The largest town of lower Punjab and the centre of Pakistan’s main cotton-growing area, Multan is noted for its remarkable shrines and mosques.
Little is known of Multan’s pre-Islamic history, although it’s thought to date back some 4000 years. Alexander the Great is believed to have captured it around 324 BC. In AD 641 Chinese traveller Xuan Zang recorded a magnificent Hindu temple to Shiva, of which there is now no trace. This and other Hindu shrines made Multan an important pilgrimage centre even before the Islamic era. The Sanskrit Rig-Veda is believed to have been written here.
Multan was the first town of Punjab to be captured by Mohammed bin Qasim (in 711). Ruled at the time by a Brahmin dynasty, it eventually became a major Islamic centre. Since then it has attracted more mystics and holy men than perhaps anywhere else on the subcontinent and today is dominated by their shrines and tombs.
It remained, at least nominally, under the Baghdad caliphate until the end of the 12th century. From then on until the early 16th century it was repeatedly stormed by invaders from central and west Asia. It returned to relative peace from 1528 to 1748 under the Mughals, when it became renowned for its architecture, music, ceramics and artistry.
The city passed through various rival dynasties into the hands of the Sikhs until the British stormed the citadel in 1848–49 after scoring a direct hit on the city ammunitions dump. The two-week ‘Siege of Mooltan’ later became known as the Second Sikh War.
Multan is located about 95km north of Bahawalpur.