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Newsletter for August 2013

 

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ISLAMIC CITIES

MULTAN
by Nasir Shamsi


An ancient city of Pakistan, Multan is located in the south central Punjab province--almost in the center of the country. It was originally situated on the bank of the Chenab River but over the years the river changed its course and now runs a few miles to the East of multan. About 589 miles from Karachi, Multan, a Divisional Headquarter is an ancient city, at one time known as Mansura that served as capital of several Muslim rulers of Sind and Punjab.

Also known as the 'City of Pirs and Shrines', Multan is a prosperous city of bazaars, Mosques, Shrines and superbly designed tombs.

The Qasim Bagh, a garden around the ancient Royal Fort attracts the inhabitants of Multan in good numbers in summer. The late Mian Muhammad Shafi, a great visionary and a City Administrator in the early 50's in the last century had launched a campaign to beautify Multan. Among other constructive measures, he helped develop a lush green garden on and around the ancient Fort. It was named after Muhammad bin Qasim, the 18 years old Muslim General who had first entered India through Sind (711A.D.). After subduing Makran, Daibal and al Nirun (now Hyderabd), Muhammad bin Qasim crossed over to the Punjab and conquered Multan in 713 AD and a greater part of what is now Pakistan came under Muslim rule in the early 8th century.

In the Old City, 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.

Multan was the abode of several renowned Mystics in the 13th century AD that included Syed Yusuf Gardezi, Bahaul Haq Zikria, Shams-e Tabriz, and Rukn-e Alam. The Shrines of these Saints attract thousands of people to visit visit Multan, particularly to attend the annaul Urs of these Spiritual leaders who helped spread the message of Islam in the surrounding areas. The Shrine of Shams-e Tabriz located on the side of the Fort 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).

People of Multan are hard working, polite and hospitable. They generally speak 'Saraiki', a Punjabi dialect, very sweet and mellow and pretty close to the Sindhi. Multan is known for high tempratures in summer. There is a popular legend that attributes Multan's extra ordinary heat to a 'Karamat' ( miracle) of the Baba Shah Shams Tabriz (as he is generally known as in Multan). It is said that the sun descended on Multan on his orders to teach a leson to its residents for their hostile treatment at his arrival from Iraq.

The story of Multan will not be complete unless we talk of the city's special and delicious gift; multani mangoes, particularly the Shujabad variety are the best in the world for their unique flavor and sweetness. Other culinary delights of Multan are its dates and Sohan Halwa. Multani khussa (shoes), Ladies embroidered clothes for men and women and children, earthenware painted pottery, the blue Multani ceramic tiles, camel skin lamp shades and lacquered wood decorative are among some of Multan's unique artifacts and
collectibles.

Al-Huda 1/14

 

 

 

 

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