Land Transports in Mughal India (Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway and its Architectural Remains)

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Item Code: IDK961
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: Subhash Parihar
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788173053351
Pages: 378 (16 Color Plates; 143 B/W; and 74 Figure Maps)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.2” X 8.5”
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The seventeenth century Europeans, who traversed the Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway, showered high praise on it. The British traveler Thomas Coryat (1612-17) considered it an incomparable show of that kind ever surveyed by his eyes. Thomas Roe (1614-18), Ambassador of James I, the King of England to the Mughal Court, praised it as ‘one of the great works and wonders of the world’. This high acclaim of route prompted Subhash Parihar to study the route, traveling it stage by stage, in their footstemps. He thoroughly studied the rich architectural remains of the Highway in the forms of caravansarais, bridges, kos-minars, baolis and tanks. A survey report of these remains forms the kernel of the book.

No other factor is more determining in deciding the routes in a region than its geography. Hence the physical geography of the Indian sub-continent, particularly the northern India, as well as its historical outline forms the subject of the first chapter. The second chapter describes the means of transport and communication used in India during the medieval times.

The third chapter traces three major medieval routes in the Mughal Empire – Agra to Surat, Agra to Patna and Dacca, and Agra to Kabul – mainly on the basis of medieval travel accounts. The development of routes to the west of the river Yamuna and the evolution of the Agra-Lahore Highway form the subject matter of the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter presents the historical background and an analysis of the architectural character of types of the building for travelers, namely, caravansarais, bridges, baolis, tanks and kos-minars.

The last, the most important, chapter comprises a report of the field survey of the architectural remains of the Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway. The book concludes with two appendices, a glossary, and a bibliography.

The study, besides being the actual field survey, also makes use of the primary sources like ancient texts, medieval chronicles, travel accounts, Archaeological Survey of India Reports, District and State Gazetteers, as well as numerous secondary sources.

About the Author

Subhash Parihar was born on 12 August 1953 at Kot Kapura, East Punjab, where he still lives. He is M.A. (History of Art), M.A. (History), M. Phil., Ph. D.

As an art historian he has done pioneer work on the Indo-Islamic architecture of the North-Western India. He is author of Mughal Monuments in the Punjab and Haryana (Delhi, 1985) (Honoured with Dr. W.G.Archer Award by the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi); Muslim Inscriptions in the Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (Delhi, 1985); Some Aspects of Indo-Islamic Architecture (Delhi, 1999); History and Architectural Remains of Sirhind (Delhi, 2006) and more than three dozens of research papers published in international journals like Oriental Art (London); Journal Royal Asiatic Society (London); Iran (London); East & West (Rome); Muqarnas (Leiden); Journal of Pakistan Historical Society (Karachi); Islamic Studies (Islamabad; Marg (Mumbai), etc. Also contributed to The Dictionary of Art (34 vols.) published by Macmillan (London) and Encyclopaedia of Persian Language, Literature and Culture in the Sub-Continent (to be published in Iran). He was awarded Homi Bhabha Fellowship (1994-96). He undertook a Photographic Survey of Architectural Heritage of Haryana under Senior Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India (2001-03). The present work-Land Transport in Mughal India: Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway and its Architectural Remains – was partially financed by The Barakat Trust (London).

Dr. Parihar is active in the fields of painting, sculpture and photography also. As an artist he has been actively participating in art exhibitions since 1977. He has given two one-man shows of his works in Government Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh (1979) and Triveni Gallery, New Delhi (1982). He was awarded by Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi in 1979 for the best collage. He has also participated in Artists’ Camps in 1979 and 1980 (organized by Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh), and in 1997 (organized by Punjab Art Heritage, Jalandhar). In the field of photography too, he has bagged about two dozen prizes including the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi Award (1997).

At present he is doing a book on the Architectural Heritage of the erstwhile Sikh State of Faridkot under University Grants Commission.

He is working as Head, Department of History at Government Brijindra College, Faridkot, Punjab.


A number of scholars have already undertaken historical studies of the system of roads and communications in India. Moti Chandra thoroughly studied the system in ancient India, Later, the work was made available to a wider readership through its English translation under the title Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India (Delhi: Abhinav Publication, 1977). The work, covering the period from Vedic times to the eleventh century, depended completely for its sources, Lahiri who studied a part of the above period, up to c. 200 BCE on the basis of archaeological sources in his work-The Archaeology of Indian Trade Routes up to c. 200 BC: Resource Use, Resource Access and Lines of Communication (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992).

A study of roads and communications in pre-Mughal north-western India was undertaken by H.C. Verma in his work entitled medieval Routes to India: Baghdad to Delhi (A Study of Trade and Military Routes) (Calcutta: Noya Prokash, 1978). Before this, for this period we had an excellent article “The Road between Delhi and Multan” (Journal of the Panjab Historical Society, 1912) by A.M. Stow.

