Hindu Kush

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Coordinates: 35°N71°E / 35°N 71°E / 35; 71

Hindu Kush
Approximate Hindu Kush range with Dorah Pass.png
Topography of the Hindu Kush range [1]
Highest point
Peak Tirich Mir
Elevation 7,708 m (25,289 ft)
Coordinates 36°14′45″N71°50′38″E / 36.24583°N 71.84389°E / 36.24583; 71.84389
Region Central Asia-South
Parent range Himalayas
Hindu Kush and its extending mountain ranges to the west Afghanistan physical en.png
Hindu Kush and its extending mountain ranges to the west
Hindu Kush photographed by Apollo 9 AS09-23-3511.jpg
Hindu Kush photographed by Apollo 9

The Hindu Kush (Pashto and Persian : هندوکش, lit.  'Hindu Killer, Kills the Hindu'; [3] /kʊʃ, kʃ/ ), also known in Ancient Greek as the Caucasus Indicus (Ancient Greek : Καύκασος Ινδικός) or Paropamisadae (Ancient Greek : Παροπαμισάδαι), is an 800-kilometre-long (500 mi) mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan, [4] [5] from its centre to northern Pakistan and into Tajikistan and China. It forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH) [6] [7] [8] and is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram and the Himalayas. It divides the valley of the Amu Darya (the ancient Oxus) to the north from the Indus River valley to the south.

Pashto Indo-Iranian language spoken in Afghanistan

Pashto, sometimes spelled Pukhto, is an Eastern Iranian language in the Indo-European family. It is known in Persian literature as Afghāni (افغانی) and in Hindustani literature as Paṭhānī. Speakers of the language are called Pashtuns/Pakhtuns/Pathans and sometimes Afghans. Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan. Pashto is also the second-largest regional language of Pakistan, mainly spoken in the west and northwest of the country. In Pakistan, it is the main language of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the northern districts of Balochistan. Pashto is the primary language of the Pashtun diaspora around the world. The total number of Pashto-speakers is estimated to be 45–60 million people worldwide.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. It is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in three mutually intelligible standard varieties, namely Iranian Persian, Dari Persian and Tajik Persian. It is also spoken natively in the Tajik variety by a significant population within Uzbekistan, as well as within other regions with a Persianate history in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran. It is written officially within Iran and Afghanistan in the Persian alphabet, a derivation of the Arabic script, and within Tajikistan in the Tajik alphabet, a derivation of Cyrillic.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.


The Hindu Kush range has numerous high snow-capped peaks, with the highest point in the Hindu Kush being Tirich Mir or Terichmir at 7,708 metres (25,289 ft) in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. To the north, near its northeastern end, the Hindu Kush buttresses the Pamir Mountains near the point where the borders of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, after which it runs southwest through Pakistan and into Afghanistan near their border. [4] The eastern end of the Hindu Kush in the north merges with the Karakoram Range. [9] [10] Towards its southern end, it connects with the Spin Ghar Range near the Kabul River. [11] [12]

Tirich Mir highest mountain of the Hindu Kush range

Tirich Mir is the highest mountain of the Hindu Kush range, and the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas-Karakoram range, located in Chitral District of Pakistan. The mountain was first climbed on 21 July 1950 by a Norwegian expedition consisting of Arne Næss, P. Kvernberg, H. Berg, and Tony Streather. Tirich Mir overlooks Chitral town, and can be easily seen from the main bazaar.

Chitral District District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Chitral District is the largest district in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, covering an area of 14,850 km². Part of the Malakand Division, it is the northernmost district of Pakistan. It shares a border with Gilgit-Baltistan to the east, with Kunar, Badakshan and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan to the north and west, and with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa districts of Swat and Dir to the south. A narrow strip of Wakhan Corridor separates Chitral from Tajikistan in the north.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as North-West Frontier Province, is one of the four administrative provinces of Pakistan, located in the northwestern region of the country along the international border with Afghanistan.

The Hindu Kush range region was a historically significant centre of Buddhism with sites such as the Bamiyan Buddhas. [13] [14] The range and communities settled in it hosted ancient monasteries, important trade networks, and travelers between Central Asia and South Asia. [15] [16] The Hindu Kush range has also been the passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent, [17] [18] and continues to be important during modern-era warfare in Afghanistan. [19] [20]

Buddhism World religion, founded by the Buddha

Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana.

Central Asia Region of the Asian continent

Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is also colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix "-stan", meaning "land of".

