During the medieval period, Mirzapur became an important center of trade and commerce. The city was located at the confluence of two major rivers, the Ganges and the Vindhya, making it an ideal business location. Various dynasties ruled it, including the Mauryas, Guptas, and Mughals.
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Mirzapur became essential for producing silk and cotton textiles During the Mughal period. The city’s economy flourished as it became a hub for the trade of these textiles. Mirzapur was also a learning center during this period, and several renowned scholars and poets lived and worked in the city.
During the early 19th century, Mirzapur was subjected to the authority of the British East India Company after the degradation of the Mughal Empire. Despite this, the city played a significant role in the Indian independence movement, with many distinguished leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, visiting to address public gatherings.
Today, Mirzapur is a bustling city known for its rich cultural heritage, temples, and scenic beauty. It is also an important center for trade and commerce and is home to several industries, including textiles, brassware, and carpets.
Mirzapur, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is located at 25.15°N 82.58°E and has an average elevation of 80 meters (265 feet). The town is a part of the Varanasi district and lies between the parallels of 23.52 & 25.32 North latitudes and 82.7 and 83.33 East longitude. The district is surrounded by the Varanasi district on the north and northeast, the Sonbhadra district on the south, and the Allahabad district on the northwest.
The shape of Mirzapur is regular towards the north and west. At the same time, in no direction, except for about 13 km in the northeast, where the Ganges separates the Tehsil of Chunar from the district of Varanasi, does it have a natural frontier. The Chanvar fields, considered one of India’s most fertile land tracts, are located on the Gangetic floodplains of the district.
The Indian Standard Time is calculated based on 82.5° E longitude from a clock tower located in Mirzapur. According to the Central Statistical Organisation, the district of Mirzapur has an area of 4521 km2.
The earliest known inhabitants of Mirzapur were the Kol tribe. They were a group of hunter-gatherers who lived in the region’s forests. In the 6th century BC, the Kols were conquered by the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryans built several forts and temples in Mirzapur.
In the 3rd century BC, the Shunga Empire overthrew the Mauryan Empire. The Shungas ruled Mirzapur for about 100 years. In the 2nd century BC, the Shungas were destroyed by the Kushanas. The Kushanas ruled Mirzapur for nearly 200 years.
In the 1st century AD, the Kushanas were overthrown by the Gupta Empire. The Guptas ruled Mirzapur for about 400 years. During this time, Mirzapur was a significant center of learning and culture.
In the 6th century AD, the Gupta Empire was overthrown by the Huns. The Huns ruled Mirzapur for about 50 years. In the 7th century AD, the Huns were conquered by the Pala Empire. The Palas ruled Mirzapur for nearly 300 years.
In the 10th century AD, the Pala Empire was overthrown by the Sena Empire. The Senas ruled Mirzapur for about 200 years. In the 12th century AD, the Senas were defeated by the Delhi Sultanate.
In the 16th century AD, the Mughal Empire overthrew the Delhi Sultanate. The Mughals ruled Mirzapur for about 300 years. During this time, Mirzapur was a significant center of trade and commerce.
In the 17th century AD, the Mughal Empire was at its peak. The Mughal emperor Akbar built some forts and palaces in Mirzapur. He also built many mosques and temples.
In the 18th century AD, the Mughal Empire began to decline. Many rulers, including the Marathas and the British, ruled the city.
In the 18th century AD, the British East India Company began to gain control of India. Finally, in 1801, the British East India Company took control of Mirzapur. The British ruled Mirzapur for about 100 years. During this time, Mirzapur was a significant center of the opium trade.
In 1947, India gained independence from Britain. Mirzapur became a part of the new nation of India.
In the years since independence, Mirzapur has continued to grow and develop. The city is now a major industrial and commercial center. It is also a significant tourist destination.
How to reach Mirzapur
Mirzapur is a popular tourist destination known for its temples, waterfalls, and sandstone quarries. If you plan to visit Mirzapur, there are several ways to reach the city. The city is located on the National Highway 19, which connects it to other major cities in Uttar Pradesh and India. In addition, you can hire a taxi or take a bus from nearby cities to reach Mirzapur. Several state-run and private buses operate from Mirzapur to other cities in Uttar Pradesh and neighboring states.
Mirzapur boasts a railway station situated on the significant Delhi-Kolkata rail route. In addition, numerous express and superfast trains run from Mirzapur to various cities across India. The Howrah-Allahabad Mail, the Kanpur-Varanasi Express, and the Chhapra-Varanasi Express are some trains that stop at Mirzapur.
If air travel is your preferred mode of transportation, the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport in Varanasi is the closest airport to Mirzapur, around 1 hr 15, 72 km from the city. You can choose from various airlines, such as Air India, IndiGo, and SpiceJet, which provide flights to and from Varanasi. Once you reach the airport, you can hire a taxi or board a bus to Mirzapur.
Once you reach Mirzapur, there are several options for local transportation. E-rickshaws and taxis are readily available for hire, and buses and shared taxis are also available for local travel. However, it is advisable to negotiate the fare before boarding any mode of transportation. You can book an auto or car to explore the city and nearby areas at your own pace.
