades of the Ibrahim Rauza [Wiki | Image], he would, at least, build such a tomb as would, by its immense size, dwarf this and every other building in the city, a tomb that would arrest the eye from every quarter for miles around, and carry with it the name of Muhammad, the great Sultan Muhammad

The general appearance of the building is that of a great cube, surmounted by a huge hemispherical dome, with an octagonal tower at each of its four corners, these being crowned by smaller domes. The only prominent feature on the faces of the building is the great deep overhanging cornice which, at a high level, runs round all four sides. The doorways, small lancet windows, and surface decoration by no means assert themselves, and from a short distance off are hardly noticed on the bare looking walls. The monotony of this, however, is broken by the towers which are riddled with windows from base to summit — seven in each of the seven storeys into which the tower is divided. The crest of the walls, above the cornice, is crenellated. The diameter of the dome is rather less than the breadth of the building. A winding staircase ascends in each of the corners of the building, just where the towers abut on to it, and, communicating with each storey of the tower, at last leads out on to the flat roof, between the corners and the dome. Passages lead from the roof, through the thickness of the dome, into the whispering gallery round the interior of the same.

4206: Whispering Gallery
The Whispering Gallery – Gol Gumbaz

The dome is practically a hemisphere of 124 ft. 5 in. interior diameter. The thickness of the same at the springing is 10 feet, whilst near the crown it is 9 feet. Thus the total external diameter at the springing is 144 feet. The curves of the surface are nowhere perfect so that the measurements taken across different diameters vary several inches. The great compartment below, which is covered by the dome, is 135 ft. 5 in. square at the floor level, and this gives an area of 18,337.67 sq. ft., from which if we take 228.32 sq. ft. for the projecting angles of the piers carrying the cross arches, which stand out from the walls into the floor, two on each face, we get a total covered area, uninterrupted by supports of any kind, of 18,109.35. sq. ft. This is the largest space covered by a single dome in the world, the next largest being that of the Pantheon at Rome of 15,833 sq. ft.

The total exterior height of the building above the platform on which it stands is 198 ft. 6 in. exclusive of the wooden pole at the top. But this, when it held the gilt finial, formed part of the building and another 8 feet must be allowed for it and this would give an extreme height of 206 ft. 6 in. The interior height from the level of the floor around the tomb platform to the top of the dome is 178 ft. The drop from the gallery to the floor below is 109 ft. 6 in.

In this colossal mausoleum we have the system of the pendentives, used with such effect throughout the Bijapur buildings, displayed to its greatest advantage.

Pendentive and Dome
Dome on pendentive (marked with yellow). By hu:User:Totya (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Theoretically there is no limit to the size of the building that could be raised and covered in on these principles. But, with the material the Bijapur builders had, it is very doubtful whether they could have erected a larger building without great risk of accidents. Here they had no trouble with their foundations for they had selected a spot where the solid rock comes to the surface, and the whole of the foundations are planted upon it. One of the greatest troubles and risks of subsequent unequal settling, that the builders of great and heavy works have to contend with, did not exist here.

“In a spherical roof intersected with groined compartments, the term pendentives was applied to the surfaces included between such compartments. The same term is applied to the surfaces included in the angles formed by a groined vaulting at its spring.” It is in the latter sense that it is used in the Bijapur buildings. The pendentives are thus a result of cross arching or groining.

Construction Pattern of the Gol Gumbaz
Construction Pattern of the Gol Gumbaz, from “Bijapur: The Old Capital of the Adil Shahi Kings” by Henry Cousens

The accompanying diagram explains the arrangement. ABCD is the square room to be covered in. Points are taken in the walls at E, F, G, H, K, L, M, and N so that they form the corners of an octagon. At these points buttresses or piers are built up the walls to carry arches. The latter are then thrown across from one pier to an alternate pier so that the arches thus constructed form in plan two intersecting squares EGKM and FHLN, and the crowns of all the arches fall upon a circle inscribed within these squares, and carry the dome which may be as small in internal diameter as this circle. It will thus be seen that the dome rests directly upon the crowns of the arches, which are always pointed, and the former being a solid mass of concrete, like a shell with no loose voussoirs, it rests as a dead weight upon the crowns of the arches conveying no outward thrust to them. The lines joining the intersections and points of the arches and the corners of the outer square, cut up the space between the circle and these corners into a number of concave spherical triangles. These are the pendentives.

