Online Encyclopedia

GHAZNI

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 918 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
GHAZNI, a famous city in Afghanistan, the seat of an extensive empire under two medieval dynasties, and again of prominent interest in the modern history of British India. Ghazni stands on the high tableland of central Afghanistan, in 68° 18' E. long., 33° 44 N. lat., at a height of 7280 ft. above the sea, and on the direct road between Kandahar and Kabul, 221 M. by road N.E. from the former, and 92 M. S.W. from the latter. A very considerable trade in fruit, wool, skins, &c., is carried on between Ghazni and India by the Povindah kafilas, which yearly enter India in the late autumn and pass back again to the Afghan highlands in the early spring. The Povindah merchants in-variably make use of the Gomal pass which leads to the British frontier at Dera Ismail Khan. The opening up of this pass and the British occupation of Wana, by offering protection to the merchants from Waziri blackmailing, largely increased the traffic. Ghazni, as it now exists, is a place in decay, and probably does not contain more than 4000 inhabitants. It stands at the base of the terminal spur of a ridge of hills, an offshoot from the Gul-Koh, which forms the watershed between the Arghandab, and Tarnak rivers. The castle stands at the northern angle of the town next the hills, and is about 150 ft. above the plain. The town walls stand on an elevation, partly artificial, and form an irregular square, close on a mile in circuit (including the castle), the walls being partly of stone or brick laid in mud, and partly of clay built in courses. They are flanked by numerous towers. There are three gates. The town consists of dirty and very irregular streets of houses several stories high, but with two straighter streets of more pretension, crossing near the middle of the town. Of the strategical importance of Ghazni there can hardly be a question. The view to the south is extensive, and the plain in the direction of Kandahar stretches to the horizon. It is bare except in the vicinity of the river, where villages and gardens are tolerably numerous. Abundant crops of wheat and barley are grown, as well as of madder, besides minor products. The climate is notoriously cold,—snow lying 2 or 3 ft. deep for about three months, and tradition speaks of the city as having been more than once overwhelmed by snowdrift. Fuel is scarce, consisting chiefly of prickly shrubs. In summer the heat is not like that of Kandahar or Kabul, but the radiation from the bare heights renders the nights oppressive, and constant dust-storms occur. It is evident that the present restricted walls cannot have contained the vaunted city of Mahmud. Probably the existing site formed the citadel only of his city. The remarks of Ibn Batuta (c. 1332) already suggest the present state of things, viz. a small town occupied, a large space of ruin; for a considerable area to the N.E. is covered with ruins, or rather with a vast extent of shapeless mounds, which are pointed out as Old Ghazni. The only remains retaining architectural character are two remarkable towers rising to the height of about 140 ft., and some 400 yds. apart from each other. They are similar, but whether identical, in design, is not clearly recorded. They belong, on a smaller and far less elaborate scale, to the same class as the Kutb Minar at Delhi (q.v.). Arabic inscriptions in Cufic characters show the most northerly to have been the work of Mahmud himself, theother that of his son Masa'ud. On the Kabul road, a mile beyond the Minaret of Mahmud, is a village called Rauzah (" the Garden," a term often applied to garden-mausoleums). Here, in a poor garden, stands the tomb of the famous conqueror. It is a prism of white marble standing on a plinth of the same, and bearing a Cufic inscription praying the mercy of God on the most noble Amir, the great king, the lord of church and state, Abul Kasim Mahmud, son of Sabuktagin. The tomb stands in a rude chamber, covered with a dome of clay, and hung with old shawls, ostrich eggs, tiger-skins and so forth. The village stands among luxuriant gardens and orchards, watered by a copious aqueduct. Sultan Baber celebrates the excellence of the grapes of Rauzah. There are many holy shrines about Ghazni surrounded by orchards and vineyards. Baber speaks of them, and tells how he detected and put a stop to the imposture of a pretended miracle at one of them. These sanctuaries make Ghazni a place of Moslem pilgrimage, and it is said that at Constantinople much respect is paid to those who have worshipped at the tomb of the great Ghazi. To test the genuineness of the boast, professed pilgrims are called on to describe the chief notabilia of the place, and are expected to name all those detailed in certain current Persian verses. History.