History of Peshawar

The history of Peshawar refers to the history of the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Being among the most ancient cities of the region, Peshawar has for centuries been a center of trade between West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia.

Ancient PeshawarEdit

Peshawar was likely established as a village in the 5th-6th century BC[1] within the cultural sphere of eastern ancient Persia.[1] The region around Peshawar was known as Gandhara in Sanskrit, Hindko the language used by the Buddhist kingdoms which first ruled the area.[2] The Gandhara region surrounding Peshawar found mention in the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta as Vaēkərəta, the seventh most beautiful place on earth created by Ahura Mazda. It was known as the "crown jewel" of Bactria and also held sway over Takshashila (modern Taxila).[3]

The city would later be referred to by several names, including Parashawar as transcribed by Al-Masudi, Poshpura as found in a Kharosthi inscription, and Pskbvr as noted in the ancient Persian Shapur inscription. Popular theory suggests the city's name was Purushapura based on the writing of a 7th-century traveler, but the name Purushapura does not appear in any ancient literary sources.[4] Various theories have been put forth to explain the city's name, based primarily on Sanskrit or Ancient Persian names.

It later became the western capital of Gandhara Mahajanapada, after Pushkalavati.[5][6]

By the 2nd century BCE, Peshawar was a center of learning, as witnessed in the Bakhshali Manuscript, used in the Bakhshali approximation was found nearby.[7]

The region was annexed by the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Later, the region was invaded by Alexander the Great's army. The city passed into the rule of Alexander's successor, Seleucus I Nicator who ceded it to Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire. The inhabitants of Peshawar were mostly Hindu and Buddhist during this period.[citation needed] The fall of the Mauryans provided opportunities to the Indo-Greeks to establish their rule over the region. The Indo-Greek kings combined the Greek and Indian languages and symbols, as seen on their coins, and blended ancient Greek, Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, as seen in the archaeological remains of their cities and in the indications of their support of Buddhism, pointing to a rich fusion of Indian and Hellenistic influences.[8] The diffusion of Indo-Greek culture had consequences which are still felt today, particularly through the influence of Greco-Buddhist art.[9] The Indo-Greeks ultimately disappeared at Peshawar as a political entity around 10 CE following the invasions of the Indo-Scythians, although pockets of Greek populations probably remained for several centuries longer under the subsequent rule of the Indo-Parthians and Kushans.[10]

Kushan PeshawarEdit

The city was then conquered by the Kushan Empire. The Kushan Emperor Kanishka, who ruled from 127 CE, moved the capital from Pushkalavati (present-day Charsadda district, in the Peshawar Valley) to Gandhara (Peshawar city) in the 2nd century CE.[11] Buddhist missionaries arrived at Vedic, and animist Peshawar, seeking counsel with the Kushan rulers. Their teachings were embraced by the Kushans, who converted to Buddhism, assigning the religion with great status in the city. Following this move by the Kushans, Peshawar became a center of Buddhist learning.[12]

The giant Kanishka stupa at Peshawar was built by King Kanishka to house Buddhist relics just outside the present-day Ganj Gate of the old city of Peshawar. The Kanishka stupa was said to be an imposing structure, as one traveled down from the Hindu Kush mountains onto the Gandharan plains. The earliest account of the famous building was documented by Faxian, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, who was also a monk, who visited the structure in 400 AD and described it as being over 40 chang in height (approximately 120 metres (390 ft)) and adorned "with all precious substances". Faxian continued: "Of all the stûpas and temples seen by the travelers, none can compare with this for beauty of form and strength."[citation needed] The stupa was eventually destroyed by lightning, but was repaired several times; it was still in existence at the time of Xuanzang's visit in 634 AD. A jeweled casket containing relics of the Gautama Buddha, and an inscription identifying Kanishka as the donor, existed at the ruined base of this giant stupa — the casket was excavated, by a team supervised by Dr D.B. Spooner in 1909, from a chamber under the very centre of the stupa's base.[13]

Hindu Shahis and Muslim conquestEdit

The Kabul Shahis ruled the Kabul Valley and Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) from the decline of the Buddhist Kushan Empire in the 3rd century to the early 9th century CE.[14] The Shahis are generally split up into two eras: the earlier Buddhist Shahis and the later Hindu Shahis, with the change-over thought to have occurred sometime around 870 CE - after which Hinduism gained primacy in the region.