4227: Aerial View
The angle formed by NAE, as shown in the above diagram. (lower middle, in the image)

On the great raised platform in the centre of the buildings under the dome are the duplicate tombs of the grandson of Sultan Muhammad, his younger wife Arus Bibi, the Sultan himself, his favourite mistress Rhumba, his daughter, and his older wife, in this order from east to west. The real tombs, where the bodies lie, are in the vaults immediately below these, the entrance to which is by a staircase under the western entrance. Over Muhammad’s tomb is erected a wooden canopy.

Bijapur Sultante Map
Bijapur Sultante Map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most remarkable feature about this tomb is its whispering gallery. This, as mentioned before, runs round the interior of the dome on a level with its springing, and hangs out from the walls into the building. It is about 11 feet wide, the dome itself forming the back wall of the same. On entering the building one is struck with the loud echoes that fill the place in answer to his footfall; but these sounds are much intensified on entering the gallery. One pair of feet is enough to awaken the echoes of the tread of a regiment; strange eerie sounds, mocking whispers,, and uncanny noises emanate from the walls around. Loud laughter is answered by a score of fiends. The slightest whisper is heard from side to side; and a conversation can be most easily carried on across the full diameter of the dome in the lowest undertone. A single loud clap is echoed over ten times distinctly.

Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound, By Trevor Cox Google Books

Instances of multiple echoes, such as this, are the Pantheon, the tomb of Metella, the wife of Crassus, which is said to have repeated a whole verse of the Æneid as many as eight times, and the whispering gallery of St. Paul’s. It is not at all likely, as some suppose, that the architect of this building had the production of a good echo in view when he constructed the dome, for it is no more than a duplicate of many a dome in Bijapur, on a much larger scale, with nothing extra, about it in any way. The echo was, no doubt, a purely natural result of the size of the dome. In the smaller domes we get what is called resonance, their diameters not being sufficiently great to allow of a distinct echo. It requires rather more than 65 feet between a person and the reflecting surface so that the sound on return may reach his ear immediately upon the dying out of the original sound and so create the impression of a second sound — an echo. If a greater distance intervenes the echo is more distinct as more time separates the original sound from the reflected sound. If the distance is less no distinct echo results, as the original and reflected sounds overlap and produce a confused sound or resonance.

Living Science Physics 9, By Dhiren M Joshi Google Books

From the roof of the tomb, surrounding the dome, a most extensive view of the whole city is obtained. To the south-west is the Jama Masjid conspicuous among its surrounding buildings; more to the west may be seen Mustafa Khan’s mosque, the Asar Mahal with its great open front, and the many buildings in the citadel, most prominent among which is the Anand Mahal. Directly west is, first, the unfinished mausoleum of Ali (II.) Adil Shah with its rows of skeleton arches, then the lofty Haidar Burj with the old Dekhani Idgah beside it. Away beyond the walls are the domes and minarsof the Ibrahim Rauza, and the white dome of the Amin Dargah with the Serai (Jail) and scores of surrounding buildings. Out to the east is the unfinished tomb of Jehan Begam and the tomb of Ain-ul-Mulk. Over the south doorway below, and inside, there is a large boldly cut inscription in three compartments. Each of these three sections is a complete sentence in itself, and each, on computing the values of the Persian letters, gives the date A. H. 1067 (A. D. 1656), the date of Muhammad’s death. These sentences are : —

“The end of Muhammad has become laudable.” “Muhammad Sultan whose abode is in paradise.” “The abode of peace became Muhammad Shah.”

The portion added to the back or north side of the building is said to have been intended to afford a resting place for Jehan Begam the Queen of Muhammad Shah, but whatever it was built for, it was never finished and never occupied. An inspection of the masonry shows that it was added after the main building was erected. In building the walls of the Gol Gumbaz the builders appear to have first erected four great arches and then to have walled up their open spaces, so that an addition such as the above could have been easily added at any subsequent time, and the filling in under one of the great arches knocked out, to give access to it, without impairing the building. Below it is a vault corresponding in plan to the upper chamber, which goes far to show it was intended for a tomb.

Standing out before the Gol Gumbaz on its south side is the great gateway over which was the Nagarkhana, where the music was played at stated times. It appears never to have been finished as its [minars] were never carried up beyond the roof.

On the west, and standing on the edge of the platform, is the well proportioned mosque attached to the tomb, but which has, unfortunately, been converted into a travellers’ bangla by unsightly cross walls, doors, windows, and whitewash. It is an elegant building with a rich, deep cornice, and slender well-proportioned minarets. The stairways leading to the roof, as in most of the Bijapur mosques, are in the thickness of the end walls. In this they differ very much from the Ahmadabad buildings where the stair is almost invariably a spiral passage winding up through the minarets. Two adjuncts were necessary to every Muhammadan tomb, namely, a mosque and a tank. Here we find two tanks, one before the main entrance to the tomb and another between the latter and the mosque. The general style, finish, and proportions of this mosque show clearly that it was not due to the want of cunning artisans that the Gol Gumbaz was built so plainly and covered with plaster, instead of being decorated with a profusion of chiselled stone-work. Moreover there are parts about the great tomb itself, the general cornice and the cornices of the little [minars] on the top, which indicate the presence of skilled workmen in stone. Its severity of outline and decoration was thus designedly so, and was the outcome of an ambition to overshadow all previous work by simple mass, which has resulted almost in clumsiness.

