Multan is a city in south central Punjab province. It is built just east of the Chenab River. About 966 km from Karachi and more or less right in the center of the country lie the ancient city of Multan. Multan, the ‘City of Pirs and Shrines’ is a prosperous city of bazaars, mosques, shrines and superbly designed tombs.
A circular road around the rampart gave access to the city through thirteen gates. Some of the imposing structures of these gates are still preserved. In the bazaars of the Old City one still comes across tiny shops where craftsmen can be seen busy turning out master-pieces in copper, brass, silver as well as textiles in the traditional fashion.
The old city has narrow colorful bazaars full of local handicrafts and narrow winding lanes. There are many places of historical, cultural and recreational interest in the city.
Multan is a commercial and industrial center, it is connected by road a rail with Lahore and Karachi and by air with Karachi, Quetta, and Faisalabad. Industries include fertilizer, soap, and glass factories; foundries; cotton, woolen and silk textile mills; flour, sugar and oil mills; and a large thermal-power station. It is famous for its handicrafts (ceramics and camel-skin work) and cottage industries. There are hospitals, public gardens, and several colleges affiliated with the University of the Punjab. The University of Multan was established in 1975. Large, irregular suburbs have grown outside the old walled town, and two satellite towns have been set up. The numerous shrines within the old city offer impressive examples of workmanship and architecture.
The Shams-e Tabriz shrine is built almost entirely of sky-blue engraved glazed bricks. That of Shah Rukn-e Alam (Tughlaq period) has one of the biggest domes in Asia. The shrine of Sheikh Yusuf Gardez is masterpiece of the Multani style. Other shrines include the Pahladpuri Temple and the Idgah Mosque (1735).
Mangoes of Shujabad district are the best in the world. Multani khussa (shoes); embroidered clothes for ladies; embroidered cholas for men; earthenware pottery, painted potter, camel skin ware (e.g. lamps); carpets wooden products, especial lacquered wood.
The earliest history of Multan fades away in the mists of mystery and mythology. Most of the historians, however agree that Multan beyond any doubt, is the same Maii-us-than which was conquered by Alexander who faced here tremendous resistance. He was fatally wounded while fighting to capture the citadel. For the first time his sacred shield, which he had taken from the temple of Illion, Athena, and which he used always to be carried before him in all his battles, rolled in dust while he fell unconscious on the ground with blood gushing out from his wounds. But that was the scene which inspired the Macedonians and seeing their king in that state they launched a lightening attack and captured the citadel without any further harm to Alexander. Alexander, however, never recovered fully well after this battle and died, on his way back, at Babylon.
History is silent for more than six centuries that is until 454 A.D. when White Huns, the barbarous nomads, stormed Multan under the banner of their leader Torman. After a fierce fight they conquered but did not stay for long and Hindu rule continued once again for about two hundred years.
Subsequent history of Multan is well established and more than sufficient light has been thrown on the cross section by world famous travellers, writers and historians who visited Multan including the Chinese historian Hiuen Tsang in 641 A. D. The Chinese traveller found the circuit of the city about 30 li which is equal to five miles. He described, “the soil rich and fertile and mentioned about eight Deva temples. He also mentioned that people do not believe in Buddha rule. The city is thickly populated-the grand temple dedicated to the Sun is very magnificent and profusely decorated-The image of Sun Deva also known as “Mitra” is cast in yellow gold and ornamented with rare gems. Its divine insight mysteriously manifested and its spiritual powers made plain to all and so on”.
Multan was first visited by the Muslim arms during the reign of the Khalifa Abu Bekr, in 44 Hijri (664 A.D.), when Mohalib, the Arab General, afterwards an eminent commander in Persia and Arabia, penetrated to the ancient capital of the Maili. He returned with many prisoners of war. The expedition, however, seems to have been directed towards exploration of the country as no attempt was apparently made to retain the conquest.
Mohammad Bin Qasim, the great Muslim general invaded this subcontinent in 712 A. D., and conquered Sind and Multan. The city was conquered after a fierce and long battle which lasted for seven days. Many distinguished officers of the Muslim army sacrificed their lives in the battle, but the Hindu army was defeated.
The author of ‘Jawahar-al-Bahoor’ ( the famous Arabic History) writes in his book “that Multan at that time was known as the House of Gold. There was a great Mandir which was also called as the Sun Mandir. It was so big that six thousand resident worshippers were housed therein. Thousands of people from every corner of the country used to visit this place to perfom their Haj (Pilgrimage). They used to circle round it and get their beards and heads shaved off as a mark of respect.
In the periods, of Caliph Mansoor, and Mostasim Bilia, Multan was attacked by Arabs several times.
