IKHLAQ AHMED QADRI in the context of the celebrations of 5000 years of Multan, beginning from November 2000 provides interesting information about this ‘city of Saints’.
Multan as a tradition which goes back to the Bronze Age. Rich in archaeology and the history, the city has a lot to offer for those in search of culture. But, more then anything, it’s the monuments that give the region a glory of its own.
Old Multan is actually a fortified city built on a huge ancient mound and with six gates set at different places. The six entrances to the old city are; Dault Gate, Bohar Gate and Lahori Gate. Three of these (Dault, Lahori and Pak) Gates have been destroyed while the remaining three are intact, although even these are actually reconstruction, from the British period. All the existing gates are of one and the same design. A circular road, locally known as the “alang” runs right around the old city, but inside the fortification wall and not outside it as in common on other old cities. However, a modern circular road also runs on the outer side of the city. The walled city is densely populated with narrow streets, winding lanes and old style houses built quite close to each other. As Multan was once a centre for wood carving, some of its old houses have good specimens of woodwork on their windows and doors.
Being a historical city, Multan is full to tombs, mosques and other monuments of Muslim origin. Apart from historical buildings, there are two other objects in the city which have almost come to be regarded as monuments on account of their excellent workmanship. These are the two huge, carved wood “Tazzia models”, which are the best specimens of craftsmanship.
Multan, it is not surprising, is also known as “Mandinatu-Aulya”, the city of saints. It has tombs, mosques and “Khanqahs” (hospices) of saints. Keeping in view their historical value, priceless art work, architecture style and craftsmanship involved, all these monuments are beautifully decorated and ornamented with blue titles, fresco-paints and mosaic work, and some with the delightful and soothing Kashi and Naqashi work for which Multan is famous.
Multan was an important city even before Islam but it gained importance after the arrival of Islam. Hence most of the crafts and monuments of artistic value are clearly influenced by Islam.
THE HISTORICAL TOMBS
The history of Multan’s Muslim architecture begins with the Muslim conquest. Little is known about the architecture of Multan prior to the 11th century, though elsewhere in Pakistan we can trace the genesis of Muslim architecture from the 8th century A.D. During the 13th and 14th century, a new style of architecture was introduced for funerary memorials of the Muslims in and around Multan the style begin with the tomb of Baha-ud-din Zakariya and culminated in the mausoleum of Shah Rukn al-Din Rukn-I- Alam, which has been admired as “one the most splendid memorial ever erected in the honour of the dead.
These two mausoleums served as perfect models for the future architecture. The architects continued to imitate them for well over six hundred years. The popularity of the style did not lessen even when the more refined and gorgeous Mughal style of Rukn-e-Alam is the beautiful tomb of Sultan Ali Akbar at Suraji Miani near Multan, which was erected in the Mughal period (992/1585).
Some of the common features of all mausolea in Multan are their tapering walls, single dome and the glazed tile decoration on the exterior. Another widespread feature is a wooden canopy, over the main grace. Decorated with carving and grills, the ceiling of the canopy is always adorned with glazed tiles of different motifs. Occasionally the grills are made of marble, ornamented with beautiful geometric designs.
THE TOMB OF SAINT BAHAUDDIN ZAKARYA
Standing at the northeastern side of the old fort which is situated on the high mound, is the tomb of Shikh-al-Kabir, Bahauddin Abu Mohammed Zakariya Al-Qurashi. The tomb occupies the centre of a vast oblong open area measuring 260 feet N.S by 203 feet E.W and is enclosed by a perimeters brick wall. It has two main gates one on the east and the other on the West Side. There is a vow of fourteen “Hujras” on the north for the “Zaireen”.
The tomb was almost completely ruined during the siege of Multan in1848 AD by the British army but was repaired immediately by Makhdum Shah Mahmud. There is no original inscription on the body of the tomb to show the date of its construction and the subsequent repairs. However, from the fact that here lies the great Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya who had erected it himself during his prime time, it can be said that it belongs to the early decades of the 13th century. The Shaikh died on the 7th of Safar (661/21 December 1262).
THE TOMB OF SHAH RUKN-E-ALAM
The mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam is also situated on the fort mound. The Shaikh was the son of Pir Sadar-Al-Din Arif born at Multan on the 9th of Friday Ramazan 649/26 November 1251. He was the grandson and successor of Shaikh Baha-Al-Din Zakariya.
