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Travelling with the Mughals: a survey of the Agra-Lahore highway.


The Mughal highway from Agra to Lahore earned the appreciation of most 17th-century European travellers who used the route. The British traveller Thomas Coryat described the route (1612-17) as the most incomparable road his eyes ever surveyed. (1) For Thomas Roe, the English ambassador of King James I to the Mughal court, this highway was, in 1614-18, "one of the great works and wonders of the world". (2) Richard Steele and John Crowther, two other British travellers (1615-16), besides mentioning the shady trees on either side of the road, also wrote that all along the route, "Every five or six Course, there are Serais built by the King or some great men, very faire for beautifying of the way, memory of their names, and entertainment of Travellers." (3)

Jahangir (r. 1605-27) was emperor when these travellers visited the road and showered praise on it. Most likely the upgrading of the route was carried out under his orders, as a dear-cut statement to this effect can be found in his memoirs. Here, in 1607, the emperor orders the zamindars on the Agra-Lahore route to "plant at every town and village and at every stage and halting place, all the way from Lahour [Lahore] to Agra, mulberry, and other large and lofty trees affording shade, but particularly those with broad leaves and wide spreading branches, in order that to all time to come the way-worn and weary traveller might find under their shadow repose and shelter from the scorching rays of the sun during the summer heats...." (4) The emperor further directs that "spacious serrais, choultries or places of rest and refreshment, substantially built of brick or stone, so as to be secure against early decay, should be created at the termination of every eight kosse, for the whole distance, all provided with baths, and to every one a tank or reservoir of fresh water (should be provided ...)." (5) According to the royal decree convenient bridges were to be erected at the crossing of every river, so that the eager traveller might be able to proceed on his journey without obstruction or delay.

The above-quoted travel accounts of contemporary or near-contemporary European travellers indicate that Jahangir's orders were duly complied with. Fortunately, this Mughal highway has left more tangible evidence than mere written accounts, in the form of numerous caravansarais, bridges, kosminars, baolis, and tanks, all erected to facilitate travel along the route. On surveying these architectural remains, we see that the process of building along the highway was not limited to the period of Jahangir but continued with the same vigour throughout the 17th century, under later Mughal emperors Shah Jahan (1627-58) and Aurangzeb (1658-1707). And by the end of the 17th century the concentration of sarais along the route exceeded the ideal set by Jahangir by about 60 per cent--instead of having a sarai at the termination of every 8 kos (c. 33 kilometres), the average distance between sarais was 5 kos (c. 21 kilometres).


For the most part the patrons of buildings were not the emperors themselves, but queens, princes, princesses, and above all the powerful and wealthy nobility. They and occasionally other philanthropic individuals built sarais as acts of charity. (6)

The Route

On the basis of the Mughal chronicles, the itineraries of various travellers, and the surviving architectural remains, we can trace the alignment of the Mughal Agra-Lahore highway with a fair degree of accuracy. Covering a distance of more than 700 kilometres, it ran as follows (figure 2): Agra--Sikandra--Runkuta--Mathura--Azamabad--Bad--Chhatta--Kosi (stages up to here lie in the present state of Uttar Pradesh, hereafter the

route enters Haryana state)--Hodal--Palwal--Faridabad--Khwaja Sarai (hereafter starts the territory of Delhi)--Badarpur--Nizamuddin--Delhi--Badli--Narela (here the route enters Haryana again)--Sonepat--Ganaur--Samalkha--Panipat--Gharonda--Karnal--Taraori --Thanesar--Shahabad--Kot Kachhwaha--Ambala (here the route enters East Punjab)--Shambhu--Rajpura--Sarai Banjara (Aluwa Sarai of William Finch and Jahangir)--Sirhind--Khanna--Sarai Lashkar Khan--Doraha--Kanech--Ludhiana--Philaur--Nurmahal--Nakodar--Mahlian Kalan--Sultanpur Lodi--Goindwal--Fatehabad--Naurangabad--Nurdi--Sarai Amanat Khan--Raja Taal (the remaining route lies in West Punjab, Pakistan)--Sarai Khan-i Khanan--Lahore. (7)

Historical Perspective

Since ancient times, India's overland contact with the outer world has been through the passes in the northwestern ranges of the Himalayas. Travellers, traders, and invaders all entered India via Kandahar, Ghazni, or Kabul. Whether Pataliputra, Delhi, or Agra--any city that served as the seat of royal power in Hindustan needed a strategic and efficient road system connecting it to the northwest. During times of invasion or uprising in a far-off region, this system facilitated easy mobilization of forces. In times of peace, travellers and traders utilized the roads. Rulers who contributed to the development of such communication networks increased their personal glory and filled their coffers with tax revenues.

