Gour (also known as Gauda, Lakhnauti, and Jannatabad) was the capital city of Bengal under several kingdoms. The Gauḍa region was also a province of several pan-Indian empires. During the 7th century, the Gauda Kingdom was founded by King Shashanka, whose reign corresponds with the beginning of the Bengali calendar. The Pala Empire, which ruled large parts of the northern Indian subcontinent, was founded in Gauda during the 8th century. Gauda became known as Lakhnauti during the Sena dynasty. Gauda gradually became synonymous with Bengal and Bengalis. It was conquered by the Delhi Sultanate in 1204.
For a period of 115 years, between 1450 and 1565, Gauda was the capital of the Bengal Sultanate. In 1500, Gauda was the fifth-most populous city in the world, with a population of 200,000, as well as one of the most densely populated cities in the Indian subcontinent. The Portuguese left detailed accounts of the city. The Sultans built a citadel, many mosques, a royal palace, canals and bridges. Buildings featured glazed tiles.
The city thrived until the collapse of the Bengal Sultanate in the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire took control of the region. When the Mughal Emperor Humayun invaded the region, he renamed the city Jannatabad ("heavenly city"). Most of the surviving structures in Gauda are from the period of the Bengal Sultanate. The city was sacked by Sher Shah Suri. An outbreak of the plague contributed to the city's downfall. The course of the Ganges was once located near the city, but a change in the river's course caused Gauda to lose its strategic importance. A new Mughal capital developed later in Dhaka.
Gauda was one of the most prominent capitals in the history of Bengal and the history of the Indian subcontinent, and a centre of stately medieval architecture. Gauda's ruins were depicted in the artwork of European painters during the 18th and 19th centuries. Colonial officials, such as Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and William Francklin, left detailed surveys of the former Bengali capital.