Ibn Khurdaba described in his book, “The book of Roads and Kingdoms”, “Multan being two months journey from Zarani the capital of Sijistan, by the name of Farj because Mohammad, Son of Qasim, Lieutenant of At-Hajjaj, found vast quantities of gold in the city, which was forwarded to the Caliph’s treasury so it was called by the Arabs the House of Gold”.
Al-Masudi of Baghdad who visited the valley of the Indus in 303 A.H. (915 A.D.) mentioned about Multan in his book, “The Meadows of Gold”, that “Multan is seventy five Sindhian Farsangs from Mansura. It is one of the strongest frontier places of the Musulmans and in its neighbourhood there are a hundred and twenty thousand towns and villages”, Al-Masudi also mentioned about the idol and explained as to how people living in the distant parts of country travel to Multan to perform pilgrimage and in fulfilment of their woes and religious obligations, they make offerings of money, precious stones, perfumes of every kind and aloe wood before it. Both tstakhari of Istakhar, or Persepolis, who wrote about the middle of the tenth century 340 A.H. (951 A.D.) and Ibn Haukal of Baghdad who based his work on that of Istakhari, give glowing accounts of Multan which they described as a large, fortif ied and impregnable city, about half the size of Mansura, the ancient Muslim capital of Sind. They also mentioned about the idol of Multan as being held in great veneration by Hindus who flocked to it from all parts of India.
Sultan Sabuktageen, the Afghan King conquered Multan, but after four years, that is, in 980 A.D. it was conquered by a Sardar of the Karamti Tribe who ruled it for some time.
Mahmood Ghaznavi attacked Multan for the first time – conquered it and demolished many Hindu temples. He demolished the famous ‘Sun Mandir’ also. Mahmood Ghaznavi attacked Multan for the second time during 1010 A.D. and conquered it but did not stay for long.
Sultan Shahab-ud-din, who is also known as Mohammad Gbory, finally defeated Pirthvi Raj and conquered India. After consolidating his position in Dehli, the capital of India, led an army attack, against Multan and conquered it. As such, Multan, which had remained almost independent under the Arab rulers became a dependency of the house of Ghaznavi. Sultan Mohammad Ghory appointed Aii Karmani as his Governor of Multan and Uch.
In 1218 A.D. Changez Khan invaded Western Turkistan and for the next three centuries history of Multan is practically the history of incursions from Western and Central Asia to which the invasion of Changez gave rise. During this period Multan was nominally subject to the Delhi Empire. There were, however, two periods when Multan was practically a separate Kingdom independent of Delhi. At times the province was held by powerful governors who, though, unable to secure independence, were powerful factors in the dynastic changes of the time.
The Administration of Multan suffered due to preoccupation of Delhi Empire in repelling the repeated raids of Mughals from Khurasan and Central Asia. In 1 284 A.D. the Mughals under Taimur Khan, defeated and killed prince Muhammad, known as the Martyr Prince who then ruled Multan. In 1305 A.D. an invasion under Aibak Khan was repelled by the redoubtable warrior Ghazi Beg Tughlak, who is said to have 29 times defeated the invading hordes. In 1 327 A.D. a force under Turmsharin Khan over-ran the distt. and retreated on payment of bribe.
After the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Multan became its western frontier. In the beginning it was governed by Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, then captured by jaial-al-Din Manakabarni and finally annexed by Shams-AI-Din Altamash. When Balban strengthened his frontier guard he posted his eldest son Sultan Muhammad
Khan-i-Shahid here and made him responsible for the defence. It was under his patronage that Amir Khusrau and Hasan Dehiavi lived in Multan and composed their poems. Multan, however, continuously suffered from Mongol invasions. In order to meet these Mongol pressures Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq was appointed as a warden of the Frontier Marches. From Multan he rose to be the Sultan of Delhi – Multan remained under the Tughlaqs until it was conquered by Amir Taimur in 1 397 A.D.
During this long period the prosperity of Muitan grew unabated. It was during this period that the city was adorned by important monuments that established a particular school of Muitani Architecture. The Tombs of Baha-AI-Din Zakariya, Shah Rukn-AI-Din, Rukn-e-Alam and Shamas Sabzwari have given to Multan a unique place in the indo-Muslim Architecture. The presence of these tombs of the saints mentioned above have also added a religious tone to the city.
In 1 397 A.D., came the invasion of Taimur whose troops occupied Uch and Multan, sacked Tiamba, raided the Khokhars of Ravi and passed across Beas to Pakpattan and Delhi.
For about forty years after the departure of Taimur there was no government in India in reality. Khizer Khan Syed governed the Kingdom in the name of Taimur but without any sovereign title or royal honours. During the troubled reign of his grand son Syed Mohammad, an insurrection broke out in Multan among the Afghans called Langas. Finally one of the Langa chiefs proclaimed himself as the king of Multan under the title of Sultan Kutab-ud-din Langa.