The alignment of the route connecting Hindustan to the northwestern border fluctuated throughout history, although not much is known about its beginnings. Of the stages from Kannauj to Kabul and Ghazni, mentioned by Alberuni (970-1039), Panipat, Sunam, and Lahore are clearly identifiable. (8) Later, when Lahore was destroyed by Mongols in 1241, the route connecting Delhi to Kandahar and Ghazni passed through Multan. Of the two main routes leading from Delhi to Multan, the direct road ran through Kharkhauda, Rohtak, Hansi, Sirsa, Bhatner, and Marot. The second route proceeded by way of Abohar and Ajudhan (Pakpattan). (9)

When at the beginning of the 15th century Timur devastated the territories between Delhi and Multan, and Multan became independent of the Delhi Sultanate, the route to the northwest turned eastwards and northwards, again through Lahore. Gradual northward encroachments of the Thar desert, as suggested by Alexander Cunningham (the first Archaeological Surveyor of India, later Director of the Archaeological Survey of India), might have also forced the Mughals to abandon the old routes of communication and develop a permanent road further north, via Ambala and Sirhind. (10) This then became the new Mughal highway. From Agra to Delhi to Ambala, it ran almost parallel to the river Yamuna. Then up to Lahore, it passed through northwestern Punjab, running parallel to the Shivalik range. The route remained operative while the Mughals held Punjab. With the rise of Sikh power in the region Mughal control was disrupted and parts of the route passed into the hands of various Sikh rebel brigades.

Public Works for the Benefit of Travellers

The surviving architectural remains of various types of buildings for the benefit of travellers along the route have been surveyed in detail by this writer. (11) The building types include caravansarais, bridges, baolis, tanks, and kos-minars. The main features of these typological categories of monuments are summarized below.


Prior to the introduction of automobiles, people walked, or used oxen, bullock-carts, camels, and horses or other such means of transportation. Those who could afford to travel in comfort made use of palanquins. Obviously, relatively short distances could be covered in a day by these means. At the same time, cities and towns were far apart and the menace of marauders was constantly present. All these factors compelled people to travel during the day, in large groups called caravans. After a long, tiring journey, a secure site was indispensable for a night halt, a shelter where they could be sure of food and water for themselves and their animals. Caravansarais fulfilled this need.

Along the Agra-Lahore route, caravansarais are known to have existed at least at the following 35 stages: Mathura, Azamabad, Bad, Chhatta, Kosi, Hodal, Palwal, Khwaja Sarai, Badarpur, Nizamuddin, Badli, Narela, Ganaur, Samalkha, Panipat, Karnal, Taraori, Thanesar, Kot Kachhwaha, Shambhu, Rajpura, Sarai Banjara, Sirhind, Khanna, Sarai Lashkar Khan, Doraha, Philaur, Nurmahal, Nakodar, Mahlian Kalan, Sultanpur Lodi, Fatehabad, Naurangabad, Sarai Amanat Khan, and Sarai Khan-i-Khanan. Of these, almost complete specimens still survive at Mathura, Chhatta, Kosi, Taraori, Shambhu, Rajpura, Sarai Lashkar Khan, and Mahlian Kalan. Sarais have partially survived at Azamabad, Thanesar, Shahabad, Doraha, Nurmahal, Sultanpur Lodi, Fatehabad, and Sarai Amanat Khan. Of the sarais at Palwal, Badarpur, Badli (Azadpur), Gharonda, and Sarai Banjara, only the gateways are extant.

Architecturally, most of the extant sarais follow more or less the same plan (figure 3). They are invariably square or rectangular structures enclosed by high battlemented curtain walls (the largest of the surviving sarais is the one at Chhatta and covers a square of side c. 210 metres. Each corner of the enclosure is strengthened with a bastion which gives the sarai a fort-like presence (figure 4). In fact, today local inhabitants think of them as forts. Even some European travellers mistook them so.