South Asia Southern region of Asia

South Asia, or Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan SAARC countries and, for some authorities, adjoining countries to the west and east. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate, which rises above sea level as Nepal and northern parts of India situated south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. South Asia is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean and on land by West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Geology and formation

Geologically, the range is rooted in the formation of a subcontinent from a region of Gondwana that drifted away from East Africa about 160 million years ago, around the Middle Jurassic period. [21] [22] The Indian subcontinent, Australia and islands of the Indian Ocean rifted further, drifting northeastwards, with the Indian subcontinent colliding with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago, towards the end of Palaeocene. [21] This collision created the Himalayas, including the Hindu Kush. [23]

East Africa Eastern region of the African continent

East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern region of the African continent, variably defined by geography. In the United Nations Statistics Division scheme of geographic regions, 20 territories make up Eastern Africa:

The Middle Jurassic is the second epoch of the Jurassic Period. It lasted from about 174 to 163 million years ago. Fossil-bearing rocks from the Middle Jurassic are relatively rare, but some important formations include the Forest Marble Formation in England, the Kilmaluag Formation in Scotland, the Daohugou Beds in China, Itat Formation in Russia, and the Isalo III Formation of western Madagascar.

The Hindu Kush range remains geologically active and is still rising. [24] It is prone to earthquakes. [25] [26]


The origins of the name Hindu Kush are uncertain, with various theories being propounded by different scholars and writers. [27] According to Hobson-Jobson , the name might be a possible corruption of Indicus Caucasus, with another explanation mentioned first by Ibn Batuta remaining popular despite doubts upon it, and the modification of the name by some later writers into Hindu Koh is factitious and reveals nothing on the name's origin. [28] In the time of Alexander the Great, the Hindu Kush range was referred to as the Caucasus Indicus or the "Caucasus of the Indus River" (as opposed to the Greater Caucasus range between the Caspian and Black Seas), and in the time of Islam in India, the regular invasions possibly derived Hind Kash as Hindu KushHindū Kūh (ھندوکوه) and Kūh-e Hind (کوهِ ھند) usually applied to the entire range separating the basins of the Kabul and Helmand Rivers from that of the Amu Darya, or, more specifically, to that part of the range lying northwest of Kabul. Sanskrit documents refer to the Hindu Kush as Hind kshetra in short Hind Kash as frontier lands of India. "Kash as in Kashmir (pronounced as कश in Hindi, in English written as Kush)" word also synonym of frontier part of a "Kusha" grass. Hind Kash all around from Amu Darya (in Vedic Sanskrit Vakṣu (वक्षु) river) to Kashmir was Kshetra (place) for meditation and teaching by founders of Hinduism. [29]

Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive is a historical dictionary of Anglo-Indian words and terms from Indian languages which came into use during the British rule of India.

Alexander the Great King of Macedonia

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

Indus River River in Asia

The Indus River is one of the longest rivers in Asia. Originating in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Manasarovar, the river runs a course through the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, India, towards the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and the Hindukush ranges, and then flows in a southerly direction along the entire length of Pakistan to merge into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi in Sindh. It is the longest river and national river of Pakistan.

The mountain range was called "Paropamisadae" by Hellenic Greeks in the late first millennium BC. [30] The word Koh or Kuh means "mountain" in the local language, Khowar. According to Nigel Allan, Hindu Kush meant both "mountains of India" and "sparkling snows of India", as he notes, from a Central Asian perspective. [31]

A Persian-English dictionary [32] indicates that the suffix 'koš' [koʃ] is the present stem of the verb "to kill" ('koštan' کشتن). According to Francis Joseph Steingass, the word and suffix "-kush" means "a male; (imp. of kushtan in comp.) a killer, who kills, slays, murders, oppresses as azhdaha-kush". [33] A Practical Dictionary of the Persian Language gives the meaning of the word kush as "hotbed". [34] According to one interpretation, the name Hindu Kush means "kills the Hindu" or "Hindu killer" and is a reminder of the days when slaves from the Indian subcontinent died in the harsh weather typical of the Afghan mountains while being taken to Central Asia. [27] [35] [36] The World Book Encyclopedia states that the word kush means death, and was probably given to the mountains because of their dangerous passes. [37]

In his travel memoirs about India, the 14th century Moroccan traveller Muhammad Ibn Battuta mentioned crossing into India via the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. In his Rihla , he mentions these mountains and the history of the range in slave trading. [38] [16] Alexander von Humboldt stated that it can be learned from his work that the name only referred to a single mountain pass upon which many Indian slaves died of the cold weather. [39] Battuta wrote,

After this I proceeded to the city of Barwan, in the road to which is a high mountain, covered with snow and exceedingly cold; they call it the Hindu Kush, that is Hindu-slayer, because most of the slaves brought thither from India die on account of the intenseness of the cold.

