Alexander Cunningham

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Sir Alexander Cunningham KCIE CSI (23 January 1814 – 28 November 1893) was a British army engineer with the Bengal Engineer Group who later took an interest in the history and archaeology of India. In 1861 he was appointed to the newly created position of archaeological surveyor to the government of India; and he founded and organised what later became the Archaeological Survey of India. He wrote numerous books and monographs and made extensive collections of artefacts. Some of his collections were lost, but most of the gold and silver coins and a fine group of Buddhist sculptures and jewellery were bought by the British Museum in 1894.


  • In the very heart of the city (Ayodhya) stands the Janam Asthan, or 'Birth-place temple' of Rama"
    • Alexander Cunningham I 1871: 322. Four reports, ASI. in Jain, M. (2017). The battle of Rama: Case of the temple at Ayodhya. ch 3
  • As Mahoba was for some time the headquarters of the early Muhammadan Governors, we could hardly expect to find that any Hindu buildings had escaped their furious bigotry, or their equally destructive cupidity. When the destruction of a Hindu temple furnished the destroyer with the ready means of building a house for himself on earth, as well as in heaven, it is perhaps wonderful that so many temples should still be standing in different parts of the country. It must be admitted, however, that, in none of the cities which the early Muhammadans occupied permanently, have they left a single temple standing, save this solitary temple at Mahoba, which doubtless owed its preservation solely to its secure position amid the deep waters of the Madan-Sagar. In Delhi, and Mathura, in Banaras and Jonpur, in Narwar and Ajmer, every single temple was destroyed by their bigotry, but thanks to their cupidity, most of the beautiful Hindu pillars were preserved, and many of them, perhaps, on their original positions, to form new colonnades for the masjids and tombs of the conquerors. In Mahoba all the other temples were utterly destroyed and the only Hindu building now standing is part of the palace of Parmal, or Paramarddi Deva, on the hill-fort, which has been converted into a masjid. In 1843, I found an inscription of Paramarddi Deva built upside down in the wall of the fort just outside this masjid. It is dated in S. 1240, or A.D. 1183, only one year before the capture of Mahoba by Prithvi-Raj Chohan of Delhi. In the Dargah of Pir Mubarak Shah, and the adjacent Musalman burial-ground, I counted 310 Hindu pillars of granite. I found a black stone bull lying beside the road, and the argha of a lingam fixed as a water-spout in the terrace of the Dargah. These last must have belonged to a temple of Siva, which was probably built in the reign of Kirtti Varmma, between 1065 and 1085 A.D., as I discovered an inscription of that prince built into the wall of one of the tombs.
    • Archaeological Survey of India, Volume I: Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65, Varanasi Reprint, 1972, Pp. 440-41. Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Volume I.
  • “In the bed of this river there are several jets of liquid mud, which, from time immemorial, have been known as Ram-Chandar ki-kup, or “Ram Chandar’s wells.” There are also two natural caves, one dedicated to Kali, and the other to Hingulaj, or Hingula Devi, that is, the ‘Red Goddess’, who is only another form of Kali. But the principal objects of pilgrimage in the Aghor valley are connected with the history of Rama. The pilgrims assemble at the Rãmbãgi, because Rama and Sita are said to have started from this point, and proceed to the Gorakh Tank, where Rama halted; and thence to Tongabhera, and on to the point where Rama was obliged to turn back in his attempt to reach Hingulaj with an army. Rãmbagh I would identify with the Rambakia of Arrian, and Tongabhera with the river Tonberos of Pliny, and the Tomerus of Arrian. At Rambakia, therefore, we must look for the site of the city founded by Alexander, which Leonatus was left behind to complete. It seems probable that this is the city which is described by Stephanus of Byzantium as the “sixteenth Alexandria, near the bay of Mo Nearchus places the western boundary of the Oritse at a place called Malaria, which I take to be the bay of Malan, to the east of Rãs Mãlãn, or Cape Mãlãn of the present day, about twenty miles to the west of the Aghor river. Both Curtius and Diodorus mention the foundation of this city, but they do not give its name. Diodorus, however, adds that it was built on a very favourable site near the sea, but above the reach of the highest tides.
  • The occurrence of the name of Rambagh at so great a distance to the west of the Indus, and at so early a period as the time of Alexander, is very interesting and important, as it shows not only the wide extension of Hindu influence in ancient times, but also the great antiquity of the story of Rama. It is highly improbable that such a name, with its attendant pilgrimages, could have been imposed on the place after the decay of Hindu influence. During the flourishing period of Buddhism many of the provinces to the west of the Indus adopted the Indian religion, which must have had a powerful influence on the manners and language of the people. But the expedition of Alexander preceded the extension of Buddhism, and I can therefore only attribute the old name of Rambakia to a period anterior to Darius Hystaspes.”
    • A. Cunningham in his book ‘The Ancient Geography of India’ quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited. ch. 12
