History of Multan

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

Early history[edit]

Ancient name of Multan was Kashep Puri. The town was built by Raja Kashep. After Hurnakas his son Parhilaad succeeded the throne and the town was then named after him as Parhilaad Puri. The current name Multan was given due to Mali people who were defeated by Alexander the Great.[1] "Once Keshap Puri (Multan) was capital of the Raja Hurnakas where Persian Kings had built temple of sun in which idol of sun was laid. After the conquest of Multan one Brahman had poined out Muhammad bin Qasim about treasure hidden beneath the fountain which was buried by Raja Jesubin. Muhammad bin Qasim found 330 chests of treasure containing 13300 maunds gold. Entire treasure was shifted from Debal to Basra on ships. After Islamic conquest, Arab rulers got handsome income from temple of the sun. Whenever any Hindu Raja intended to conquer Multan the Arab rulers would threaten to destroy the temple. Buzrag bin Shahryar wrote the name of temple as Aadith (sun). Al Beruni also wrote same name".[2]

Multan was ruled by the various native empires[3] before the invasion of 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. The noted Chinese traveller Huen Tsang visited Multan in 641.

Early Muslim era[edit]

In the 7th century, Multan had its first arrival of the Muslim armies. Armies led by Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah launched numerous raids from Persia into India in 664 for inclusion of the area into their empires.[non-primary source needed]

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[non-primary source needed]:

Following bin Qasim's conquest, the city was securely under Muslim rule, although it was in effect an independent state, but around the start of the 11th century, 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:

During this era, the Multan Sun Temple was noted by the 10th-century Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi to have been located in a most populous part of the city,[7] between the city's ivory and coppersmith bazaars.[8] The Hindu temple was noted to have accrued the Muslim rulers large tax revenues,[9][10] by some accounts up to 30% of the state's revenues.[11][12]


By the mid 10th century, Multan had come under the influence of the Qarmatians. The Qarmatians had been expelled from Egypt and Iraq following their defeat at the hands of the Abbasids there. Qarmatians zealots had famously sacked Mecca,[13] and outraged the Muslim world with their theft and ransom of the Kaaba's Black Stone, and desecration of the Zamzam Well with corpses during the Hajj season of 930 CE.[14] They wrested control of the city from the pro-Abbasid Amirate of Banu Munabbih,[15] and established the Amirate of Multan, and pledged allegiance to the Fatimid Dynasty based in Cairo.[8][10][12]

Jalam bin Shayban, a proselytizing Da'i that had been dispatched to the region by the Fatimid Caliph Imam al-Mu'izz,[16] was dispatched to replace the city's previous Da'i who had been accused of promoting a syncretic version of Islam that incorporated Hindu rites[11] – though his replacement was likely the result of doctrinal differences regarding succession in the Ismaili Imamate.[7][12]

Jalam bin Shayban, established newly converted Katara Rajputs as its rulers. Soon after, Multan was attacked by the Ghaznavids, destabilizing the Ismaili state. Mahmud of Ghazna invaded Multan in 1005, conducting a series of campaigns during which some Ismailis were massacred while most later converted to Sunni Hanafi fiqh.[17] The city was surrendered, and Abdul Fateh Daud was permitted to retain control over the city with the condition that he adhere to the Sunni interpretation of Islam.[18] Mahmud appointed a Hindu-convert, Nawasa Khan, to rule the region in Mahmud's absentia. After being granted power, Niwasa Khan renounced Islam, and attempted to secure control of the region in collusion with Abdul Fateh Daud.[18] Mahmud of Ghazni then led another expedition to Multan in 1007 C.E. against Niwasa Khan, who was then captured and forced to relinquish his personal fortune to Ghazni.[18]

In an effort to gain his allegiance, the Fatimid Ismaili Imam-caliph al-Hakim dispatched an envoy to Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi 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 1032, 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 fiqh.[17]

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.[17]

Like his predecessor, Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad of Ghor first took, in 1178, the Ismaili Multan sultans in northern Sindh, which had regained independence from Ghaznavid rule.[19] Muhammad Ghori as a part of his campaigns to conquer north India, again massacred them.[20]

After Sultan Muhammad Ghori'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 Sultan Muhammad Ghori.

Mughal era[edit]

The Mughals controlled the Punjabi region from 1524 until around 1739. Padshah (emperor) Akbar established at Multan one of his original twelve subahs (imperial top-level provinces) roughly covering Punjab, bordering Kabul, Lahore, (Old) Delhi, Ajmer, Thatta (Sindh) subahs, the Persian Safavid empire[citation needed] and shortly Qandahar subah.

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. Afterwards it was ruled from Kabul by numerous Afghan dynasties for a while, including by Ahmed Shah Durrani, who, in 1750, appointed a Hindu Subahdar Malik Banwari Lal (Vijh) to administer Multan (and later Shujabaad and Pak Pattan). For the majority of its medieval history, the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Multan region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab region. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Maratha and Sikh invaded and occupied Multan.

