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Patashila (पाटशिला) is a city described by Hwen Thsang during his travels in India. It has been identified with Hyderabad Sindh.


Patashila means "flat rock," which is an accurate description of the long flat-topped hill on which Haidarabad (Pakistan) is situated.[1]



Visit by Xuanzang in 641 AD

Alexander Cunningham[2] writes about Patala or Nirankot: [p. 277]:The district of Pitasila, or Lower Sindh, is described by Hwen Thsang as being 3000 li, or 500 miles, in circuit, which agrees almost exactly with the dimensions of the Delta of the Indus from Haidarabad to the sea, including a small tract of country on both sides, extending towards the desert of Umarkot on the east, and to the mountains of Cape Monz on the west. Within these limits the dimensions of Lower Sindh are as follows. From the western mountains to the eighbourhood of Umarkot, 160 miles; from the same point to Cape Monz, 85 miles ; from Cape Monz to the Kori mouth of the Indus, 135 miles; and from the Kori mouth to Umarkot, 140 miles ; or altogether 520 miles. The soil, which is described as sandy and

[p. 278]: salt, produced plenty of corn and vegetables, but very few fruits and flowers, which is true of the Delta to the present day.

In the time of Alexander, the only place of note in the Delta was Patala ; but he is said to have founded several towns himself1 during his long stay in Lower Sindh, waiting for the Etesian winds to start his fleet. Unfortunately the historians have omitted to give the names of these places. Justin alone notes that on his return up the Indus he built the city of Barce, 2 to which I shall hereafter refer. Ptolemy has preserved the names of several places, as Barbara, Sousikana, Bonis, and Kolaka, of which the first is most probably the same as the Barbarike emporium of the 'Periplus,' and perhaps also the same as the Barce of Justin. In the time of the author of the 'Periplus,' the capital of Lower Sindh was Minnagara, which the foreign merchants reached by ascending the river from Barbarike. In the middle of the seventh century, Hwen Thsang mentions only Pitasila, or Patala. But in the beginning of the eighth century, the historians of Muhammad bin Kasim's expedition add the names of Debal and Nirankot to our scanty list, which is still further increased by the Arab geographers of the tenth century, who place Manhatara, or Manhabari, or Manjabari, 3 to the west of the Indus, and two days' journey from Debal, at the point where the road from Debal crosses the river. The position of these places I will now investigate in their order from north to

1 Curtius, Vita Alex., ix. 10: " Interim et urbes plcrasque ondidit."

2 Hist., xii. 10.

3 Sir Henry Elliot, ' Muhammadan Historians of India,' Dowson's edition, i. 35, quoting Ibn Haukal.

[p. 279]: south, beginning with Patala, at the head of the Delta.

Patala or Nirankot:

The position of Nirankot is fixed at Haidarabad by the concurrent testimony of M'Murdo, Masson, Burton, and Eastwiek. 1 Sir Henry Elliot alone places it at Jarak, as he thinks that that locality agrees better with the descriptions of the native historians. But as Haidarabad is the modern name of the city, which the people still know as Nirankot, there would seem to be no doubt of its identity with the Nirun, or Nirunkot, of the Arab historians and geographers. Its position is described by Abulfeda as 25 parasangs from Debal, and 15 parasangs from Mansura, which accords with the less definite statements of Istakhri and Ibn Haukal, who simply say that it was between Debal and Mansura, but nearer to the latter. It was situated on the western bank of the river, and is described as a well-fortified but small town, with few trees. Now, Haidarabad is 47 miles from the ruined city of Brahmanabad, or Mansura, and 85 miles from Lari-bandar, which I will presently show to have been the most probable position of the ancient Debal ; while Jarak is 74 miles from Brahmanabad, and only 60 miles from Lari-bandar. The position of Haidarabad, therefore, corresponds much better with the recorded distances than that of Jarak. At present the main channel of the Indus runs to the west of Haidarabad, but we know that the Phuleli, or eastern branch,

1 M'Murdo in Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc., i. 30; Masson, 'Travels,' i. 463 ; Burton, ' Sindh,' pp. 131, 376 ; and Eastwiek, ' Handbook for Bombay,' p. 483. See Map No. IX.