For the Mughal period only a few research papers published here and there, were available till 1977 when Abul Khair Muhammad Farooque published his doctoral thesis under the title Roads and Communications in Mughal India (Delhi: Idarah-I Adabiyat-I Delhi). Thereafter in 1980, French scholar Jean Deloche brought out his comprehensive work La Circulation en Inde avant La Revolution des Transports in two volumes. But the English readers had to wait for a period of about one and a half decade when an English rendering of the work was published in two volumes by Oxford University Press in 1993-94, under the title Transport and Communications in India prior to Steam Locomotion. Then in 1990 Usha M. Luther published her work – Historical Routes of North West Indian Subcontinent: Lahore to Delhi 1550s – 1850s AD (Network Analysis through DCNC-Micro Methodology) (Delhi: Sagar Publications). All these studies are based only on literary sources and not on actual field survey. Of course, the field-work would not have added much to the subject for the pre-Mughal period but it would certainly have made the picture fuller for the Mughal period, because this period has left behind not only literary records but also solid architectural remains of the system in the form of a large number of sarais, bridges, kos-minars, baolis, and tanks. This is the first attempt to systematically survey the Agra-Lahore section of the vast highway system of the Mughals.

It is heard that long back a team of scholars from Aligarh Muslim University under the guidance of Dr. Iqtidar Alam Khan did survey the route between Agra and Sultanpur. But the final fate of the report of the study is not known. On the basis of this survey a few papers were published by Dr. Khan (‘The Karawansarayas of Mughal India: A Study of Surviving Structures”, Indian Historical Review 14 [1990], 111-37) and Ravindra Kumar (“Planning and Lay-out of Mughal Sarais”, Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 38th session [Bhubaneshwar, 1977]), [, 354-61]. As is evident from their papers, the approach of the team was purely historical. Art-historical perspective, indispensable for studying architectural remains, is completely missing in these studies. Also many ground plans published with Dr. Khan’s paper are not correct.

So the present work is a step towards a fuller study of the system during Mughal period. I would like to undertake similar surveys of the other Mughal Highways in future provided I am able to get proper financial help. In case I am unable to undertake the surveys of other routes, I hope the present study would present a model for young scholars.

The present work had its origin in the study of Indo-Islamic architecture of North-western India in which I have been engaged since 1979. during the study I came across excellent examples of caravansarais in the region which I studied individually and published the results in the form of papers in journals, namely, Oriental Art (London); Indologica-Jaipuensia (Jaipur), Indica (Mumbai) and others. During this study, it occurred to me to undertake a systematic survey of the Agra-Lahore Highway.

The work in hand is basically a field survey of the surviving architectural remains along the Mughal Highway from Agra to Lahore, which forms the sixth chapter of the book. The first five chapters provide necessary background to the survey.

The major monuments like sarais or bridges along the Highway are not difficult to trace. But these monuments marked the major stages only. A more detailed image of the route could be reconstructed from extant kos-minars or medieval milestones that dotted the whole route at every kos, i.e., 4.17 kilometres. But these kos-minars are a little difficult to find out. A great source for finding their locations is the quarter inch topographical sheets, issued by the Survey of India. Not all, but a number of these sheets indicate the locations of kos-minars too. But the (East) Punjab being the border area, the sheets for the most of the state are not sold by the survey. Still the significance of these sheets for the rest of the route cannot be over-estimated. These are simply indispensable. Although tracing these kos-minars in villages and fields was not that difficult, but it was so with the cities. Many places along the route have developed into sprawling cities, e.g., Ludhiana, Ambala, Panipat, Karnal, Delhi, Faridabad, Mathura etc. Tracing the minars within city-limits has not been easy. Despite my best efforts, some of these minars could not be found out. Probably, they do not survive.

I am aware that water-courses formed more practicable axes of communication and exchanges. These were favoured for transporting goods in bulk. But I have not taken them into consideration because these were not relevant to the development of Agra-Lahore Highway which is the central theme of the present study.

The study I fully illustrated with maps, drawings, ground plans, section drawings, and photographic plates indispensable for any such report.


List of Abbreviationsxv
List of Illustrationsxvii
Dramatis Personaexxiii
1Geographical Setting and Historical Outline1
Geographical Setting3
Historical Outline6
2Means of Road Transport and Communications in Mughal India11
Measures of Distance13
Road Building Activity14
Means of Transport14
The Leader of the Caravan18
Royal Journeys18
Travelling Time of the Year and Day22
Distance Covered by Travellers in a Day22
Highway Robberies and Defending Travellers23
3Major Travel Routes in the Mughal Empire35
1. Agra to Surat37
2. Agra to Patna and Dacca45
3. Agra to Kabul49
4Routes to the West of Yamuna and Evolution of the Agra-Lahore Highway65
Pre-Harappan and Harappan Period67
First Millennium BCE to First Millennium CE68
From Mahmud’s Invasions to Pre-Mughal Times70
Mughal Period an Later72
5Buildings for Travellers: Typology and Functions77
Amenities for Travellers an Ancient Tradition80
6Known Stages along Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway and its Architectural Remains99
Appendix A: Routes to Kashmir305
Appendix B: Distance of Important Places from Agra309

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