Monday, May 23, 2022

The Sun Temple of Multan

In 641 AD, the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang arrived in the city of Multan (located in Pakistan’s Punjab province). At that time the Rai dynasty was ruling the kingdom of Sindh. Multan was their capital. Hiuen Tsang calls the city Meulo-san-pu-lo, Mulasthanpura. In his writing, he has described Multan’s sun temple. Here’s an excerpt: 

“There is a temple dedicated to the Sun, very magnificent and profusely decorated. The image of the Sun-deva is cast in yellow gold and ornamented with rare gems. Its divine insight is mysteriously manifested and its spiritual power made plain to all.Women play their music, light their torches, offer their flowers and perfumes to honor it. This custom has been continued from the very first. The kings and high families of the five Indies never fail to make their offerings of gems and precious stones (to this Deva). They have founded a house of mercy (happiness), in which they provide food, and drink, and medicines for the poor and sick, affording succor and sustenance. Men from all countries come here to offer up their prayers; there are always some thousands doing so.”

The Arab attacks on Sindh began in the 630s. In this period, Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted in Sindh and the adjoining regions. The Hindus and the Buddhists followed different strategies for dealing with the Arabs. The Buddhists tried to compromise with the Arabs by offering them land and tribute. The Hindus often fought back. The Buddhist strategy of compromise did not work, and Buddhism was finished in the region; Hinduism survived, though it was severely wounded. In the early eleventh century, the Islamic scholar Al-Biruni arrived in Sindh, with the invading army of Mahmud of Ghazni. While he was in Sindh, Al-Biruni searched for any Buddhist monk, who could provide him information on Hindu religions. He could not find a single Buddhist monk.

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