The kingdom was known as the Kabul Shahan or Ratbelshahan from 565 CE to 670 CE, when the capitals were located in Kapisa and Kabul, and later Udabhandapura, also known as Hund,[15] for its new capital.[16][17][18]

The Hindu Shahis under Jayapala, is known for his struggles in defending his kingdom against the Ghaznavids in the modern-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan region. Jayapala saw a danger in the consolidation of the Ghaznavids and invaded their capital city of Ghazni both in the reign of Sebuktigin and in that of his son Mahmud, which initiated the Muslim Ghaznavid and Hindu Shahi struggles.[19] Sebuk Tigin, however, defeated him, and he was forced to pay an indemnity.[19] Jayapala defaulted on the payment and took to the battlefield once more.[19] Jayapala, however, lost control of the entire region between the Kabul Valley and Indus River.[20]

After the Ghaznavid victory, the Buddhist, Hindu, and Zoroastrian natives began converting to Islam following the early annexation by the Arab Empire from Khurasan (in what is Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and northeastern Iran).[21]

The Amb Hindu Temple complex was built between the 7th and 9th centuries CE during the reign of the Hindu Shahi Empire.[22]

Before Jayapala's struggle began, he had raised a large army of Punjabi Hindus. When Jayapala went to the Punjab region, his army was raised to 100,000 horsemen and an innumerable host of foot soldiers. According to Ferishta:

The two armies having met on the confines of Lumghan, Subooktugeen ascended a hill to view the forces of Jayapala, which appeared in extent like the boundless ocean, and in number like the ants or the locusts of the wilderness. But Subooktugeen considered himself as a wolf about to attack a flock of sheep: calling, therefore, his chiefs together, he encouraged them to glory, and issued to each his commands. His soldiers, though few in number, were divided into squadrons of five hundred men each, which were directed to attack successively, one particular point of the Hindoo line, so that it might continually have to encounter fresh troops.[20]

However, the army was hopeless in battle against the western forces, particularly against the young Mahmud of Ghazni.[20] In the year 1001, soon after Sultan Mahmud came to power and was occupied with the Qarakhanids north of the Hindu Kush, Jayapala attacked Ghazni once more and upon suffering yet another defeat by the powerful Ghaznavid forces, near present-day Peshawar. After the Battle of Peshawar, he committed suicide because his subjects thought he had brought disaster and disgrace to the Shahis.[19][20]

Jayapala was succeeded by his son Anandapala,[19] who along with other succeeding generations of the Shahis took part in various unsuccessful campaigns against the advancing Ghaznavids but were unsuccessful. The Hindu rulers eventually exiled themselves to the Kashmir Siwalik Hills.[20] Mahmud punished the Pashtuns, who had sided with the Hindus, and, as they converted entirely to Islam, the Pashtuns remained loyal to their new allegiance.[23]

Pashtun and Mughal rule (1451–1758)Edit

Peshawar was a northwestern regional center of the Pashtun Lodi Empire which was founded by Bahlul Lodi in 1451 and centered at Delhi. Peshawar was also incorporated into the Mughal domains by the mid of 16th century. The founder of the Mughul dynasty that would conquer South Asia, Babur, who hailed from the area that is currently Uzbekistan, arrived in Peshawar and founded a city called Bagram, where he rebuilt a fort in 1530 AD.