Ibn Batutta, Chapter XIII, Rihla  Khorasan [16]
An 1879 map of Hindu Kush and its passes by Royal Geographic Society. Kabul is in lower left, Kashmir in lower right. The Hindu Kush and Passes Between the Kabul and Oxus WDL475.png
An 1879 map of Hindu Kush and its passes by Royal Geographic Society. Kabul is in lower left, Kashmir in lower right.

The name Hindu Kush is relatively young, states Ervin Grötzbach, and it is "missing from the accounts of the early Arab geographers and occurs for the first time in Ibn Baṭṭuṭa (ca. 1330)". Ibn Baṭṭuṭa, states Grötzbach, saw the "origin of the name Hindu Kush (Hindu-killer) in the fact that numerous Hindu slaves died crossing the pass on their way from India to Turkestan". [40] In contrast, state Fosco Maraini and Nigel Allan, the earliest known usage occurs on a map published about 1000 CE. [41] According to Allan, the term Hindu Kush has been commonly seen to mean "Hindu killer", but two other meanings of the term include "sparkling snows of India" and "mountains of India" with "Kush" possibly a soft variant of Kuh which means "mountain". Hindu Kush in Arabic means mountains of India. To Arab geographers, states Allan, Hindu Kush was the frontier boundary where Hindustan started. [31] [41]

According to McColl, the origins of the Hindu Kush name are controversial. Along with its origin in the perishing of Indian slaves, two other possibilities exist. [27] The term could be a corruption of Hindu Koh from pre-Islamic times where it separated Hindu population of southern Afghanistan from non-Hindu population in northern Afghanistan. The second possibility is that the name may be from the ancient Avestan language, with the meaning "water mountain". [27]

Other names

The mountain range was also called "Paropamisadae" by Hellenic Greeks in the late first millennium BC. [30]

Some 19th century Encyclopedias and gazetteers state that the term Hindu Kush originally applied only to the peak in the area of the Kushan Pass, which had become a centre of the Kushan Empire by the first century. [42]

Some scholars remove the space, and refer to Hindu Kush as "Hindukush". [43] [44]


The Hindu Kush is a formidable mountain range to cross with most peaks being between 4,400 and 5,200 m (14,500 and 17,000 ft), and some much higher. The mountains experience heavy snowfall and blizzards, with the lowest mountain pass through them being southern Shibar pass (2,700 m or 9,000 ft) where the Hindu Kush range terminates. [19] Other mountain passes being generally about 3,700 m (12,000 ft) or higher. [19] They become passable in late spring and summer.

The mountains of the Hindu Kush range diminish in height as they stretch westward. Near Kabul, in the west, they attain heights of 3,500 to 4,000 meters (11,500 to 13,100 ft); in the east they extend from 4,500 to 6,000 meters (14,800 to 19,700 ft). The average altitude of the Hindu Kush is 4,500 meters (14,800 feet). [45]

The Hindu Kush system stretches about 966 kilometres (600 mi) laterally, [45] and its median north-south measurement is about 240 kilometres (150 mi). Only about 600 kilometres (370 mi) of the Hindu Kush system is called the Hindu Kush mountains. The rest of the system consists of numerous smaller mountain ranges. Rivers that flow from the mountain system include the Helmand River, the Hari River and the Kabul River, watersheds for the Sistan Basin.[ citation needed ] The lower Sistan basin gets little rainfall (~50 mm per year) and the main source of water is the Helmand River which brings snowmelt water from the southern Hindu Kush. The smaller Khash, the Farah and the Arashkan (Harut) rivers bring water from the western Hindu Kush. The basin of these rivers serves the ecology and economy of the region west to Hindu Kush, but the water flow in these rivers fluctuates severely and has been a historical problem for any settlement. Extreme and extended droughts have been common. [46]

Kuran wa Munjan valley, looking to the south.png
Heckel Hindu Kush 1.jpg
A Badakhshan valley (left), August in Hindu Kush.

