Gauḍa (city)

  (Redirected from Gaur, West Bengal)

Gauḍa (also known as Gaur, Gour,[1] Lakhnauti, and Jannatabad) is a historic city of Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent,[2] and one of the most prominent capitals in classical and medieval Indian subcontinent located on the border between India and Bangladesh, with most of its ruins on the Indian side and a few structures on the Bangladeshi side. It was once one of the most populous cities in the world. The ruins of this former city now straddle the international border and are divided between the Malda district of West Bengal and Chapai Nawabganj District of Rajshahi Division. The Kotwali Gate, formerly part of the citadel, now marks the border checkpoint between the two countries.

Gauda montage.png
Clockwise from top: Lukachori Gateway, Dakhil Darwaza, Firoz Minar, Qadam Rasool Mosque, Choto Sona Mosque, Mughal Tahakhana, Darasbari Mosque, Gauda pillar, Lattan Mosque, Baro Shona Masjid, Ballal Bati
Gauḍa (city) is located in India
Gauḍa (city)
Location of Gauḍa in Bangladesh
Gauḍa (city) is located in West Bengal
Gauḍa (city)
Location of Gauḍa in India
Gauḍa (city) is located in Bangladesh
Gauḍa (city)
Location of Gauḍa in West Bengal, India
Alternative nameLakhnauti, Jannatabad
LocationMalda district, West Bengal, India
Rajshahi division, Bangladesh
Coordinates24°52′0″N 88°8′0″E / 24.86667°N 88.13333°E / 24.86667; 88.13333Coordinates: 24°52′0″N 88°8′0″E / 24.86667°N 88.13333°E / 24.86667; 88.13333
Length7 1/8 km
Width1 – 2 km
Founded7th century
Abandoned16th century

Gauda was the capital city of Bengal under several kingdoms. The Gauda region was also a province of several pan-Indian empires. During the 7th century, the Gauda Kingdom was founded by King Shashanka, whose reign corresponds with the beginning of the Bengali calendar. The Pala Empire was founded in Gauda during the 8th century. The empire ruled large parts of the northern Indian subcontinent. Gauda became known as Lakhnauti during the Sena dynasty.[3] Gauda gradually became synonymous with Bengal and Bengalis. It was conquered by the Delhi Sultanate in 1204.

For 115 years between 1450 and 1565, Gauda was the capital of the Bengal Sultanate. In 1500, Gauda was the fifth-most populous city in the world, with a population of 200,000.[4][5] The Portuguese left detailed accounts of the city. The Sultans built a citadel, many mosques, a royal palace, canals and bridges. Buildings featured glazed tiles. It became one of the most densely populated cities in the Indian subcontinent. The city thrived until the collapse of the Bengal Sultanate in the 16th-century when the Mughal Empire took control of the region. When the Mughal Emperor Humayun invaded the region, he renamed the city as Jannatabad (heavenly city). Most of the surviving structures in Gauda are from the period of the Bengal Sultanate. The city was sacked by Sher Shah Suri. An outbreak of the plague contributed to the city's downfall. The course of the Ganges River was located near the city. A change in the course of the Ganges caused Gauda to lose its strategic importance. A new Mughal capital developed later in Dhaka.

Gauda was one of the prominent capitals in the history of Bengal and the history of the Indian subcontinent. It was a center of stately medieval architecture. Gauda's ruins were depicted in the artwork of European painters during the 18th and 19th centuries. Colonial officials, such as Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and William Francklin, left detailed surveys of the former Bengali capital.[6]


Kingdom of GaudaEdit

After the fall of the Gupta Empire, western Bengal was ruled by the Gauda Kingdom and eastern Bengal by the Samatata Kingdom. Gauda was founded by Shashanka, one of the pioneering Bengali kings in history.[7] Shashanka's reign falls approximately between 590 and 625. The origin of the Bengali calendar falls within the reign of Shashanka.

Pala EmpireEdit

The Pala Empire

The Pala Empire was founded in Gauda region during the rise of Gopala as king with the approval of an assembly of chieftains. The Pala Emperors carried the title Lord of Gauda. The empire ruled for four centuries and its territory included large parts of northern India. According to historian D. C. Sicar, the term Gauda is an appropriate name for the Pala Empire itself.[8] The Pala period saw the development of the Bengali language, script and other aspects of Bengali culture. Indeed, the term Gaudiya (of Gauda) became synonymous with Bengal and Bengalis.[9]

Sena kingdomEdit

Gauda became known as Lakhnauti during the Sena dynasty. The name was in honour of the Sena ruler Lakhsman Sena.[10]

Delhi SultanateEdit

Lakhnauti was conquered by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate led by Bakhtiar Khilji in 1204. The Delhi Sultanate retained Lakhnauti as the provincial capital of Bengal.[11] Khilji issued gold coins in honour of the Delhi Sultan Muhammad of Ghor, inscribed in Sanskrit with the words Gaudiya Vijaye (On the conquest of Gauda).[12]

Bengal SultanateEdit

Maritime links of the Bengal Sultanate.