—The city is not mentioned by any narrator of Alexander's expedition, nor by any ancient author so as to admit of positive recognition. But it is very possibly the Gazaca which Ptolemy places among the Paropamisadae, and this may not be inconsistent with Sir H. Rawlinson's identification of it with Gazos, an Indian city spoken of by two obscure Greek poets as an impregnable place of war. The name is probably connected with the Persian and Sanskrit ganj and ganja, a treasury (whence the Greek and Latin Gaza). We seem to have positive evidence of the existence of the city before the Mahommedan times (644) in the travels of the Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, who speaks of Ho-si-na (i.e. probably Ghazni) as one of the capitals of Tsaukuta or Arachosia, a place of great strength. In early Mahommedan times the country adjoining Ghazni was called Zabul. When the Mahommedans first invaded that region Ghazni was a wealthy entrepot of the Indian trade. Of the extent of this trade some idea is given by Ibn Haukal, who states that at Kabul, then a mart of the same trade, there was sold yearly indigo to the value of two million dinars ( 1,000,000). The enterprise of Islam underwent several ebbs and flows over this region. The provinces on the Helmund and about Ghazni were invaded as early as the caliphate of Moaiya (662-680). The arms of Yaqub b. Laith swept over Kabul and Arachosia (Al-Rukhaj) about 871, and the people of the latter country were forcibly converted. Though the Hindu dynasty of Kabul held a part of the valley of Kabul river till the time of Mahmud, it is probably to the period just mentioned that we must refer the permanent Mahommedan occupation of Ghazni. Indeed, the building of the fort and city is ascribed by a Mahommedan historian to Amr b. Laith, the brother and successor of Ya'kub (d. 901), though the facts already stated discredit this. In the latter part of the 9th century the family of the Samanid, sprung from Samarkand, reigned in splendour at Bokhara. Alptagin, originally a Turkish slave, and high in the service of the dynasty, about the middle of the loth century, losing the favour of the court, wrested Ghazni from its chief (who is styled Abu Bakr Lawik, wali of Ghazni), and established himself there. His government was recognized from Bokhara, and held till his death. In 977 another Turk slave, Sabuktagin, who had married the daughter of his master Alptagin, obtained rule in Ghazni. He made himself lord of nearly all the present territory of Afghanistan and of the Punjab. In 997 Mahmud, son of Sabuktagin, succeeded to the government, and with his name Ghazni and the Ghaznevid dynasty have beome perpetually associated. Issuing forth year after year from that capital, Mahmud (q.v.) carried fully seventeen expeditions of devastation through northern India and Gujarat, as well as others to the north and west. From the borders of Kurdistan to Samarkand, from the Caspian to the Ganges, his authority was acknowledged. Ibn Batuta (c. 1332) says the greater part of the city was in ruins, and only a small part continued to be a town. Timur seems never to have visited Ghazni, but we find him in 1401 bestowing the government of Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni on Pir Mahommed, the son of his son Jahangir. In the end of the century it was still in the hands of a descendant of Timur, Ulugh Beg Mirza, who was king of Kabul and Ghazni. The illustrious nephew of this prince, Baber, got peaceful possession of both cities in 1504, and has left notes on both in his own inimitable Memoirs. His account of Ghazni indicates how far it had now fallen. " It is," he says, " but a poor mean place, and I have always wondered how its princes, who possessed also Hindustan and Khorasan, could have chosen such a wretched country for the seat of their government, in preference to Khorasan." He commends the fruit of its gardens, which still contribute largely to the markets of Kabul. Ghazni remained in the hands of Baber's descendants, reigning at Delhi and Agra, till the invasion of Nadir Shah (1738), and became after Nadir's death a part of the new kingdom of the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durani. We know of but two modern travellers who have recorded visits to the place previous to the war of 1839. George Forster passed as a disguised traveller with a qafila in 1783. " Its slender existence," he says, " is now maintained by some Hindu families, who support a small traffic, and supply the wants of the few Mahommedan residents." Vigne visited it in 1836, having reached it from Multan with a caravan of Lohani merchants,-travelling by the Gomal pass. The historical name of Ghazni was brought back from the dead, as it were, by the news of its capture by the British army under Sir John Keane, 23rd July 1839. The siege artillery had been left behind at Kandahar; escalade was judged impracticable; but the project of the commanding engineer, Captain George Thomson, for blowing in the Kabul gate with powder in bags, was adopted, and carried out successfully, at the cost of 182 killed and wounded. Two years and a half later the Afghan outbreak against the British occupation found Ghazni garrisoned by a Bengal regiment of sepoys, but neither repaired nor provisioned. They held out under great hardships from the 16th of December 1841 to the 6th of March 1842, when they surrendered. In the autumn of the same year General Nott, advancing from Kandahar upon Kabul, reoccupied Ghazni, destroyed the defences of the castle and part of the town, and carried away the famous gates of Somnath (q.v.).
End of Article: GHAZNI
[back]
GHAZIPUR
[next]
GHEE (Hindostani ghi)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.