History of Multan

Multan, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, is one of the oldest cities in South Asia, the exact age has yet to be determined. Its modern name comes from its old Sanskrit name "Mūlasthān". It has seen a lot of warfare because of its location on a major invasion route between South Asia and Central Asia. It is famous for its Sufi shrines.

Early history

Multan was ruled by various Hindu empires for over 1000 years. [ [http://tdcp.punjab.gov.pk/TDCP/placesvisitsmul.htm Multan - Punjab.gov.pk] ] It was the capital of ancient Trigarta Kingdom at the time of Mahabharta and ruled by Katoch Clan Kshatriya Rajputs.It is believed to have been visited by Alexander the Great. It is said that when Alexander was fighting for the city, a poisoned arrow struck him, making him ill and eventually leading to his death. The exact place where Alexander was hit by the arrow can be seen in the old city premises. It is believed to be the same city as "Maii-us-than", where Alexander's forces stormed the citadel after seeing their king injured and unconscious on the field of battle. Multan was part of the Mauryan and the Gupta empires that ruled much of northern India. In the mid-5th century, the city was attacked by a group of nomads led by Toraman. These nomads were successful in taking the city, but did not stay, and the long-standing "Hindu"/"Zorastrian" rule over the city was re-established. The noted Chinese traveller Huen Tsang visited Multan in 641.

During the Pre-Islamic period, Multan was known as the city of gold for its large and wealthy temples. The Sun temple, Suraj Mandir, was considered one of the largest and wealthiest temples in the entire sub-continent. Numerous historians have written about this extremely large Hindu temple that housed over 6,000 people within it. Other famous sites included the Suraj Kund ("pool of the Sun") and Temple of Prahladapuri. Story of Prahlada from whom the temple took its name is interesting.

Prahlada was the son of King Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu held sway over this country and condemned the gods and forbade the paying of homage in their name. Prahlada was recognized as being a very devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father's disappointment. As Prahlada grows in age, his father Hiranyakashipu becomes upset at his devotion to Vishnu, who he sees as his mortal enemy. Eventually his anger leads him to attempt to kill the boy Prahlada in many ways, but each time Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. Finally in disgust Hiranyakashipu points to a particular pillar and asks if his Vishnu is in it? Prahlada answers "He is". Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, it burst in two and out sprang the god Vishnu in the form of a man-lion form called Narasimha avatar who laid the King across his knees and ripped his stomach open with his claws. A temple devoted to Narasimha Avatar of Vishnu is built. The temple is situated close to the shrine of Bahawal Huk. Currently its roof and surrounding building have been damaged but the pillar is no more. The Idol was shifted from temple to a new place near old fruit market. Now it is at Haridwar, where it was brought in 1947 by Narayan Das Baba.

Early Muslim era

In the 7th century, Multan had its first experience with Muslim armies. Armies led by Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah launched numerous raids from Persia into India in AD664 for inclusion of the area into their empires.cquote|'In the same year also Abdool Ruhman Bin Shimur , another Arab Ameer of distinction , marched from Merv to Kabul , where he made converts of upwards of twelve thousand persons . At the same time , also Mohalib Bin Aby-Suffra , proceeding with a detachment from thence , in the direction of India , penetrated as far as Multan :when having plundered the country , he returned to the headquarters of the army at Khorassan , bringing with him many prisoners , who were compelled to become converts to the faith . [Farishta -History of the rise of Mohommedan power in India translated by John Briggs Vol1 page 2]

However, only a few decades later, Muhammad bin Qasim would come on behalf of the Arabs, and take Multan along with Sindh. His conquest was accompanied by much plundering:

Following bin Qasim's conquest, the city was securely under Muslim rule, although it was in effect an independent state, but with the turn of the millennium, the city was attacked twice by Mahmud of Ghazni who destroyed the Sun Temple and broke its giant Idol. A graphic detail is available in Al-Biruni's writings:

After Muhammad Ghuri's victories in India, and his establishment of a capital in Delhi, Multan was made a part of his empire. However, the rise of the Mongols would again give it some independence, albeit requiring it to be vigilant against Mongol raids from Central Asia.

The Qarmatians came to Multan in the 10th century and were expelled in 1175 by Muhammad of Ghor.