The Pashtun emperor Sher Shah Suri, who founded the Sur Empire centered at Delhi, turned Peshawar's renaissance into a boom when he ran his Delhi-to-Kabul Shahi Road as a northwestern extension of the Grand Trunk Road through the Khyber Pass and Peshawar in the 16th century. Later Babur's grandson, Akbar the Great, recorded the name of the city as Peshawa, meaning "The Place at the Frontier" or "Near Water"[citation needed] and expanded the bazaars and fortifications. The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to the Islamic Sultanate in South Asia, with many settling in the Peshawar region.[24]

Khushal Khattak, the Pashtun warrior poet, was born near Peshawar, and his life was intimately tied to the city. As an advocate for Afghan independence, he was an implacable foe of the Mughal rulers, especially Aurangzeb.[citation needed]

Durrani Peshawar (1747–1823)Edit

In December 1747, Peshawar joined the Pashtun Durrani Empire of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who used the Bala Hissar fort in Peshawar as his royal residence.[25] In 1776, Ahmad Shah's son, Timur Shah Durrani, chose Peshawar as his winter capital.[26] Up to the early 19th century, Peshawar was the winter capital of the Afghan Empire, and the Bala Hissar forn was the royal residence of Afghan kings. Pashtuns from Peshawar participated in the incursions of South Asia during the Durrani Empire. Peshawar remained under Durrani rule till the Sikhs captured Peshawar in March 1823.[24]

Maratha attack (1758-1759)Edit

During the Afghan rule, Peshawar was attacked and captured by the Maratha Empire of western India, which conquered Peshawar on 8 May 1758. A large force of Pashtuns under Ahmad Shah Durrani then re-conquered Peshawar in early 1759.[27]

Sikh conquest (1823–1846)Edit

Until 1823, Peshawar was controlled by Afghanistan, but was invaded by the Sikh Empire of Punjab. The arrival of a party led by British explorer and former agent of the East India Company, William Moorcroft was seen as an advantage, both in dealings with Kabul and for protection against the Sikhs of Lahore. Moorcroft continued to Kabul in the company of Peshawari horses and thence to the Hindu Kush.[28] In 1823, Peshawar was captured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and paid a nominal tribute until it was finally annexed in 1834 by the Sikhs, after which the city fell into steep decline. Many of Peshawar's famous Mosques and gardens were destroyed by the Sikhs at this time. An Italian was appointed by the Sikhs as administrator. Acting on behalf of the Sikhs, Paolo Avitabile, unleashed a reign of fear – his time in Peshawar is known as a time of "gallows and gibbets." The city's famous Mahabat Khan, built in 1630 in the Jeweler's Bazaar, was badly damaged and desecrated by the Sikh conquerors.[21]

The Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh and Gurdwara Bhai Beeba Singh were constructed in the city by Hari Singh Nalwa to accommodate the influx of Sikh immigrants from the Punjab.[29] While the city's Sikh population drastically declined after the partition of India, Peshawar's Sikh community has re-established itself, bolstered by Sikh refugees and by approximately 4,000 refugees from the Tribal Areas;[30] in 2008, the largest Sikh population in Pakistan was located in Peshawar.[31] Sikhs in Peshawar self-identify as Pashtuns and speak Hindko and Pashto as their mother tongues.[32]

Afghan attempts to reconquer PeshawarEdit

An 1835 attempt to re-occupy the city by the Afghan Emir Dost Mohammad Barakzai failed when his army declined to engage in combat with the Dal Khalsa. However Barakzai's son, Wazir Akbar Khan, succeeded in regaining control of the city in the Battle of Jamrud of 1837. Following this, Peshawar was annexed by the British East India Company after the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1845–46.[citation needed]

British Empire (1846–1947)Edit

Following the defeat of the Sikh's in the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1845–46, territories in the Punjab were also captured by British East India company. During the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, the 40,000 members of the native garrison were disarmed without bloodshed;[33] the absence of brutality meant that Peshawar was not affected by the widespread devastation that was experienced throughout the rest of British India and local chieftains sided with the British after the incident.[34] British control remained confined within the city walls as vast regions of the Frontier province outside the city were claimed by the Kingdom of Afghanistan. The vast mountainous areas outside of the city were mapped out only in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand, foreign secretary of the British Indian government, who collaboratively demarcated the boundary of British-controlled areas with the Afghan ruler at the time, Abdur Rahman Khan.

