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A Lexicon of Vocabulary, Events and Treaties from India and Central Asia.

Bill Buxton

Created January 15, 2003
Last modified September 5, 2004

Introduction A B C D E F G H  I  J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


This page is a companion to my three other pages on the literature, personages and chronology of the history of Central Asia (India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Tibet, Chinese Turkistan, Sikkim, Afghanistan, and the Silk Road), including (or especially) the history of exploration and mountaineering.

This is the least developed page of the set, and its sparse nature makes clear that it is a work in progress.

My hope for this page is to have a central place to go to get a snapshot of the essence or meaning of key terms (such as "Khalsa"), events (such as the Sepoy mutiny),  treaties (such as "Treaty of Gadamank") and places (such as "Bactria").  Its intended purpose is to do for terms and events what the Dramatis Personae page does for people: provide a repository for information as a memory aid.

There are a few kinds of references/citations in this page.  First, after many entries, there is a list of bibliographic references, listed under the heading "Refs".  These are sources that I have used.  Second, if I have the book referenced, its title is blue and underlined.  Clicking on such titles will take you to my literature page, and the entry for that book, generally with an annotation.  Third, in the body of many of the entries, are citations in square brackets, of the form, "[Cit. 1, 2, 3]".  These refer to online web pages that I have not created, but I have used, or feel provide additional useful information on the topic.  Finally, words in the body of the entries appearing in blue and that are underlined, are links to other entries on this or other pages that I have created.  Clicking on them will take you to more information on the link.

Like my other pages, please use it, but also consider it "open source" and feel free to offer suggestions, corrections, additions, etc.

Terms are listed in alphabetical order.  Clicking on any term underlined and/or appearing in blue  will take you to an entry on that term, either on this page or one of the companion pages.

For additional information, the following sources may also be of interest:


Amir:  Muslim chief or king.

Anglo-Afghan War, First (1839-42)  [Refs: 1, 2  ]

Anglo-Afghan War, Second (1878-1880) [Refs: 1, 2  ]

Anglo-Afghan War, Third (1919) [Refs: 1, 2  ].  Concluded by the Treaty of Rawlapindi.

Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-16):[Refs: 1].  Concluded by the Treaty of Sagauli.

Anglo-Sikh War, First (1845-46): Resulted in the Treaties of Lahore and Amritsar.

Anglo-Sikh War, Second (1848-49):


Bactria: An ancient kingdom located in what is now northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan.  It was also known as Paktra and Balkh, the latter being the present name of its ancient capital, Bactra. Was the home of Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who formed his new religion there in 520 BC.  Bactria was an eastern satrapy (province) of the ancient Persian Empire, then known as Khorasan.  In 328 BC, Khorasan was the last of the Persian provinces to fall to the Greeks as Alexander the Great made his way to India.  It is from the Greeks that the name Bactria derives.  Alexander married Princess Roxanne (Roxana) of Bactria as his wife, and Bactria took on Hellenistic culture and became a Greek kingdom.  The Greeks were finally conquered by the Indo-Scythians, shortly before Zhang Qian (Chang Ch'ien) visited Bactria, as an ambassador from China (138-125 BC).  Islam was introduced around 650, and Bactria subsequently flourished under its rule until about 1220, when the capital was destroyed by Jenghiz Khan. Bactria never recovered its former importance. [Cit: 1, 2].

Beijing:  (In old spelling, Peking.) Capital city of China.  Founded in 1045 BC, as Ji city.  Went through a number of names, including Nanjing, the capital of Liao between 916-1125.  It was the capital of the Jurcheds, and was occupied in 1215 by Genghis Khan after their defeat and called Yangjing.  Made capital of the Yeun Dynasty by Khubilai Khan, in 1272, and called Daidu or Dadu ("great capital") by the Chinese, and Khanbalik by the Mongols.  This appeared as Cambaluc by Marco Polo, for Khan Bhalik, meaning "The City of the Emperor".  The Forbidden City was contructed during the reign of Khubilai Khan. [Cit. 1 ]

Bombay: Along with Madras (Fort St. George) and Calcutta (Fort William), represented one of the three key centres of British India.  Previously a Portugese settlement, Bon Bahia.  First visited by the British in 1626, during retaliatory raid against the Portugese.  Especially supported trade with Gugerat area of India.  Acquired by Charles II through the treaty of Whitehall, as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganzi.  Acquired by East India Company in 1668.