Mughal era

Under the Mughal Empire, Multan enjoyed over 200 years of peace, and became known as "Dar al-Aman" (Abode of Peace). The Khakwani Nawabs of Multan gave it a lot of financial stability and growth to the local farming sector. It was at this time that Multan was ruled by Nawab Ali Mohammad Khan Khakwani. As governor of Multan, he built the famous Mosque Ali Mohammad Khan in 1757 which remains to this day. Many buildings were constructed in this time, and agricultural production grew rapidly. The Khakwani Nawabs of Multan at this time were paying homage to the Afghan king but due to lack of power in Delhi and Kabul they had free rein and were the de facto absolute rulers of Multan. Multan at that time included areas which are part of Vehari, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan districts. The city escaped the destruction brought upon India by the armies of Nadir Shah, but it was ruled from Kabul by numerous Afghan dynasties for a while.

ikh era

Multan witnessed difficult times as Mughal rule declined. After Ahmad Shah Durrani's dynasty went into decline, it was ruled locally by the Pashtun Khakwani and Sadozai chieftains. The Sadozais having gained the favour of the king and having the Khakwani Nawab removed. This period saw the rise of Sikh power and frequent clashes took place between the Muslims and Sikhs. The Sikhs attacked Multan killed the Sadozai Nawab and took over the city. The Khakwanis had moved out of the city at that time and lived in small walled cities around main Multan.The Khokhars and Khatri Muslims occupied Multan intermittently between 1756 to 1763 displacing replacing ruling Sadozai member by Khakwani nawab or his brother,son or even son-in-law, this was most turbulent period in history of Multan resulting administration getting paralysed and inviting attack from misl from GujranwalThe Sikhs led many expeditions against Multan. Bhangi Sikh Sardar, attacked Multan for the first time around June 1761. The Sikhs plundered many village. His sons Jhanda Singh and Ganda Singh attacked again in 1764, However attempts to take the Multan fort failed and they retreated after collecting several million rupees from the ruler Muzaffar Khan Saddozai. It was later captured by Sardar Hari Singh from nawab in 1818 for Maharaja Ranjit Singh

In the 19th century, the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh with his capital at Lahore conquered Multan and thus became master of the whole of Punjab. Sikh armies under General Hari Singh Nalwa defeated and brutally murdered the ruler of Multan Muzaffar Khan Saddozai. The death of Muzaffar Khan was in fact the death of Muslim rule in Multan. After capturing the Fort, the Sikh soldiers were let loose to arson and debauchery as happened with the conquered cities throughout the History, which Latif recorded as follows: "The city and Fort were now given up to be plundered by the Sikh troops. Great were the ravages committed by the Sikhs on this occasion. About 400 to 500 houses in the Fort were razed to the ground and their owners deprived of all they had. Precious stones, jewellery, shawls and other valuables belonging to the Nawab were confiscated by the state and kept carefully packed by Diwan Ram Diyal for inspection of the Maharaja. In the town many houses were set on fire and nothing was left with the inhabitants that was worth having. Hundreds were killed in the city, and indeed there was hardly a soul who escaped both loss and violence." The Sikhs ravaged much of the historic. ["Multan: Past & Present"by M. Hanif Raza - Multān publ, 1988, p43]

Diwan Sawan Mal a Khatri took over and known to be one of the most able and powerful Sikh rulers of his time. He amassed enormous wealth and became a threat to the Sovereign. His sons Dewan Mulraj and Karan Narain were well looked after. The first son Mulraj became the Governor of Multan, after his father had been assassinated. His younger brother rose to being a General of the highest order under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was awarded titles of Sardar (High Noble), Bakshi (Benevolent) by the Maharaja.

British era

However, Sikh rule would not last long, as the British were eventually provoked into checking the Sikh strength in Punjab. After a long and bloody battle, Multan was made part of the British Raj. During this time, Sardar Karan Narain's son became an icon during the British Raj and was awarded titles 'Rai Bahadur' and Knighted 'Sir' by Her Majesty. The British built some rail routes to the city, but its industrial capacity was never developed.

Post independence

Upon Pakistan's independence in 1947, Multan became part of the Punjab province. It initially lacked industry, hospitals and universities. Since then, there has been some industrial growth, and the city's population is continually growing. But the old city continues to be in a dilapidated state, and many monuments wear the effects of the warfare that has visited the city.


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