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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History


Urdu Version

Pakpattan is known for being a vital point of commerce in medieval times as well as home to the great Sufi saint Baba Farid.

Last Updated: 14 Mar. 2014


The city of Pakpattan is located in central Punjab to the west bank of the Sutlej River. It is situated approximately 40 km east of the Indian border and 163 km southwest of Lahore. Administratively, it is located in Pakpattan District of Sahiwal Division. Its population in 1998 was 1,286,680.

Pakpattan map
Pakpattan location
(Google Maps)

Famous for the intricate woodwork on its jharokas (balconies), bay windows and doors, Pakpattan has retained a significant amount of its original character of narrow, winding streets. Though the original fortification wall is now in a state of deterioration, four of the six gates (Shahedi, Rehimun, Abu and Mori) have survived to this day.


In ancient times the city of Pakpattan was known as Ajhudan and quite possibly it may have been called by other, older names before that. Pakpattan and its surrounding areas have been inhabited since ancient times. Greek historians write about a group of people, referred to as Sudrakas or Surakas, who lived in the areas around the Sutlej River during the invasion of Alexander the Great. The Sudrakas had two main cities which historians believe are Pakpattan and its neighboring city Depalpur. Thus, Pakpattan was an established town even before 327 BC and was originally enclosed within fortified city walls with 6 gates leading out.

For centuries, due to its location on the banks of the Sutlej (before the river changed its course), Pakpattan had been a principal ferry point across the river. In addition, two of the most important roads at the time, one from Dera Ismail Khan and the other from Dera Ghazi Khan, met and crossed through Pakpattan. Thus, Pakpattan was an important gateway to Central India. Merchants, travelers, invaders and kings all passed through Pakpattan, making this city a vital point of commerce and conquest.

It is very probable that Muhammad bin Qasim passed through Pakpattan while making his way from Multan to Depalpur, after the conquest of Sindh in 711 AD. It is recorded that Pakpattan was captured by Amir Subuktagin in 980 AD and later by Ibrahim Ghaznavi in 1080 AD. While on his way to Delhi, the Mongol conqueror Timur captured the original fort of Pakpattan in 1397 AD, and it is said that he spared the inhabitants out of reverence for the shrine of Baba Farid. Ibn Battuta, a famous traveler from Africa, journeyed through and later wrote about Pakpattan. Today, a marble plaque outside the Qadeemi Masjid commemorates Ibn Battuta’s visit. During the British rule, Pakpattan was an important administrative headquarter for the region and after 1910 became the railway divisional headquarters as well.

Baba Farid

baba frid
Baba Farid shrine

The spiritual founder of Pakpattan is said to be the famous saint Farid-ud-Din Masud Ganj Shakar, commonly known as Baba Farid. He was born in 1173 AD in Kothewal (present day Vehari District) and attained his early education there. He was inducted into the Chishti Silsila during his stay in Delhi. Afterwards he travelled widely before settling down in Pakpattan which he made his home for the remainder of his life in order to remain undisturbed by worldly affairs. After his death, a shrine was constructed in his honor in 1267 by Khwaja Nizam ud Din Auleya in Pakpattan. It has two doors; the eastward door is known as Noori Darwaza and the southern door is known as Bahishti Darwaza or Door to Paradise.

Origin of name ‘Pakpattan’

The name Pakpattan is attributed to the Sufi saint Baba Farid who made this city his home, but it was long after his death that Ajhudan became known as Pakpattan. Pak and pattan are two Punjabi words that mean pure river bank in Punjabi. Differing narrations present several theories as to how the name Pakpattan emerged. One of the most popular narration states that Baba Farid used to perform ablution, or wudu, before his prayers on the banks of the Sutlej River. One day a man happened to passed by while Baba Farid was occupied in performing ablution and told him that this area of the river bank was not clean enough to perform ablution in. In reply, Baba Farid asserted that this river bank was pure. Ajhudan was formally renamed Pakpattan by Akbar after his visit to the shrine of Baba Farid.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Chaghatai, M. Abdullah. “Pakpattan and Shaikh Farid.” Iqbal Review 9.1 (1968). Allama Iqbal.

Cunningham, Alexander. “Ajudhan or Pakpatan.” The Ancient Geography of India. London: Trubner & Co, 1871. 214-219. Archive.

Meyer, William Steven. Imperial Gazetteer of India. Vol. 19. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908-1931. Digital South Asia Library. University of Chicago.

Nadiem, Ihsan H. Punjab: Land, History, People. Lahore: Al-Faisal Nashran, 2005.

Tariq, Mian Allahbaksh. Tareeqh-e-Pakpattan. Pakpattan: Al-Farid Academy, 1998.


Ejaz, Manzur. “The People’s Poet: Baba Fareed (1173-1266).” Friday Times 19 Aug. 2011.

Shirazi, S.A.J. “Pakpattan: The Home of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar.” All Things Pakistan. 27 Jan. 2009.