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Peshawar's inhabitants consist mainly of two groups: majority Pashtuns (including Afghan Pashtun refugees) and minority Pishoris (native Peshawar peoples speaking Hindko). In addition, smaller groups of Tajiks and Hazaras as well as Gypsies can be found in the city.
Industries include textiles, shoes, and pottery. The Peshawar Museum houses a fine collection of Gandharan . The main postgraduate educational center of Peshawar is "university Campus" of Peshawar which consist of University of Peshawar, NWFP Agricultural University Peshawar and University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar. In recent years many private universities have also started operating in the city.
Peshawar occupies a region that was dominated by various tribal groups of Indo-Iranian origin and a variety of other groups, possibly of Elamo-Dravidian origin, prior to Aryan invasions. The region had links to Harappan civilization of the Indus river valley and to ancient Afghanistan (before it was called Afghanistan or even Aryana), especially the Kabul valley.
The city that would become Peshawar was founded by the Kushans, a Central Asian tribe of Tocharian origin, over 2,000 years ago. Prior to this period the region was affiliated with Gandhara and was invaded and annexed first by the Persian Achaemenid empire and then the Hellenic empire of Alexander the Great. The city passed into the rule of Alexander's successors.
The area that Peshawar occupies was seized by the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides (c. 170 - c. 159 BCE), and was controlled by a series of Greco-Bactrian kings. It was later held for some time by several Parthian kings, another group of Iranian invaders from Central Asia, the most famous of whom, Gondopharnes , was still ruling c. 46 CE, and was briefly followed by two or three of his descendants before they were displaced by the first of the "Great Kushans", Kujula Kadphises, around the middle of the 1st century.
Peshawar formed the eastern capital of the empire of Gandhara under the Kushan king Kanishka I who reigned from at least 127 CE and, perhaps, for a few years prior to this. Peshawar also became a great centre of Buddhist learning.
Kanishka built what was probably the tallest building in the world at the time, a giant stupa, to house the Buddha's relics, just outside the Ganj Gate of the old city of Peshawar.
Kanishka's stupa was a most magnificent building and must have made an impressive sight as one travelled down from the mountains of Afghanistan onto the Gandharan plains. Our first account of the famous building is by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk, Faxian, who visited it in 400 and described it as being over 40 chang in height (probably about 120 m. or 394 ft.) and adorned "with all precious substances". "Of all the stûpas and temples seen by the travellers, none can compare with this for beauty of form and strength." It was destroyed by lightning and repaired several times. It was still in existence at the time of Xuanxang 's visit in 634.
From the ruined base of this giant stupa which which a jewelled casket containing relics of the Buddha, and an inscription identifying Kanishka as the donor, was excavated from a chamber under the very centre of the stupa's base, by a team under Dr. D. B. Spooner in 1909. It was roughly cruciform in shape with a diameter of 286 ft (87 m.) and heavily decorated around the sides with stucco scenes.
Peshawar was the centre of Buddist Gandharan civilization and an important place of pilgrimage.
Sometime early in the 1st millenium CE (or earlier), the group that now dominates Peshawar began to arrive from the Suleiman mountain range to the south and southwest, the Pashtuns. It is debateable as to whether or not the Pashtuns existed in the region even earlier as a minority. Over the centuries the Pashtuns would come to dominate the region and Peshawar would become an important center of Pashtun culture along with Kandahar and Kabul. The Pashtuns began to convert to Islam following early incursions by Arab invaders from Khurasan (in what is today western Afghanistan and northeastern Iran).
Peshawar was taken by the Muslims in 988 and was incorporated into the larger Pashtun domains by the 16th century. The founder of the Mughul dynasty that would conquer India, Babur who hailed from what is today Uzbekistan, came to Peshawar and found a city called Begram and rebuilt the fort there, in 1530. His grandson, Akbar, formally named the city Peshawar which means "The Place at the Frontier" and expanded the bazaars and fortifications. Earlier it had been known as the "City of Flowers" and the "City of Grain". In the days of the Kushan King it was called the "Lotus Land".
The Pashtun conqueror Sher Shah Suri, turned Peshawar's renaissance into a boom when he ran his Delhi-to-Kabul Shahi Road through the Khyber Pass and Peshawar. Thus the Mughals turned Peshawar into a "City of Flowers" by planting trees and laying out gardens similar to those found to the west in Persia.
Peshawar would also join, as a Pashtun region, the Afghan/Pashtun empire of Ahmad Shah Durrani by 1747. Pashtuns from Peshawar took part in invasions of India during the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani and his successors. The Sikhs gained control of Peshawar in 1834 after wresting it from Afghanistan and the native Pashtuns, while the British ruled the region from 1849 to 1947, when it became part of the new nation of Pakistan.
Being amongst the most ancient cities of the region between Central, South, and West Asia, Peshawar has for centuries been a centre of trade between Afghanistan, the Indian subcontinent, and Central Asia as well as the Middle East.
Peshawar would emerge as a centre of Pashtun intellectuals and the Pashtunistan movement that sought either to merge the Northwest Frontier with Afghanistan or to form a greater Pashtun state gained prominence during the 20th century.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 Peshawar served as a political center for anti-Soviet mujahideen, and was surrounded by huge camps of Afghan refugees. Many of the refugees remained there through the civil war which broke out after the Soviets were defeated in 1989, the rule of the Taliban, and the invasion by American and allied forces in late 2001. Peshawar would replace Kabul and Qandahar as the center of Pashtun cultural development during this period. Additionally, Peshawar managed to assimilate many of the Pashtun Afghan refugees with relative ease, while many others remained in camps awaiting a possible return to Afghanistan. Peshawar continues to be a city that links Pakistan to Afghanistan and has emerged as an important regional city in Pakistan and remains a focal point for Pashtun culture.
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