Multan- An oldest city having cultural diversity

Salman Raza

Multan: The city of Multan is said to be 5000 B.C historic oldest region and sister city of Rome. Previously it was called ‘City of Gold’ now retained the status of ‘City of Saints and Shrines’.

However, it is also believed that the city was named after the Sun Idol called ‘Multan’ being worshipped by Hindus surviving in majority here before taking place the historic partition. Multan throughout its history has remained a center of social, culture, religious, educational and political activities. Today, it reflects a complex mix of modern, planned metropolitan systems and old civilization.
Within the radius of 25 miles in Madeenat-ul-Aulia, there are hundreds of mausoleums of saints who propagated Islam in sub-continent with a message of peace, tolerance and religious harmony.

There are more than 100,000 shrines placed here in the city with most of them erased with the passage of time due to expansion and development projects. However, presently there are around 3000 to 4000 shrines that are visited by the people regularly.
One of the famous shrines is Sheikh Bahuddin Zakariya known as Bahawal Haq. Born in 1170 in Layyah, he got religious education from Iran. On his return to the Sub continent, Bahawal Haq settled in Multan in 1222 AD to preached Islam.

Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya’s Mausoleum is visited by thousands of people and devotees from all over Pakistan especially from Sindh apart from Southern Punjab. Shah Rukn E Alam was the grandson of Bahawal Haq, who continued the message of his grandfather.

His shrine was built by Ghias-u-Din Tughlaq. In addition to that, The Khanqah (Shrine) of Shah Rukn-e-Alam, a masterpiece of architecture became the identity of the city. Situated on top of a
small hillock, behind the old ruins of Multan Fort, the Mazar and its majestic dome is the first landmark visible when anybody comes to visit here.

Shah Rukn-e-Alam (1251-1335) was a Sufi saint residing in the city being revered by thousands of pilgrims from all over the country who used to pay regular visits here. He was the grandson and successor of Sufi Shaikh Baha-Ud-Din Zakariya taking eternal rest at the closest site. The dome is more than 50 feet in diameter with over 100 feet height.

The entire complex is built with red bricks and decorated with wonderful woodwork. Beside the religious importance, they are a blend of scenic architectural beauty with an old historic standard displayed through red bricks met with blue and white tiles famously recognized as Multani tiles bringing a majestic look to the viewers.

Besides, Multan Fort is a symbolic building located at the center of the city, next to Shah Rukn-e-Alam’s Mazar. It was built in 17th century. Infact the fort had been destroyed by the British ruler, however the area is yet recalled with name of fort.
Historically, it was created by Murad Baksh, son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This fort now looks as a part of Multan City, clearly separated by a road looking more like the busiest market all the day. It is built on a detached, rather high mound of earth and considered as one of the best forts of the Sub continent from the defense as well as architectural points of view.

The famous Qasim Bagh and a stadium are located within the walls of the fort. A panoramic view of Multan City can be had from the highest point in the fort.

Moreover, ancient visitors to Multan had put references of a large number of historical Gates in their books. It included: Village Gate, then Khizri Gate, Sikhi Gate and Rahri Gate of Hussain-a-Gahi. While a lot of monumental things of Fort vanished, all of the above Gates were also ruined with the passage of time. However some gates including Daulat Gate, Delhi Gate, Pak Gate, Haram Gate, Bohar Gate and Lohari Gate are still famous for their incredible monumental architecture typified by the pyramids.
It is said that the entire world used to live on both sides of the gate. What people want to purchase or acquire used to be in easy access around the gate. Different theories have been derived from different historians on creations of the famous gates erected at different nooks and corners of the city. An eminent historian Hanif Chudhary writes in his book Uftada Tahrerain that Lohari Gate was the hub of iron goods selling imported from different countries of the world.

Those gates were also named after idols like Harri Gate, Subki Gate, Seeta Gate, Tarri Gate, Loha Gate etc”.Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower is a two storey building recently reconstructed in its original form and shape located in the most busy area of the district.