Except for the sarais at Mathura, Thanesar, and Sultanpur Lodi which have only one gateway each, the access to every sarai is provided through two splendid gateways, set on opposite sides and wide enough to permit heavily laden beasts such as camels to pass (figures 5-7). These portals are so large as to accommodate a number of rooms of various shapes, in two or three storeys. A resident staff of caretakers and guards may have been permanently housed in these rooms.

The central courtyard of a sarai is always open to the sky and along the inside walls of the enclosure are ranged single-storeyed small rooms to accommodate travellers. (12) From amongst the extant sarais, the sarai at Shambhu has the lowest number of 88 rooms whereas the sarai at Chhatta has the most at 148. The middle portion of each of the two sides that do not have gateways has a block of larger rooms, to complete the four-iwan plan, a Persian form developed during the Seljuq period (c. 1000-1157). Each corner of the sarai also had larger rooms. These larger suites were meant for travellers of rank.

Every sarai was provided with a mosque for public worship. James Forbes writes that each mosque has a mulla to assist pious Muslims in their prayers. (13) The quarters adjoining the mosque or in its basement, found in some sarais, e.g. at Doraha, Shambhu, Azamabad etc., were most probably meant for resident mullas.


Often a splendid hammam, as seen in the sarais at Doraha and Nurmahal, also formed a part of a sarai. Along with these baths, wells were dug inside the sarai to supply drinking water to travellers and residents. (14)

In the standardized plan of the sarai, architects exhibited their creativity in the architectural and decorative treatment of its gateways. These magnificent portals display the stylistic development of Mughal gateways over a century (figures 5-7). And in the absence of epigraphic or literary evidence, the architectural style of these gateways helps us fix the chronology of a sarai.


Broadly speaking, sarai gateways can be classified into two types. The first type follows the well-known Buland Darwaza, i.e. the sides of the high central facade containing the archway are turned at an angle. The Sarai at Fatehpur Sikri, built by Akbar, has this type of gateway which can also be found in the sarais at Shambhu and Nurmahal (figure 5). The second type of portal has a broad facade, in a single plane, flanked by an octagonal tower, usually covered with a dome or a chhatri (figure 7). Most sarai gateways are of this type. Both types have some recesses or projected balconies on the facade and usually have rich contemporary-style decoration. The western gateway of Sarai Nurmahal has carvings exhibiting a vast variety of animate motifs (figures 8 and 9). The gateways at Fatehabad, Doraha, and Sarai Amanat Khan have excellent glazed-tile mosaic work in variegated colours (figures 10 and 11).


The institution of the sarai had existed in India, in one form or the other, since ancient times. As mentioned in the 7th Pillar Edict of King Ashoka, the royal road connecting his capital Pataliputra with the northwestern city of Taxila had a chain of rest-houses and wells at regular intervals. (15) Buddhist viharas along major trade-routes also served travellers, merchants, and pilgrims.


There is also ample evidence suggesting the existence of sarais during the Sultanate period. For example, Sultan Alauddin Khilji's directive that no one should drink, sell, or have anything to do with wine was proclaimed through the streets and wards, bazaars and sarais of the capital. (16) An inscription of Muhammad bin Tughlaq from Bhadgaon (Maharashtra) records the construction of a sarai there by Sunbul, the Mehtar-i-Sarai or innkeeper, in 1328. (17) Shams Siraj Afif, the author of Tarikh-i Firozshahi, clearly mentions the erection of monasteries and inns for the accommodation of travellers by Sultan Firuz Shah, where travellers from all directions were hosted for three days. (18) Three sarais are specified by name in the list of 18 places which were included in the newly built town of Firuzabad by Firuz. (19)

But it appears that the above-mentioned sarais of the Sultanate period were situated in cities or towns and not along highways. The credit for first providing sarais along highways goes to Sher Shah Sur (1540-45), the Pathan emperor well known for his civic works. He showed an avid interest in the promotion of trade and travel throughout his empire and can be credited with having built sarais at the termination of every 2 kos (approximately 8 1/2 kilometres) to facilitate travel. (20) His name is so deeply attached to the institution of sarai that common lore would have us believe that every sarai in India was built by Sher Shah, as in Iran virtually every sarai is attributed to the Safavid emperor Shah Abbas I (1589-1627).