Extracts | The Zend-Avesta; Or The Scripture of the Parsis

This is an extract from “Essays on The Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsis” written by Martin Haug in 1878. Download the full book from [Link – PDF – 20MB]

The Zend-Avesta; Or The Scripture of the Parsis

In this Essay it is intended to give a brief statement of the contents of the whole Zend-Avesta, together with translations of some important or interesting passages contained therein, which will enable the reader to form some judgment of the true character of the sacred books of the Parsis. After some preliminary remarks about the name, extent, and preservation of the sacred books, the separate parts of the present Parsi scriptures will be described in detail, and finally, an attempt will be made to give a short, critical, and historical sketch of this religious literature.

I – The Name of the Parsi Scriptures

The sacred writings of the Parsis have usually been called Zend-Avesta by Europeans, but this is, without doubt, an inversion of the proper order of the words, as the Pahlavi books always style them 1 avistâk va zand (Avesta and Zend), and this order is confirmed by the traditional, as well as the critical and historical, explanation of both terms. In the opinion of the present Parsi priests, Avesta means the original text of the sacred books, and Zend denotes the Pahlavi translation. This view is correct to a great extent, as many passages may be quoted from the Pahlavi books in which Zend means simply “translation,” or “commentary;” thus the old Farhang-i-oîm khadûk commences (in the old manuscripts) with the words: Madam barâ-shinâkhtano-i vâj va mârîkâno-i Avistâk aîghash Zand maman va chîgûn, “on fully understanding the words and phrases of the Avesta, that is, the nature and quality (lit. the what and the how) of its Zend.” But it is probable that the term Zend was originally applied to commentaries written in the same language as the Avesta, for in the Pahlavi translation of the Yasna, when the scriptures are mentioned, both terms, Avistâk va Zand, are used,2 as if of equal authority, which would have been an instance of gross self-conceit on the part of the translator, if he meant his own translation by the term Zend. From this use of the denomination Avesta and Zend by the Pahlavi translators, we are fully entitled to conclude that the Zend they mentioned was a commentary on the Avesta already existing before they undertook their translation; and as they considered it sacred, this Zend was probably in the same language as the original Avesta. There are many traces, in the Avesta quotations and other phrases of the Pahlavi translations, of much of this old Zend having been replaced by the new Zend of the Pahlavi translators; but there are also traces of a good deal of it remaining incorporated in the present Avesta text, as will be pointed out from time to time in the translations which follow. The term Avesta and Zend, or Zend-Avesta, cannot be considered, therefore, as wholly inappropriate when applied to the Parsi scriptures in their original language, although the word Zend is improperly used when applied to that language itself, as it is much more commonly employed as a name for Pahlavi commentaries.

From the above remarks, it will be seen that the term Avesta was originally confined to the sacred texts ascribed to Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples; but in the course of time this term has been gradually extended to all later explanations of those texts written in the same language, till at the present time it includes all writings in that language, whatever their age. All these writings, having become unintelligible to the majority of the Zoroastrians, came to be regarded as equally sacred.

The word Avesta does not occur in the sacred texts themselves with the meaning now attached to it, and it must not be confounded with the Sasanian apistân, engraved on gems in the phrase apistân val yazdân, as this phrase is also found in the Pahlavi texts, with the meaning of “prayers to God,” whereas the Pahlavi apistâk, or avistâk (Avesta), is a distinct word, never used in that sense, which, indeed, would be inapplicable to nine-tenths of the Avesta. So far as the form of the Pahlavi avistâk is concerned, it might be best traced to ava + stâ, in the sense of “what is established,” or “text,” as was proposed by M. J. Müller in 1839; but such a meaning, though it might be fairly applicable to most of the Avesta now extant, would hardly describe the very miscellaneous contents of the Nasks which have been lost, and which are all said to have had both Avesta and Zend. A more satisfactory meaning can be obtained by tracing avistâk to â + vista (p. p. of vid, “to know”), with the meaning “what is known,” or “knowledge,”3; corresponding nearly with veda, the name of the sacred scriptures of the Brahmans. It may be objected to this etymology that the first syllable of avistâk is written like ap, and an Avesta v does not usually change into a Pahlavi p; this is only true, however, when the p would be initial; in other cases, such as vi = Pahl. apî, the change is common.