The British laid out the vast Peshawar Cantonment to the west of the city in 1868, and made the city its frontier headquarters.[27] Additionally, several projects were initiated in Peshawar, including linkage of the city by railway to the rest of British India and renovation of the Mohabbat Khan mosque that had been desecrated by the Sikhs.[21] The British also constructed Cunningham clock tower, in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and, in 1906, constructed Victoria Hall (now home of the Peshawar Museum) in memory of Queen Victoria.[21] The British greatly contributed to the establishment of Western-style education in Peshawar with the establishment of Edwardes College and Islamia College in 1901 and 1913, respectively—these were established in addition to numerous other schools, many of which are run by the Anglican Church.[21] For better administration of the region, Peshawar and the adjoining districts were separated from the Punjab Province in 1901.[35]

Peshawar emerged as a centre for both Hindko and Pashtun intellectuals. Hindko speakers, also referred to as Khaarian ("city dwellers" in Pashto), were responsible for the dominant culture for most of the time that Peshawar was under British rule.[36] Whereas before it was the Pashtuns and Mughals who beautified and brought culture to the region, until the Sikhs brought the city to shambles and deterioration.

Peshawar was the scene of a non-violent resistance movement that was led by Ghaffar Khan, a disciple of Mohandas Gandhi. In April 1930, Khan led a large group of locals, in a peaceful protest in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, against discriminatory laws that had been enacted by the British rulers — hundreds were killed when British horses opened fire on the demonstrators.[37]

Post-independence historyEdit

After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 Peshawar served as a political centre for anti-Soviet Mujahideen, and was surrounded by huge camps of Afghan refugees. Many of the refugees remained there through the civil war which broke out after the Soviets were defeated in 1989, the rule of the Taliban, and the invasion by allied forces in late 2001. Peshawar would replace Kabul and Qandahar as the centre of Pakhtun cultural development during this tumultuous period. Additionally, Peshawar managed to assimilate many of the Pakhtun Afghan refugees with relative ease, while many other Afghan refugees remained in camps awaiting a possible return to Afghanistan.