Sher Shah's son Islam Shah tried to emulate his father by building more sarais. (21) But all these pre-Mughal sarais are known only from literary and epigraphical sources. None of the structures survives, probably because they were made of impermanent building materials such as beaten earth or mud-brick.

Such public works are possible in stable and prosperous polities. It is therefore not surprising that the largest number of brick and stone sarais were built under the Mughals whose rule was the longest and most prosperous in medieval India. Indeed all the surviving sarais along the Agra-Lahore route date from this period.

The sarai was one of the most important public buildings not only in Mughal India but in most of the Islamic world. Magnificent sarais were built in Syria, Turkey, and Persia. But in general appearance, the Mughal sarais along the Agra-Lahore highway bear closest resemblance to Persian prototypes. The only difference is that whereas the Persian sarais show great variation in planning, this is not for the Mughal ones. (22) It appears that the Persian form was simplified here to suit local climatic conditions. In the absence of any structure of this class in India from the pre-Mughal period, (23) it is difficult to say which elements of these Mughal sarais were of indigenous origin.

A clear picture of the working of Mughal sarais is provided by various European travellers in Mughal India. A traveller who wanted to stay in a sarai was allotted a room. When he had taken up his lodging, no one could dispossess him of it. (24) As already noted, the greatest number of rooms for common travellers in a sarai along the Agra-Lahore route is 148, as seen in the sarai at Chhatta. But Niccolao Manucci, a Venetian who lived in India from 1656 up to his death in 1717, recorded that each sarai "might hold, more or less, from 800 to 1000 persons, with their horses, camels, carriages, and some of them are even larger." (25) So the other travellers, who could not get rooms, most probably pitched their tents in the sarai's courtyard. During a heavy rush these buildings must have resembled "large barns", as recorded by the French physician Francis Bernier who travelled in India during 1656-68, where hundreds of human beings "mingled with their horses, mules and camels." (26)

Each traveller was provided with a cot but he had to carry his own bedding. Provisions such as flour, rice, butter, and vegetables could be bought inside the sarai or in its vicinity. (27) There were also servants in each sarai who prepared food for small payment. (28) Sweepers cleaned the rooms. The Portuguese missionary Fray Sebastian Manrique considered the attendants in a sarai very obliging and better than European stablemen and innkeepers. (29)

Manucci recorded that in every sarai "is an official whose duty it is to close the gates at the going down of the Sun. After he has shut the gates he calls out that every one must look after his belongings, picket his horses by their fore and hind legs.... At six o'clock in the morning, before opening the gates, the watchman gives three warnings to the travellers, crying in a loud voice that everyone must look after his own things. After these warnings, if anyone suspects that any of his property is missing, the doors are not opened until the lost thing is found."

Manucci also mentions the presence of "musicians, dancing boys, women dancers, barbers, cloth-dealers, tailors, washermen, farriers with horse shoes, endless cheating physicians and many sellers of grass and straw for the horses" as well as "women of pleasure". (31)

Though Edward Terry writes that in a sarai "any passengers may find house-room, and use it without any recompence", (32) and an inscription on the western gateway of Sarai Nurmahal forbids taking payment from travellers, in practice the keeper of the sarai must have charged something, if only a nominal amount.

Although critical of the Indian sarais, Bernier was so impressed by the Begun Sarai (no longer extant) at Delhi that he wrote: "If in Paris we had a score of similar structures, distributed in different parts of the city, strangers on their first arrival would be less embarrassed than at present to find a safe and reasonable lodging. They might remain in them for a few days until they had seen their acquaintance, and looked out at leisure for more convenient apartments." (33)

None of the European travellers mentions that the Mughal sarais were also used as dak-chowkis or relay stations as they were in the days of Sher Shah Sur. According to Waq'i Alamgiri, dak-chowkis under the Mughals were set up as distinct from sarais. (34)


The Agra-Lahore highway had a number of rivers and streams that required bridging. However, no permanent bridges are known to have spanned any of the main rivers along the route. Instead, these waterways were crossed by bridges made of connected boats or ferries. Only small streams were spanned with masonry bridges which still survive, in varying states of decay, at Khwaja Sarai (figure 12), Nizamuddin (Delhi), Madhuban, Thanesar, Sirhind, Mahlian Kalan, and Sultanpur Lodi.