The Hindu Kush are orographically described in several parts. [47] The western Hindu Kush, states Yarshater, rises to over 5,100 m (16,700 ft) and stretches between Darra-ye Sekari and the Shibar Pass in the west and the Khawak Pass in the east. [47] The central Hindu Kush rising over 6,800 m (22,300 ft) has numerous spurs between the Khawak Pass in the east and the Durāh Pass in the west. The eastern Hindu Kush with peaks over 7,000 m (23,000 ft) extends from the Durāh Pass to the Baroghil Pass at the border between northeastern Afghanistan and north Pakistan. The ridges between Khawak Pass and Badakshan is over 5,800 m (19,000 ft) and is called the Kaja Mohammed range. [47]

The Hindu Kush, states Yarshater, are a part of the "young Eurasian mountain range consisting of metamorphic rocks such as schist, gneiss and marble, as well as of intrusives such as granite, diorite of different age and size". The northern regions of the Hindu Kush witness Himalayan winter and have glaciers, while its southeastern end witness the fringe of Indian subcontinent summer monsoons. [47] From about 1,300 to 2,300 m (4,300 to 7,500 ft), states Yarshater, "sklerophyllous forests are predominant with Quercus and Olea (wild olive); above that up to a height of about 3,300 m (10,800 ft) one finds coniferous forests with cedars, Picea, Abies, Pinus, and junipers". The inner valleys of the Hindu Kush see little rain and have desert vegetation. [47]

Numerous high passes ("kotal") transect the mountains, forming a strategically important network for the transit of caravans. The most important mountain pass is the Salang Pass (Kotal-e Salang) (3,878 m or 12,723 ft); it links Kabul and points south of it to northern Afghanistan. The completion of a tunnel within this pass in 1964 reduced travel time between Kabul and the north to a few hours. Previously access to the north through the Kotal-e Shibar (3,260 m or 10,700 ft) took three days.[ citation needed ] The Salang Tunnel at 3,363 m (11,033 ft) and the extensive network of galleries on the approach roads were constructed with Soviet financial and technological assistance and involved drilling 2.7 km (1.7 mi) through the heart of the Hindu Kush. The Salang tunnel is on Afghani Highway 76, northwest of Golbahar town, and has been an active area of armed conflict with various parties trying to control it. [48]

These mountainous areas are mostly barren, or at the most sparsely sprinkled with trees and stunted bushes. Very ancient mines producing lapis lazuli are found in Kowkcheh Valley, while gem-grade emeralds are found north of Kabul in the valley of the Panjsher River and some of its tributaries. According to Walter Schumann, the West Hindu Kush mountains have been the source of finest Lapis Lazuli for thousands of years. [49]

Eastern Hindu Kush

Mountains of the Chitral District Mountains of the Chitral Valley.jpg
Mountains of the Chitral District
Kalash girls in the Kalasha Valleys Chilam Joshi Festival in Kalash Valley.jpg
Kalash girls in the Kalasha Valleys

The Eastern Hindu Kush range, also known as the High Hindu Kush range, is mostly located in northern Pakistan and the Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan. The Chitral District of Pakistan is home to Tirich Mir, Noshaq, and Istoro Nal, the highest peaks in the Hindu Kush. The range also extends into Ghizar, Yasin Valley, and Ishkoman in Pakistan's Northern Areas.[ citation needed ]

Chitral, Pakistan, is considered to be the pinnacle of the Hindu Kush region. The highest peaks, as well as countless passes and massive glaciers, are located in this region. The Chiantar, Kurambar, and Terich glaciers are amongst the most extensive in the Hindu Kush and the meltwater from these glaciers form the Kunar River, which eventually flows south into Afghanistan and joins the Bashgal, Panjshir, and eventually the much smaller Kabul River.[ citation needed ]

Highest mountains

Tirich Mir 7,708 metres (25,289 ft) Pakistan
Noshak 7,492 metres (24,580 ft) Afghanistan, Pakistan
Istor-o-Nal 7,403 metres (24,288 ft)Pakistan
Saraghrar 7,338 metres (24,075 ft)Pakistan
Udren Zom 7,140 metres (23,430 ft)Pakistan
Lunkho e Dosare 6,901 metres (22,641 ft)Afghanistan, Pakistan
Kuh-e Bandaka 6,843 metres (22,451 ft)Afghanistan
Koh-e Keshni Khan 6,743 metres (22,123 ft)Afghanistan
Sakar Sar 6,272 metres (20,577 ft)Afghanistan, Pakistan
Kohe Mondi 6,234 metres (20,453 ft)Afghanistan