With regard to the term Zend, we see that its application varied at different times. Originally it meant the commentaries made by the successors of Zarathushtra upon the sacred writings of the prophet and his immediate disciples. These commentaries must have been written in nearly the same language as the original text, and as that language gradually became unintelligible to all but the priests, the commentaries were regarded as a part of the text, and a new explanation, or Zend, was required. This new Zend was furnished by the most learned priests of the Sasanian period, in the shape of a translation into Pahlavi, the vernacular language of Persia in those days; and in later times the term Zend has been confined to this translation.

The word Zend may be traced in âzaiñtîsh (Yas. lvi 3, 3 Sp.) and is to be referred to the root zan, “to know,” Sans. jnâ, Gr. γνω, Lat. gno (in agnosco and cognosco), so that it has the meaning of “knowledge, science.” What passages in the present Avesta may be supposed to be remnants of the old Zend will be pointed out whenever they occur in the translations we propose to give further on.

The term Pâzand, which is met with frequently in connection with Avesta and Zend, denotes a further explanation of the Zend, and is probably a corruption of paiti-zañti, which must have meant “re-explanation;” this word does actually occur (Tas. lix. 2 Sp.), but with a more general meaning. Some passages in the present Avesta will be pointed out, in the translations further on, which may be supposed to represent an old Pâzand in the Avesta language; but at present the term Pâzand (as has been already shown in the second Essay) is applied only to purely Iranian versions of Pahlavi texts, whether written in the Avesta or Persian characters, and to such parts of Pahlavi texts as are not Huzvârish.


  1. Only one exception has been noticed in many hundred occurrences of the phrase.
  2. See Yasna, xxx.1, xxxi.x, where the Avesta and Zend of both sayings, or both blessings, are specified in the Pahlavi translation. Neryosangh generally renders the word Zend by artha, “meaning” in his Sanskrit translation of Yasna
  3. More literally, “what is announced,” or “declaration;” approaching the meaning of “revelation.”

Ancient Places: Bundelkhand & Mahoba

Extract from “The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India” by Nundo Lal Dey, Luzac & Co., London, 1927.


The ancient name of Bundelkhand, the kingdom of the Chandrātreyas or the Chandels. It’s capitals were Mahoba and Kharjurāha (Ep. Ind., vol. I, p. 218). Kāliñjara was the capital of the Chandels after it had been conquered by Yasovarman. The name was corrupted to Jajāhuti (Alberuni’s India, vol. 1 p. 202) and Jajhoti (Cunnigham’s Anc. Geo., p. 481)


Mahoba in Bundelkhand. The whole Bundelkhand was anciently called Mahoba from this town. It was the capital of the Chandel Kingdom which is universally said to have been founded by Chanda Varman who was born in Samvat 225; he built 85 temples and erected the fort of Kāliñjara. The Chandel kingdom was bound on the west by the Dhasan river, on the east by the Vindhya mountain, on the north by the Yamuna, and on the south by the source of the Kiyan or Kane river. It appears from the inscriptions that the Chandel kings from Nannuka Deva, the founder of the dynasty, to Kirat Singh reigned from 800 A.D. to the middle of the sixteenth century. It was in the reign of Kîrtti Varma Deva, the twelfth king from Nannuka, who reigned from 1063 to 1097 A.D., that the Prabodha Chandrodaya Nātaka was composed by Krishna Miśra (Arch. S. Rep., vol XXI, p. 80). The town stands on the side of the Madan Sāgar lake, which was excavated in the twelfth century. The Kirat lake is of the eleventh century.

Featured image taken near Panna, in the Bundelkhand region.

Shivaji, London Gazette, 1672

We found this interesting mention of Sevagée (Shivaji) in the London Gazette of 1762. It mentions Shivaji seeking tributes from Surat, and follows up with the implications on Mumbai (Bombay).

The original text is available here.



The London Gazette.

Published by Authority.

From Sunday February 17. to Thursday February 20. 1672

Extract of a letter written from Aleppo;

November 19. 1672.

TWo days since we received Letters from India, written by the English President residing in Suratte, who acquaints us with the daily fears that have there, from Sevagée the Rebel, who having beaten the Mogul in several Battels, remains almost Master of that Countrey, and takes the boldness to write to all European Ministers in Suratte, that if they refuse to send him such and such immediate presents of Money (which as he puts them would amount to vast sums) by way of Contribution, he will return and ruine that City. That he exacts the like from the Inhabitants, who certainly would comply with his Demands, but that the Officers of the Mogul, being there hinder them. Which puts them into an extream Straight, and causes others daily to convey away their richesse; many also embarking and transporting themselves into other parts, to avoid the storm they fear will fall upon them.

