Kandahar as seen through British eyes

Depictions by Lieutenant James Rattray (1818-1854)


This lithograph is taken from plate 23 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.

He sketched Kandahar in December 1841 from the rooftop of the former residence of the province's governor, Sirdar Meer Dil Khaun, who was brother to the Emir. Pictured on the left is the tomb of Ahmed Shah and on the right the Bala Hissar (fort) and citadel. The houses in the foreground were dilapidated due to frequent earthquakes.
Afghans believed that ancient Kandahar had been built by Alexander the Great. Rattray's drawing shows the fourth city on the site, built 95 years earlier by Ahmed Shah. Vast ruins of the earlier cities remained. Rattray wrote that Kandahar, a Durrani capital, was situated in a well-cultivated and fertile irrigated plain circled by mountains: "Every hill and building around rejoices in some singular title and each has its legend." The city was oblong-shaped, and its ramparts spanned four miles, inset with six gates. Four main streets forming bazaars ran through it and met in the centre, a point marked with a domed building. Because streams ran through the city, there was plentiful water and foliage. Kandahar was divided into numberless walled divisions, in which each particular clan took up its abode. Among the peoples congregating here were Persians, Uzbegs, Bhaluchs, Hazaras, Jews, Armenians, Hindus, Ghilzais, Durranis and Arabs. The Durranis were the largest and most powerful of these groups, and generally regarded as the most polished and liberal-minded Afghans. The Popalzais, a branch of the Durranis, were superior still, and from them sprang the Saddozis, the sacred royal house of Afghanistan.
This lithograph is taken from plate 26 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.

The sketch was taken from the Herat Gate, one of the six gates of Kandahar. In the background is the hill known as Bullock's Hump. The military cantonments were about a mile from the city. Rattray wrote that this made their position isolated and vulnerable, especially since the land between the city and the camp was suitable for guerilla warfare, and they could at any point be cut off from the city.
They nearly met with disaster when General Nott moved almost the entire British force out of Kandahar to disperse the Afghan Army, leaving behind a skeleton staff of about 800 men to garrison the city. On the night of 10 March 1842, the Afghans attacked at Herat Gate and besieged the British for five hours. Rattray was among the defenders and they only survived after a sudden Afghan withdrawal. Despite the fact that Nott's returning army would have been hard-pressed had the defenders' arms failed, the little garrison was accused of inactivity and negligence for allowing the Afghans to besiege them. The whole affair was reported to the government "in meagre and unjust form", to Rattray's deep regret.


This lithograph was taken from plate 27 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lietenant James Rattray.

The tomb of Ahmad Shah Abdali was near the Bala-Hissar (Fort) of Kandahar. The founder of the Durrani monarchy, Ahmad Shah was revered by Afghans as their greatest monarch, combining military skill with a decisive character and the virtue of clemency. One of his most famous feats was the conquest of Delhi and the defeat of the Maratha forces in India at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. With India his for the taking, he withdrew, deciding against ruling a remote region. His decision was influenced by the fact that the Sikhs, whose star was in the ascendant, lay between him and Afghanistan, and that insurrection was rife at home in his absence.
He died in 1773 and his tomb was a place of sanctity where all men received asylum, even if murderers and malefactors. No European was allowed in, but Rattray wrote of the charm of the "ensemble of the chaste, simple building, thrown out by the dark tints of the extraordinary Bullock's Hump mountain, rising in jagged outline behind it".


This lithograph is taken from plate 28 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.

The Naqqara Khana, from which this view was composed, was the room where the Royal Band played. It was part of the domed building known as Charsu ('Fourways'), which stood in the centre of Kandahar and was the meeting place of the city's four principal roads. At the Charsu were the best shops for arms, writing materials and books. Official proclamations were also made there and public hangings were carried out.
The mosque on the left held a relic said to be the Prophet Mohammed's shirt. This was guarded with great care by the British since a Durrani chief had almost stolen it with a view to inciting a holy war against the 'Feringhees' (foreigners).
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Depictions by James Atkinson (1780 - 1852)




Water-colour sketch of Kandahar (Afghanistan) by James Atkinson (1780-1852) between 1839 and 1840. Inscribed on the mount of this picture is: 'The City of Candahar.' Atkinson served with the Bengal Medical Service and from 1838 to 1841 was in Kabul with the Army of the Indus as Superintending Surgeon. This is one of 16 water-colours depicting the march of the Army of the Indus from Sind to Kabul in Afghanistan via Quetta and Kandahar. These drawings are part of the original set of 24 water-colours from which lithographs were made by L. and C. Haghe for J. Atkinson, 'Sketches in Afghaunistan' (London, 1842).
Kandahar was strategically important during the Afghan-British Wars of the 19th century. In 1839 General Elphinstone led an East India Company army into Afghanistan as the British were anxious to prevent an alliance between Dost Mohamed and the Russian Tsar. Elphinstone took Kandahar on route to Kabul, where the British Army suffered a crushing defeat. This view was taken from the camp of the Fourth Brigade, about a mile and a half south of Kandahar.



This is plate 10 from 'Sketches in Afghaunistan' by James Atkinson.

The Army of the Indus had to conquer the lofty passes of some of the world's most rugged and inhospitable terrain as they entered Afghanistan. They journeyed through the Khojak Pass between Quetta and Kandahar in three stages, all of which Atkinson sketched. He presents the army emerging from the narrow defile into the pass. He wrote: "The road up to the defile had gradually increased in steepness, and diminished in width, and the ascent became more difficult. The tediousness of the march may, therefore, be easily conceived. The old path to the left, was so steep as to be quite impracticable for the purpose of ascent, and in consequence, taking a wide sweep, another was cut, less abrupt, upon the brow of the hill, as seen to the right of the drawing."