It was originally built in 1884 A.D during British Raj in Indian Sub-continent. After passing municipal act 1883 British needed offices to run the city. They started constructing Ghanta Ghar in Multan on 12 February 1884 and it took 4 years to complete the building.

It is one of the unique buildings that attracts visitors from many kilometers away. A big clock is fixed at the top of the building to give the correct time to people in the city.

There is a big hall in the building which is named after Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah that remains a hub of social, cultural and educational activities. The backside area of Ghanta Ghar building is known as Kotal Tolay Khan where Sultan Mohammad Tuglaq, king of the Sub-continent was born.

The entire area is very much known for Multani Soghat like Sohen Halwa, Falooda, Fried fish, Embroidery goods, Multani Khusa and shoes. On the road, the oldest mosque called ‘Sawi (green) Mosque’ is more distinctive of art and architecture than any other building in the city.

It is reported that both buildings of Ghanta Ghar and Sawi mosque are monumental creations that surfaced during the reign of Sultan Mohammad Tuglaq. Although the cultural life of the city is as primitive as the history of the city, it got impetus when Radio Pakistan started broadcasting on November 21, 1971 from here. It gave recognition to many famous artists, singers, musicians and broadcasters working across the country.
Madam Soraya Multaniker said she was being auditioned by ten music experts who asked her every question about singing and different features of music.

Then, they have had the Bari family known to spread music across the city with the sons Ustad Mukhtar Bari and Javed Bari along with their father Ustad Abdul Bari. He left many trained followers including the melodious voice of Naheed Akhtar. Bari had composed next-gen cutting edge music for famous singer Iqbal Bano’s Ghazal, DAGH DIL HUM KO YAD ANAY LAGAY and CHAN KITHAN GUZARI HAI RAAT WAY for Surayya Multaniker. Today, two studios including FM93 and FM103 are established for giving lively entertainment.

Radio Multan is the hub of cultural activities which introduced famous faces including legend Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, stage icon Iftikhar Thahkur, famous film star Mohammad Ali, well known dramatist Sohail Asghar, singers including Naheed Akhtar, Surraya Multanikar, Iqbal Bano, Naseem Akhtar, Pathanay Khan, Rahat Bano, Najam Sheraz, Gulbahar Bano, Naeem ul Hassan Babloo, Saleem Nasir, Mater Tufail, famous actresses, Anjman, Reema, Ghuri, Shakeela Qureshi, Saima, Sana, Noor and many more. Multani Dialect is known to be the sweetest one across the country, inviting top poets to contribute their masterpieces in Saraiki language. Naat, Nohay, Marsia, Kafian and Ghazals have become the identity of this region.

Multani Nohay, the poetic expression of sorrow for martyrdom of Holy Imam has got worldwide recognition. Rites and rituals have always remained important characteristics of Multani culture.

There is big demand of Multani Khussa, Choora, Taj, Kungan, Bangleh, Chalay, Punj Angla, Pazeb, Chundan Har, Laket set, Khut Mala, Nathli, Koka, Jhumkay, Murkyan, Walyan, Kotoray Walay Kantay, Tikka, Lachay, Karay, Zanjeer Laket, Koka, Nathli, Nath and other jewelry.

A large number of festivals used to be arranged here for centuries. Among them ‘Vesaki’ has been celebrated on every April 13 in Suraj Miani.

It is unique in the sense that the event is celebrated at the same time in the neighbor country India as well. The festival marks the start of New Year in the Nanakshahi solar calendar and recognizes the Sikh religious faith. Tourists and admirers of handicrafts like to buy table lamps, vessels, vases, cookie jars, show pieces and souvenirs made with bamboo shoots and Kashi work.

For the blue pottery or Kashi work special clay is procured from Gujrat, Tharparkar and Mansehra and used after formation and refining to get perfect colors and designs.Shrines and tombs were decorated through excessive use of blue tiles. One such example is the famous mausoleum of Baha-ud-Din Zakariya. People, who are interested in learning about the heritage of Multan and its crafts can benefit from that ceramics. This type of the handicraft is mostly bought by foreigners visiting Pakistan.