These bridges commonly consist of multiple arched openings, separated by piers provided with rectangular, triangular, or circular cutwaters. Only the smaller bridge at Sultanpur Lodi has piers pierced with small arches. Usually, these bridges were higher at the middle. The pathway over the bridge was flanked by minars. The bridge at Nizamuddin, popularly known as Barahpula, measuring some 196 metres in length, is the largest of the surviving bridges. Built during the reign of Jahangir, it consists of 11 arches carried on 12 piers. In its original condition the second bridge at Sultanpur Lodi appears to have been longer.

As all the streams of the region have alluvial beds, the bridges were based on the standard system of well foundations. The major flaw of medieval bridges, as first pointed out by Cunningham, was that their piers had approximately the same thickness as the span of the arches which obstructed one half of the waterway, with the result that the river soon made a way for itself by cutting away the bank at one end of the bridge.> The destruction of bridges was usually caused during violent floods when rivers suddenly swelled. Even the piercing of arches in the piers, as noted in the first bridge at Sultanpur Lodi, could not save them. An appropriate solution was found in the Sirhind bridge where side bridges offered additional water-ways. Shifting riverbeds were another factor that contributed to the destruction of the bridges; for example, probably due to a southward shift in the course of the Kali Vein river at Sultanpur that additional arches had to be built for the second bridge.



The climate of northwestern India, through which the Mughal highway passes, is dominated by a long summer. Water was the most basic need of travellers, and wells were the most common artificial sources of drinking water. More ambitious builders erected impressive stepwells or baolis and large tanks.

A baoli, a building type exclusive to the Indian subcontinent, is essentially a longitudinal structure comprising two parts: a circular or octagonal well and a flight of steps leading down to the water-level. At baolis, weary travellers could quench their thirst and take rest. Water could be fetched either by descending the stairs or by lowering a leather bag into the well and then drawing it up manually or using yoked oxen.

Along the Agra-Lahore route, the remains of baolis are to be seen at Sirhind, Doraha, Kanech (figure 13), Sultanpur Lodi, Goindwal, and Sarai Amanat Khan. But for the one at Goindwal, the rest of these structures are in advanced stages of decay. In some areas, a rising water table has led to their submergence.


Whereas a baoli supplied fresh water, a tank provided stored water. In contrast to a baoli which could serve only a limited group of travellers, tanks were more suitable for large caravans. Besides providing drinking water, the surrounding agricultural land could also be irrigated from a tank. As an adequate supply of water was essential not only for travellers but for every inhabitant, the original number of tanks must have been very large although only a few of them have survived. Extensive tanks are extant at Raja Taal, Sarai Banjara, Taraori, Sikandra, etc. These tanks of large compass were usually rectangular in shape, enclosed with brick or stone walls. In some cases they were surrounded with steps or ghats, whereas in others steps were provided only at the centre of each side. More ambitious structures have kiosks at the extremities of the ghats as seen in Guru-ka-Taal, Sikandra. These tanks were filled with rain water or through a channel from a nearby stream or river.


Kos-minar literally means a tower marking the distance of a kos. It is the Asian equivalent of the milestone. Such structures served as beacons for caravans who also could compute the distance they traversed using these markers.

Emperor Akbar, during the 19th year of his reign (1574), ordered the erection of kos-minars along the Agra-Ajmer road. (36)

In 1619, Jahangir ordered Baqir Khan, the faujdar (Mughal officer-in-charge) of Multan to set up a post at every "kos from Agra to Lahore to show the distance...." (37) A large number of these kos-minars are extant, partly due to the fact that they were repaired by the inhabitants from time to time, in the public interest. As actually measured between some sets of these minars between Agra and Delhi, 1 kos is equal to 4.17 kilometres.

The actual number of these kos-minars, if the exact uniformity of distance was maintained, would have been about 167 or 168. More than a hundred of these still survive. Although these structures broadly follow the same design, some of these have graceful proportions whereas others are quite clumsy. Each tower is a brick or stone structure covered with plaster, with a slightly tapered octagonal base which rises up to nearly half of its total height (figure 1). Above this base, the minar becomes a tapered cylindrical pillar. The octagonal base is separated from the cylindrical portion by a moulding and a red band. There is another moulding just below the spherical top. These kos-minars were uninscribed.

The old mode of travel along highways continued to function until the late 19th century when everything changed with the advent of railways and motor-vehicles. Today most of these structures along the Mughal highway lie in ruins, and most of those which survive are either neglected monuments or encroached spaces.