Kabul, situated 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains Mountains of Kabul.jpg
Kabul, situated 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains

The mountains have historical significance in the Indian subcontinent and China. The Hindu Kush range was a major centre of Buddhism with sites such as the Bamiyan Buddhas. [50] It has also been the passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent, [17] [18] a region where the Taliban and Al Qaeda grew, [20] [51] and to modern era warfare in Afghanistan. [19]

Nouvelle geographie universelle - la terre et les hommes (1876) (14592652167).jpg
Destroyed Statue, July 17, 2005 at 15-53.jpg
Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 1896 (top) and after destruction in 2001 by the Taliban. [52]

Buddhism was widespread in the ancient Hindu Kush region. Ancient artwork of Buddhism include the giant rock carved statues called the Bamiyan Buddha, in the southern and western end of the Hindu Kush. [13] These statues were blown up by the Taliban Islamists. [52] The southeastern valleys of Hindu Kush connecting towards the Indus Valley region were a major centre that hosted monasteries, religious scholars from distant lands, trade networks and merchants of ancient Indian subcontinent. [15]

One of the early Buddhist schools, the Mahāsāṃghika-Lokottaravāda, was prominent in the area of Bamiyan. The Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang visited a Lokottaravāda monastery in the 7th century CE, at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Birchbark and palm leaf manuscripts of texts in this monastery's collection, including Mahāyāna sūtras, have been discovered in the caves of Hindu Kush, [53] and these are now a part of the Schøyen Collection. Some manuscripts are in the Gāndhārī language and Kharoṣṭhī script, while others are in Sanskrit and written in forms of the Gupta script. [54] [55]

According to Alfred Foucher, the Hindu Kush and nearby regions gradually converted to Buddhism by the 1st century CE, and this region was the base from where Buddhism crossed the Hindu Kush expanding into the Oxus valley region of Central Asia. [56] After the Islamic conquest of the region and Islam becoming the state religion, Buddhism vanished and locals became Muslims. [57] [58] [59]


The significance of the Hindu Kush mountains ranges has been recorded since the time of Darius I of Persia. Alexander the Great entered the Indian subcontinent through the Hindu Kush as his army moved past Bactria into the Afghani Valley in the spring of 329 BCE. [60] He moved towards the Indus Valley river region in 327 BCE, his armies building several towns in this region over the intervening two years. [61]

After Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC, the region became part of the Seleucid Empire, according to the ancient history of Strabo written in 1st century BC, before it became a part of the Indian Maurya Empire around 305 BC. [62] The region became a part of the Kushan Empire around the start of the common era. [63]

Medieval era

The lands north of the Hindu Kush, in the Hephthalite dominion, Buddhism was the predominant religion by mid 1st millennium CE. [64] These Buddhists were religiously tolerant and they co-existed with followers of Zoroastrianism, Manichaseism, and Nestorian Christianity. [64] [65] This Central Asia region along the Hindu Kush was taken over by Western Turks and Arabs by the eighth century, facing wars with mostly Iranians. [64] One major exception was the period in the mid to late seventh century, when the Tang dynasty from China destroyed the Northern Turks and extended its rule all the way to the Oxus River valley and regions of Central Asia bordering all along the Hindu Kush. [66]

Hindu Kush relative to Bactria, Bamiyan, Kabul and Gandhara (bottom right). BactriaMap.jpg
Hindu Kush relative to Bactria, Bamiyan, Kabul and Gandhara (bottom right).

The subcontinent side and valleys of the Hindu Kush remained unconquered by the Islamic armies till the 9th century, even though they had conquered the southern regions of Indus River valley such as Sind. [67] Kabul fell to the army of Al-Ma'mun, the seventh Abbasid caliph, in 808 and the local king agreed to accept Islam and pay annual tributes to the caliph. [67] However, states André Wink, inscriptional evidence suggests that the Kabul area near Hindu Kush had an early presence of Islam. [68]

Mahmud of Ghazni came to power in 998 CE, in Ghazna, Afghanistan, south of Kabul and the Hindu Kush range. [69] He began a military campaign that rapidly brought both sides of the Hindu Kush range under his rule. From his mountainous Afghani base, he systematically raided and plundered kingdoms in north India from east of the Indus river to west of Yamuna river seventeen times between 997 and 1030. [70] Mahmud of Ghazni raided the treasuries of kingdoms, sacked cities, and destroyed Hindu temples, with each campaign starting every spring, but he and his army returned to Ghazni and the Hindu Kush base before monsoons arrived in the northwestern part of the subcontinent. [69] [70] He retracted each time, only extending Islamic rule into western Punjab. [71] [72]

