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Peshawar (pəshäˈwär, pəshôˈər), city (1998 pop. 988,005), capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), NW Pakistan. A road and rail center near the famed Khyber Pass, Peshawar is an important military and communications center, the historical terminus of the Grand Trunk Road of India, and the major depot for trade with Afghanistan. Local handicrafts and farm produce from the surrounding fertile agricultural valley are sold in the many bazaars of the city. Industries include food processing and the manufacture of steel, cigarettes, firearms, textiles, pharmaceuticals, furniture, and paper.

The city, once called Purushapura, was the capital of the ancient Greco-Buddhist center of Gandhara. The Kushan leader Kanishka (2d cent. A.D.) made it his capital. For centuries, it was the target of successive Afghan, Persian, and Mongol invaders. It was named Peshawar [frontier town] by the Mughal emperor Akbar. A favorite residence (18th cent.) of the Afghan Durrani rulers, it was taken by the Sikhs (early 19th cent.), from whom the British captured it in 1848. It became an important outpost of British India and was a base for British military operations against Pathan tribes. During the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–89) it was the center of relief operations for Afghan refugees and the command center of the coalition of guerrilla groups intent on expelling the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. More recently, Peshawar and the surrounding area have been the scene of Taliban activity and attacks.

Peshawar has a museum containing Buddhist relics and Gandhara sculpture, a 2d-century Buddhist stupa bearing an inscription by Kanishka, and a university (1950) with several affiliated colleges. The Bala Hisar fort, still used as military headquarters in the early 21st cent., dates to at least the 15th cent.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in northwestern Pakistan, situated on the Bara River (tributary of the Kabul), near the Khyber Pass. Capital of the North-West Frontier Province. Population, 273,000 (1972).

Peshawar is an important transportation point on the highway to Afghanistan. It has a railroad station and an airport. It is the commercial center of an agricultural region producing wheat, barley, cotton, and other commodities in the mountainous zone of Pakistan. It has textile, food-processing, and metal working industries. Cottage industries produce fine silk fabrics, cotton and woolen fabrics, leather and copper goods, and other items. There is a university in the city.

Peshawar appears to have been founded at the end of the first millennium B.C. Its ancient name was Purushapura. In the first century A.D. it became the capital of the Kushana kingdom; at that time it was an important center of Buddhist culture. Archaeological remains from Indo-Greek and Kushana times are still standing, including the ruins of a large second-century (stupa with inscriptions written by Kanishka) and a Buddhist monastery, which was a center of Buddhist education for several centuries. At the turn of the sixth century the city was destroyed by Ephthalite Huns. It remained an unimportant city until the 16th century, when it became an important commercial and strategic point under the Great Moguls.

Peshawar was under the authority of the Iranian shah Nadir Shah from 1738 to 1747. From 1747 until 1818 it was part of the Afghan Durrani state. From 1818 to 1823 it was the capital of the principality of Peshawar, which formed after the breakdown of the Durrani empire. Later it was included in the Sikh state. In 1849, Peshawar was seized by the British colonialists. Under British rule in India it was the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, which was formed in 1901. There were repeated anticolonial uprisings in Peshawar, the largest of which was in 1930. From 1947 to 1955 and again after 1970, Peshawar was the capital of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in N Pakistan, at the E end of the Khyber Pass: one of the oldest cities in Pakistan and capital of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara; university (1950). Pop.: 1 255 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005