Things to see and do in Mirzapur
Here are some of the top things to see and do in Mirzapur:
- Vindhyachal Temple: This temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Vindhyavasini and is considered one of India’s most sacred Shaktipeeths. It is located on the banks of the holy river Ganges.
- Chunar Fort: This historic fort is situated on a hilltop and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. It is believed to have been built by Sher Shah Suri, a medieval ruler of India.
- Wyndham Falls: This waterfall is located near Mirzapur and is a popular spot for picnics and day trips. The waterfall cascades down a series of rocks and pools at the bottom.
- Sita Kund: This natural spring is believed to be the place where Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, took a bath during their exile period. It is located amid a dense forest and is a popular spot for pilgrimage.
- Rajdari and Devdari Waterfalls: These waterfalls are located in the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary and are surrounded by lush green forests. They are a popular spot for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.
These are just a few things to see and do in Mirzapur and its surrounding areas. The city is rich in history and culture and offers something for everyone.
The Chunar Fort is a must-visit destination for history and architecture enthusiasts. The fort’s strategic location on the bank of the Ganges River has made it an important landmark throughout history. Visitors can explore the fort’s various historical structures and learn about its rich history from 56 BC. The defense has been ruled by different empires and kingdoms, including the Mughal Empire, Sher Shah Suri’s Afghan dynasty, and the Marathas. The fort’s impressive architecture and intricate designs are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of the artisans of that era.
The Chunar Fort is associated with many legends, one of which is the story of King Bali and the appearance of God in the form of a Brahmin, who left his footmark on the hill of Chunar Fort, known as “Charanadri.” Another legend is related to King Vikramāditya of Ujjain, who built a house for his brother Bharthari near the rockface of Chunar. The black stone where the Baba Bhatinath lived and prayed is worshipped.
A third legend is linked to the acquisition of the fort by Sahab-ud-din, who appointed a sanidi, an African, and a Bahelia, gave them titles as Hazari, or “governors of the fort,” and conferred a jagir. The Bahelia family owned the land holdings till the fort was finally ceded to the British in 1772. An inscription in Sanskrit on the fort’s gateway mentions that the place had been taken over by Swami Raja, who had established a stone tablet recording the event.
Chunar’s recorded history dates back to 56 BC, during Vikramāditya of Ujjain. However, the earliest recorded history of the fort dates back to the sixteenth century, when a garrison of Babar suffered heavy losses in 1529, with some of their tombs still being revered in Chunar. Sher Khan, a highly ambitious Pathan of Afghan descent who aspired to become the King of Delhi, took control of the fort in 1532 through strategic marriages that enhanced his reputation and brought him wealth. He became a powerful ruler, establishing a “state within a state” in just four years.
Although he had moved his treasure and harem to Rohtas during his campaign to win Bengal, he was pressured by Emperor Humayun to give up Chunar and other territories in exchange for keeping Bengal. Humayun demanded that Sher Khan surrender his treasure, a precious umbrella, and throne and agree to be under the protection of the Mughal Empire. Eventually, Sher Khan agreed to the terms and signed a deal with Humayun. Still, he later recaptured Chunar when Humayun marched towards Bengal.
The fort remained under the control of Sher Shah’s son, Islam Shah, until 1553, and then was handed over to the Hindu Prime Minister Hemu, who launched attacks from the fort and won several battles across north India, including the Battle of Tughlaqabad in 1556, in which captured Delhi and declared independence from the Sur Empire, crowning himself as king. Adil Shah, the last ruler of the Sur dynasty, remained confined to the fort until 1556 when he handed over the administration and military powers to Hemu. However, he lost his life in an attack by the King of Bengal in 1557. The fort eventually came under the control of the Mughals in 1575.
Settlements have been documented in this area since 56 BC, dating back to the time of Vikramāditya of Ujjain. Chunar’s earliest recorded history dates back to the sixteenth century when a garrison of Babar was stationed there, and several of his soldiers were killed in 1529. Sher Khan, an ambitious Pathan of Afghan descent, acquired the fort in 1532 through strategic marriages and became very powerful within four years, establishing a “state within a state.”
The defense was not critical to Sher Khan, as he had moved his harem and treasure to Rohtas during his campaign to conquer Bengal. However, Emperor Humayun laid siege to the fort for four months, proposing that he would not claim Chunar and Jaunpur, among other places, if Sher Khan surrendered Bengal. Sher Khan eventually agreed to Humayun’s terms. After Sher Shah died in 1545, it remained under the control of his son Islam Shah until 1553.
Adil Shah, the last of the Suris dynasty, remained confined to the fort until 1556 when he handed over the entire administration and military powers to the Hindu PM Hemu. Hemu launched many attacks from this fort, winning several battles across north India and even capturing Dilli after the Battle of Tughlaqabad in 1556, declaring independence from the Sur Empire and crowning himself as king. Adil Shah remained in this fort until he lost his life in an attack by the king of Bengal in 1557.
