Online Encyclopedia

PESHAWAR

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 283 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PESHAWAR, a city of British India, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, giving its name to a district. The city is situated near the left bank of the river Bara, 11 m. from Jamrud at the entrance of the Khyber Pass, the railway station being 1588 m. north-west of Calcutta; pop. (1901), 95,147. Two miles west of the native city are the cantonments, forming the principal military station of the North-West Frontier Province. Peshawar lies within a horseshoe ring of hills on the edge of the mountain barrier which separates India from Afghanistan, and through it have passed nearly all the invaders from the north. The native quarter is a huddle of fiat-roofed houses within mud walls, crowded along narrow, crooked alleys; there is but one fairly wide street of shops. Here for many centuries the Povindahs, or Afghan travelling merchants, have brought their caravans from Kabul, Bokhara and Samarkand every autumn. They bring horses, wool, woollen stuffs, silks, dyes, gold-thread, fruits, precious stones, carpets and poshtins (sheepskin clothing), fighting and buying their way to the British border where, leaving their arms, they are free to wander at will to Delhi, Agra and Calcutta. The chief speciality of Peshawar consists of bright-coloured scarves called lungis; wax-cloth and ornamental needle-work are also local products, as well as knives and small arms. The district of PESHAWAR has an area of 2611 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 788,707, showing an increase of ro•8% in the decade. Except on the south-east, where the Indus flows, it is encircled by mountains which are inhabited by the Mohmand, Utman Khel and Afridi tribes. The plain consists of alluvial deposits of silt and gravel. The district is naturally fertile and well watered, and is irrigated by the Swat River Canal. The principal crops are wheat, barley, maize, millets and oil-seeds, with a little cotton and sugar-cane. Peshawar also produces a fine variety of rice, known as " Bara rice," after the river which irrigates it. The North-Western railway crosses the district from Attock, and has been extended from Peshawar city to Jamrud for military purposes. The district is chiefly inhabited by Pathans; there are some Hindus engaged in trade as bankers, merchants and shop-keepers. In early times the district of Peshawar seems to have had an essentially Indian population, for it was not till the 15th century that its present Pathan inhabitants occupied it. Under the name of Gandhara it was a centre of Buddhism, and especially Graeco-Buddhism. Rock-edicts of Asoka still exist at two places; and a stupa excavated in 19o9 was found to contain an inscription of Kanishka, as well as relics believed to be those of Buddha himself. The last of the Indian Buddhist kings was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009. The Mogul emperors always found difficulty in maintaining their authority over the Afghan border tribes, who finally established their independence during the reign of Aurangzeb. Peshawar was a favourite residence of the Afghan dynasty founded by Ahmed Shah Durrani, and here Mountstuart Elphinstone came as ambassador to Shah Shujah in 1809. A few years later Ranj)t Singh crossed the Indus, and after much hard fighting Sikh authority was firmly established under General Avitabile in 1834.. In 1848 the whole of the Punjab passed to the British. During the Mutiny, after the sepoy regiments had been disarmed, Peshawar was a source of strength rather than of danger, though Sir John Lawrence did at one time contemplate the necessity of surrendering it to the Afghans, in order to preserve the rest of Northern India.
End of Article: PESHAWAR
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