Maratha Empire[edit]

In 1758, the Maratha Empire's general Raghunathrao marched onwards, conquered Lahore and Attock and defeated Timur Shah Durrani, the son and viceroy of Ahmad Shah Abdali. Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on the eastern side of Attock were under the Maratha rule for the most part. In Punjab and Kashmir, the Marathas plundered the prosperous Mughal cities.[21][22] Maratha general Bapuji Trimbak was given the charge of guarding Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan from Afghans. Maratha rule in Multan was short-lived as Durrani re-captured the city in November 1759.[23]

Sikh era[edit]

After Ahmad Shah Durrani's dynasty went into decline, it was ruled locally by the Pashtun Khakwani and Sadduzai chieftains. The Sadozais having gained the favour of the king and having the Khakwani Nawab removed. This period saw the rise of Sikh power, who attacked Multan, killing the Sadozai Nawab, 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 and 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 paralyzed and inviting attack from Bhangi Misl from Gujranwal. Jhanda Singh Dhillon and Ganda Singh Dhillon two brothers and great warriors attacked again in 1764. However, attempts to take the Multan fort failed and they retreated after collecting several million rupees loot from the ruler Shuja Khan Saddozai. Bhangu Sikhs attacked Multan many times and finally captured the city by defeating Shuja khan Sadozai who was the governor of Multan on 22 Dec 1772. Shuja khan fled to Shujabad and died there. Afghans recaptured the city in 1880 and rule of bhangu Sikhs ended.

The front view of an old colonial building built during the rule of the British Raj.

In the 19th century, the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh with his capital at Lahore occupied Multan. Sikh armies under General Hari Singh Nalwa defeated the ruler of Multan, Muzaffar Khan Saddozai. The death of Muzaffar Khan was in fact the death of Muslim rule in Multan. Ranjit Singh reinstated Malik Mohanlal (Vijh), a descendant of Malik Banwari Lal (Vijh) who was Subahdar of Multan during Ahmed Shah Durrani's rule, as Subahdar, and appointed his younger brother as a Vakil in Lahore.

British era[edit]

Siege of Multan[edit]

The Siege of Multan began on 19 April 1848 when local Sikhs murdered two emissaries of the British Raj who were present at the reception of the new governor of Multan who had been selected by the British East India Company.[24] Rebellion engulfed the Multan region under the leadership of Diwan Mulraj Chopra.[24] The British soon launched expeditions against Mulraj, capturing the nearby town of Dera Ghazi Khan.[24] The British then defeated Mulraj's forces at a settlement 4 miles from Multan on 1 July 1848, and captured most guns belonging to Mulraj's army.[24] General William S. Whish was ordered in July 1848 to take 7,000 men with him into order to capture Multan, where Mulraj had been encircled. Much of the force was Sikhs, who in October 1848 defected to Mulraj's forces, forcing General Whish to abandon his first attempt to conquer Multan.[24] By December 1848, the British had captured portions of Multan city's outskirts. In January 1849, the British had amassed a force of 12,000 to conquer Multan.[24] On 22 January 1849, the British had breached the walls of the Multan Fort, leading to the surrender of Mulraj and his forces to the British.[24]

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 fully developed.


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 the Multan. It initially lacked industry, hospitals and universities. Since then, there has been some industrial growth, and the city's population is continually growing. Today, it is one of the country's largest urban centres and remains an important settlement in the Southern Punjab.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maulana Akber Shah; Aeena- ie-Haqeeqat Nima; Volume 1, pages:82-91
  2. ^ Rahimdad Khan Molai Shedai; Janat ul Sindh, 3rd edition, 1993, page:64; Sindhi Adbi Board, Jamshoro
  3. ^ "Multan - Punjab.gov.pk". Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  4. ^ Farishta -History of the rise of Mohommedan power in India translated by John Briggs Vol1 page 2
  5. ^ Ahmed bin Yahya bin Jabir, Futuhu'l-Buldan
  6. ^ Abu Rihan Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Biruni al-Khwarizmi, Tarikhu'l-Hind
  7. ^ a b MacLean, Derryl N. (1989). Religion and Society in Arab Sind. BRILL. ISBN 9789004085510.
  8. ^ a b Habib, Irfan (2011). Economic History of Medieval India, 1200–1500. Pearson Education India. ISBN 9788131727911.
  9. ^ Divine Prostitution By Nagendra Kr Singh. 1997. p. 44.
  10. ^ a b A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North-West ..., Volume 1 By H.A. Rose. 1997. p. 489.
  11. ^ a b Flood, Finbarr Barry (2009). Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691125947.
  12. ^ a b c from: Multan, 20 March 2017
  13. ^ Mecca's History, from Encyclopædia Britannica.
  14. ^ Glassé, Cyril. 2008. The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Walnut Creek CA: AltaMira Press p. 369
  15. ^ Osimi, Muhammad. History of Civilizations of Central Asia (vol. 4, part-1). Motilal Banarsidass, 1992. ISBN 9788120815957.
  16. ^ Tajddin, Mumtaz Ali. Encyclopaedia of Ismailism. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  17. ^ a b c Virani, Shafique N. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press), p. 100.
  18. ^ a b c Mehta, Jaswant Lal (1980). Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India, Volume 1. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN 9788120706170.
  19. ^ "The Historical Interaction between the Buddhist and Islamic Cultures before the Mongol Empire – 20 The Ghurid Campaigns on the Indian Subcontinent | Study Buddhism". StudyBuddhism.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  20. ^ History of India and Pakistan: Great Mughals by Muhammad Tariq Awan published by Ferozsons, 1994
  21. ^ Roy, Kaushik. India's Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil. Permanent Black, India. pp. 80–1. ISBN 978-81-7824-109-8.
  22. ^ Elphinstone, Mountstuart (1841). History of India. John Murray, Albermarle Street. p. 276.
  23. ^ Mehta, J.L. (2005). Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707–1813. New Dawn Press, Incorporated. p. 264. ISBN 9781932705546. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Riddick, John F. (2006). The History of British India: A Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313322808.