In 1017, the Iranian Islamic historian Al-Biruni was deported after a war that Mahmud of Ghazni won, [73] to the northwest Indian subcontinent under Mahmud's rule. Al Biruni stayed in the region for about fifteen years, learnt Sanskrit, and translated many Indian texts, and wrote about Indian society, culture, sciences, and religion in Persian and Arabic. He stayed for some time in the Hindu Kush region, particularly near Kabul. In 1019, he recorded and described a solar eclipse in what is the modern era Laghman Province of Afghanistan through which Hindu Kush pass. [73] Al Biruni also wrote about early history of the Hindu Kush region and Kabul kings, who ruled the region long before he arrived, but this history is inconsistent with other records available from that era. [68] Al Biruni was supported by Sultan Mahmud. [73] Al Biruni found it difficult to get access to Indian literature locally in the Hindu Kush area, and to explain this he wrote, "Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed wonderful exploits by which the Hindus became the atoms scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. (...) This is the reason, too, why Hindu sciences have retired far from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares and other places". [74]

In late 12th century, the historically influential Ghurid empire led by Mu'izz al-Din ruled the Hindu Kush region. [75] He was influential in seeding the Delhi Sultanate, shifting the base of his Sultanate from south of the Hindu Kush range and Ghazni towards the Yamuna River and Delhi. He thus helped bring the Islamic rule to the northern plains of Indian subcontinent. [76]

The Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta arrived in the Delhi Sultanate by passing through the Hindu Kush. [16] The mountain passes of the Hindu Kush range were used by Timur and his army and they crossed to launch the 1398 invasion of northern Indian subcontinent. [77] Timur, also known as Temur or Tamerlane in Western scholarly literature, marched with his army to Delhi, plundering and killing all the way. [78] [79] [80] He arrived in the capital Delhi where his army looted and killed its residents. [81] Then he carried the wealth and the captured slaves, returning to his capital through the Hindu Kush. [78] [80] [82]

Babur, the founder of Mughal Empire, was a patrilineal descendant of Timur with roots in Central Asia. [83] He first established himself and his army in Kabul and the Hindu Kush region. In 1526, he made his move into north India, won the Battle of Panipat, ending the last Delhi Sultanate dynasty, and starting the era of the Mughals. [84]


Slavery, as with all major ancient and medieval societies, has been a part of Central Asia and South Asia history. The Hindu Kush mountain passes connected the slave markets of Central Asia with slaves seized in South Asia. [85] [86] [87] The seizure and transportation of slaves from the Indian subcontinent became intense in and after the 8th century CE, with evidence suggesting that the slave transport involved "hundreds of thousands" of slaves from India in different periods of Islamic rule era. [86] According to John Coatsworth and others, the slave trading operations during the pre-Akbar Mughal and Delhi Sultanate era "sent thousands of Hindus every year north to Central Asia to pay for horses and other goods". [88] [89] However, the interaction between Central Asia and South Asia through the Hindu Kush was not limited to slavery, it included trading in food, goods, horses and weapons. [90]

The practice of raiding tribes, hunting, and kidnapping people for slave trading continued through the 19th century, at an extensive scale, around the Hindu Kush. According to a British Anti-Slavery Society report of 1874, the Governor of Faizabad, Mir Ghulam Bey, kept 8,000 horses and cavalry men who routinely captured non-Muslim infidels (kafir) as well as Shia Muslims as slaves. Others alleged to be involved in slave trade were feudal lords such as Ameer Sheer Ali. The isolated communities in the Hindu Kush were one of the targets of these slave hunting expeditions. [91]

Modern era

Landscape of Afghanistan with a T-62 in the foreground. Afghanistan 18.jpg
Landscape of Afghanistan with a T-62 in the foreground.