[p. 280]: was formerly the principal stream. According to M'Murdo, 1 tlic change of the main stream to the westward of Haidarabad took place prior to a.h. 1000, or A.D. 1592, and was coincident with the decay of Nasirpur, which was only founded in a.h. 751, or A.D. 1350. As Nasirpur is mentioned by Abul Fazl 2 as the head of one of the subdivisions of the province of Thatha, the main channel of the Indus must have flowed to the eastward of Nirunkot or Haidarabad at as late a date as the beginning of the reign of Akbar.

Nirunkot was situated on a hill, and there was a lake in its neighbourhood of sufficient size to receive the fleet of Muhammad Kasim. Sir Henry Elliot identifies the former with the hill of Jarak, to the west of the Indus, and the latter with the Kinjur lake, near Helai, to the south of Jarak. But the Kinjur lake has no communication with the Indus, and therefore could not have been used for the reception of the fleet, which at once disposes of the only special advantage that Jarak was supposed to possess over Haidarabad as the representative of Nirunkot. Sir Henry 3 admits "that the establishment of its locality depends chiefly upon the sites which are assigned to other disputed cities, more especially to Debal and Mansura." The former he identifies with Karachi, and the latter with Haidarabad; and con- sistently with these emplacements he is obliged to fix Nirunkot at Jarak. But since he wrote his ' Appendix to the Arabs in Sindh,' the ancient city of

1 Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc, i. 236.

2 ' Ayin Akbari,' ii. 272.

3 Sir H. Elliot's ' Muhammadan Historians of India,' Dowson's edition, i. 400.

[p. 281]: Bambhra-ka-Thul lias been found by Mr. Bellasis in the very position that was long ago pointed out by M'Murdo as the site of Brahmanabad. Its identification as the site of the famous cities of Mansura and Brahmanabad leaves Haidarabad, or the ancient Nirankot, available as the true representative of the Nirunkot of Biladuri and the Chach-nama. Its distance of 47 miles from Bambhra-ka-tul, and of 85 miles from Lari-bandar, agree almost exactly with the 15 and 25 parasangs of Abulfeda. It is also situated on a hill, so that it corresponds in position, as well as in name, with Nirunkot. The hill, called Ganja, is 1.5 mile long, and 700 yards broad, with a height of 80 feet. 1 The present fort was built by Mir Ghulam Shah in a.h. 1182, or a.d. 1768. 2 About one-third of the hill, at the southern end, is occupied by the fort, the middle portion by the main street and straggling houses of the city, and the northern end by tombs.

In A.D. 641, when the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang visited Sindh, he travelled from Koteswara, the capital of Kachh, a distance of 700 li, or 117 miles, due north to Pi-to-shi-lo, 3 from whence he proceeded 300 li, or 50 miles, to the north-east, to, which I have already identified with Brahmanabad. M. Julien renders the Chinese syllables by Pitasila, but I should prefer Patasila, or the "flat rock," which is an accurate description of the long flat-topped hill on which Haidarabad is situated.

This name recalls that of Patalpur, which, according

1 Wood, 'Journey to the Source of the Oxus,' p. 30. 2 M'Murdo, Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc, i. 234. 3 ' [[Hiouen Thsang[[,' iii. 180.

[p. 282]:

to Burton, 1 was an old appellation of Haidarabad, or Nirankot ; and as this city is exactly 120 miles to the north of Kotesar, in Kachh, and 47 miles to the south- west of Brahmanabad, I have no hesitation in identifying it with the Pitasila of the Chinese pilgrim. The size of the hill also, which is 1.5 mile in length, by 700 yards in breadth, or upwards of 3 miles in circumference, corresponds very closely with the dimensions of Pitasila, which, according to Hwen Thsang, was 20 li, or 3-1/3 miles, in circuit.