Peshawar continues to be a city that links Pakistan to Afghanistan and has emerged as an important regional city in Pakistan and remains a focal point for Pakhtun culture.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Samad, Rafi U. (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing. ISBN 9780875868592.
  2. ^ Behrendt, Kurt; Brancaccio, Pia (2011-11-01). Gandharan Buddhism: Archaeology, Art, and Texts. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774841283.
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Gandhara
  4. ^ Analecta Orientalia Posthumous Writings and Selected Minor Workds. Brill Archive.
  5. ^ "NWFP in search of a name". pakhtunkhwa.com. Archived from the original on 31 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  6. ^ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. 1834. pp. 114. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  7. ^ Pearce, Ian (May 2002). "The Bakhshali manuscript". The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved 24 July 2007.
  8. ^ "A vast hoard of coins, with a mixture of Greek profiles and Indian symbols, along with interesting sculptures and some monumental remains from Taxila, Sirkap and Sirsukh, point to a rich fusion of Indian and Hellenistic influences", India, the Ancient Past, Burjor Avari, p.130
  9. ^ Ghose, Sanujit (2011). "Cultural links between India and the Greco-Roman world" Archived August 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Ancient History Encyclopedia.
  10. ^ "When the Greeks of Bactria and India lost their kingdom they were not all killed, nor did they return to Greece. They merged with the people of the area and worked for the new masters; contributing considerably to the culture and civilization in southern and central Asia." Narain, "The Indo-Greeks" 2003, p.278
  11. ^ "Pushpapura to Peshawar". The Khyber Watch. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  12. ^ Huu Phuoc Le (2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-0-9844043-0-8.
  13. ^ Rai Govind Chandra (1 January 1979). Indo-Greek Jewellery. Abhinav Publications. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-81-7017-088-4. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Shahi Family". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  15. ^ Sehrai, Fidaullah (1979). Hund: The Forgotten City of Gandhara, p. 2. Peshawar Museum Publications New Series, Peshawar.
  16. ^ The Shahi Afghanistan and Punjab, 1973, pp 1, 45–46, 48, 80, Dr D. B. Pandey; The Úakas in India and Their Impact on Indian Life and Culture, 1976, p 80, Vishwa Mitra Mohan – Indo-Scythians; Country, Culture and Political life in early and medieval India, 2004, p 34, Daud Ali.
  17. ^ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1954, pp 112 ff; The Shahis of Afghanistan and Punjab, 1973, p 46, Dr D. B. Pandey; The Úakas in India and Their Impact on Indian Life and Culture, 1976, p 80, Vishwa Mitra Mohan – Indo-Scythians.
  18. ^ Keay 2000, p. 203: The Hindu Shahis, and in the late ninth century great was [their fame] ... in 870 Kabul itself was captured [lost] ... But in the Panjab they consolidated their kingdom and established a new capital first at Hund.
  19. ^ a b c d e P. M. Holt; Ann K. S. Lambton; Bernard Lewis, eds. (1977), The Cambridge history of Islam, Cambridge University Press, p. 3, ISBN 0-521-29137-2, ... Jaypala of Waihind saw danger in the consolidation of the kingdom of Ghazna and decided to destroy it. He, therefore, invaded Ghazna, but was defeated ...
  20. ^ a b c d e "Ameer Nasir-ood-deen Subooktugeen". Ferishta, History of the Rise of Mohammedan Power in India, Volume 1: Section 15. Packard Humanities Institute. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d e Asghar Javed (1999–2004). "History of Peshawar". National Fund for Cultural Heritage. National Fund for Cultural Heritage. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  22. ^ Gazetteer of the Attock District, 1930, Part 1. Sang-e-Meel Publications. 1932. ISBN 9789693514131. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  23. ^ Gazetteer of the Peshawar District 1897–98
  24. ^ a b Caroe, Olaf (1957) The Pathans.
  25. ^ Alikuzai, Hamid Wahed (October 2013). A Concise History of Afghanistan in 25 Volumes, Volume 14. ISBN 9781490714417. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  26. ^ Shah Hanifi (11 February 2011). Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-7777-3. Retrieved 13 December 2012. Timur Shah transferred the Durrani capital from Qandahar during the period of 1775 and 1776. Kabul and Peshawar then shared time as the dual capital cities of Durrani, the former during the summer and the later during the winter season.
  27. ^ a b Schofield, Victoria, "Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia", London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks (2003), page 47
  28. ^ Keay, John (1996). Explorers of the Western Himalayas: 1820–1895. London: John Murray. p. 41. ISBN 0-7195-5576-0.
  29. ^ Iqbal Qaiser (2012). "Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh at Peshawar". All About Sikhs – your Gateway to Sikhism. Gateway to Sikhism. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  30. ^ M Zulqernain (10 February 2012). "Historic Gurdwara in Peshawar to Reopen for Worship". Outlook India.com. The Outlook Group. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  31. ^ Rania Abouzeid (22 November 2010). "Pakistan: The Embattled Sikhs in Taliban Territory". Time World. Time Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2014-08-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ John Pike (2000–2012). "Peshawar Cantonment". GlobalSecurity.org. GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  34. ^ Charles Allen, Soldier Sahibs, p.276
  35. ^ Changes in the Socio-economic Structures in Rural North-West Pakistan By Mohammad Asif Khan Khan, Mohammad Asif (2007). Changes in the Socio-economic Structures in Rural North-West Pakistan. ISBN 9783817504084. Peshawar was separated from Punjab Province in 1901
  36. ^ The Frontier Town of Peshawar. A Brief History by Sayed Amjad Hussain.
  37. ^ APP (24 April 2008). "PESHAWAR: Qissa Khwani martyrs remembered". DAWN The Internet Edition. DAWN Media Group. Retrieved 13 December 2012.