During the eighty years that Multan was held by Langa Dynasty, it became the principal caravan route between India and Kandhar. Commerce and agriculture flourished. All the lands along the banks of the Chenab and the Ghagra as well as some on the Indus were cultivated and prosperity flourished once again.
In 1526 A.D. Shah Hussain Arghun, at that time the ruler of Sind, seized Muitan on behalf of Baber, the Mughal emperor. He bestowed it on his son Mirza Askari. The Mirza, assisted by Langar Khan, one of the powerful amirs of Sultan Mahmud Langa, held possession of Multan during the rest of the Baber’s reign. After the death of Baber, Humayun found himself compelled to surrender Multan, in fact the
whole of Punjab, to his eldest brother, Kamran Mirza. The prince established his court at Lahore and deputed one of his arnirs to take care of Multan.
During the confusion that followed the flight of Humayun to Persia the Kingdom of Multan was captured by Baluchies under their chieftain Fatteh Khan who surrendered it to Hebat Khan, one of the commanders of Sher Shah Suri. Pleased with his services, Sher Shah Suri bestowed the Kigndom of Multan on Hebat Khan.
When Humayun recaptured the Indian throne in 1555 A. D. Multan was also amalgamated in the Mughal Empire, Abul Fazal mentions in “Ain-c- Akbari” that: “Multan was one of the largest provinces of the empire, extending to the frontiers of Persia including within its limits the modern countries of Baluchistan, Sindh, Shikarpore and Thatta, besides a portion of Doabas now attached to Lahore. A royal mint for silver and copper coins was established at Multan alongwith the mints at Delhi, Agra and a few other places”. Under the Mughal Emperors, Multan enjoyed a long period of peace and was known as Dar-ul-Aman (city of peace). For more than two hundred years that is from 1548 to 1748 there was no warfare in this part of the Punjab. As a result of these peaceful conditions, cultivation increased, particularly in the riverain areas and commerce flourished. Multan thus became an emporium for trade. The city became the headquarter of a province which covered the whole of the South Western Punjab and, at times, included Sind also.
At the decline of the Mughal Empire Multan had, at first escaped devastation which was experienced by other parts of the subcontinent. The main reason was the change in the route of the invaders from Afghanistan to India as it lay through Lahore. So the armies of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali left Multan unscathed. After having been a part of the Dehii empire, Multan in 1752, became a province owing allegiance to the Afghan kings of Kabul. During this period the country was ruled by Governors of Pathan extraction and under the rule of the Saddozais of Kabul. The Saddozais governed Multan for more than sixty six years but general conditions remained turbulent.
After consolidating their position at Lahore, the Sikhs marched to the south-west for over two hundred and fifty miles. They crossed the indus and penetrating into the Deras’ under their Commanders Sardar Hari Singh Bhangi and his sons, jhanda Singh and Ganda Singh along with Hira Singh, the Sikhs destoryed everything, plundered many villages and killed the people mercilessly, set the houses of the Muslims on fire and demolished many mosques. Ultimately, under the command of jhanda Sing and Ganda Sing, they appeared before Multan on March 9 1764 A.D. (21 Ramazan 11 78 A. H.) looted its suburbs but after collecting millions of rupees they returned.
By the beginning of 1818 Ranjit Singh succeeded to raise a big army consisting of 25,000 soldiers equipped with necessary provisions which he placed under Diwan Misr Chand, his most trusted General. The over all charge of the campaign wasentrusted tohiselderson Khark Singh and the contingent set out for Multan
with great pomp and show. The famous Zamzama Gun was also transported to Multan. Nawab Muzaffar Khan Saddozai who was the Governor of Multan for the past thirty nine years fought courageously but failed to save Multan from the clutches of Sikhs. The death of Muzaffar Khan was in fact the death of the Muslim rule in Multan. After capturing the Fort the Sikh soldiers were let loose to arson and debauchery and Latif recorded as under :
“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. The precious stones, jewellery, Shawls and other valuables belonging to the
Nawab were confiscated to 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 city sack, and indeed there was hardly a soul who escaped both loss and violence”
The Sikh rule continued in the Punjab and Multan unchecked but thinking themselves very powerful, the sikhs crossed the Sutlej and entered into the British Territory. They looted some of’ the villages also. This happened on December 8, 1845 A.D. The outcome of this adventure was a fierce battle and a disastrous and
ignominious defeat of the Sikh Army. Thereafter a treaty was signed between the British and the Sikhs. Under the new treaty a Council nf Regency was established at Lahore which empowered the British to intervene into many administrative matters. Keeping in view the provisions of the treaty the British Resident introduced several measures in order to regulate the ad ‘Ministration throughout the Sikh territories. These measures were to be implemented by Diwan Mul Raj also, who was the Sikh Governor of Multan. The changes were, however, detrimental to the over all interests of the Diwan as they affected his tight control over the traders and businessmen. The other decision of the Resident which brought a blow to Diwan Mui Raj was the introduction of appeals against the decisions of the district officers. such appeals were to be heard by the Lahore Darbar. These measures infuriated the Diwan, as he considered it as an infringement of his rights.