‘Tis probable that the Island of Bombay, belonging to the English, will reap no smal benefit by these Broyles; to which place many Bannians flock with their Families and Estates. ‘Tis reported that that Island is now made one of the richest and pleasantest places in all India. ‘Tis said, they want nothing but some industrious English hands, and that it is intended to engage what numbers may be, to come and inhabit there with a promise of many considerable advantages, especially that of Trade in all Asia, and to Africa, as far as the Cape of Good Hope, and to the Gulfe of Persia, and several islands in those parts.


Ancient Places: Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh

Kannauj, for sure, has to be counted among the cities with the most names. References to this place have started from the Ramayana and have continued since. Of the many names, Kannauj was known as Kanyakubja and by far, this is the most interesting story, of the city’s various names.

According to the Valmiki Ramayan, there was once a great king by the name of Kuśa and was married to the princess of Berar (modern Vidarbha). Together, they had four sons — Kuśhanābha, Kuśāmbha, Asūrtaraja, and Vasu. Each of these sons founded their own cities and helped protect the kingdom. The cities they built were:

  1. Kuśhanābha built Kaushambī (Possibly, Kosambi, (Prayag) Allahabad)
  2. Kuśāmbha built Mahodaya (Kannauj)
  3. Asūrtaraja built Dharmāranya, (Very close to Bodh Gaya, Bihar) and
  4. Vasu built Girivraja (Rajgir, Bihar)

Of these four places, however, our story is about Mahodaya, the city built by Kuśāmbha (the second one). In this grand city, Kuśāmbha sired a hundred daughters, all of them amazingly beautiful, with the help of the celestial damsel, Ghritāchi.

Much later, as these hundred young ladies were out in the garden one day, Vāyu, the Wind-God was besotted by them and offered to marry them all, and even offered them eternal life. The girls, notwithstanding that he was, well, God — made haughty remarks and scornfully rejected the proposal outright, invoking their father’s eminence.

Needless to say, Vāyu was enraged and entered their bodies (प्रविश्य सर्व गात्राणि) and disfigured them, turning them all into hunchbacks.

This city, then, came to be called Kanyā-Kubja — “the city of the hunchbacked maidens.”

As Rama Shankar Tripathi has mentioned in his book, History of Kanauj: To the Moslem Conquest, this story has little use from a historical point of view, except that this place has found mention in ancient times.


Kannauj has had many other names.

Gadhipura or Gadhinagaram, was another name, after the a legendary ruler, named Gadhi.

It has been called Kuśasthala, named — either after the kuśa grass (sacred for sacrificial needs), or after the name of the father of the founder of this city, Kuśāmbha.

The renowned geographer, Ptolemy mentions Kannauj as Kangora or Kanogiza (C.140 A.D.)

In the documents of Huen Tsang who traveled to this place in 636AD, gives the original name of this place as Kusumapura (Keu-su-mo-pu-lo)— city of flowers, before it came to be called Kanyā-Kubja. Fa-Hien, who visited Kannauj before Huen Tsang during the fifth century, refers to the city as Kannauj (Ka-nao-yi), which was probably in use by the natives. Harshavardhan or Śilāditya II reigned when Huen Tsang visited Kannauj.

Around 836CE, Mahodaya became the name of the city, while Kanyā-Kubja, was used to refer to the province.

Finally, the British spelled it as Connodge, and post-independence, it reverted to Kannauj, which is the name of the city as well as of the district.

Featured Image: By w:user:Planemad [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Dey, Nundo Lal. The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Mediaeval India. New Delhi: Oriental Reprint; Exclusively Distributed by Munshiram Manoharlal, 1971. Print.
  2. Tripathi, Rama Shankar. History of Kanauj: To the Moslem Conquest. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1964. Print.
  3. Valmiki Ramayana – Baala Kanda – Sarga 32 .” Valmiki Ramayana – Baala Kanda – Sarga 32 . Desiraju Hanumanta Rao, K.M.K.Murthy. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. .
  4. Watters, Thomas. On Yuang Chwan’s Travels in India. Vol. XIV. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1904. Print.
  5. Faxian.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <;.
  6. Xuanzang.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <;.

Ancient Places: Jalandhar, Punjab

Extract from “The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India” by Nundo Lal Dey, Luzac & Co., London, 1927.