In early 19th century, the Sikh Empire expanded under Ranjit Singh in the northwest till the Hindu Kush range. [92]

The Hindu Kush served as a geographical barrier to the British empire, leading to paucity of information and scarce direct interaction between the British colonial officials and Central Asian peoples. The British had to rely on tribal chiefs, Sadozai and Barakzai noblemen for information, and they generally downplayed the reports of slavery and other violence for geo-political strategic considerations. [93]

In the colonial era, the Hindu Kush were considered, informally, the dividing line between Russian and British areas of influence in Afghanistan. During the Cold War the Hindu Kush range became a strategic theatre, especially during the 1980s when Soviet forces and their Afghani allies fought the Mujahideen with support from the United States channeled through Pakistan. [94] [95] [96] After the Soviet withdrawal and the end of the Cold War, many Mujahideen morphed into Taliban and Al Qaeda forces imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia), with Kabul, these mountains, and other parts of Afghanistan as their base. [97] [98] Other Mujahideen joined the Northern Alliance to oppose the Taliban rule. [98]

After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the American and ISAF campaign against Al Qaeda and their Taliban allies made the Hindu Kush once again a militarized conflict zone. [98] [99] [100]


Pre-Islamic populations of the Hindu Kush included Shins, Yeshkun, [101] Chiliss, Neemchas [102] Koli, [103] Palus, [103] Gaware, [104] Yeshkuns, [105] and Krammins. [105]

See also

Related Research Articles

Muslim conquests of Afghanistan historical event

The Muslim conquests of Afghanistan began during the Muslim conquest of Persia as the Arab Muslims migrated eastwards to Khorasan, Sistan and Transoxiana. 15 years after the Battle of Nahāvand, they controlled all Sasanian domains except parts of Afghanistan and Makran. Nancy Dupree states that Arabs carrying the religion of Islam captured Herat and Sistan, but the eastern areas often revolted and converted back to their old faiths whenever the Arab armies withdrew. The harshness of the Arab rule caused the native dynasties to revolt after the Arab power weakened like the Saffarids. Fuller Islamization wasn't achieved until the period between 10th and 12th centuries under Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasty's rule who patronized Muslim religious institutions.

Hazarajat Land of the Hazara people

Hazāristān or Hazārajāt is a mountainous region in the central highlands of Afghanistan, among the Koh-i-Baba mountains in the western extremities of the Hindu Kush. It is the homeland of the Hazara people who make up the majority of its population. "Hazārajāt denotes an ethnic and religious zone rather than a geographical one—that of Afghanistan's Turko-Mongol Shiʿites." Hazarajat is primarily made up of the provinces of Bamyan, Daykundi, Ghor and large parts of Ghazni, Urozgan, Parwan and Wardak. The most populous towns in Hazarajat are Bamyan, Yakawlang (Bamyan), Nili (Daykundi), Lal wa Sarjangal (Ghor), Sang-e-Masha (Ghazni), Gizab (Urozgan) and Behsud (Wardak). The Kabul, Arghandab, Helmand, Farah, Hari, Murghab, Balkh and Kunduz rivers originate in Hazarajat.

Delhi Sultanate Successive Islamic dynasties that ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent (1206–1526)

The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). The sultanate is noted for being one of the few powers to repel an attack by the Mongols, caused the decline of Buddhism in East India and Bengal, and enthroned one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240.

Sulaiman Mountains mountain range

The Sulaiman Mountains, or Kōh-e Sulaymān, are the southern extension of the Hindu Kush mountain system, located in the Zabul, Kandahar and Loya Paktia regions of Afghanistan, and in northern Balochistan and some parts of southwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in Pakistan. The Sulaimans form the eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau where the Indus River separates it from the Indian Subcontinent. Bordering the Sulaimans to the north are the arid highlands of Central Hindu Kush or Paropamisadae, whose heights extend up to 3,383 metres (11,099 ft).

Paropamisadae Alexandrian satrapy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Paropamisadae or Parapamisadae was a satrapy of the Alexandrian Empire in modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, which largely coincided with the Achaemenid province of Parupraesanna. It consisted of the districts of Sattagydia, Gandhara, Buner and Udyana. Paruparaesanna is mentioned in the Akkadian language and Elamite language versions of the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great, whereas in the Old Persian version it is called Gandāra. The entire satrapy was subsequently ceded by Seleucus I Nicator to Chandragupta Maurya following a treaty.

Zamindawar is an historical region of Afghanistan and Pakistan ,it is very large and fertile valley the main sources for irrigation is Helmand River and karizes Helmand borders the road that leads from Kandahar to Herat via Farah. It corresponds to the PakistanI region of Zhob. Zamindawar is located in the greater territory of northern Helmand and encompasses the approximate area of modern day Baghran, Musa Qala, Naw Zad, Kajaki and Sangin districts. It was a district of hills, and of wide, well populated, and fertile valleys watered by important tributaries of the Helmand. The principal town was Musa Qala, which stands on the banks of a river of the same name, about 60 m, north of Girishk.