Shaikh Rukn-i-Alam (Rukn-al-Din) died on the 7th of Friday (735/3 Jamadial-Awwal, January 1335). He was buried in the mausoleum of his grandfather, according to his own will. After sometime, however, his coffin was transferred to the present mausoleum. It was constructed, according to a popular belief, by Ghiyas-al-Din Tughluq (1340-1350) during the days of his governorship of Depalpur, but was given by Feruz Shah Tughluq to the descendents of Shah Rukn-I-Alam for the latter’s burial. The mausoleum of Rukn-I-Alam has been admired by not only the travelers and chroniclers but also by the art-historians and archaeologist who wrote the architectural history of the subcontinent.
The tomb was built on octagon plan, 90 ft in diameter with walls which are 414 ft high and 13.3 ft thick. The mausoleum was constructed with burnt bricks and supported by timber framing, and decorated with tile faced bricks and wood beams. The whole structure is divided into three stories. Over the second story is a smaller Octagon, leaving a narrow3 passage all around the place, above which stands a hemispherical dome. As the tomb is standing on a high artificial mound, it is visible from about 45 kilometers. Most of its patterns are geometric-created by arranging the glazed tiles-and a living testimony to creative genius of their designers. The building is also decorated with some floral as well as calligraphic patterns. In the 1970s the mausoleum was thoroughly repaired and renovated by the Auqaf Department of the Punjab Government. The entire glittering glazed interior is the result of new tiles and brickwork done by the Kashigars of Multan. This clearly demonstrates the talents and dexterity of the local craftsmen.
THE TOMB OF SHAH SABZWARI
The tomb of Shah Shamas Sabzwari is situated near the Aam Khas Bagh, about a quarter of a mile on the east of the ancient port on the high bank of the old bed of the Ravi which is now filled with a multitude of modern buildings. Shah shams Sabzwari was a celebrated “Ismaili Dai”. Very little is known about Shams Sabzari’s life. According to a popular legend, he arrived in Multan at the time of Shaikh Baha-al-Din Zakariya. He breathed his last at the age of 111 years in 675/1276 and was buried in Multan.
The main features of the tomb are similar to those of the city’s other major tombs. It has a square hall in an Octagon shape topped by a high dome. There is a verandah all-round the grave-chamber, with fine arches in every side and a single entrance to the hall. In the courtyard, which is at a lower level than that of the verandah, there is small mosque. Like other decorated tombs of Multan, this tomb is also ornamented with Kaashi tile work and Naqashi work. But recently a fire damaged its entrance seriously.
THE TOMB OF SHAH YOUSUF GARDEZI
This famous tomb is situated near the Bohar Gate. Its building is quite different from the city’s other tombs, with a rectangular hall and a flat, dome-less roof. The hall, which has a small door towards the end of one of its longer sides, is constructed in a big compound. On one side of the compound stands the large hall of an imambargah. The tomb’s present building is a completely renovated one. The rectangular building is thoroughly covered with the blue Multani tiles, decorated with countless floral and geometric patterns arranged in large rectangles, square and border. The skyline is a miniature replica of a fort’s battlement and has a row of arches with borders raised in relief. Below the parapet wall runs a continuous calligraphic border on all four sides. The standard of this calligraphy, however, is not very high. Only blue and while have been used, the motifs include a rich variety of floral patterns.
THE MAUSOLEUM OF SULTAN ALI AKBAR
This tomb is situated in Suraj Miani, a locality in the northwest of the ancient city. Sultan Ali Akbar was a saint of Islamic order, and was the great grandson of Shams-Sabzwari. This is the only epigraphical evidence available about the saint on the façade of the mausoleum, however, the tomb is a very important contribution towards the adoption assimilation and spread of Multani architecture where almost every characteristic of the Rukn-I-Alam’s tomb including the octagonal plan, tapering turrets, the three storied well balanced and harmonious elevation, embellished with colourful tiles revetment, and screened window opening, his some horizontal as well oblique so also noticeable. It is because of this that the monument has been nicknamed the “Little Rukn-i-Alam”. It has glazed style design used according to the available space. The mausoleum stands on a six feet high square platform.
Tomb of Hafiz Muhammad Jamal
This tomb is situated near Aamkhas Bagh surrounded with thick heavy wall of small bricks. The main square building includes a large hall, surrounding veranda and a Majlis Khana.
The tomb was built in 19th century during the reign of Ranjit Singh ( 1810). The land for the tomb was given by Sawanmal, the governor of Multan in those days. The main building was constructed under the supervision of Khawaja Khuda Bakhsh “Tami Waly” and Khawaja Muhammad Isa of Khanpur. With passage of time the building and its decoration were badly damaged, although necessary repair work was carried out on the original pattern in 1972-74. With the exception of the main entrance, the exterior of the tomb is very simple. However, the interior is profusely decorated with Kashi work and glass mosaics – Shisha MinaKari, While the tomb itself is exceptionally fine example of mosaic work. All the motifs and pattern are floral, with different colours.