Jalandhar, a town near the western bank of the Sutlej in the Punjab; same as Trigartta (Hemakosha). The name is derived from its founder, the Asura Jālandhara, the son of the Ganges by the Ocean (Padma P. Uttara, ch 51). It is the headquarters of the district called Jalandhara Doab or Jālandharapītha lying between the Bias and the Sutlej. It is Kulindrina of Ptolemy; but see Kulinda-deśa.


Garwal including the district of Shaharanpur, north of Delhi (Mahābhārata, Sabhā, ch 26). The entire tract of land lying between the upper portion of the Ganges and the Sutlej was called Kulinda, the Kulindrini of Ptolemy. Cunningham places Kulinda-deśa between the Bias and the tons, including Kilu, the Kuninda of the coins (Cunningham’s Arch. S. Rep., vol XIV). Same as Kalinda-deśa. Accordingl to McCrindle, the region of lofty Mountains, wherein the Vipāśā, the Satadru, the Yamunā, and the Ganges have their sources, was the Kylindrine of Ptolemy (p. 109). The Kulindas lived on the southern slope of the Himalaya from Kulu eastward to Nepal (JRAS., 1908, p. 326)

Featured Image; By Fowler&fowlerOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Source

OpenSource | The Influence of Persian on Old Marāṭhi

(This is a book extract from “Extracts and Documents Relating to Marāṭhā History; Volume 1; Śiva Chhatrapati; Being a translation of Sabhāsad Bakhar with extracts from Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya, with notes, By Surendranath Sen”. This book was published in 1920, and this is an exact reproduction (with some obvious corrections)  of the matter in the book as it appears there.)

The book is available as a free download from here.




(From Mr. V. K. Rajwade’s Māraṭhi Article)

In modern Marāṭhi, Sanskrit words abound as much as in modern Bengali, but in the Marāṭhi of Śivāji’s time there was a preponderence of Persian words, so much so that old Marāṭhi documents are as unintelligible to a non Persian-knowing Marāṭhā, as to a foreigner. Yet in the earliest Marāṭhi writings like Dnāneśvarī or, Parśarāmopdeś, not one word of Persian origin is found. From Śivāji’s time downwards the Marāṭhā writers were striving for eliminating Persian from their writings, and although the movement was crowned with eminent success, Persian has not failed to leave a lasting impression, not only upon the Māraṭhi vocabulary, but also upon its style and syntax.

How far Marāṭhi was influenced by Persian is very interesting to note. Mr. V. K. Rajwade says that out of 91 words in a letter written by Diānat Rāv, a Brahman minister in the service of the Bijāpur Government, thirty were purely Persian and out of the rest all except three or four were translation of Persian words or terms. Even अखंडित लक्ष्मी प्रसन्न and परोपकारमूर्ति in the address of the letter are nothing but a literal translation of Dāmdaulathun and Mushfikmihrbān. The word सेवक so often found in Marāṭhi letters, is also, according to Mr. Rajwade, an imitation of Persian bandā — for such use is not found in the few Sanskrit and pre-Muhammadan Marāṭhi letters that have come down to us. It may be objected,—says Mr. Rajwade—that Diānat Rāv was an officer of a Muhammadan state and the prevalence of Persian in his letters, does not prove that other Marāṭhās also used so many Persian or Persianised words in their everyday language. In answer to this possible objection Mr. Rajwade points out that in a letter of Śivāji himself no less than 31 Persian words have been used and some of them more than once. The following figures collected by Mr. Rajwade is worth noticing

Date of letters Persian Word Marāṭhi Total Percentage of Marāṭhi words
1628 202 34 236 14.4
1677 51 84 135 62.2
1728 8 119 127 96.3

Nor was this influence confined to state papers and diplomatic correspondence alone. Although the general literature and poetry were better protected against the foreign invasion,they had not escaped altogether unscathed. And to illustrate how the poetic language also had been affected by Persian influence Mr. Rajwade quotes an extract from Eknāth’s writings. We quote here only half a dozen verses from the above mentioned extract and a cursory glance will convince the reader how far Persian had replaced words of purely Sanskrit origin—

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Let us now see how far Marāṭhi syntax and style have been influenced by Persian. In Marāṭhi documents and state papers, we come across, at every step, expressions likes किल्ले A, मौजे B, and परगणे C; Mr. Rajwade points out that in pure Marāṭhi they should be किल्ला A, मौजा B and परगणा C, but the form in use is the Persian form Killā-i A, Maujā-i B and Parganā-i C. Some common expressions like शफथ खाणे (to swear) and हाक मारणे (to call out) are nothing but literal translation of Persian expressions like Kasam Khurdan and Bang jadan. Instances of this kind could be multiplied, it will suffice here if we simply quote from Rajwade some Persian adjectives and adverbs now in common use in Marāṭhi