Calcutta (Fort William): Along with Bombay and Madras (Fort St. George), represented one of the three key centres of British India. Last of the three main centres to be established, the land being acquired in 1690 by Job Charnock.  Became centre of British trade in Bengal.

Confucianism: [Cit. 1]


Deorhi Officer:  Grand Chamberlain, as in Sikh court of Ranjit Singh.

Deserters: Enlistment in both the East India Company and the Royal army was, on paper, for life.  While, in fact, with good service, one could get a release in 21 years, this was still a significant commitment.  Despite the penalty for desertion, generally execution, desertion was not rare.  But given the penalty, and the remoteness of India, what were the prospects of a deserter.  One option was to enlist in the service of one of the armies of the various states around British India.  The best known examples are those who joined the Sikh army of Ranjit Singh, in the Punjab.  Grey (p. 212) states that in 1792 "it was estimated that there were no less than 1,500 Europeans, with Indian state armies, of which a large number were deserters from the French or English armies."

Dogra: Race of Rajputs in India, inhabiting Jammu and Kashmir.  Hindu.

Durand Line Treaty (1893).   The Durand line divided  the frontier districts of the Punjab (India) from Afghanistan.  Treaty signed by Abdur Rahman and Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India. The boundary was delineated in 1894-95, but this delineation has been disputed.  The line has been of importance in recent timed since in 1947, following the partition of India, it became the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  In 1996, 100 years after delineation of the line, the treaty was deemed to have lapsed. Consequently, Pakistan's de jure western border ceased to exist. [Ref: 1 ]

Durbar:  Court, public audience, or reception held by an Indian prince, or the hall in which it is held




Farman:  Treaty signed in 1716 in Old Delhi (Shahjhanabad) between Farrukhsiyar (Moghul) and Surman (British), granting British significant trading and territorial rights.  This helped lay  the foundation for later British actions which resulted in the annexation of Bengal.  Keay (1991), p. 230.

Fort St. George: See Madras.

Fort William: See Calcutta.


Gadamank, Treaty of : See Treaty of Gadamank.

Golden Horde:  This is the name given to that branch of the Mongol family that were descendents of Genghis Khan's eldest son, Joshi, and who ruled the Slavic countries of eastern Europe.


Haji: One who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hijrah:  Refers to Mohammed's migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD.  Hence, term means "migration,"  either from place to place, or spiritually, migrating to a more righteous way.  The year of Mohammed's hijrah marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.


Ilkhanate:  This means "vassal empire" and refers to the territory from Turkey to Afghanistan that was ruled by Genghis Khan's grandson Hulegu and his descendents, and which was ostensibly a vassal of the larger Mongol empire.  The Ilkhanate permitted Persian culture to emerge from under Arab domination, and laid the foundation for modern Iran.


Jagir:  Feif.  Land for which rents are due to the Jagidar, or fief holder.  Usually granted in exchange for some service rendered, especially the maintenance of troops.  Also spelt jaghire, and jaghir.

Jizya: a "poll tax" that had been levied on non-Muslims by the Mogul rulers.  Abolished by Akbar in 1562, helping lay the foundation for subsequent religious harmony among Muslims and Hindus.  Reinstated in by Aurangzib in 1679, after which, religious tensions grew significantly.


Kanwar:  Prince.  Son of a maharaja.

Khalsa, Dal: The unified Sikh army of the Punjab, initially emerged in 1747 (or 1699, depending on your source), and divided into eleven misls.  During period of Ranjit Singh, Dal Khalsa was second only to the British army in India.  At that time it included a number of European officers, especially coming from Napoleon's army.