The names of Patalpur and Patasila further suggest the probability that Haidarabad may be the Pattala of Alexander's historians, which they are unanimous in placing near the head of the Delta. Now, the present head of the Delta is at the old town of Mattari, 12 miles above Haidarabad, where the Phuleli separates from the main channel of the Indus. But in ancient times, when the main stream, which is now called Purana, or the "Old River," flowed past Alor and Brahmanabad to Nirunkot, the first point of separation of its waters was either at Haidarabad itself, past which a branch is said to have flowed by Miani to Trikal, or 15 miles to the south-east of it where the Phuleli now throws off the Guni branch to the south, and then proceeds westerly to join the present stream of the Indus at Trikal. The true head of the old Delta was therefore either at Haidarabad itself, or 15 miles to the south-east of it, where the Guni, or eastern branch of the Indus, separated from the Phuleli, or western branch.

Now, the position of Patala can be determined by several independent data: —

1 ' Sindh,' chap, i, note 7.

[p. 283]: 1st. According to Ptolemy, the head of the Delta was exactly midway between Oskana and the eastern mouth of the Indus, called Lonibare ostium. This fixes Patala at Haidarabad, which is equidistant from the capital of Oxykanus, that is, from Mahorta near Larkana, and the Kori., or eastern mouth of the Indus, which is also the mouth of the Loni river, or Lonibare ostium.

2nd. The base of the Delta was reckoned by Aristobulus at 1000 stadia, or 115 miles; by Nearchus at 1800 stadia, and by Onesikritus at 2000 stadia1 But as the actual coast line, from the Ghara mouth on the west, to the Kori mouth on the east, is not more than 125 miles, we may adopt the estimate of Aristobulus in preference to the larger numbers of the other authorities. And as Onesikritus states that all three sides of the Delta were of the same length, the distance of Patala from the sea may be taken at from 1000 stadia, or 115 miles, up to 125 miles. Now, the distance of Haidarabad from the Ghara, or western mouth of the Indus, is 110 miles, and from the Kori, or eastern mouth, 135 miles, both of which agree sufficiently near to the base measurement to warrant the descriptions of Onesikritus that the Delta formed an equilateral triangle. Consequently, the city of Patala, which was either at or near the head of the Delta, may be almost certainly identified with the present Haidarabad.

3rd. From a comparison of the narratives of Arrian and Curtius, it appears that the Raja of Patala, having made his submission to Alexander at Brahmana, or the city of Brahmans, the conqueror sailed leisurely

1 Strabo, Geogr., xv. i. 33.

[p. 284]: down tile river for three days, when he heard that the Indian prince had suddenly abandoned his country and fled to the desert. 1 Alexander at once pushed on to Patala. Now, the distance from Brahmanabad to Haidarabad is only 47 miles by the direct land route ; but as the old bed of the Indus makes a wide sweep round by Nasirpur, the route along the river bank, which was doubtless followed by the army, is not less than 55 miles, while the distance by water must be fully 80 miles. His progress during the first three days, estimated at the usual rate of 10 or 12 miles by land, and 18 or 20 miles by water, would have brought him within 19 miles of Haidarabad by land, and 26 miles by water, which distance he would have easily accomplished on the fourth day by a forced march. From Patala he proceeded down the western branch of the river for a distance of 400 stadia, or 46 miles, when his naval commanders first perceived the sea breeze. This point I believe to have been Jarak, which is 30 miles below Haidarabad by land, and 45 miles, or nearly 400 stadia, by water. There Alexander procured guides, and, pressing on with still greater eagerness, on the third day he became aware of his vicinity to the sea by meeting the tide. 2 As the tides in the Indus are not felt more than 60 miles from the sea, I conclude that Alexander must then have reached as far as Bambhra, on the Ghara, or western branch of the river, which is only 35 miles from the sea by land, and about 50 miles by water. Its distance from Jarak by land is 50 miles, and by

1 Arrian, ' Anabasis,' vi. 17 ; Curtius, Vita Alex., ix. 8, 28, says that lie fled to the mountains.

2 Curtius, Vita Alex., ix. 9, 29.

[p. 285]: water 75 miles, which the fleet might have easily accomplished by the third day. From these details it is clear that Patala must have been at a considerable distance from the sea, that is, not less than the length of the tidal reach, plus three days' sail on the river, plus 400 stadia. These distances by land are respectively 33 miles, 50 miles, and 30 miles, or altogether 113 miles, which corresponds almost exactly with the measurement of Aristobulus of 1000 stadia, or 115 miles.