Gauda was widely known as Gaur during the Bengal Sultanate. The founder of the sultanate, Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah, was Delhi's governor in Satgaon. Ilyas Shah rebelled and overthrew Gaur's governor Alauddin Ali Shah in 1342. Ilyas Shah united the Bengal region into a separate independent state from Delhi in 1352. Pandua became the first capital of the sultanate. In 1450, Sultan Mahmud Shah of Bengal announced the transfer of Bengal's capital from Pandua to Gaur. The transfer was completed by 1453. Gaur served as the Bengali sultanate's capital for over one hundred years until 1565.

Gaur was one of the most densely populated cities in the Indian subcontinent, with a population rivaling that of Fatehpur Sikri. The city had a citadel, a royal palace and durbar, many mosques, residences for aristocrats and merchants, and bazaars. Portuguese travelers left detailed and extensive accounts of Gaur. The Portuguese compared the affluence of the city with Lisbon. The royal palace was divided into three compartments. A high wall enclosed the palace. A moat surrounded the palace on three sides and was connected to the Ganges, which guarded the western side of the citadel. According to a contemporary Vaishnava poet, Sultan Alauddin Hussain Shah once saw a procession led by Sri Chaitanya on the opposite bank of the river. The first compartment in the north included the durbar. An inscription of Sultan Rukunuddin Barbak Shah mentions a fountain and water channel located halfway from the Dakhil Darwaza gate. The gate still stands today. According to the Portuguese and medieval Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha, the road from the Dakhil Darwaza to the durbar had nine well-guarded gates, of which two can still be identified today. The second compartment was the living quarter of the Sultan which was adorned with glazed tiles of various colors. The third compartment was the harem. Many artifacts have been recovered from the palace grounds, including enameled bricks and Chinese porcelain. In 1521, a Portuguese visitor saw Sultan Nusrat Shah enjoying polo being played on the plains below the citadel.[13] Gaur was the center of regional politics. The deposed Arakanese king Min Saw Mon was granted asylum in Gaur. The Sultan of Bengal dispatched a military expedition from Gaur to achieve the Reconquest of Arakan.

The Portuguese historian Castenhada de Lopez described the houses of Gaur. Most buildings were one storeyed with ornamental floor tiles, courtyards and gardens. There were canals and bridges.[14] Bengal attracted many Eurasian merchants during the Sultanate period and Gaur was a center of trade like other erstwhile Bengali cities, including Pandua, Chittagong, Sonargaon and Satgaon. Bengal also attracted immigrants from North India, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

In the 16th-century, Gaur was occupied by the Mughal emperor Humayun who sought to name it as Jannatabad (heavenly city).[15] The city was looted and plundered during Sher Shah Suri's invasion. After 1565, Sultan Sulaiman Khan Karrani shifted the capital to Tandah. In 1575, Gaur was conquered by a Mughal contingent led by Munim Khan. The Bengal Sultanate ended during the Battle of Rajmahal in 1576.

Mughal periodEdit

The Mughals built several structures in Gaur. The two-storeyed Mughal Tahakhana complex was a resting place for viceroys. The tahkhana in Persian means a building with a cool environment.[16] The name indicates that the complex had an indoor ventilation system to moderate humid temperatures. The complex was also used as a Sufi khanqah.[17] The Lukochori Darwaza (hide and seek gate) was erected on the road that led to the complex. The construction of these structures can be traced to the reign of viceroy Shah Shuja.[18] An outbreak of the plague and a change in the course of the Ganges caused the city to be abandoned. Since then the area has been a heap of ruins in the wilderness and almost overgrown with jungle.[19]


Gauḍa is located at 24°52′N 88°08′E / 24.867°N 88.133°E / 24.867; 88.133. It straddles the Bangladesh-India border.

Historical measurements and statisticsEdit

Part of a foundation inscription in the name of Sultan Yusufshah, 1477 AD, British Museum.[20]

The city in its prime measured 7 1/8 km. from north to south, with a breadth of 1 to 2 km. With suburbs it covered an area of 20 to 30 km²., and in the 16th century the Portuguese historian Faria y Sousa described it as containing 1,200,000 inhabitants. The ramparts of this walled city (which was surrounded by extensive suburbs) still exist; they were works of vast labour, and were on the average about 40 ft (12 m) high, and 180 to 200 ft (61 m) thick at the base. The facing of masonry and the buildings with which they were covered have now disappeared, and the embankments themselves are overgrown with dense jungle. The western side of the city was washed by the Ganges, and within the space enclosed by these embankments and the river stood the city of Gauḍa proper, with the fort containing the palace in its south-west corner. Radiating north, south and east from the city, other embankments are to be traced running through the suburbs and extending in certain directions for 30 or 40 m. Surrounding the palace is an inner embankment of similar construction to that which surrounds the city, and even more overgrown with jungle. A deep moat protects it on the outside. To the north of the outer embankment lies the Sagar Dighi, a great reservoir, 1600 yd. by 800 yd., dating from 1126.

