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Multan

Multan: town in the southern Punjab, probably the capital of the ancient Mallians, who nearly managed to kill Alexander the Great.

Multan's former Hindu temple (right)
Multan's former Hindu temple (right)
In the spring of 325 BCE, Alexander the Great was advancing from the eastern Punjab, where he had defeated Porus, to the south, to the Indian Ocean. He was worried about the nation of the Mallians (Indian Malava), which had not yet surrendered. The Macedonian king decided to attack them first. He terrorized the rural population between the Acesines and Hydraotes, and sacked a Brahman town. 

After crossing a river that is called Hydraotes by the historian Arrian of Nicomedia but must in fact have been the Acesines, the Macedonian army approached a large city, which is probably identical to modern Multan, a city known today for "its graveyards, heat and dust" - although it is also a lively city that surprised the dusty visitor with the splendor of its colors.

Multan, southeast wall
Multan, southeast wall
In Antiquity, it was famous for a Hindu shrine called Prahladpuri, dedicated to the man-lion manifestation of the god Vishnu. The remains of the last, twentieth-century building phase of this Hindu sanctuary, are still visible near the muslim shrine of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakaria.

Multan boasted another ancient temple, which was dedicated to the Sun god. The area of the two shrines is described by visitors as a park with several water basins. Later, the temple complex became the citadel of Multan, and the buildings were surrounded by a wall. It is possible that the modern walls surrounding the modern citadel of Multan occupy the fortifications of an older city, which may or may not be identical to the city attacked by Alexander. Perhaps archaeological research will one day settle this issue.

Multan, southwest wall
Multan, southwest wall
Very ancient remains of a wall can be seen in the southwest of the citadel of Multan. During the attack of the city of the Mallians, Alexander was almost mortally wounded. However, his men captured the town. The Macedonian king was brought to the south, where he recovered in a newly founded city, Alexandria, modern Uch.

This page was created in 2004; last modified on 19 July 2014.