Herat, Or Herant a city of Afghanistan, on the Heri, 360 m. W. of Cabool, and 190 m. S. E. of Meshed; pop. about 50,000. It is situated in a plain 2,500 ft. above the level of the sea, and is strongly fortified. The streets are ill built, narrow, and dirty. The principal public edifices are the citadel, mosques, bazaars, caravansaries, baths, and the palace of the khan. It is divided by four bazaars, which run from four gates, and one of which is 1,300 yards long and roofed with arched brickwork. The staple articles of commerce are saffron and asafoetida, and the manufactures include carpets, cloaks, caps, shoes, saddlery, harness, sables, and dressed sheep skins. Herat is a place of great military and commercial importance, being the N. W. "gate of India," and the point where the shawls, chintzes, muslins, indigo, etc, of India and Afghanistan are exchanged for the products of China, Russia, Turkey, and Persia. - At the close of the 18th century Herat belonged to the dominions of Zemaun Shah, the sovereign of Afghanistan. But there were two rival families in the state - that of the king, of the Suddosi tribe, and that of Futteh Khan and his 20 brothers, of whom Dost Mohammed was one of the youngest.
The family of Futteh Khan eventually triumphed over their rivals, and divided Afghanistan among themselves, except Herat, which remained in the hands of the brother of Zemaun Shah. In 1837, under the vizier-ship of Yar Mohammed, the Persians appeared before Herat and subjected it to one of the most memorable sieges in modern times, lasting from Nov. 22, 1837, to Sept. 9, 1838, which the town was able to resist in consequence of the exertions of Lieut. Pottinger of the Bombay artillery. In May, 1843, when Kam-ran, the chieftain of Herat, died, Yar Mohammed made himself master of the town, to the exclusion of Kamran's son. At his death in 1851 he transmitted his power to his son Mohammed Said, whose conduct became so unsatisfactory that, with the consent of the people and the military assistance of the shah of Persia, he was supplanted by Yusuf, a prince of the Suddosi family, who in 1855 captured Herat and proclaimed himself chief as the vassal of Persia. He acted under Russian and was opposed to English influence. The proposed expulsion of an agent of the English government and the dictatorial attitude of the Persian shah fomented discord, in consequence of which Yusuf was driven from power by EsaKhan, who usurped it.
The Persians then besieged the town, and captured it, Oct. 20, 1856. This led to war between Persia and England, since the latter government looked upon the capture of Herat as a breach of the treaty of 1853. The Persians were defeated on several occasions, and compelled to sign a treaty at Teheran, April 14, 1857, by which the shah renounced all claims on Herat; but he installed Ahmed Khan as its ruler, who was recognized by the British government. Soon afterward this ruler captured Furrah, which the amir of Cabool quickly recaptured, and then laid siege to Herat. After holding out 10 months, the city was taken by storm, May 26, 1863. It has since been reannexed to the Afghan dominions. The struggle of Russia and Great Britain for the ascendancy in central Asia has given to Herat an even greater political importance than it had before.
The Citadel, Herat.