Fergusson in his History of Eastern Architecture thus describes the general architectural style of Gauḍa:

It is neither like that of Delhi nor Jaunpur, nor any other style, but one purely local and not without considerable merit in itself; its principal characteristic being heavy short pillars of stone supporting pointed arches and vaults in brick whereas at Jaunpore, for instance, light pillars carried horizontal architraves and flat ceilings. Owing to the lightness of the small, thin bricks, which were chiefly used in the making of Gauḍa, its buildings have not well withstood the ravages of time and the weather; while much of its enamelled work has been removed for the ornamentation of the surrounding cities of more modern origin. Moreover, the ruins long served as a quarry for the builders of neighboring towns and villages, till in 1900 steps were taken for their preservation by the government. The finest ruin in Gauḍa is that of the Great Golden Mosque, also called Bara Darwaza, or twelve doored (1526). An arched corridor running along the whole front of the original building is the principal portion now standing. There are eleven arches on either side of the corridor and one at each end of it, from which the mosque probably obtained its name. These arches are surmounted by eleven domes in fair preservation; the mosque had originally thirty-three.[21]

Notable structuresEdit

Choto Sona Mosque in 1808

According to Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "The Tantipar mosque (1475–1480) has beautiful moulding in brick, and the Lotan mosque of the same period is unique in retaining its glazed tiles. The citadel, of the Muslim period, was strongly fortified with a rampart and entered through a magnificent gateway called the Dakhil Darwaza (1459–1474). At the south-east corner was a palace, surrounded by a wall of brick 66 ft (20 m) high, of which a part is standing. Nearby were the royal tombs. Within the citadel is the Kadam Rasul mosque (1530), which is still used, and close outside is a tall tower called the Firoz Minar (perhaps signifying tower of victory). There are a number of Muslim buildings on the banks of the Sagar Dighi, including, notably, the tomb of the saint Makhdum Shaikh Akhi Siraj (died 1357), and in the neighbourhood is a burning ghat, traditionally the only one allowed to the use of the Hindus by their Muslim conquerors, and still greatly venerated and frequented by them. Many inscriptions of historical importance have been found in the ruins.."[21]


The Kotwali Gate marks the border between Bangladesh and India.

The Archaeological Survey of India and the Department of Archaeology in Bangladesh are responsible for preserving heritage structures in the area. The Bangladeshi Archaeology Department has carried out several projects in both the Bangladeshi and Indian sides of Gauda.[22]

The Indian archaeological survey is also carrying out excavations of a mound about a kilometre from the Chikha building within the Baisgaji Wall where remains of a palace are turning up. A permanent artefact and photographic exhibition highlighting the major monuments of Gour and the restoration work undertaken by the ASI is being held at the Metcalfe Hall, Kolkata. Among the exhibits are also some fine specimens of brick moulding and glazed tiles from Gour.[citation needed]


Bus and rail transport are available from Kolkata to Malda town. Nearest railway station is Gour Malda railway station. Gauda can be accessed through the Sonamosjid checkpoint on the Bangladesh-India border. The checkpoint is located near the Choto Sona Mosque in Chapai Nawabganj district, Bangladesh.[23]


  1. ^ "  Baynes, T.S.; Smith, W.R., eds. (1880). "Gaur" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 113.
  2. ^ Dineschandra Sircar (1971). Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 119–. ISBN 978-81-208-0690-0. Quote: "Thus Gauda flourished as an important city of Eastern India for a considerable period of time before the establishment of Muslim rule, and pre- Muslim rulers of the country often built new cities named after them in the vicinity of the site..."
  3. ^ Thakur, Harish, K (2013). "Theories of Roma Origins and the Bengal Linkage" (PDF). Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 4: 24. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ D.C. Sircar (1996). Studies in the Political and Administrative Systems in Ancient and Medieval India. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. p. 50. ISBN 978-81-208-1250-5.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Richard M. Eaton (31 July 1996). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. University of California Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-520-20507-9.
  13. ^,_City
  14. ^,_City
  15. ^,_City
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^,_City
  19. ^ Chisholm 1911, pp. 534–535.
  20. ^ British Museum Collection
  21. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 535.
  22. ^,_City
  23. ^


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gaur". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 534–535. endnotes:
    • M. Martin (Buchanan Hamilton), Eastern India, vol. iii. (1831);
    • G. H. Ravenshaw, Gaur (1878);
    • James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture (1876);
    • Reports of the Archaeological Surveyor, Bengal Circle (1900–1904).

External linksEdit