Wednesday, 25 April 2018

W for Waihind

The town of Waihind has been known in history by different name variants, as it has been held in importance by significant events which have changed the course of history a few times. Albeit an ancient small town, and now almost a hamlet, the history of Waihind cannot be ignored when we talk about ancient and medieval periods of undivided India.

The primary reason for its importance has always been the strategic location. Situated on the right (west) bank of the Indus River, about 15 km from present-day Attock and 80 km east from Peshawar, in the Swabi district of modern Pakistan, Waihind has always been the preferred point of crossing the Indus River and entry into Hindustan for every traveller from the west.

Importance of Waihind in ancient times

References to Waihind are found in the 12th century poet Kalhana’s ‘Rajatarangini’ (History of Kashmir), wherein the town is referred to as Udakabanda, which could be a colloquial shortening or derivative of the Sanskrit term ‘Urdhva-banda’, meaning ‘an upper town’ [In Sanskrit: Urdhva means Upper and Bhianda means Town; the word ‘banda’ most likely is a derivative of ‘Bhianda’.] Some other texts of the time refer to the town as ‘Udabhandapura’ which is yet another derivative of the same name. During the ancient period of the 8th to 11th century, the place was more popularly called Waihind, which later on got corrupted to Ohind and finally came to rest as Hund, the name with which we know it in the present day.

Waihind was the site of Alexander the Great’s crossing of the Indus and entering India, as it was centuries later for all the other invaders from the west, viz., the Scythians, Kushanas, Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, Babur and also the Chinese pilgrims who came to India via the Hindu-Kush route, all crossed the Indus River at Waihind to enter the plains of India.

During the 2nd century, the city was made a part of the Kushana empire spanning entire Gandhara region with the capital at Purushapura (ancient Peshawar). From the excavation findings in the area, it is seen that the Kushanas built settlements, houses, and gateways and planned streets in Waihind. Around the 7th century till the 11th century, Waihind and the entire Gandhara region were a part of the Hindu Shahi Empire being ruled from Kabul. After the Hindu Shahi kings, Jayapala and his son Anandapala were defeated in Kabul and Peshawar, their first and second capital cities, the Hindu Shahi dynasty moved their capital to Waihind and ruled their empire, albeit reduced in territory, from the city.

However, the status of Waihind as the capital of Gandhara under the Hindu Shahi kings was short-lived as Mahmud of Ghazni defeated King Jayapala in the First Battle of Waihind in 1001 and his son Anandapala in the Second Battle of Waihind in 1008, thus pillaging and destroying Waihind considerably. The Hindu Shahi king, Anandapala ceded Waihind to the Ghaznavid Empire and moved his capital to a new location Nandana in the Salt Range Mountains. Waihind lived on as an eastern frontier town of the Ghaznavid Empire but lost all its glory, status and economic prosperity forever.

References of Waihind in earlier texts

Kalhana in his Rajatarangini described Waihind as “to the North of the Indus, there is a city of complete merit by name Udabhanda where communities have made their home … protected by the chief of kings Bhima of terrible valour by whom the earth was protected… It is a place where kings ousted from their own territories by enemies, found safety…”

By the last line, it is supposed that Kalhana was referring to the ousting of the Hindu Shahi kings by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001, and the shifting of their capital to Waihind.

According to the Hudud al-Alam, an anonymous tenth century work, Waihind was a large town and received merchandize such as musk and other precious stuffs. It served as a trade centre between India and Central Asia. An eminent Muslim writer of the time, Maqadsi describes Waihand, “with its fine gardens, numerous streams, abundant rainfall, good fruits, cheap prices and general prosperity of its people. On the outskirts of the city were walnut and almond trees and within it bananas and the like. The houses were made of wood and dressed stone. The city itself was greater in size than Mansura (Sind)…”

Waihind in the medieval and modern periods

Waihind was included as a part of the Delhi Sultanate and was ruled over by different generals under the dynasties that took the throne at Delhi by succession. However, the town had reduced considerably in its political significance by then and remained important only as the point of crossing the Indus.

Understanding the strategic importance of Waihind and a cross-over point on the Indus, Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered the construction of a large fort on the mounds of the place. However, the final nail to the importance of Waihind was also driven in during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The final construction and formation of the Grand Trunk Road (it was named so later by the British) and the building of massive bridges at Attock to easily cross over the Indus River, robbed Waihind of all its traffic, travellers and commercial activity related to the travel route from which it had benefitted so long. Waihind thus continued to languish and was relegated into insignificance.

Post the decline of the Mughal Empire, and with no focus whatsoever on Waihind, the city became part of the disintegrated smaller kingdoms held by different regional tribes. The notable among them were the Khans and Mians who mixed with the families of Balar Khel and Habib Khel in the region to establish their control. The name of Waihind had also changed to Hund by then, primarily under colloquial reference and influence. Their most popular ruler was Khadi Khan.

As the British took over the entire region, the chieftain of the Balar Khel village of Waihind, Khan Bahadur Khan joined hands with the British forces to fight against the advancing Maratha armies. Post these wars, Waihind came fully under the control of British territory and the land was snatched from the local Khan rulers.

After independence and the creation of Pakistan, the city continues with the name Hund and also houses the Hund Museum which stores the artefacts found in different excavations conducted in the area. The Mughal Fort built by Akbar right across the village, still stands, but in considerable ruin.

In the words of Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani, a chronicler of the Gandhara civilization, (in an interview to The Express Tribune, Pakistan)“It is often said that history repeats itself and present day Hund is a testimony to this fact. From the courtyard of the Hund Museum, one can see vehicles crossing the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway Bridge over the River Indus in the winter haze. It was in 1586 when Akbar built the Attock bridge-crossing on the River Indus... The construction of Grand Trunk Road and the Attock bridge-crossing had pushed Hund into oblivion. Today, the new motorway bridge signifies that history is retracing its steps to Hund…”


Photo: Restored ruins of the Fort and village at Hund.

Photo credit and source: The Express Tribune, Pakistan – obtained through Wikimedia Commons

Connect with me on Twitter: @Sayan74

I am participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge and today’s letter is ‘W’.


  1. A fantastic story about a completely unheard of city. Absolutely spell binding narration, Sayan.

    1. Thank you Varad for reading and commenting.. The charm of history lies in its manner of re-telling :)


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