  1. हर (each), हर रोज
  2. बे (without), बेदील (disheartened)
  3. देखील, with, even
  4. ते (to) चोळीस ते पान्नास
  5. गैर (wrong) गैर राहा etc

A list of proper names of Persian extraction, once so common in Mahārāshṭra will also be of interest to us—

(1) Sultān Rāv, (2) Jān Rāv, (3) Bājī Rāv, (4) Rustum Rāv,(5) Śāhājī Rāv, (6) Śāhu, (7) Phirangojī Rāv, (8) Diānat Rāv,(9) Sarje Rāv, (10) Haibat Rāv, (11) Sarfojī Rāv, (12) Gul Bāī,(13) Daryājī Rāv, etc. And surnames like Chiṭṇīs Faḍnīs,Potnīs, Mushrif have also been borrowed from Persian. We may also note that for such sobriquets as अबा, बाब, अबु, अमा, मामा, अमी, मामी, नाना, नानी, काका, काकी, etc., Marāṭhi is indebted to Persian.

How far Marāṭhi writers have been successful in shaking off the influence of Persian may be seen also from a comparative study of the three bakhars presented here to our readers. In style as well as in language, Sabhāsad’s work gives evidence of the Persian influence, and the style and language of Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya as conclusively show that their work belonged to a period when Persian words had gradually yielded place to words of Sanskrit extraction

Shivaji’s Remonstrance Against the Imposition of The Jaziya

This is the full text of the letter written by Chh. Shivaji to Aurangzeb, in 1657, regarding the imposition of Jaziya (Jizya) — a religiously required per capita tax levied by a Muslim state on non-Muslim subjects permanently residing in Muslim lands under Islamic law. [Wikipedia]. The letter is polite, but assertive in its tone and reveals Shivaji’s philosophy and reasoning.

The letter is an extract from “History of Aurangzib: Based on Persian Resources”, Volume III – North India: 1658-1681, by Sir Jadunath Sarkar. The book is available for online viewing at the Panjab Digital Library (free sign-up required). We have reproduced the letter as it appears in the book. Any errors or peculiarities of language belong to the author.

If you find something amiss, please let us know through the comments.

[Begin Reproduction]

To the Emperor Alamgir —

This firm and constant well-wisher Shivaji, after rendering thanks for the grace of God and the favours of the Emperor, — which are clearer than the Sun, — begs to inform your Majesty that, although this well-wisher was led by his adverse Fate to come away from your august Presence without taking leave, yet he is ever ready to perform to the fullest extent possible and proper, everything that duty as a servant and gratitude demand of him.

My excellent services and devotion to the welfare of the State are fully known to the princes, Khans, Amirs, Rajas and rais of India, to the rulers of Persia, Central Asia, Turkey and Syria, to the inhabitants of the seven climes of the globe, and to wayfarers on land and sea; and very likely their light has flashed on your Majesty’s capacious mind. So with a view to rendering good service and earning the imperial favour, I submit the following words in a spirit of devotion to the public welfare :—

It has recently come to my ears that, on the ground of the war with me having exhausted your wealth and emptied the imperial treasury, your Majesty has ordered that money under the name of jaziya should be collected from the Hindus and the imperial needs supplied with it. May it please your Majesty! That architect of the fabric of empire. [Jala-ud-din] Akbar Padishah reigned with full power for 52 [lunar] years. He adopted the admirable policy of universal harmony (sulh-i-kul) in relation to all the various sects, such as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Dadu’s followers1, sky-worshippers (falakia2), malakias3, materialists (ansaria), atheists (daharia), Brahman and Jain priests. The aim of his liberal heart was to cherish and protect all the people. So, he became famous under the title of the World’s spiritual guide’ (Jagat Guru).

Next, the Emperor Nur-ud-din Jahangir for 22 years spread his gracious shade on the head of the world and its dwellers, gave his heart to his friends and his hand to his work, and gained his desires. The Emperor Shah Jahan for 32 years cast his blessed shade on the head of the world and gathered the fruit of eternal life, — which is only another name for goodness and fair fame, — as the result of his happy time on earth.


He who lives with a good name gains everlasting wealth,
Because after his death, the recital of his good deeds keeps his name alive.

