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Kabul

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Kabul

Capital of Afghanistan. With its excellent location on the Kabul River in a fertile plain surrounded by mountains and hills, Kabul is a natural strategic site and has a history of settlement dating back 3000 years. In pre-Islamic times Buddhism flourished in the region. Despite earlier Muslim raids, Islam began to be established only in the 9th century under the Saffarid dynasty of Sistan (r. 867–c.1495). Under the Ghaznavids (r. 977–1186) Kabul served as a military depot for the army and had a strong citadel and prosperous commercial quarter. The city gradually developed as Ghazna declined, and from 1504 with the arrival of the Timurid prince Babur it flourished. Babur created numerous gardens, such as the quartered Bagh-i Vafa (“Garden of Fidelity”) to the south of the city overlooking the river. He also used Kabul as a staging point for his campaigns into India, where he became the first Mughal emperor. On his death in 1530, Babur was interred at Agra, but in 1597 his remains were conveyed to the Bagh-i Naw (“New Garden”) southwest of Kabul, and the site became known as the Bagh-i Babur (“Garden of Babur”). The site houses a marble mosque (rest. 1964–6) built in 1646 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58) to celebrate his capture of Balkh. Kabul remained an important center under the Mughals (r. 1526–1858); gold and silver coinage, for example, was minted there until the reign of ῾Aziz al-Din ῾Alamgir (1754–60). In 1738 Kabul was captured by the Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah (r. 1736–47) on his way to India, but after his death it passed to Ahmad Shah Durrani of Qandahar (r. 1747–73). His son Timur Shah (r. 1773–93) made Kabul the capital of the Durrani empire, and his unfinished tomb is a massive octagonal structure modeled on Mughal tombs in India.

The city suffered in various wars, including the second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The old citadel, Bala Hissar (“High Fort”), was destroyed and was replaced by a new palace, the Arg, built by ῾Abd al-Rahman (r. 1880–1901). His tomb in Zarnigar (“Adorned with Gold”) Park in the center of the city is a small private palace, the dome and minarets of which were added by his son Habib Allah (r. 1901–19) after the building was transformed into his tomb. Habib Allah also finished the ῾Id Gah (“Praying Place”), the large mosque outside the city used for public holidays (see Musalla). Some six miles to the southwest of the city center, Aman Allah (r. 1919–29) had a new capital, Dar al-Aman, laid out; the parliament building was designed by andré Godard. Nearby is the Afghanistan National (Kabul) Museum, which housed an impressive collection of artifacts from such sites as Begram and Ai-Khanum, Kafir statues from Nuristan and a superb numismatic collection. Extensive bombing and looting during the civil war in the 1990s, however, laid waste to the city and the collection. Since the restoration of the Afghan government in late 2001, the city has slowly been rebuilt and the museum reconstituted. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI) began restoring the Bagh-i Babur in 2002.

Bibliography

  • Enc. Islam/2http://www.turquoisemountain.org [Turquoise Mountain Foundation] (accessed June 11, 2008)
  • Bābur: (c.1530) Eng. trans. and ed. by A. S. Beveridge, 2 vols. (London, 1922/R New Delhi, 1970); Eng. trans., ed. and annotations by W. M. Thackston as The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor (Washington, DC, 1996)
  • N. H. Dupree: An Historical Guide to Afganistan (Kabul, 1971), pp. 67–90
  • M. T. S. Parpagliolo: Kābul: The Bāgh-i Bābur (Rome, 1972)
  • N. H. Dupree: The National Museum of Afghanistan: An Illustrated Guide (Kabul, 1974)
  • N. H. Dupree: “Early Twentieth Century Afghan Adaptations of European Architecture,” A. & Archaeol. Res. Pap., xi (1977), pp. 15–21
  • S. Zajadacz-Hastenrath: “A Note on Babur’s Lost Funerary Enclosure at Kabul,” Muqarnas, xiv, (1997), pp. 135–42
  • N. H. Dupree: “Museum under Siege,” Archaeology (1998)
  • A. N. Lambah: “Kabuli Bagh Mosque: Babur’s Unknown Masjid,” Marg, lv/1 (2003), pp. 63–6
  • F. Tissot: Catalogue of the National Museum of Afghanistan, 1931–1985 (Paris, 2006) Afghanistan, les trésors retrouvés: Collections du Musée national de Kaboul (exh. cat. by P. Cambon and J.-F. Jarrige, Paris, Mus. Guimet, 2006)
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