History of Uch, the Pakistani city of saints

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The history of Uch, one of the most beautiful and particular cities of Punjab and Pakistan, known for being particularly linked to local saints and Sufis

The words of Ibn Battuta

“Then I came to Uch, a large city on the Sind River, well built and home to beautiful markets”

From the Alexandrian origins to the Mamluks

According to the latest discoveries, Uch was founded in 325 BC. by Alexander the Great in person, who named it “Alexandria on the Indus” because of its location, close to the confluence of the Chenab and Indus rivers; it must be said that, like most of the cities built by the Macedonian, in reality the area was already inhabited for some time and some historians believe that it was at least since 500 BC. . Unfortunately from its foundation until 712 almost nothing is known, but it probably remained a small settlement of today’s Punjab without exercising particular roles, thus undergoing the domination of various dynasties. The first will be the Maurya, then the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Indo-Parthians, the Sassanids, the Rai and finally the Chacha; during this infinite span of time the regions and territories around the city will become enormous centers of Hinduism, mainly linked to Vishnu and Surya.


In any case, Uch will re-enter history with its conquest by Muhammad ibn al Qasim, the Umayyad general who conquered the entire Sindh region, bringing the Arab-Islamic world to the region for the first time. The city will then be conquered by Mahmoud di Ghazna and starting from 1094 it became one of the major missionary centers of the Ismaili Nizarite Shiites; their bond with the territory will be so strong that a hybrid current between Hinduism and Nizarism will be born called Satpanth, which combines dogmas of Shiism with those of the Hindu religion, extending a touch of Sufism. The latter is not accidental since, in those years, Uch and the nearby Multan became one of the largest centers in the world as regards the Sufi order of the Suhrawardi. After the Ghaznavids, the Ghurids will arrive here, the last before the Mamluks of Delhi.

From the Mamluks to the Mughals

This dynasty, like the Egyptian homonymous one, derives from Turkish slaves freed by Mohammad of Ghur, who will create their own power in India, then developing towards Multan and Uch thanks to the intervention of Nasir ad-Din Qabacha. The latter will be able to create his own sultanate that will resist on several occasions both the Kingdom of Corasmia, both the Ghurids and the Mongols, however falling under the blows of Iltutmish, another Mamluk ruler who will forever move the center of Indian power from Punjab to Delhi. From 1245 to 1305 the city will suffer continuous raids by the Mongols, which will lead for a short time to the formation of the Tughlaq dynasty, then wiped out by the return of the Mongols, this time under the command of Tamerlane’s nephew.


From the beginning of the 15th century to 1540 it was part of the Langah sultanate, under which the Sufi brotherhood Qadiriyya was particularly established, which later became one of the majority of Punjab. With the fall of the Langah there were several attempts of conquest by the Mughal dynasty, but culminating only under the reign of the great Akbar, who transformed it into a real religious center. The great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah was born in Uch in 1680, still considered a saint by both the mystics of Islam and the Sikhs.

From the state of Bawalpur to modern Uch

After a brief but devastating attack by the Durrani, the city became part of the Kingdom of Bawalpur, which de facto maintained control until the birth of today’s Pakistan. Initially independent, this royal family first became a vassal of the Sikh Empire and then, starting in 1833, came under the rule of the United Kingdom. The help of this kingdom to the British during the first two Anglo-Afghan Wars ensured its survival as a principality, so much so that, although it has been part of Pakistan since its origins, it will only be in 1955 that the principality will be definitively dissolved in favor of its total union with the newborn country.


Although still today a town of just 22,000 inhabitants, Uch is considered a real place of pilgrimage due to the innumerable sanctuaries and tombs of saints, all of very fine workmanship; it is no coincidence that she is nicknamed “Uch Sharif” or “the Noble Uch”.

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