  • Much difficulty has been felt regarding the postoion of Fa-Hian’s '"great kingdom of Shachi " and of Hwen Thsang's Vis&kha, with its enormous number of heretics or Brahmanists; but I hope to show in the most satisfactory manner that these two places are identical, and that they are also the same as the faketa and Ajudhya of the Brahmans.
  • I have now to show that Fa-Hian’s Sha chi is the same as Hwen Thsang's Vis&kha, and that both are identical with Saketa or Ajttdhya.
  • .. Nothing can be more complete than this proof. There were only two places at which Buddha resided for any length of time, namely, Sravasti, at which he lived either 9 or 19 years, and Saketa, at which he lived either 6 or 16 years; and as according to Hwen Thsang he lived for 6 years at VJsakha, which is described as being at some distance to the south of Sravasti, it follows of necessity that Visakha and Saketa were one and the same place.
  • The identity of Saketa and Ayodhya has, I believe, always been admitted ; but I am not aware that any proof has yet been offered to establish the fact. Csomade Kords, 2 in speaking of the place, merely says ‘‘Saketana or Ayodhya, and H. H. Wilson, in his Sanskrit Dictionary, calls Saketa "the city Ayodhya." But the question would appear to be set at rest by several passages of the ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Raghuvansa/ 3 in which Saketanagara is generally called the capital of Raja Dasaratha and his sons. But the following verse of the ‘Ram¬ ayana,’ which was pointed out to me by a Brahman of Lucknow, will be sufficient to establish the identity.
  • Inside the town there is a stone masJid called Bijay Mandir, or the temple of Bijay. This Hindu name is said to have been derived from the founder of the original temple, Bijay Rani. The temple was thrown down by the order of Aurangzeb, and the present masjid erected in its place; but the Hindus still frequent it at the time of the annual fair. By the Muhammadans it is called the Alamgiri masjid, while Bhilsa (earlier name of Vidisha) itsef is called Alamgirpur. The building is 78 1/2 feet long bye 26 1/2 feet broad, and the roof is supported on four rows of Plain square pillars with 13 openings to the front.
    • Cunningham who had personally visited Malwa during 1874 AD as well as 1876 AD. in Volume X of the ASI Report. Report of Tours in Bundelkhand and Malwa, Volume X. also [1][2]
  • At the north end of the Assi-khamba Masjid, there is a small tomb of Sayid Yahia of Mashad, under a nim tree. As he is the reputed recoverer of the fort of Mahaban from the Hindus, I presume that he must have destroyed the temple and built a mosque in its place. Mr. Growse places this event in the reign of Ala-ud-din, or A.H. 695 to 715.
    • Cunningham, quoted from quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • This mosque, called Adhai Din Ka Jhopra, is a ready object of shuddhi or purification to again becoming a temple. Certainly that is what Cunninghum2 3 implied. In the ASI report written by him in 1864-65, he found it difficult to follow some parts of the plan of the Quwwatul Islam mosque at Delhi, but nearly every part of the plan of the Ajmer mosque is still traceable, so that the original design of the architect can be restored without much difficulty. Externally it is a square of 259 feet each side, with four peculiar star-shaped towers at the corners. There are only two entrances, one to the east and the other to the south, -the north side being built against the scarped rock of the hill. The interior consists of a quadrangle 200 feet by 17 5 feet, surrounded on all four sides by cloisters of Hindu pillars. The mosque itself, which forms the western side of the quadrangle, is 259 feet long by 57'hfeet broad, including the great screen wall, which is no less than 1 1/2 feet thick and 56 feet high .
    • Cunningham, Sir Alexander, Archaeological Survey of India Report, 1864-65 quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • Muhammad Ghauri presumably offered prayers within the stipulated two and a half days. Subsequently in about 1200 AD the Adhai Din Ka Jhopra was completed with a well-carved facade which is best described in the words of the ASI Report25 for 1893: The whole of the exterior is covered up with a network of tracery so finely and delicately wrought that it can only be compared to a fine lace. Cunningham described the exterior of the Jhopra even more eloquently: For gorgeous prodigality of ornament, beautiful richness of tracery, delicate sharpness of finish, laborious accuracy of workmanship, endless variety of detail, all of which are due to the Hindu masons, this building may justly vie with the noblest buildings which the world has yet produced.
    • Cunningham, Sir Alexander, quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • Cunningham had personally visited Malwa during 1874 AD as well as 1876 AD. This is what he had to write in Volume X of the ASI Report: Inside the town there is a stone masjid called Bijay Mandir, or the temple of Bijay. This Hindu name is said to have been derived from the founder of the original temple, Bijay Rani. The temple was thrown down by the order of A urangzeb, and the present masjid erected in its place; but the Hindus still frequent it at the time of the annual fair. By the Muhammadans it is called the Alamgiri masjid, while Bhilsa (earlier name ofVidisha) itself is called Alamgirpur. The building is 78'hfeet long by 26'h feet broad, and the roof is supported. on four rows of plain square pillars with 13 openings to the front.
    • Cunningham, Sir Alexander, Archaeological Survey of India Report, Volume X, 1876. , quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.

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