Lakh: 100,000

Levant: Collective term used to refer to the region of the eastern end of the Mediterranean, including Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt.  The term has the same root as the French verb, "lever", (to lift, rise), and relates to the fact that the sun rises in the east.  Until the sea route to the east was established by Vasco da Gamma in 1488,  the countries of the Levant were the terminus of the "Silk Road".  European trade in goods from the east (in particular, Venice, Genoa and Pisa) was conducted with these countries, and except for a brief period from about 1250-1350, the people of the Levant held on to this monopoly by not permitting Europeans to travel further east.  See also Levant Company and  Overland Access to the East from Europe.

Levant Company: A London-based British trading company founded about 1581, which operated until 1821.  Focused on trade in goods from the east coming through the Levant.  As the sea routes to the east opened, the company shifted more from spices from the far east, more to products from the middle east, such as coffee,  tulips and opium.  The partners had a strong overlap with the East India Company, which was founded in 1600. See Wood, Alfred C. (1964). A History of the Levant Company.


Madras (Fort St. George): Along with Bombay and Calcutta (Fort William), represented one of the three key centres of British India.    Land was acquired in 1639 by Francis Day, the agent in Armajan.  Took possession in 1640, and began construction of the fort.  No harbour.  Ships had to stand off off the beach.  In addition to Indian trade, especially in the Carnatic, was home to much of the trade to the east, including China.

Maharaja (maharajah): Male ruler of an Indian state.  Maha means "great", hence "great king/raja" Hence, ranks above a raja.

Mian:  An appellation of respect given to Dogras of a high class.

Mirza:  Scholar; secretary; scribe.

Misl:  Military confederacies.  In particular, after the death of Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1772, the Punjab was ruled until 1798 (and the ascendancy of Ranjit Singh), by  twelve Sikh misls, each headed by a local Sardar.

Mongol Empire:

Mughal (Mogul, Moghul) Empire:  A dynasty of 17 Muslim rulers, originally from Turkestan, which was established when in 1526 Babur, defeated Ibrahim, the Sultan of Delhi at Panipat in the Punjab.  Effectively ended in 1748 with death of Muhammad Shah, but officially ended in 1858 with the exile of Bahadur ShahII, following the Sepoy Mutiny.

Mullah:  Muslim priest;  Learned man.

Muscovy Company (a.k.a. Russia Company): The first major English joint-stock trading company.  Unlike the East India Company, the capital was reinvested, rather than paid out to investors after each trip. Begun in 1553 by Sebastion Cabot, and a number of English merchants, and chartered in 1555, with a monopoly on Anglo-Russian trade.   Initially, the goal was to find a sea passage to the orient via the north-east.  Later, it pursued overland routes, with one of its agents, Anthonie Jenkinson, reaching Bokhara in 1558.  While its monopoly on Russian trade ended in 1698, the company continued in existence until 1917.




Overland Access to the East from Europe:  Overland access to the east by Europeans was prevented by the people of the Levant in order to protect their trade interests.  In short, they wanted to prevent Europeans from cutting out the "middle man".  This changed around 1250, when the Tartars (Moguls) took control of many of the territories of the Levant which had previously been held by the Muslims.  Until the Tartar/Mogul empire began to lose influence in the area, around 1350, Christians were able to access the east via this route.  This is the period where we see the great travels for trade, such as described by Marco Polo, as well as the travels for religious and political purposes, undertaken mainly by Franciscan Friars, such as Giovanni Pianô Carpine, William of Rubruck, Oderico of Pordenone, John of Montecorvino...



Pandjeh Crisis (1884/5):  Triggered by Russian occupation of the Pandjeh, a disputed territory in eastern Afghanistan.  British opposition came close to bringing Russia and Britain to war. Resolved by Russia agreeing to Britain's demand to not extend occupation beyond the Oxus.

Pathan Revolt (1897). Northwest Frontier exploded. Required 50,000 troops to address.