All photographs and drawings by the author.


(1) William Foster, ed., Early Travels in India (1583-1619), repr. Delhi, 1968, p. 244.

(2) William Foster, ed., The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India (1615-1619), repr. Jalandhar, 1993, p. 493.

(3) E.D. Maclagan, "The Earliest English Visitors to the Punjab 1585-1627" in Selections from Journal of the Panjab Historical Society, vol. 2, ed. Zulfiqar Ahmad, Lahore, 1982, p. 31.

Similar praise is showered on the route by some later European travellers as well. These include French jeweller Jean Baptiste Tavernier (who visited India several times, first in 1640-41 and for the last time in 1665-67) (Travels in India, transl. V. Ball, ed. William Crooke, vol. I, repr. Delhi, 1977, p. 78). Another French traveller Jean de Thevenot (visited India in 1666-67) [S.N. Sen, Indian Travels of Thevenot & Careri, Delhi, 1949, pp. 57, 85]; Francois Bernier (Travels in the Mogul Empire AD 1656-1668, repr. Delhi, 1968, p. 284); and Portuguese missionary Fray Sebastian Manrique (1641) (Travels of Fray Sebastian Manrique 1629-43, transl. C. Eckford Luard, vol. II, Oxford, 1927, p. 184).

(4) Jahangir, Memoirs of Emperor Jahangueir, transl. Major David Price, repr. Delhi, n.d., p. 157. This order is not mentioned in the larger version of Jahangir's memoirs translated about 1909 by Alexander Rogers and edited by Henry Beveridge under the title Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir, repr. Delhi, 1968, and the recent translation by Wheeler M. Thackston under the title The Jahangirnama: Memoir of Jahangir, Emperor of India (Washington, 1999). (The references in the following notes are to Thackston's translation.)

Of course, in Rogers' version, Jahangir records at a later date that "as ordered, two rows of trees had been planted to form an avenue from Agra the river at Attock...." p. 310.

(5) The ideal of a rest-house at every 8 kos was already an established one as early as the reign of Ashoka (268-231 BCE), D.C. Sarcar, Inscriptions of Asoka, rev. edn. Delhi, 1975, p. 67.

(6) Foster, Early Travels, p. 325.

(7) The present author has traced the route on the basis of the following sources: Foster, Early Travels (Account of William Finch), pp. 155-60; Tavernier, op. cit., pp. 77-78; K.L. Sachdeva, "Dutch Ambassador Johan Josua Ketelar in Punjab", Proceedings of the Punjab History Conference, 17th session, Patiala, 1983, pp. 91-96; Bhagat Singh, "Akhbar-i Darbar-i Mualla", The Panjab Past and Present, vol. 18, October 1984, pp. 11-15; Abdul Kadir Khan, "Memorandum of the Route between Delhi and Cabul (1797)", Asiatic Annual Register, 1806, reprinted in The Panjab Past and Present, vol. 12, April 1978, pp. 15-21; Rai Chatur Man Kayath, Chahar Gulshan, transl. J.N. Sarkar in India of Aurangzeb, Calcutta, 1901, pp. 171-72.

(8) Alberuni's India, ed. and transl. Edward C. Sachau, repr. Delhi, 1993, vol. I, pp. 205-06.

(9) For details of various routes between Delhi and Multan, see A.M. Stow, "The Road between Delhi and Multan", Selections from the Journal of Panjab Historical Society, vol. 2, pp. 81-94.

(10) Alexander Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Reports, vol. 2, repr. Varanasi, 1972, p. 208.

(11) For details of each and every monument along the Mughal highway, see Subhash Parihar, Land Transport in Mughal India: Agra-Lahore Mughal Highway and its Architectural Remains, Delhi, 2008.

(12) Only the now extinct Begum Sarai (Delhi) built by Jahan Ara Begum is known to have had rooms arranged in two storeys. Bernier, op. cit., pp. 280-81.

(13) James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. III, London, 1813, p. 124.

(14) In addition, as Iqtidar Alam Khan writes: "On the road connecting the two gateways [of a sarai] ... we often find a line of shops...." ["The Karawansarays of Mughal India: A Study of Surviving Structures", Indian Historical Review 14 (1990), p. 133]. However, the basis for his observation is not known. Nor is the basis for Stephen P. Blake's observation that "a katra (walled enclosure) for storing travellers' goods were found in most sarais." "Cityscape of an Imperial Capital: Shahjahanabad in 1739" in Delhi through the Ages, ed. R.E. Frykenberg, Delhi, 1993, p. 78.

