From the history of the Armenians of Kabul

By the end of the 18th century, Armenians were living in Kabul, Qandahar, and Herat with trade connections with the Caucasus, the Central Asian Khanates, and northern India.

In 1755, Ahmad Shah engaged Armenian gunners from Lahore, some of whom were skilled in the art of cannon casting.

These Lahori Armenians served as Janissaries in Ahmad Shah’s bodyguard, accompanying him on military expeditions.

They continued to be employed in the same capacity by his son, Timur Shah (d. 1793), though by the time of his death they had lost much of their influence and fallen into penury or drunkenness.

The Armenian quarter (mahalla) of Kabul was located inside Kabul’s Bala Hissar. It consisted of a single street of shops, with at least one sarai situated on the north side of the main street behind the Jalalabad Gate.

In an alley to the left, in a Sarai-style courtyard, was the Armenian church, probably established in the latter half of the 18th century.

In May 1832, Revd Dr. Joseph Wolff preached in the church during his visit to the Afghan capital.
After the middle of the 1820s, the community did not have the services of a priest but retained its Christian identity.

The Armenians adopted Afghan names, spoke Persian rather than Armenian, and observed local customs by removing shoes and weapons before entering their church.

The Armenians of Kabul had their graveyard, located, according to Masson,’ directly opposite the ‘takia’ or shrine of Shir Ali Lapchak near the shrine of Khwaja Khizr.

Jonathan L Lee

Taken from Mano Chil

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