Peace of Tilsit (1807):  See Treaty of Tilsit.

Pepper: One of the key spices that drove the trade in the east.  Can be used to illustrate the significance of the sea route to India.  After Vasco da Gamma's establishing a sea route to India in 1488, by 1503 the price of pepper in Lisbon was 1/5 the price in Venice, where it came by the traditional overland route.

Peshawar, Treaty of (1855).  Between Dost Mohammed and British. Reopened diplomatic relations, proclaimed respect for each side's territorial integrity, and pledged both sides as friends of each other's friends and enemies of each other's enemies. [Cit: 1 ]




Railroad:  The first steam locomotive arrived in India in 1851.  The first broad gauge service  started in April 1853 in Bombay from Bori Bunder to Thane.  The Bombay-Delhi Railroad was completed in 1872.  By 1870, the year that the Suez Canal opened, there were already 4,000 miles of track laid in India. [Cit: 1]

Raj: The Sanskrit root raj means “to rule."  Not that the Indo-European root is same as "rex", and has to do with straight line, or direct.  Hence the same word, "ruler" for government and drawing lines.   Term generally used to refer to British rule in India.

Raja (Rajah): Comes from Sanskrit, for King. In  India, a native prince or king.  Ranks below a maharaja.

Rajput:  a member of  mainly Hindu people of, or descending from dominant landowning and military caste in northern and central India.

Rani (ranee):  Female of raja.  In India, female ruler, or wife of raja..  Hindu princess queen.

Russia Company: See entry for Muscovy Company.

Russian Expansion: According to Meyer and Brysac, in 1914 the Norwegian artic explorer Fridtjof Nansen calculated that for the previous four centuries, the Russian Empire had expanded at an average of fifty-five square miles a day, or 20,000 square miles a year.


Sardar (Sirdar):  Chief;  Commander. As of a misl.   Or, the leader, or foreman (as in climbing, of the porters).

Sepoy Mutiny:  1857.

Silk Road:  Network of overland routes which supported trade extending between China and Levant, including territories in between such as India.  Most active periods were between 200BC-400AD, and 600AD-1200AD.  The name "Silk Road" was coined in 1859 by the German archaeologist, Baron Ferdinand von Richtofen.  Caravans did not typically travel the full route;  rather, they were usually relayed section by section, as they passed through different territories.  The viability of trade over this network depended on the political stability in the regions (security), as well as maintaining economic viability, despite the taxes levied by different territories.  The gap between 400AD-600AD related to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west (Rome was sacked in  455 AD, and last western emperor deposed in 476 AD) and the gradual disintegration of the Han dynasty in China (circa 220 AD), and revived around 600 AD with the emergence of the Tang Dynasty in China (circa 618 AD) and the growth of wealth in Byzantium. [Cit: 12 ]

Simla Convention (April 27, 1914)Convention initialed by representatives of India (led by Sir Henry McMahon), Tibet and China.  The convention upheld Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.  China undertook not to turn Tibet into a province of China.  Britain agreed not to annex parts of Tibet, and the southern boundaries of Tibet were established.  Shortly after the Chinese government repudiated the initialing by their representative, Ivan Cheng, who was forbidden to sign the document.  Britain and Tibet considered the initialing as binding.

Simla Manifesto:  October 1st 1838.  Follow-up to the Tripartite Treaty. Committed the British to restoring Shah Shujah as Emir of Afghanistan, at the expense of Dost Mohammed.  The justification was ostensibly Dost Mohammed's lack of loyalty in treating with the Russians (who had already withdrawn due to the pressure put on them from Palmerston), and the condition of restoring  Shah Shujah was that he relinquish any claims on Peshawar, in favour of Ranjit Singh.  The Simla Manifesto was enforced in 1839, by British troops, the "Army of the Indus," led by General Keane, thus precipitating the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842).

Singh Sabha:  Sikh reform group, allied with the Theosophists, headed by Thakar Singh, cousin of Duleep Singh.


