Multan – the city of Saints

Multan – the city of Saints

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    Multan is one of the oldest cities not only in the Asian subcontinent but also in the world.

    Image source: razzetti.com

    Multan is Pakistan’s fifth largest city by population and has an area of 133 square kilometres. It is also called the city of Saints. The city is located on the banks of the Chenab River in the geographic center of the country.Multan is known as the City of Sufis or City of Saints and Madinat-ul-Auliya because of the large number of shrines and Sufi saints from the city. Multan is located in a bend created by five rivers of central Pakistan. The Sutlej River separates it from Bahawalpur and the Chenab River from Muzaffar Garh.

    History:

    Multan is one of the oldest cities not only in the Asian subcontinent but also in the world. According to Hindu legends, it was the capital of the Trigarta Kingdom at the time of the Mahabharata war, ruled by the Katoch Dynasty. Multan has had various names over the years. According to Hindu mythology, it was originally called Kashtpur (Kashyapapura) after a Hindu sage named Kashyapa, which is also the Gotra used by the Katoch dynasty. Other names were Hanspur (Hamsapura), Bagpur (Vegapura), Sanb or Sanahpur (Sambapura). It has been postulated that the current name is derived from the Sanskrit name Mulasthana named after a Sun Temple. Multan has frequently been a site of conflict due to its location on a major invasion route between South Asia and Central Asia. It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 326 BC. In the mid-5th century BC, the city was attacked by a group of Huna Hephthalite nomads led by Toramana.
    Multan was conquered along with Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim, from the local ruler Chach of Alor circa 712 AD.Following bin Qasim’s conquest, the city was securely under Muslim rule, although it was in effect an independent state and most of the subjects were non-Muslim.
    In 965 CE, Multan was conquered by Halam b. Shayban, an Ismaili da’i. Soon after, Multan was attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni, destabilising the Ismaili state. Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Multan in 1005 CE, conducting a series of campaigns during which the Ismailis of Multan were massacred. In an effort to gain his allegiance, the Fatimid Ismaili Imam-caliph al-Hakim dispatched an envoy to Mahmud two years later. This attempt appeared to be unsuccessful and the Ghaznawids continued to attack other Ismaili strongholds in Sindh to suppress any resurgence of the community in the region. In 1032CE Mahmud’s very own vizier, Hasanak was executed for having accepted a cloak from the Imam-caliph on suspicions that he had become an adherent of the Ismaili faith. Mahmud’s purges of the region led several scholars including Stern to believe that the Ghaznawid purges of the region drove out Ismailism from the area; however, recently discovered letters dating to 1083 and 1088 demonstrate continued Ismaili activity in the region, as the Imam-caliph Mustansir dispatched new da’is to replace those who were killed in the attacks.
    Multan’s location at the entrance to the sub-continent resulted in it being invaded by a long series of conquerors on their way to Delhi. Timur, Babur and many others passed through the city, leaving much destruction in their wake. This violence continued as when Muhammad of Ghor attacked the city and drove out the remaining Ismailis whom he deemed to be heretics, in stark contrast to his predecessor, the Ghurid Sultan ‘Ala’ al-Din who welcomed numerous envoys from the Ismaili state of Alamut and according to the historian Juzjani, gave them “great reverence” Following annexation to Mughal empire in 1557 CE, at the beginning of emperor Akbar’s rule; Multan enjoyed 200 years of peace, and became known as Dar al-Aman (Abode of Peace). Akbar was known as a wise ruler, setting reasonable taxes, creating effective government and being tolerant of religious differences.

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    Multan witnessed difficult times as Mughal rule declined in early 1700s, starting after death of emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. The last Naib Subahdars appointed by Farrukhsiyar at Multan were Khan Zaman Khan Ali Asghar ibn Kartalab Khan Bahadur Shahi Qazi Ghulam Mustafa and then Aqidat Khan ibn Ameer Khan. Persia was united under Nader Shah, ruling from 1736 as Shah of Iran. After his assassination in 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani—who was born in Multan—rose to power. This counts as beginning of Durrani Empire.
    In 1758, the Marathas under Raghunathrao captured Multan along with Lahore, Attock, Peshawar and Kashmir.
    The city was re-captured by Durrani in 1760. However, after death of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1772, the influence of Durrani empire declined sharply in mere fifty years. Starting at late in 1700s, Multan was ruled locally by the Pashtun Sadozai and Khogyani aka Khakwani chieftains.
    In 1817, Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent a body of troops to Multan under the command of Diwan Bhiwani Das to receive from Nawab Muzaffar Khan the tribute he owed to the Sikh Darbar. In 1818, Kharak Singh and Hindu Commander Diwan Misr Chand armies lay around Multan without making much initial headway. Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent a large cannon named Zamzama . Though in name Armies was commanded by Prince Kharak Singh however it was the military genius of Diwan Misr Chand which captured Multan Fort.
    Muzzafar Khan urged the Majority Muslim population of Multan to fight a holy war against Sikhs and Hindus, however the tactics of Muzzafar Khan failed miserably as Sikh armies were able to suppress the religious revolt of Multan population. In the battle Diwan Misr Chand led Sikh armies to a decisive victory over Durrani General of Multan Nawab Muzaffar Khan. Muzzafar Khan and seven of his sons were killed before the Multan fort finally fell on 2 March 1818. The death of Durrani General Nawab Muzzafar Khan brought the death of Muslim rule in Multan. After the defeat of Muslims in 1818, Multan came under Muslims only when British Empire divided India into two Portion and gave Muslim majority areas to Muslims in 1947. Kharak Singh left Jodh Singh Ramgarhia with 600 men to guard the fort of Multan. The Sikhs thereafter ruled Punjab until 1849, when it was lost in the Second Anglo-Sikh War.. Sardar Karan Narain’s son was awarded the title ‘Rai Bahadur’ and knighted by the British Raj for switching to their side. After the Anglo-Sikh Wars, Multan was made part of the British Raj. The British built some rail routes to the city, but its industrial capacity was never developed. Muhammad Basher Ahmed Amretsri was revolted many time against British Government and died there.Choudy Ayzed Habib Arain and choudry Israr are the grandson of him. The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in Multan. 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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