As these three independent investigations all point to the same place as the most probable representative of Patala, and as that place is called Patasila by Hwen Thsang in the seventh century, and is still known as Patalpur, I think that we have very strong grounds for identifying Haidarabad with the ancient Patala.

In his account of the Indus, Arrian 1 says, "this river also forms a delta by its two mouths, no way inferior to that of Egypt, which, in the Indian language, is called Pattala." As this statement is given on the authority of Nearchus, who had ample opportunities during his long detention in Sindh of intercourse with the people, we may accept it as the general belief of the Sindhians at that time. I would therefore suggest that the name may have been derived from Patala, the "trumpet-flower" (Bignonia suaveolens), in allusion to the " trumpet " shape of the province included between the eastern and western branches of the mouth of the Indus, as the two branches, as they approach the sea, curve outwards like the mouth of a trumpet.

I cannot close the discussion on the site of this

1 ' Indica,' p. 2.

[p. 286]: ancient city without noticing another name of which the conflicting accounts appear to me to have a confused reference to Nirunkot. This name is the Piruz of Istakhri, the Kannazhur of Ibn Haukal, and the Firahuz of Edrisi. According to Istakhri, Piruz was 4 days' journey from Debal, and 2 days from Mehabari, which was itself on the western bank of the Indus, at 2 days' journey from Debal. Ibn Haukal and Edrisi agree that the road to Kannazbur, or Firabuz, lay through Manhabari, or Manjabari, which was on the western bank of the Indus, at 2 days from Debal ; but they make the whole distance beyond Debal 14 days instead of 4. Now, Ibn Haukal and Edrisi place their city in Mekran, a position which they were almost forced to adopt by their long distance of 14 days, although the first two days' journey lie exactly in the opposite direction from Mekran. But if we take the shorter distance of 4 days from Debal, which is found in Istakhri, the earliest of the three geographers, the position of their unknown city will then accord exactly with that of Nirankot. Debal I will hereafter identify with an old city near Laribandar and Manhabari with Thatha, which is just midway between Lari-bandar and Haidarabad. Now, Ibn Haukal specially notes that Manjabari was situated "to the west of the Mihran, and there any one who proceeds from Debal to Mansura will have to pass the river, the latter place being opposite to Manjabari." 1 This extract shows that Manjabari was on the western branch of the Indus, and therefore on the high-road to Nirankot as well as to Piruz, or Kannezbur, or Firabuz. I would therefore suggest that the first of

1 Prof. Dowson's edition of Sir H. Elliot's Hist, of India, i. 37.

[p. 287]: these names, which is thus mentioned in conjunction with Manhabari might possibly be intended for Nirun, and the other two for Nirunkot, as the alterations in the original Arabic characters required for these two readings are very slight. But there was certainly a place of somewhat similar name in Mekran, as Biladuri records that Kizbun in Mekran submitted to Muhammad Kasim on his march against Debal. Comparing this name with Ibn Haukal's Kannazbur, 1 and Edrisi's Firabuz, I think it probable that they may be intended for Panjgur, as suggested by M. Reinaud. The 14 days' journey would agree very well with the position of this place.


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[3] ने लेख किया है ...पाटशिला (AS, p.546) चीनी यात्री युवानच्वांग ने, जिसने भारत का भ्रमण 630-645 ई. में किया था, सिंध (पाकिस्तान) के इस नाम के नगर का उल्लेख किया है. वह इस स्थान से होकर गुजरा था. वाटर्स तथा कनिंघम के अनुसार पाटशिला नगरी वर्तमान हैदराबाद (सिंध) के स्थान पर बसी होगी. शायद इसी नगर को यूनानी लेखकों ने पाटल कहा है. पाटशिला का रूपांतर पाटशिल है.


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[4] ने लेख किया है ...पिताशिला (AS, p.557): सिंध (पाकिस्तान) के निकट एक जनपद जिसका उल्लेख चीनी यात्री युवानच्वांग ने किया है. उसने इस स्थान पर तीन सहस्र बौद्ध भिक्षुओं का निवास स्थान बताया है.

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