The lost Sun Temple of Multan in Pakistan

The Sun Temple at Multan (present day Pakistan) was perhaps one of the oldest, largest and richest of them all. It no longer exists, but is buried deep in the ground and maybe someday it's remains will be found and it's architecture studied and admired.

Multan is now a city in the state of Punjab in Pakistan, but more than a thousand years back, it was one of the biggest and the most prominent city of the Indian sub-continent. Back then it was known as Mulsthan, made up of two words - Mula (main/ original) Sthana (home). Over the last hundreds of years, the name changed to Multan, just like it happens to many other cities too.

sun temple multan pakistan photo
Remains of what could have been a Sun Temple at Multan

sun temple multan pakistan
Remains of the remains of Multan Sun Templ


During it's heydays, Multan was most famous in the region for its Sun Temple, which together with the other Sun Temples at Martand in Kashmir, Modhera in Gujarat and Konark in Odisha, made a Tetralogy of famous Sun Temples across India back then. Of course with time, the temples were destroyed or lost in the time - currently all of these, except the one in Multan, is an archaeological protected site. In fact, the Sun Temple in Multan is but lost.


History of the temple

Though legend says that the first Sun temple at the site was built by Krishna's son Samba, no one seems very sure of the date when the Sun Temple was built in Multan, but it was possibly the oldest of all four. It finds mention during the Greek invasion of North India by Greek Admiral Skylax in 515 BC. Later one of the most prominent traveller and chronicler of life in India, Hsuen Tsang, also visited Multan in the 7th Century and wrote prominently about the temple, especially the gold idol and dancing girls of the temple.

Muhammad bin Qasim later captured the city in the 8th Century, but chose not to destroy the temple and Hindu pilgrims continued to visit it and make large offerings. The temple was so important to the Hindus in the area that it became a bargaining chip - whenever a Hindu king would plan to attack Multan, Qasim would threaten to destroy the temple and it's idol. This saved the city from many attacks and the temple continued to live on. In the 10th Century, Al-Biruni, regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era, also visited Multan and gave a glowing description of the temple. (source)

Finally, the temple was destroyed in the 10th Century by Mahmud of Ghazni and by many accounts it was never rebuilt after that. However, there are some other conflicting views which talk about revival of the Multan Sun Temple later and how it continued to be used till the 17th Century. Eventually this temple was also abandoned and it turned into ruins.

The temple was completely lost in time, till a British officer identified it's exact location and marked it on the map. With that a discussion about the temple started once again.

Present Day Sun Temple at Multan

Nothing much survives from the temple anymore, and no concentrated efforts are made to do major excavations to identify the lost temple. After the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992, large number of temples were destroyed in Pakistan in retaliation. Apparently there were some remains of the temple back then but they were also completely destroyed and nothing remains of the temple anymore.

sun temple multan pakistan photo
Lots of thrash everywhere...

sun temple multan pakistan photo
Mohammad Waseem

sun temple multan pakistan photo
People have taken over the land and using it for making a living

sun temple multan pakistan photo
Lots of encroachment and decay

If you look for the temple on google maps, this is what you will come up with. Well, if you are in Multan and want to explore the origins of the city, this might be a great place to start.




Special thanks to Mohammad Waseem from Multan who saw my story and then decided to go and check out the place. He also volunteered to take pictures so that I can include them in the story to make it more complete and holistic. 

Comments

  1. Wow, I did not know about this Sun Temple while I have been chasing sun temples everywhere in India. There is a sun temple in Delhi as well, though nothing remains of it, not even as much as it is there in Multan.

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  2. Such a shame that the area is neglected. I'm actually quite fascinated by the fact that the temple was mentioned in the 6th century BC. And there was a golden idol once? That must have been a sight to see! :)
    If the temple is under ground, I can only hope that it would be excavated properly. Judging by your post, I imagine that the remains must be majestic!

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  3. It's sad how significant sites like this are buried in history and no solid efforts to rediscover it once again has been made. I'm sure it would be very interesting to be able to see this Sun Temple and see more of Pakistan's history through it.

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  4. This is a very interesting read about the sun temple of Multan in Pakistan. It is interesting to think that it could have been destroyed in the 10th century and then used later on. It is a pity the place is not preserved as ruins and taken better care of.

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  5. There's nothing really special when you look at it that it's sad. It's sad that it is not maintained when it has such rich history.

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  6. Incredible to think that what was once such an important part of the cultural landscape is now lost, maybe one day waiting to one day be excavated. I’m always so saddened at how conflicts cause the demolition of such beautiful structures though - it's happening all over the world which is really sad. We're losing some incredible symbols of human history.

    I guess it makes sense if it was destroyed that people didn’t care about saving ruins, but it’s still very tragic. Funny how we only start caring centuries later when it becomes fascinating history. Sad that the area in geenral has fallen under such neglect.

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  7. What a history lesson - first of all thank you! I find it so hard to understand that so many beautiful, historical buildings are being destroyed by conflicts all over the world. I find Berlin interesting because of this fact as it is so modern now. In the UK we really care about saving ruined buildings and restoration and it is a shame it didn't happen here.

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  8. This is a fascinating post. It is sad that the sun temple of Multan seems to be buried in oblivion. Having seen the temples of Konark and Modhera, I can imagine what this one would have been like. Hope some day the temple rises from the dust in all its glory.

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  9. I loved reading this post and never knew that one of the Sun Temple exists in Pakistan. It might have been gem in its time. But it is really sad to see it in ruins and that the land has been taken over by locals.

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  10. What an interesting history! I can only imagine what it might have once looked like? I only hope that someday this area will be revitalized - it is sad to see that it's left in ruins and there is trash around it.

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  11. The People of Multan Dont seem to be interested in their history. Many Hindu Temples and religious sites are now lost in Pakistan.

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