Through the auspicious effect of this sublime disposition, wherever he [Akbar] bent the glance of his august wish, Victory and Success advanced to welcome him on the way. In his reign many kingdoms and forts were conquered. The state and power of these emperors can be easily understood from the fact that Alamgir Padishah has failed and become bewildered in the attempt to merely follow their political system. They, too, had the power of levying the jaziya; but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts, as they considered all men, high and low, created by God, to be [living] examples of the nature of diverse creeds and temperaments. Their kindness and benevolence endure on the pages of Time as their memorial, and so prayer and praise for these (three) pure souls will dwell for ever in the hearts and tongues of mankind, among both great and small. Prosperity is the fruit of one’s intentions. Therefore, their wealth and good fortune continued to increase, as God’s creatures reposed in the cradle of peace and safety [in their reigns] and their undertakings succeeded.

But in your Majesty’s reign, many of the forts and provinces have gone out of your possession, and the rest will soon do so, too, because there will be no slackness on my part in ruining and devastating them. Your peasants are down-trodden; the yield of every village has declined, in the place of one lakh (of Rupees) only one thousand, and in the place of a thousand only ten are collected, and that too with difficulty. When Poverty and Beggary have made their homes in the palaces of the Emperor and the Princes, the condition of the grandees and officers can be easily imagined. It is a reign in which the army is in a ferment, the merchants complain; the Muslims cry, the Hindus are grilled; most men lack bread at night, and in the day-time inflame their own cheeks by slapping them [in anguish]. How can the royal spirit permit you to add the hardship of the jaziya to this grievous state of things? The infamy will quickly spread from west to east and become recorded in books of history that the Emperor of Hindustan, coveting the beggars’ bowls, takes jaziya from Brahmans and Jain, yogis, sannyasis, bairagis, paupers, mendicants, ruined wretches, and the famine-stricken, — that his valour is shown by attacks on the wallets of beggars, — that he dashes down [to the ground] the name and honour of the Timurids!

May it please your Majesty! If you believe in the true Divine Book and Word of God (i.e. the Quran), you will find there [that God is styled] Rabb-ul-alamin, the Lord of all men, and not Rabb-ul-musalmin, the Lord of the Muhammadans only. Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are [diverse pigments] used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines [of His picture of the entire human species]. If it be a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it be a temple, the bell is rung in yearning for Him only. To show bigotry for any man’s creed and practices is equivalent to altering the words of the Holy Book. To draw (new) lines on a picture is to find fault with the painter.


Lay not thy hand in disapproval on anything you see, be it good, be it bad,
To call the handiwork faulty is to find fault with the craftsman.

In strict justice the jaziya is not at all lawful. From the political point of view it can be allowed only if a beautiful woman wearing gold ornaments can pass from one country to another without fear or molestation. [But] in these days even the cities are being plundered, what shall I say of the open country? Apart from its injustice, this imposition of the jaziya is an innovation in India and inexpedient

If you imagine piety to consist in oppressing the people and terrorising the Hindus, you ought first to levy the jaziya from Rana Raj Singh who is the head of the Hindus. Then it will not be so very difficult to collect it from me, as I am at your service. But to oppress ants and flies is far from displaying valour and spirit.

I wonder at the strange fidelity of your officers that they neglect to tell you of the true state of things, but cover a blazing fire with straw! May the sun of your royalty continue to shine above the horizon of greatness!


[R. A. S. MS. 71 ascribes the authorship of this letter to Shivaji, A. S. B. MS, 56 to Shambhuji Orme’s Fragments, p. 252, to Jaswant Singh, and Tod, i. ch, 13 to Maharana Raj Singh, Now, Shambhuji and Jaswant are ruled out by the dates. The internal evidence and autobiographical details of the writer apply to Shivaji and not to Raj Singh R. A. S. MS. adds that the letter was drafted by Nila Prabhu, the Persian Secretary (Parasnis) of Shivaji, In the penultimate paragraph of the letter, Rajah Ram Singh is given for Rana Ram Singh by A. S. B. MS. and Orme but no Jaipur chieftain could have been “the head of the Hindus” I have critically discussed and annotated this letter in Modern Review, January, 1908, pp. 21-23].

[End of Reproduction]


  1. They were known as Dādu panthis (دادو پنتی). A Dādu panthi is “a follower of the religious sect of Dādu, a cotton cleaner of Ahmedabad, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, who endeavoured to establish a sort of monotheistical worship.” (Wilson’s Oriental Langiage Glossary of Terms, p. 117, col. 1).
  2. Shivaji seems to refer to the Parsees under this name. According to Steingass, filk (فلق) means “a fire-worshipper”. If we read the word (فلق) as falaq heaven, the falakia would mean heaven or sun-worshippers. In that sense also the word would apply to Parsees.
  3. The Sect of Malakites

Above notes, from “Asiatic Papers, Dr Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, Page 165″