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Location of Tulamba

Tulamba (Urdu: تلمبہ‎) is a small city in Mian Channu Tehsil of the newly formed Khanewal District in Punjab province of Pakistan. Prior to 1985 Tulamba belonged to the district of Multan. It is a famous fort near Multan and was one of the cities taken by Alexander.


Tulamba is situated on the eastern edge of the Ravi River, between the cities of Abdul Hakeem and Mian Channu. The town of Tulamba is situated on the left bank of the Ravi, at 52 miles to the north-east of Multan.

Origin of name


Tulambah is more than 2,500 years old; local legend says that Tulamba existed in the time of Noah.

Archaeological excavations have uncovered five distinct layers, belonging variously to the Moi tribe, Greek, Sasani, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim civilizations. The coins of several prior governments have been excavated here.

The ruins of the older city are 1 km from the present city. They are in generally poor condition due to rain and neglect, although their bricks are still visible. When Dr. Sayyed Zahid Ali Wasti visited Tulamba in 1967, he saw the ruins spread over an area of several miles, including a walled fort with a high tower and a three-thousand-year-old protective trench around the fort. He described the walls as beautifully plastered with mud, and floors that were not solid. Most of what he described in 1967 is now outdated as the ruins have since been further destroyed and eroded. The trench, however, was renovated in 1988 using trenchers to repair the damaged sections.

Alexander Cunningham on Tulamba

Alexander Cunningham[1] writes about Tulamba:

[p.224]: The town of Tulamba is situated on the left bank of the Ravi, at 52 miles to the north-east of Multan. It is surrounded with a brick wall, and the houses are built chiefly of burnt bricks, brought from the old fort of Tulamba, which is situated one mile to the south of the present town. According to Masson,1 this "must have been in the ancient time a remarkably strong fortress," which it undoubtedly was, as Timur left it untouched, because its siege would have delayed his progress.2 It is curious that it escaped the notice of Burnes, as its lofty walls, which can be seen from a great distance, generally attract the attention of travellers. I have visited the place twice. It consisted of an open city, protected on the south by

1 ' Travels,' i. 456. 2 Briggs's 'Ferishta,' i. 487.

[p.225]: a lofty fortress 1000 feet square. The outer rampart is of earth, 200 feet thick, and 20 feet high on the outer face, or faussebraie, with a second rampart of the same height on the top of it. Both of these were originally faced with large bricks, 12 by 8 by 2½ inches. Inside the rampart there is a clear space, or ditch, 100 feet in breadth, surrounding an inner fort 400 feet square, with walls 40 feet in height, and in the middle of this there is a square tower or castle, 70 feet in height, which commands the whole place. The numerous fragments of bricks lying about, and the still existing marks of the courses of bricks in many places on the outer faces of the ramparts, confirm the statements of the people that the walls were formerly faced with brick. I have already mentioned that this old fort is said to have been abandoned by the inhabitants about 300 years ago, in consequence of the change in the course of the Ravi, which entirely cut off their supply of water. The removal is attributed to Shujawal Khan, who was the son-in-law and minister of Mahmud Langa of Multan, and the brother-in-law of his successor, from about A.D. 1510 to A.D. 1525.

The antiquity of Tulamba is vouched for by tradition, and by the large size of the bricks, which are similar to the oldest in the walls and ruins of Multan. The old town was plundered and burnt by Timur, and its inhabitants massacred ; but the fortress escaped his fury, partly owing to its own strength and partly to the invader's impatience to continue his march towards Delhi. There is a tradition that Tulamba was taken by Mahmud of Ghazni, which is very probably true, as it would have been only a few miles out of his

[p.226]: direct route to Multan. For the same reason I am led to believe that it must have been one of the cities captured by Alexander. Masson1 has already suggested that it represents "the capital of the Malli," or perhaps "the fort held by Brahmans, whose defence was so obstinate and so fatal to themselves, and which was evidently contiguous to the capital of the Malli." But as I do not agree with either of these suggestions, I will now examine and compare the different accounts of this part of Alexander's route.

In my account of Kot Kamalia I adduced some strong reasons for identifying that place with the first city captured by Alexander on his march from the junction of the Hydaspes and Akesines against the Malli. Arrian then relates that " Alexander, having allowed his soldiers some time for refreshment and rest, about the first watch of the night set forward, and marching hard all that night came to the river Hydraotes about daylight, and understanding that some parties of the Malii were just passing the river, he immediately attacked them and slew many, and having passed the river himself with his forces in pursuit of those who had gained the further side, he killed vast numbers of them and took many prisoners. However, some of them escaped, and betook themselves to a certain town well fortified both by art and nature."

A whole night's march of eight or nine hours could not have been less than twenty-five miles, which is the exact distance of the Ravi opposite Tulamba from Kot Kamalia. Here then I infer that Alexander must have crossed the Ravi ; and I would identify Tulamba itself with the " town well fortified both by art and

1 ' Trayels,' i. 456. 2 ' Anabasis,' vi. 3.

[p.227]:nature," the art being the brick walls, and the nature, the enormous mounds of earthen ramparts. The account of Curtius1 agrees with that of Arrian, " on the bank of a river another nation mustering forty thousand infantry opposed him. Crossing the river he put them to flight, and stormed the fort in which they took refuge."

Diodorus relates the same story of a people named Agalassae, who opposed Alexander with forty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. All these accounts evidently refer to the same place, which was a strong fort near the left bank of the Ravi. This description would apply also to Harapa ; but I have already shown that Harapa was most probably the city against which Perdikkas was detached ; besides which it is not more than 16 miles distant from Kot Kamalia. Tulamba, on the contrary, fulfills all the conditions ; and is also on the high-road to Multan, the capital of the Malli, against which Alexander was then proceeding.

The name of Agalassae or Agalessensae is puzzling. According to Arrian the people of the town were the Malli, but it may be remarked that neither the Oxudrakae nor the Malli are mentioned by Diodorus and Curtius until later. Justin couples a people called Gesteani with the Arestae or Kathaei, who should therefore be the same as the Malli or Oxudrakae, but they are not mentioned by any other author. Agala or Agalassa might be the name of the town itself, but unfortunately it has no similarity with Tulamba, or with any other place in the neighbourhood.

1 Vita Alex., ix. 4, 10. The text has in ripa fluminum, which is an obvious mistake for fluminis, as is proved by the use of amne immediately following.


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