This is plate 11 from 'Sketches in Afghaunistan' by James Atkinson.


The Khojak Pass lies between Quetta and Kandahar and is about five miles long. Emerging from a steep defile, the Army of the Indus made its descent through the pass. Atkinson described it as being "for a considerable distance, very abrupt, precipitous and winding, and the bottom crossed by a torrent, and here the view up to the next position of the pass was most terrific, both as regards its altitude and broken course, about to be pursued in toiling up the summit. The first slope was strewed with dead camels, no less than sixteen lying on one precipitous spot, and the face of the whole acclivities exhibiting similar evidence of the peril which attended the progress of the army. The column here diverged, following different paths, and after much toil and fatigue, accomplished the task"




This is plate 14 from 'Sketches in Afghaunistan' by James Atkinson.
This view was taken from the camp of the Fourth Brigade, about a mile and a half south of Kandahar. Atkinson described the fortified city: "[It] is situated on the north side of an extensive plain, about two miles from the lofty mountain called Baba-Wulee, and is surrounded by a mud wall, about thirty feet high, with numerous bastions; the length of the city is about 5000 feet, and 4000 in breadth, with a small stream running across the interior from north to south."
The second city of Afghanistan and its southern capital, Kandahar was ruled by a brother of the Emir Dost Mohammed. He fled north to Mohammed's stronghold of Kabul when the Army of the Indus approached in 1839. The chieftains in the city were bribed with gold. The British then organised a triumphant entry into Kandahar for Shah Shuja, to whom they bestowed an "official coronation" as Emir of Afghanistan, even though the crowd of Kandaharis was minuscule and unenthusiastic.


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Black and white photos from the British Library Collection



Photograph of the ruins of old Kandahar citadel from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Although the old citadel was destroyed by Nadir Shah Afshar of Persia in 1738, the Battle of Maiwand was fought in its ruins in 1880. This conflict secured the rule of Abdur Rahman as the Amir of Afghanistan (1844-1901). At the top of this fortified citadel there are the ruins of a royal residence.



Photograph of Ahmed Shah's Tomb from Kirka Sharif in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. In the 18th century, the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani (r.1747-1772) laid the foundations of modern Kandahar and made it his capital city. The plan of Kandahar is rectangular and divided into four sections by axidal roads. Ahmad Shah Durrani's tomb lies in the north-west segment of the city. The tomb is octagonal and surmounted by a dome.



Photograph of Baba Wali Kotal showing position of Ayub's guns in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Ayub Khan of Herat was a son of Sher Ali, the Amir of Afghanistan from 1863 to 1879. During the Second Afghan War (1878-80), Ayub overwhelmed British forces at Kandahar and beseiged them in the city. The siege was eventually lifted British forces from Kabul led by FM Roberts. This view shows the mountain pass at which Ayub's guns were positioned.



Photograph of the view looking across the Argandab Valley from the Baba Wali Ziarat in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson in c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. The Baba Wali Shrine is located on a hill to the south of of the city overlooking the Argandab river, which rises in the central Hindu Kush and joins the Helmand river near the city of Lashkargah. Baba Wali was a muslim saint who lived in Kandahar in the fifteenth century.



Photograph of Baba Wali Kotal from the Belooch lines in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. During the Second Afghan War (1878-80), Ayub Khan of Herat overwhelmed British forces at Kandahar and beseiged them in the city. The siege was eventually lifted British forces from Kabul led by FM Roberts. This view shows the lines where the British were positioned in the battle. In the distance, we can also see the mountain pass at which Ayub's guns were positioned.



Photograph of the courtyard of Wali Shere Ali's Zenana in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson in c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Sher Ali, son of Dost Mahommed, was the Amir of Afghanistan from 1863 to 1879. This view shows the women's quarters or zenana in a royal residence at Kandahar. It is a two-storey structure organised around an open courtyard with a pool in the centre.



Photograph of Chilzina and old Kandahar from Picquet Hill from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Although the old citadel was destroyed by Nadir Shah Afshar of Persia in 1738, the Battle of Maiwand was fought in its ruins in 1880. This conflict secured the rule of Abdur Rahman as the Amir of Afghanistan (1844-1901). Chilzina is a rock-cut chamber on the northern side of the old citadel that is accessed by forty steps. A Persian incription at the site reveals that the chamber was completed under the patronage of the Moghul Emperor Babur in the 16th century.



Photograph of the tombs of Hazratgi and Shere Ali's father, Dost Mahommed, in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. The shrine of the celebrated saint, Hazratgi, is surrounded by the tombs of 19th century Afghani rulers. The tombs are marked at either end with a tall marble stones and decorated with black and white pebbles. They are situated to the north of the city.


Photograph of Chilzina in Kandahar from the 'Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew' taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Chilzina is a rock-cut chamber on the northern side of the old citadel and is accessed by forty steps. A Persian incription at the site reveals that the chamber was
completed under the patronage of the Moghul Emperor Babur in the 16th century. The old citadel was destroyed by Nadir Shah Afshar of Persia in 1738.

3 comments:

  1. wonderful, eye catching, worth to see

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  2. ........... I ,WE ALWAYS MEANT THE FIRST BLACK SPACE`S BLACK AND WHITE SNUW FALLS .... THROUGH OUT THE ALL WINTER SEASUN`S ALL WHITE WASH .... HEAVY SNUW FALLS .... THE SAPAID SAPAID BUAR , QUANPALEIN .... SHAHGUFAEY ... PHUAL ...AHUR PHIR PUAERY PHAL .........

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  3. ...... NEXT I , WE ARE CHANGING THE BLACK &WHITE INTO THE LIGHT GREEN SHADES .... DARK GREENS ...........

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