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For other uses, see Gauda
Gauda (Bengali: গৌড়), was a territory located in Bengal in ancient and mediaeval
The Arthashastra of Chanakya (around 350–-283 BC) refers to it
along with Vanga, Pundra and Kamarupa. This geographical idea continues
with some of the ancient texts. Varahamihira (around 6th century AD), in
his Brhat Sanghita mentions six distinct
janapadas viz: Gaudaka, Paundra, Vanga, Samatata,
Vardhamana and Tamralipta. It appears from his narration that Murshidabad district, Birbhum
district, and western parts of Bardhaman district formed the
territory of ancient Gauda.Gauda
and Vanga are sometimes used side by side.
Shashanka, the first
important king of ancient Bengal who is believed to have ruled
between 600 AD and 625 AD, had his capital at Karnasubarna,
9.6 kilometres (6.0 mi) south-west of Baharampur, headquarters
of Murshidabad district..
The Chinese monk, Xuanzang
(Hiuen Tsang) travelled from the country of Karnasubarna to a region in coastal
Orissa, and the area was ruled by Shashanka.There
is mention of Pundravardhana being part of Gauda in
certain ancient records.
Evidence seems to be discrepant regarding links of Gauda with
the Rarh region.
While Krishna Mishra (eleventh or twelfth century AD), in his
Prabodha-chandrodaya, mentions that Gauda rashtra includes
Rarh (or Rarhpuri) and Bhurishreshthika, identified with Bhurshut, in Hooghly and
districts, but the Managoli inscription of the Yadava king Jaitugi I
distinguishes Lala (Rarh) from Gaula (Gauda).
According to Jain writers of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries, Gauda included Lakshmanavati in present day Malda
The Pala kings
were referred to Vangapati (Lord of Vanga) and Gaudesvara (Lord of
Gauda). Sena kings
also called themselves Gaudesvara. From then Gauda and Vanga seem
to be interchangeable names for whole of Bengal.
In the early Muslim period the name Gauda came to be applied to
Lakhanavati in Malda district.
Gaur, or Gour (Bengali:
গৌড়), as it is spelt mostly
in modern times, or Lakhnauti is a ruined city, in
district of West
Bengal, India, on the west
bank of the Ganges river, 40
kilometers downstream from Rajmahal.
It is said to have been founded by the mythic figure Lakshmana, and its most
ancient name was Lakshmanavati, corrupted into
"Lakhnauti". The area was known as Gauda (Gauka, of Gau/Cow) at the time was under the rule
of famous Bengali kings such as Sasanka. In the 7th century Gopala by
a democratic election in Gaur became the
first independent Buddhist king of Bengal and founded the Pala Empire. The Pala dynasty ruled for nearly four
centuries between the mid to late 8th century to 12th century CE.
The Palas were often
described by opponents as the Lords of Gauda. It was also
a prosperous city during the Sena dynasty's rule in Bengal. However,
its most well documented history begins with its conquest in 1198
by the Muslims, who retained it as the chief seat of their power in
Bengal for more than three centuries. Around the year 1350, the Sultans of Bengal established
their independence, and transferred their seat of government to
Pandua (qv.), also in
Malda district. To build their new capital, they plundered Gaur of
every monument that could be removed. When Pandua was in its turn
deserted (1453), Gaur once more became the capital under the name
of Jannatabad; it remained so as long as the Muslim kings
retained their independence. In 1564 Sulaiman Kirani, a Pashtun
adventurer, abandoned it for Tanda, a place somewhat
nearer the Ganges. Gaur was sacked by Sher Shah in 1539, and was occupied by
general in 1575, when Daud
Shah, the last of the Afghan dynasty, refused to pay homage to
emperor. This occupation was followed by an outbreak of the plague and
course changeof river Ganges,
which completed the downfall of the city. Since then it has been
little better than a heap of ruins, almost overgrown with
Gaur is located at 24°52′N 88°08′E / 24.867°N
88.133°E near the
India-Bangladesh international border. It has an
average elevation of 22 metres. Gaur lies in the Eastern bank of the
rivers Bhagirathi and Pagla.
The city in its prime measured 7 1/8 m. from north to south,
with a breadth of 1 to 2 m. With suburbs it covered an area of 20
to 30 m²., and in the 16th century the Portuguese historian Faria y Sousa
described it as containing 1,200,000 inhabitants. The ramparts of
city (which was surrounded by extensive suburbs) still exist; they
were works of vast labor, 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 Gaur 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 Gaur: "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 Gaur, 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 Gaur 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."
Early 19th century lithograph
of the Muslim ruins of
at Gour,West Bengal
The Small Golden or Eunuchs' mosque, in the
ancient suburb of Firozpur, has fine carving, and is
faced with stone fairly well preserved. 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.
Near by were the royal tombs.
Within the citadel is the Kadam Rasut mosque (1530), which
is still used, and close out side 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
(d. 1357), and in the neighborhood 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. -
See 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
Preservation, Restoration and Excavation
The monuments of Gour are now looked after by the Archaeological Survey of
India. The brick work of several monuments have been restored,
though none to its early perfection or completeness. The ASI is
also carrying out excavations of a mound about a kilometer 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.
- ^ a
Majumdar, Dr. R.C., History of Ancient Bengal, first
published 1971, reprint 2005, pp. 5-6, Tulshi Prakashani, Kolkata,
- ^ a
Ghosh, Suchandra. "Gauda".
Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/G_0047.htm. Retrieved
Bandopadhyay, Rakhaldas, Bangalar Itihas, (Bengali),
first published 1928, revised edition 1971, vol I, p 101,
Nababharat Publishers, 72 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kolkata.