Tughlaq dynasty dynasty

The Tughlaq dynasty also referred to as Tughluq or Tughluk dynasty, was a Muslim dynasty of Turko-Indian origin which ruled over the Delhi sultanate in medieval India. Its reign started in 1320 in Delhi when Ghazi Malik assumed the throne under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. The dynasty ended in 1413.

Kabul River river in Afghanistan

The Kabul River, the classical Cophes, is a 700-kilometre (430 mi) long river that emerges in Maidan Wardak Province in the Sanglakh Range of the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan, and is separated from the watershed of the Helmand River by the Unai Pass. The Kabul River empties into the Indus River near Attock, Pakistan. It is the main river in eastern Afghanistan.

Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 12th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests include the limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Umayyad campaigns in India, during the time of the Rajput kingdoms in the 8th century.

Buddhism in Afghanistan

Buddhism in Afghanistan was one of the major religious forces in the region during pre-Islamic era. The religion was widespread south of the Hindu Kush mountains. Buddhism first arrived in Afghanistan in 305 BC when the Greek Seleucid Empire made an alliance with the Indian Maurya Empire. The resulting Greco-Buddhism flourished under the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the later Indo-Greek Kingdom in modern northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greco-Buddhism reached its height under the Kushan Empire, which used the Greek alphabet to write its Bactrian language.

Hinduism in Afghanistan

Hinduism in Afghanistan is practiced by a tiny minority of Afghans, believed to be about 1,000 individuals who live mostly in Kabul and other major cities of the country.

The ethnonym Afghan has been used in the past to denote a member of the Pashtuns, and that usage still persists in some places in Afghanistan. The name Afghanistan is a derivation from the ethnonym Afghan, originally in the loose meaning "land of the Pashtuns" and referred to the Pashtun tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush mountains.

Hindu and Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan

Before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan communities of various religious and ethnic background lived in the land. South of the Hindu Kush was ruled by the Zunbil and Kabul Shahi rulers. When the Chinese travellers visited Afghanistan between 399 and 751 AD, they mentioned that Buddhism was practiced in different areas between the Amu Darya in the north and the Indus River in the south. The land was ruled by the Kushans followed by the Hephthalites during these visits. It is reported that the Hephthalites were fervent followers of the god Surya.

Khawak Pass

The Khawak Pass sits across the route heading to the northwest from near the head of the Panjshir Valley through the formidable Hindu Kush range to northern Afghanistan via Andarab and Baghlan.

Name of Afghanistan

The name Afghānistān means "land of the Afghans", which originates from the ethnonym "Afghan". Historically, the name "Afghan" mainly designated the Pashtun people, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. The earliest reference to the name is found in the 10th-century geography book known as Hudud ul-'alam. The last part of the name, -stān is a Sanskrit suffix for "place".

Indian subcontinent Peninsular region in south-central Asia south of the Himalayas

The Indian subcontinent, is a southern region and peninsula of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Geologically, the Indian subcontinent is related to the land mass that rifted from Gondwana and merged with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago. Geographically, it is the peninsular region in south-central Asia delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east. Politically, the Indian subcontinent includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Zunbils Hindu dynasty

Zunbil, also written as Zhunbil, was a royal dynasty south of the Hindu Kush in present southern Afghanistan region. They ruled from the early 7th century until the Saffarid conquest in 870 AD. The Zunbils are believed to be an offspring of the southern-Hephthalite rulers of Zabulistan. The dynasty was related to the Kabul Shahis of the northeast in Kabul. They are described as having Turkish troops in their service by Arabic sources like Tarikh al-Tabari and Tarikh-i Sistan.

There is a small community of Indians in Afghanistan who are Afghans of Indian origin as well as Indian construction and aid workers involved in rebuilding and humanitarian assistance efforts. India is often described as acting as a soft power in Afghanistan. Having committed a $2.3 billion aid program, India is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, investing in the economy, humanitarian aid, education, development, construction and electrical. According to Foreign Policy among Afghans there is a positive perception of India's role in the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Koh e Hindu

Koh e Hindu is a mountain of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. It is located in near Shakardara District and Mir Bacha Kot District, Kabul Province.


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Further reading