So keeping in view the insulting attitude of the British Diwan Mul Raj first resigned, then changed his mind and agreed to continue for some time. Later his resignation was accepted on March 24, 1848 and Sardar Khan Singh was appointed as the new Diwan of Multan while two British officers, Mr. P. A. Vans Agnew and Lt. W. A. Anderson were appointed to take care of the administration. When these officers reached Multan they were received by Diwan Mul Raj but his advisers forced him to change his mind. In the meanwhile commotion and agitation spread into the city. As such the helpless Diwan became a tool in the hands of the Sikh Army which rebel.led and the two British off icers were mu rdered. The rebelling soldiers gathered around Mul Raj and declared him as their leader.
This open rebellion infuriated the British Government at Lahore and they decided that Multan should be captured and amalgamated into the British Territory. So the British Government collected forces right from Bannu to Bombay on top priority basis in order to capture Multan and by the end of the year Multan was surrounded from all sides. On December 21) 1848 the Bombay Division commanded by Brigadier Dundas also reached Multan. On December 27, one British column launched an attack on the suburbs and the residence of Mul Raj, the “Aam Khas”, was bombarded while three other columns were ordered to make diversion to distract the enemy. The irregular forces commenced the diversion at noon and by 4 p.m. the whole line of the suburbs including the tomb of Sawan Mal, the blue Mosque of Shams Sabzwari and the cantonments of the ‘Aam Khas’ were in possession of the British. The Bombay Native Rifles actually
entered one of the city gates. Meanwhile, a shell from a mortar blew up the magazine located within the fort. containing 5,000 maunds of powder. The explosion destroyed the great Mosque and the lofty dome of Baha-ud-Din Zakariya’s Tomb.
On January 2, 1849, breaches in the Khuni Burj and the Dehii Gate were reported, and storming parties advanced and crossed the intervening ditch, but the city wall was found intact with a height of 30 feet, totally impregnable. A most bloody struggle ensued and the English became masters of the town. Again, to
quote Latif: “Terrible had been the carnage during the siege and frightful the effect of the British Ordnance. The battered town of Multan presented the appearance of a vessel wrecked and broken by a tremendous storm which had driven it to an
inhospitable shore. The streets were strewn with slain Sikhs, whose long locks, matted with gore, and beards, blown about by the wind, gave the dead a demoniacal appearance. Not a house or wall had escaped the effects of the English shells. All had been scorched and blackened by the bombardment. Mul Raj retired to the citadel with more than 3,000 picked men, the rest all dispersed and fled. In vain did the Diwan make an endeavour to rally them. They were dispirited, and nothing was left for the garrison but to sally or. surrender. Mul Raj was now reduced to the last extremity. A constant storm of shell had reduced the
interior of the fortress to a wreck. Ail the flour having been blown up in the explosion of the grand mosque, every soldier of the garrison was obliged to grind the wheat for his own food. Mul Raj’s chief advisers urgently pressed him to surrender, and he promised either to do this or take poison. He was finally arrested by the British and that was the end of the Sikh rule over Multan as well as the end of loot and plunder which was the main characteristic of the Sikh rule.
As stated above the residents of Multan suffered extensively during this battle. It was another addition to the history of the power game and bloodshed witnessed by the streets of Multan but life returned to normal with the passage of time.
Multan, however, lost its very important position as soon as the British stronghold over the sub-continent grew stronger and stronger. Although peace prevailed in the region but no real progress was made. When independence was achieved in 1947 Multan was a forgotten region. There was no industry; no higher and professional educational Institutions, no high standard hospitals; so much so that there was not even a single recreation park in the whole of the city. It looked more like a town though its population was nearly one lakh. The site of the Old Fort was in ruins. Thorny bushes and ditches were in plenty whispering the awful tale of its ruination, Majority of the roads were unmetalled and the sewerage system too defective to explain. The history of the district since independence is mainly connected with the expansion of facilities except a few minor changes such as one of its districts, that is, D.G. Khan has been declared as the Divisional Headquarter and some of its Tehsils such as Vehari as the new District etc.