(15) Sarcar, op. cit., p. 67; A.L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, repr. Delhi, 1967, p. 226.

(16) Ziya al-Din Barni, Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, in H.M. Elliot and J. Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, vol. III, repr. Allahabad, n.d., pp. 180-81.

Ravinder Kumar in his article "Planning and Lay-Out of the Mughal Sarais", writes, on the authority of Barni, that "There is evidence suggesting the existence of sarais in the vicinity of Delhi as early as Balban's reign" (Proceedings of Indian History Congress, session 38, 1977, p. 354). However, the reference is not traceable in Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi (vol. I, ed. Shaikh Abdur Rashid, Aligarh, 1957).

(17) Q.M. Moneer, "Two Un-published Inscriptions of the time of Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq", Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica (1939-40), Delhi, 1950, pp. 23-24 and pl. X(b).

(18) R.C. Jauhri, Medieval India in Transition: Tarikh-i Firozshahi, Delhi, 2001, p. 187.

(19) These are the sarai of Shaikh Malik Yar Paran, the sarai of Abu Bakr Tusi, and the sarai of Malika. Elliot and Dowson, op. cit., vol. III, p. 303.

(20) Abbas Khan Sarwani, Tarikh-i-Ser Sahi, transl. Brahmadeva Prasad Ambashthya, Patna, 1974, pp. 761-62.

(21) Khwajah Ni'mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i Afghani, vol. I, ed. S.M. Imam al-Din, Dacca, 1960, p. 377.

(22) For plans of all the surviving caravansarais of Iran, see, W. Kliess and M.Y. Kiani, Iranian Caravansarais, 2 vols., Teheran, 1983 and 1989. See also, A.U. Pope, Persian Architecture, London, 1965, pp. 238-41, figs. 325-29.

(23) The building (dated c. 1432) in front of the Malik Mughith's mosque at Mandu, is believed to have been a sarai (D.R. Patil, Mandu, Delhi, 1975, pp. 44-45). But its plan has little in common with the surviving Mughal sarais.

(24) Maclagan, op. cit., p. 31.

(25) Niccolao Manucci, Storia Do Mogor, vol. I, transl. William Irvine, repr. Delhi, 1990, p. 69.

(26) Bernier, op. cit., p. 233.

(27) Tavernier, op. cir., vol. I, p. 45; Manrique, op. cit., vol. II, p. 101.

(28) Ibid. James Forbes writes that the travellers "were often supplied with the necessaries of life gratis; at least such as sufficed the lower classes of pilgrims" (op. cit., p. 123). It may be true of a few sarais, not all.

(29) Foster, Early Travels, p. 225; Tavernier, op. cit., vol. I, p. 45; Manrique, op. cir., vol. II, p. 101. The 15th-century Russian traveller Afanasy Nikitin recording the same practice during the pre-Mughal period, writes "In India travellers put up at inns, and the food is cooked for them by women, who also make the guest's beds", Voyage beyond three Seas (1466-72), Moscow, n.d., p. 20.

(30) Manrique, op. cit., p. 102.

(31) Manucci, op. cit., vol. I, p. 67.

(32) Edward Terry, A Voyage to East-India, London, 1777, p. 187.

(33) Bernier, op. cit., p. 281.

(34) Waq'i Alamgiri, ed. Chaudhury Nabi Ahmad, Allahabad, 1374 AH (1954-55 AD), p. 99, quoted by A.K.M. Farooque, Roads and Communications in Mughal India, Delhi, 1977, p. 129, n. 14.

(35) Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Reports, vol. XIV, p 57.

(36) Abul Fazl, Akbarnama, vol. III, repr. Delhi, 1973, p. 156. Historian Badaoni laments that "Would that instead of these [kos-minars] he [Akbar] had ordered gardens and caravansarais to be made!" Muntakhab al-Tawarikh, vol. II, transl. W.H. Lowe, repr. Delhi, 1973, p. 176.

(37) Jahangirnama, p. 331.
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Author:Parihar, Subhash
Publication:Marg, A Magazine of the Arts
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Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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