Hyderabad city has been linked with both Alexander the Great and Muhammad bin Qasim. Originally a small city contained inside a fort, it is now one of the top ten populous cities of Pakistan.
The city of Hyderabad, Pakistan is located on the east bank of the Indus, at an approximate distance of 179 km northeast of Karachi. In 1998 it had a population of 1.17 million and was the sixth largest city in Pakistan. After Karachi, it is the second most important city of Sindh in terms of commerce and industry.
Administratively, Hyderabad city lies in the Hyderabad District of Sindh. This area is part of the alluvial plain and is broken only by a small limestone range known as the Ganja Hills running north to south, parallel to the Indus. Hyderabad city is located upon the most northerly hill of a small ridge known as Ganjo- Takkar, which in Sindhi means barren hills or a hill devoid of vegetation.
In prehistoric times, Ganjo-Takkar was used as a place of worship. Some historians further claim that this was also the site of Patala, which Alexander the Great once touched upon on his way back home around 326 BC. The accounts of travelers point historians to a city known as Pata-sila, or flat rock, which is an accurate description of the long flat topped hill where present day Hyderabad is located. But this claim is still highly debated. However, it has been established that this site was once known as Nerun-Kot, or fort of Nerun, after a Hindu ruler by the name of Nerun.
The Chachnama reports that at the time of the Arab conquest of Sindh, Nerun-Kot was a flourishing city under the rule of a Buddhist priest. This priest entered into an agreement with Al Hajjaj ibn Yusuf against the Hindu ruler, Raja Dahar of Sindh. The city opened its gate to Muhammad bin Qasim, traded with the Arabs for supplies and agreed to pay tribute.
During the Arab rule of Sindh, Nerun-Kot was known as Al-Nerun, and it was one of the 11 principle cities of the Arab Kingdom of Al-Mansura. Arab geographers who visited these cities praised Al-Nerun for its fertile land and its prosperous citizens. Although by the end of Arab rule Al-Nerun lost its importance, it still retained its name. Up till the 1970s, older residents of Hyderabad still recalled it as Nerun.
Modern history of Hyderabad begins around 1768, during the Kalhora period, when Ghulam Shah Kalhora shifted his capital from Khudabad to Al-Nerun and named this city Hyderabad after the fourth Caliph Ali who was also known as ‘Haider’. Not only did he fortify and strengthen the old fort, he also took a keen interest in the development of Hyderabad city. After his death, his son shifted the capital back to Khudabad. In 1789, the Talpur king Mir Fateh Khan made Hyderabad his capital and for the next 60 years, Hyderabad was further developed, both economically and structurally. The British took over Hyderabad in 1843 and initially used it as their capital.
The Hyderabad Fort is commonly known as Pucca Qila and is one of the two forts of Hyderabad. It existed even before the Arabs landed in Sindh. It was renovated by Ghulam Shah Kalhora before he shifted his capital to Hyderabad.
Shah Makki Fort is commonly known as Kacha Qila. It is generally believed that Ghulam Shah Kalhora constructed this fort to protect the mausoleum of Hazrat Shah Makki, a Muslim saint. According to other historians, the bricks used in the structure indicate that this fort is an earlier monument of the Arghun and Turkhan period and Ghulam Shah Kalhora simply renovated it. In the month of Zilhajj, devotees from all over come together for a two day urs (death anniversary celebration) of Sheikh Makki.
Bohra, Qmmaruddin. City of Hyderabad, Sindh: 712-1947. Karachi: Royal Book, 2000.
Pathan, Mumtaz Husain. Arab Kingdom of Al-Mansurah in Sind. Hyderabad: Institute of Sindhology, University of Sind, 1974.