Written By Ch. Faisal Mahmood
How many people know or realize that while Pakistan houses the awe inspiring remains of MoejoDaro, the capital of the famed Indus Valley Civilization, it also has the world’s most ancient but living cities and towns. One such city is our Multan.
Multan is one of the oldest living cities not only in South Asia but also in the world. According to Hindu legends, it was the capital of the Trigarta Kingdom ruled by the Katoch Dynasty at the time of the Mahabharata war. Multan has had various names over the centuries. According to Hindu ancient literatures, it was originally called Kashtpur after a Hindu sage named Kashyapa, which is also the Gotra used by the Katoch dynasty. Other names were Hanspur, Bagpur, Sanb or Sanahpur. Its current name is derived from the Sanskrit name Mulasthana assigned after a Sun Temple.
Multan , located on the banks of the Chenab River, in the geographic center of the country is Pakistan’s fifth largest city by population spread over 133 sq. km. The city has grown on a bend created by five rivers of central Pakistan; the Sutlej River separates it from Bahawalpur and the Chenab River separates it from Muzaffar Garh.
The city is full of bazaars, mosques, shrines, and ornate tombs.
The city has grown to become an influential political and economic center for the country, with a dry port and excellent transport links; it is connected with the rest of the country through rail and air including the other industrial hubs of Lahore, Karachi, Gujranwala, Quetta and Faisalabad. The most famous and most modern road links are Multan-Faisalabad, Multan-Lahore and Multan-Sukkar motorways. Multan also have state of the art Metro transport system build by PML N.
Multan, The 7th largest city of Pakistan according to census report of 2017, the population of Multan is 1,734,309 increasing with an average annual growth rate of 2.60%.
Multan has enormous intracity and intercity movement of persons through conventional transportation modes. The road network was sharing the major load and was overburdened, thus was causing numerous problems to the residents of Multan.
In order to overcome growing congestion problems, Shahbaz Shareef Government in Punjab decided to revamp the public transport sector in Multan. The Punjab Masstransit Authority engaged a consultant in 2014 for Transport Modeling and Feasibility Study of mass transit systems in Multan. The consultants prepared long term mass transit network for Multan and prepared Feasibility Study for Priority-I i.e. Red Line. The Red Line is Bus Rapid Transit corridor and being operated as Multan Metrobus System (MMBS).
The most modern Multan Metro route is 18.5 kilometers long, with 12.5 kilometres elevated section. It has 21 bus stations, with 14 elevated stations and seven ground level stations. The bus stations have been constructed with Multan’s extreme hot and cold weather in mind.
Multan is full of bazaars, mosques, shrines and plenty of food outlets. Restaurants in Multan serve array of cuisine’s including Pakistan Food, Continental Food, Fast Food, Arabic, BBQ and Chinese. Restaurants in Multan Range from Multi National Food Chains like KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Hardies to some amazing Local Cuisine Restaurants like Bundu Khan, MUX Lounge and Restaurant Zanzibar
Some famous cuisines of the city are the Multani Mutton Chops and a special dessert named “Sohan halwa”. Doli Roti and Busri are two special Sweet Roti’s, very common and famous among Multani Families.
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 several others passed through the city, leaving much destruction in their wake. Following its annexation to the 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 indeed a wise ruler, setting reasonable taxes, creating effective government and being tolerant of religious differences. Multan witnessed difficult times as the decline of Mughal rule set in from the reign of Aurangzeb .
In 1758, it was captured by the Marathas under Raghunath Rao along with Lahore, Attock, Peshawar and Kashmir. The city was re-captured by Durrani in 1760. In 1817, Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent troops to Multan under the command of Diwan Bhiwani Das to receive from Nawab Muzaffar Khan the tribute he owed to the Sikh Darbar.
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. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim migrants 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.
A local coppersmith displays his wares at the central market in Multan, Pakistan.
Mangoes form a large portion of Multan’s agricultural export market.
Industries include fertilizer, cosmetics, glass manufacturing, cotton production and processing, large textile units, flour mills, sugar and oil mills and large-scale power generation projects.
It is famous for its handicrafts like carpets, ceramics, khussa (traditional shoes), embroidery on dresses for women and men, earthenware pottery, painted pottery, camel-skin ware, surgical instruments, furniture and other wooden products, and carpets are a few of the city’s major exports, with a great demand within the country as well.
A major agricultural centre, its main crops are wheat, cotton, sugarcane, rice, maize, tobacco, bajra, lentils – moong, mash, masoor; oil seeds like rape, mustard and sunflower are also grown in minor quantities in the district.
Mangoes, citrus, guavas and pomegranate are the main fruits grown here; other fruits here are dates, jaman, pears, phalsa and bananas.
The city is also rich in minerals. These include argillaceous clay, coal, dolomite, fireclay, gypsum, limestone, silica and rock salt. Many industrial factories are being inaugurated to handle the separation and quality control of these minerals.
Since Multan is agriculture-based, there is also plenty of livestock still growing at a positive rate, which has led to milk processing units, ice cream manufacturing, animal and poultry feed, dairy farms, meat and poultry processing units, leather garments manufacturing, leather footwear, cosmetics, tinned goods and pharmaceuticals.
The prime attractions of Multan are its mausoleums of Sufi saints. It is the birthplace of Fariduddin Ganjshakar, popularly called Baba Farid, the first major poet of the Punjabi language. The Mausoleum of Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Zakariya, as well as the Mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam are the prime attractions of the city. Their lofty domes of are visible, from miles and dominate the skyline of Multan. Another popular shrine is the Mausoleum of Shams-ud-Din, commonly known as Shah Shamsuddin Sabzwari is located about half a mile to the east of the Multan Fort, on the high bank of the old bed of the Ravi River.
There are also a number of other mausoleums located within the city which attract a great deal of attention; the Nuagaza tombs, for example are venerated shrines to martyrs and warriors who fought in wars dating back 1,300 years.
The Multan Museum located within the city has a vast collection of coins, medals, postage stamps of the former State of Bahawalpur, manuscripts, documented inscriptions, wood carvings, camel-skin paintings, historical models and stone carvings of the Islamic and pre-Islamic periods.
Multan also has a number of old mosques which were once the jewels of the city. Some have been dated back to over a thousand years ago and have been recognized as some of the oldest mosques within South East Asia.
There is a saying in Persian that Multan is the ‘City of Saints, Sufis and Beggars’ (Gard, Garma, Gada o Goristan) because it has been a focal point for many religions, with many tombs, shrines, temples, cathedrals and mausoleums, as well as a historical fort.
Multan has traditionally been a melting pot of several distinct ethnic groups due to its location at the intersection of all four of Pakistan’s main provinces and due to its historical significance as a centre of learning and culture. As a result, Multan today consists of Punjabi, Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi, Haryanvi and Urdu speaking people.
Today Multan is a combination of old and the new Pakistan culture. There is a big hustle bustle in the old city and comfort of a five star hotel and fine dining in the new. The old city has various bazaars selling mystical artifacts, perfumes to arts and crafts. There are also elaborately decorated shrines of the Sufi saints, tombs of various travellers and important people within the old city of Multan.