The defense came under the control of the Mughals in 1575, when Akbar visited Chunar for shikar and acquired it as he considered the fort strategically located to guard the Ganges and the major land routes to eastern India. The west gate was built during his reign, and much of the defense seen today was believed to have been constructed during his rule. Emperor Jahangir nominated Iftikhar Khan during the Mughal period as the fort’s Nazim. During the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, his appointee for Governor of the defense, Mirza Bairam Khan, constructed a mosque here in 1663.
In 1804, the Marathas ceded all their territories in Bundelkhand to the East India Company following their defeat in the second Anglo-Maratha War. The British East India Company attacked the fort under Major Munro; Although they initially lost ground, they subsequently breached and annexed its southwest part. With all its territory, the regiment was formally ceded under a treaty to the East India Company in 1818.
For a few years, the fort was the main artillery and ammunition depot of the Northwestern Provinces. Maharaja Chait Singh of Benares temporarily took possession of the fort but was eventually evicted. Then, in 1857, he raised a rebellion in Benaras and near the villages around the fort.
In 1849, after the British takeover of the Sikh kingdom, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s wife, Rani Jind Kaur, was imprisoned in Fort Chunar. She escaped by disguising herself as a maidservant and sought political asylum in Kathmandu.
Due to its status as a recruitment and training center for the PAC, and a significant amount of arms and ammunition in its armory, Chunar Fort has been targeted by the Naxalites. As a result, the state government has instructed the police to take special care in protecting the fort and its facilities.
Legend has it that the King of Chunar buried his treasure within the fort to keep it out of the hands of the British and that it is haunted by preyet-aatma (spirit).
Sanjeev Sanyal’s book Land of Seven Rivers: History of India’s Geography provides a concise summary of the rich history of Chunar Fort.
The Citadel of Chunar Fort is an impressive structure with towering walls of local sandstone quarried from the surrounding area. Skilled masons were readily available locally to construct the tiers of the fort. While the external borders were not particularly strong, the ramparts built in stories were a formidable obstacle to would-be attackers. The defense covers a significant area, with a length of 750 yards in the north-south direction and a maximum width of 300 yards on the northern face adjacent to the riverbank.
The perimeter of the fort is 1,850 yards. At regular intervals along the ramparts, towers ranged in height from 10 to 20 feet. The west gate, believed to have been constructed by Muhammad Sharif Khan during Akbar’s reign, bears inscriptions and calligraphy engraved slabs. Although the other gates of the fort have ornate carved panels and brackets, the west entrance is relatively unadorned.
The primary structure of the fort is the Citadel, located in its northeastern part. It was equipped with numerous cannons and a gunpowder magazine. The oriel windows of the Citadel are adorned with “S”-shaped brackets, similar to those found in the Agra Fort, rather than other pre-Moghul structures in eastern India. However, some designs, such as the knot motif, can be attributed to the Sur period architecture, as seen in Chainpur and Shergarh, both of which belong to the Sur period, indicating that local artisans played a role in continuing the regional architectural traditions.
Several bungalows or mansions are interspersed among the trees, which served as offices and residences for officers during British rule. The Governor’s house, a hospital, and a prison are also located here. An ancient Hindu palace, a massive vaulted structure, is at the highest point of the rocky bluff within the fort. A well with a diameter of 15 feet (4.6 m) and a considerable depth is present within this area, but its water is typically not potable. Additionally, there is an underground dungeon that currently functions as a storeroom.
The gatehouse of the fort is a pavilion that dates back to 1538. Known as the Sonwa Mandap, it has 28 pillars and is built in the Hindu architectural style. A gold-filled engraving is present on its mihrab. The samadhi of Bharti Nath is located at the back of the monument, where religious ceremonies occur. The front yard of the building has four gates and a tunnel. Princess Sonwa, daughter of Nepali king Sandeva, frequently visited the Ganga River for baths through this tunnel in 1333 AD. The tunnel’s access is from the fort. A bawdy, measuring 17 feet in diameter and almost 200 feet in depth, contains perennial water and is connected to the Ganga River.
Rajkumari Sonwa used this well for her ablutions. A square stone slab shaded by a peepal tree is also present. According to local legend, God sits here nine hours daily and shifts to Varanasi for the remaining three hours. Therefore, the fort can only be captured between 6 AM and 9 AM during God’s absence.
Aside from exploring the fort, visitors can also take a stroll through the charming town of Chunar, situated at the foothills of the fort. The city boasts ancient temples, ruins, and a rich cultural heritage that will fascinate visitors. In addition, the Chunar railway station, located nearby, makes it easy for tourists to visit the fort and explore the town’s various attractions. Visiting Chunar Fort is a perfect opportunity to learn about India’s rich history, soak in the region’s natural beauty, and explore its vibrant culture.
In conclusion, Mirzapur is a beautiful city with a rich history and culture. It is well-connected to other cities in Uttar Pradesh and India, making it easy for tourists to reach the city. Several options suit your needs, whether you prefer to travel by road, rail, or air. Once you get to the town, there are several options for local transportation, so you can easily explore the city and nearby areas.
To sum it up, Mirzapur boasts a rich and diverse history spanning over two millennia. Over the years, the city has been a center for trade, learning, and culture. Its remarkable legacy has made a lasting impression on the city’s identity and character, which is still evident today.