Taoism: [Cit. 1, 2]

terai: A thirty mile wide strip of marshy jungle along the southern foothills of Nepal, along the border with India.  Was rampant with malarial mosquitoes.

Theosophy:  A mystical cult founded by Madame Elena Petrovna Blavatsky and  Henry Steele Olcott. Tied up in the politics of of India, especially the Punjab, and Blavatsky's role with respect to Russian vs British interests is unclear.

Treaty of Amritsar (April 25, 1809 / Ratification by Minto May 21):  Treaty between Ranjit Singh and British East India Company.  It confined Sikh territory to the south bank of the river Sutlej with exclusion of a strip of territory on the south bank in which the Sikhs were bound not to place troops.   The treaty was negotiated on behalf of the British by Charles Metcalfe, backed up by  a British military force led by Col. David Ochterlony.

Treaty of Amritsar (1846):  Signed one week after the Treaty of Lahore, following the British victory in the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46).which granted included territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to Gulab Singh.  The terms of the actual treaty are on-line here.

Treaty of Annexation (1849): Signed at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War.  In it, Duleep Singh signed away any claims for sovereignty over the Punjab.  From this date the Punjab was now annexed by the British.  The treaty was renounced by Duleep Singh in 1885 during the Pandjeh crisis.

Treaty of Gadamank,   (May 26, 1879). In second Anglo-Afghan war, signed by Yakub Khan and Cavagnari.  In exchange for an annual subsidy and vague assurances of assistance in case of foreign aggression, gave Britain full control over Afghanistan's foreign affairs for an unspecified period of time, and the right to station an envoy, Cavagnari, in Kabul to guide British policy there.

Treaty of Lahore (1846): Signed after the British victory in the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46).  Granted Britain all Sikh hill possessions between Sutlej and Indus.  Result was the Punjab became a British protectorate, with Duleep Singh being Maharaja, and Henry Lawrence as British Resident.  Treaty followed 1 week later by Treaty of Amritsar.

Treaty of Rawapindi (August 8, 1919): Treaty concluding the third Anglo-Afghan War.  Britain recognizes Afghan independence, in particular as concerns its ability to conduct its own foreign affairs, and ends  British subsidies agreed upon by the Treaty of Gadamank.

Treaty of Segauli / Sagauli(1815/16): Signed at the end of the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-16. (I believe signed on November 28 1815 but not ratified by Nepalese until March, 1816).   Ceded territories of the terai, as well as Kumaon and Garhwal in western Nepal to the British, the latter two giving the British their first common border with Tibet.  Signed between General David Ochterlony and Amar Singh Thapa.

Treaty of Tilsit (1807):  A treaty between Russia and Napoleonic France.  This treaty was viewed as a serious threat to India, given the apparent ambitions of both countries in Central Asia, in general, and India in particular. [Cit: 1, 2 ]

Treaty of Titalia (1817): Negotiated by Captain Latter, in Feb. 1817, following Anglo-Nepalese war, guaranteed security of Sikkim by British, returned land to Sikkim that had been annexed by Nepalese, and gave British trading rights in Sikkim, up to Tibetan border.

Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494):  Pope Alexander VI defined line 370 leagues (circa 1,200 nautical miles) west of Cape Verdes Islands.  New lands west of the line were ceded to Spain, and those east of the line, ceded to Portugal.  Part of the significance is that not other countries were considered.  As well, this also meant that the eastern route to India became to domain of Portugal.

Tripartite Treaty (June 26 1838): Treaty of friendship amongst  Ranjit SinghShah Shujah and the British East India Company.  Followed up by ratification of the Simla Manifesto.






Wazir: Minister






Zamindar (zemindar):  Land holder.  Feudal landlord.  Usually, a kind of feudatory recognized as an actual proprietor so long as he pays to the government a certain fixed revenue.  In British India, the person who collected land taxes.

Zoroastrianism: [Cit. 1]


Columbia University's site Asia for Educators: