The roots of ancient Pakistan go way back to 9000 years of Meluhha, which reflects the concept of centuries-old strategic warfare. The modern-day Pakistan has not only been invaded innumerable times in the ancient past, but each time the inhabitants of ancient Pakistan fought back valiantly to protect this land of pure and persisted in countering the challenges that came along, resulting in the creation of an independent Pakistan in 1947.
Introduction of Organized Military in Foreign Invasions of Ancient Pakistan
It is a historically and archaeologically recorded fact that the inhabitants of Indus River Valley Civilization were peaceful and industrious people, who neither invaded any foreign land nor resorted to internecine warfare. They only took up arms in the defense of their territory against foreign invasions, both from the West as well as from the East. Subsequent history also reflects incidents of deadly warfare. The threat of foreign invasions forced the ancient Pakistanis to develop organized military forces. Initially, these forces were centered around the use of war elephants and a large-scale infantry. From ancient Pakistan, the use of war elephants spread towards the West, and later in the East as well.
Horse was not a locally found animal in ancient Pakistan during the Indus River Valley Civilization. It was introduced in Pakistan by the people migrating from Central Asia around 1500 BC. Thereafter, horse became a major trade item and later, it was also locally bred and raised extensively. The concept of cavalry and chariot as a warfighting platform in Pakistan therefore developed gradually. After the introduction of horse, the forces were comprised of war elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry. Infantry, being the largest fighting echelon, predominated the ancient warfare in Pakistan.
The earliest recorded invasion of ancient Pakistan was attempted by the legendary Assyrian Queen Semiramis around 800 BC. In her quest to invade ancient Pakistan, the Queen gathered detailed information about the country and its armies. After accumulating this information, the Queen took two years to prepare for the invasion. According to the Greek historians, her forces apparently comprised thousands of camels dressed as war elephants, a vast number of chariots, cavalry, infantry soldiers, and boats for crossing the Indus River.
Greek historian Diodorus explains that knowing her weakness due to the lack of war elephants, Semiramis planned to deceive and terrorize the defenders of ancient Pakistan by dressing the camels as elephants because of their belief that no elephants were present other than those found in ancient Pakistan. Accordingly, skins of 300,000 black oxen were camouflaged by artisans, disguising the camels as elephants. This probably was one of the earliest strategies of large-scale deception in warfare.
On learning the news about the forthcoming invasion, Pakistanis assembled their forces to defend themselves. The first battle involved a naval confrontation on the Indus River. Semiramis joined the battle on the river, while her foot soldiers positioned along the banks participated eagerly in the contest. The struggle raged for a long time and both sides fought vivaciously. The Assyrians won the battle, destroying about a thousand Pakistani boats, but could not take many prisoners.
Feigning a hasty withdrawal, the Pakistanis withdrew their force from the river with the intention of alluring the enemy to cross the river and attack them on the ground of their own choosing. The Assyrians, sensing victory, traversed the Indus River through a large bridge, and while leaving a group of soldiers behind to defend the bridge, advanced with the rest of their army, led by the dummy elephants. As the battle was joined, the Queen vigorously withstood the initial charges of leading Pakistani cavalry, while her dummy war elephants created confusion amongst the Pakistani horses and troops alike.
Though the dummy elephants did create some consternation in Pakistani ranks, the deception did not remain a secret for long when they charged the Assyrian army with their indisputable war elephants. The Assyrian camels concealed as dummy elephants could not withstand the capacity and ferocity of Pakistani war elephants and bolted from the battlefield. The remaining Assyrian army could bear the attack of the beasts only for a short time, as the Pakistani war elephants and the soldiers by virtue of their extraordinary courage and confidence efficiently destroyed each one who tried to withstand their onslaught.
Sensing total defeat, Semiramis hastily left the battlefield, escaping by the way of waterless and desolate wastes of Makran, where she lost almost her entire force, save twenty men. Three hundred years later, Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenian King of Persia, duplicated the same feat. Though he was less fortunate, being able to lead away just seven of his once great army to safety, he was also defeated by the Pakistanis.
The First Survey of Indus River
The first expedition to survey the Indus River was carried out in the early half of the 6th century BC by King Darius of Persia (550-486 BC). The survey was aimed at carrying out reconnaissance of the southern half of Indus River Valley to determine whether it was worth conquering and to find out where the Indus River flowed into the sea. The result of the expedition encouraged King Darius I to annex parts of southern Indus River Valley to his empire.
King Darius I sent Scylax of Caryanda, along with the expedition, who was a renowned Greek explorer and writer of the late 6th and early 5th century BC. Scylax and his companions set out from the city of Caspatyrus (location not known) in Gandhara. This entailed that he entered Indus River close to its confluence with Kabul River, near the city of Attock. He sailed down the river until he found it reached the sea. He then sailed West across the Indian Ocean till he arrived at the Red Sea, which he also explored before returning to report to Darius I. His entire journey took thirty months.
Apparently, it was from this point onwards that the Greeks started to acquire knowledge about the ancient Pakistan on which Scylax wrote his first Greek work, now completely lost except for a few fragments. Soon after him came the first Greek historian, Hecataeus of Miletus, who wrote a geographical book on the then known world, which included the ancient Pakistan. Hecataeus had Scylax as one of his sources, and in return, he was referred by the famous Greek historian, Herodotus of Halicarnassus. It is only the works of these three authors which depict what the ancient Greeks knew about ancient Pakistan before the invasion of the Greek King, Alexander.
After capturing Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan, Alexander invaded ancient Pakistan in 327 BC. Before the invasion, Alexander was informed by the Persians that no one had hitherto entered this country with an army and emerged in safety, except the Assyrian Queen Semiramis, when she fled from ancient Pakistan. The native Pakistanis told him that even she emerged with only twenty men of her army and that the Persian King Cyrus, son of Cambyses, escaped with only seven of his men. Alexander was overwhelmed with the desire of surpassing both Semiramis and Cyrus. To achieve this aim, he also bribed Raja Ambhi (Omphis) of Taxila, an avowed enemy of Raja Porus, 25000 kilos of gold.
Alexander split his army in two parts; the main force under Ptolemy, the most influential Greek scientist of his time, advanced along the Kabul River towards the city of Peshawar while Alexander, himself leading the smaller force through the mountains, entered the area of Bajaur in Swat Valley. In the various battles fought throughout 327 BC and into 326 BC, the people of Bajaur and Swat fought back ferociously and Alexander’s army suffered massive losses while trying to overpower these brave people. In retaliation, Alexander’s army deceitfully and ruthlessly killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children while destroying many of their cities. The moment he left for the Punjab, the inhabitants of Swat renounced the allegiance that was forced upon them by Alexander.
In the Punjab, Alexander encountered the forces of Raja Porus. The Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum River) was fought in 326 BC. Raja Porus charged Alexander’s forces with elephants and his troops fought bravely, killing over a thousand Macedonians. Though majority of the historians state that the battle was won by Alexander, the outcome of the battle however still remains vague, with many historians stating that Alexander did not win, and the battle ended in a truce. All the Greek historians agree that this was the toughest battle Alexander’s armies ever fought. At the end, Raja Porus became the ruler of a larger region than he had previously held. Later, Alexander also laid siege to Sakala (Sialkot). The city was burnt and razed to the ground, and many of its inhabitants were killed.
In the spring of 325 BC, Alexander invaded the areas between the rivers of Ravi and Chenab, causing massive devastation. His forces attacked the city of Multan where he almost died when hit by a defender’s arrow.
Alexander’s army also made incursions into Balochistan and Sindh. A great slaughter was carried out yet again, and the area was plundered and devastated. Arrian and other Greeks acknowledged that the locals were relentless in attacking the invaders. Baloch and Sindhi fighters not only resisted the foreign army, but also inflicted heavy losses, and many a defeat and continued to resist till Alexander’s forces left and the area was reclaimed. He remained in ancient Pakistan for 19 months (326-325 BC) and died in Babylon (323 BC) at the age of 33 years.
Eastern Invasion by Chandragupta Maurya
After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Seleucus I Nicator, a Greek General, founded the Seleucid dyansty in 312 BC. He became the King of Persia, Syria and Bactria, and also the territory of Pakistan. At the same time, Chandargupta Maurya seized control of Magadha (now part of the Republic of India) and established the Mauryan Empire. Seleucus, during his early rule, consolidated the western half of his empire. Later, in order to consolidate and extend his rule eastwards, Seleucus confronted Chandargupta Maurya between 306-303 BC. This prolonged confrontation probably resulted in many obscure battles, details of which are not available. The campaign ended in a treaty, which was ratified by a marriage alliance between the two men. Seleucus ended his claim on the territories of Pakistan and also transferred the satrapies of the Parapanisadai (around Kabul), Aria (around Herat) and Arachosia (around Kandahar) to Chandragupta. In return, he was given 500 war elephants. Seleucus made good use of his elephants, taking them over 4000 km west to Ipsus (Turkey), where they played a major part in the defeat and death of Antigonus, a victory that gave Seleucus access to the Mediterranean coast. Chandragupta's control of Pakistani territory enhanced the strength of the Mauryan Empire, which was later extended to the whole of South Asia by his grandson Ashoka, and remained the predominant power for about 100 years. Chandragupta’s invasion and capture of ancient Pakistan opened the way for many more invasions from the East. There were numerous attempts to capture the whole of Pakistan, but the people of Pakistan defeated all the attempts and assiduously preserved their separate identity till the 19th century AD, an aberration of about hundred years of the British rule.
Takshashila University (700 BC to 800 AD)
Taxila (Takshashila) University is the oldest university in the world, established in 700 BC. The university was known as the center of excellence in learning since before the birth of Buddha and several centuries before the birth of Christ. According to Dr. Dani, the famous Pakistani archaeologist, the earliest date of the university can be inferred from an Assyrian steatite seal “with an engraving of a worshipper in Assyrian costume in front of an Assyrian god”. The references of this great university are also reflected in the coins of different eras discovered from Taxila. By the time of the Buddha, Taxila University emerged as a linchpin of learning, imparting education to over 10,000 students. In addition to the native ancient Pakistani students, foreign students came from Babylonia (Iraq), Greece, Asia Minor (Anatolia) Turkey, Syria, Arabia, Phoenicia, China and also from the areas of Republic of India. The curriculum comprised of 68 different disciplines including statecraft, law, political and military science, warfare, archery, medicine, philosophy, religion, language and literature, grammar, astrology, astronomy, arts, accounts, commerce, documentation, mathematics, and botany, etc. to name a few. Among the teachers, we had Panini, the great grammarian of Sanskrit language of 6th century BC, Kautilya, also known as Chanakya, the famous writer of the Arthashastra, a book on political science, and the great physician Charaka. Among the students, there were many famous personalities like Jivaka, the physician of Buddha and Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan Empire. When Alexander’s army invaded Pakistan in 327 BC, Taxila University was already an established lyceum, so much so that on his return, Alexander is said to have taken many scholars with him to Greece. The university was destroyed in the 5th century AD by a Hindu King and when the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang (602-664 AD) visited Taxila, he is stated to have said that the town had lost all its former grandeur and character.
In 515 AD, a Huna Shaivite Hindu King, Mihirakula ascended to the throne in most of ancient Pakistan and made Sakala (Sialkot) his capital. He was the son of Tormana, the famous Hindu ruler who is known for destroying Taxila University. Song Yun, the Chinese pilgrim, who was in northern Punjab in 520-21 AD, found the country in the hands of a 'cruel and vindictive' king who used to constrain the populace with the ‘most barbarous atrocities’. Mihirakula has been described by 7th century Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang as a tyrant who fiercely persecuted the Buddhists by destroying their monasteries and killing them. He is supposed to have destroyed fourteen hundred Buddhist monasteries. Around 530 AD, he was defeated in a battle fought near Kahror Pakka in Lodhran District of Pakistan. Driven out of the plains, Mihirakula moved to Kashmir. The Raja of Kashmir gave him asylum but Mihirakula overthrew him with intrigues and captured the throne of Kashmir.
It is recorded that Mihirakula never laughed and slaughtered humans and animals merely for fun. His ferocity and cruelty has also been recorded by the 12th century Kashmiri Pandit historian Kalhana in his magnum opus, Rajatarangini (1160 AD). Kalhana stated in his work that once Mihirakula went on a rampage, pillaging cities of the Indus, killing 30 million people, young and old alike by sword, fire and drowning. Such was the scale of his savagery that a dark cloud of crows and vultures followed his army to feed on cadavers left behind. Kalhana also writes that Mihirakula carried out a terrible persecution of Buddhists, killed monks and destroyed many Buddhist monasteries in Kashmir as well. Many historians identify him as a local Nero for his notorious cruelty. He died of a disease in 540 AD.
The first Muslim attack on Sindh was carried out in the year 644 AD on the orders of Caliph Umar (RA). The second attack was undertaken during the Caliphate of Hazrat Ali (RA) in 660 AD, capturing Kalat in Balochistan as a result. However, the Muslim forces withdrew after the unfortunate martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (RA). The third and fourth attempts aimed at capturing Kalat failed during 664 AD and probably 668 AD. An attempt to capture Sindh in 680 AD also failed when the commander of Muslim forces, Manzir Bin Hurad, fell ill and succumbed to death. During the reign of Caliph Walid Bin Abdul Malik and governorship of Hajjaj bin Yousaf in Iraq, the fifth expedition was undertaken against Sindh. The commander, Buzail Bin Tahfa, led a small force by sea and attacked Debal, an ancient port near modern Karachi. However, after a fierce fight, the force was subsequently withdrawn. The sixth invasion of Sindh was led by Muhammad Qasim, son of Ukail Sakafi, in 712 AD. The Buddhists of Sindh who were in majority, including the Meds and Jats, joined the Muslims against the Brahmin Hindu ruler. Qasim’s forces defeated Raja Dahir, son of Raja Chhach, and occupied Sindh, which at that time comprised of the territories of Punjab, Balochistan, and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
After Mohammad Bin Qasim was called back by the Caliph Walid bin Abdul Malik, the Muslim control of these areas ebbed and flowed until the early 11th century AD, when the second wave of Muslim incursions commenced through the territories of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. With the passage of time, the territories of Pakistan came under the Muslim rule, and it thus became a base for making further inroads into the regions towards the East. This subsequently led to the establishment of a complete Muslim rule over almost the entire South Asian sub-continent for more than 500 years till the arrival of the British in 1608 AD.
The British invaded the areas of ancient Pakistan by first annexing the province of Sindh in 1843 after the hard-fought battles at Miani on February 17, 1843 and Dubba on March 24, 1843.
Punjab, which was under the control of the Sikh kingdom of Lahore, was annexed in 1849 after the Sikhs were defeated in the Anglo-Sikh wars. Maharaja Gulab Singh, who remained neutral during the Anglo-Sikh wars, was allowed to acquire Kashmir from the Sikh rule after paying a hefty sum to the British.
The British annexed the frontier territory after the proclamation on March 29, 1849. For a short time, the districts of Peshawar, Kohat, and Hazara came under the direct control of the Board of Administration in Lahore, but by 1850, they were formed into a regular Division under a Commissioner. Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu, under one Deputy Commissioner, formed part of the Layyah Division till 1861, when two Deputy Commissioners were appointed and both Districts were included in the Derajat Division, and afterwards, it led to the formation of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in 1901.
Gradual occupation of Balochistan began when the British sought right of safe passage for their forces from the Khan of Kalat in 1839. When the negotiations protracted, the British invaded Kalat and Khan of Kalat was replaced. In 1854, a British political agent was appointed in Kalat. In 1876, Kalat was brought under British sovereignty and Balochistan was made a separate agency under the Governor General of British India.
1857 War of Independence: Freedom Fighters Vs. the British Artillery
In 1857, the people of Pakistan fought the first War of Independence against the British colonial occupation. The British occupation of Pakistan commenced with the capture of Sindh in 1843 and Punjab (including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in 1849. However, by 1857, only a part of Balochistan was under the British occupation. Major and minor battles were fought at more than 20 different locations in Pakistan. Troops of British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Government, meted out untold atrocities against those who rose up against the British colonialists. One inhumane method used by the British was to blow up the freedom fighters with artillery cannons and guns. Some of the places where people were blown up by the British artillery are mentioned in figure 1.
The display shows son of Sherbaz Khan tied to the front of a British 9 Pounder cannon at the Agency Ground in Murree. At last, on August 14, 1947, after 100 years of struggle against British colonisation, the nation was reborn as Pakistan.
The Bloody Cannon
The 9 pounder bronze cannon displayed in the museum is one of the original cannons which were used to blow up the freedom fighters during the 1857 War of Independence. This is also known as a rare smooth bore muzzle loading (SBML) cannon, which was cast in 1855 at the Cossipore Gun Factory in British India. In 1858, almost all the SBML bronze cannons were melted at the factory to produce new rifled muzzle loading bronze cannons. Only a few survived and one of those is displayed here.
Pakistan Movement has been depicted through photo frames and details of 100 iconic figures of the movement. In addition, text of Pakistan Resolution 1940, the Delhi Resolution 1946, and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech on the inauguration of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1947 have also been displayed. A diorama of the Quaid, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, Mountbatten, and Edwina Mountbatten in the Constituent Assembly has been designed. Mr. Changezi worked on creating this diorama while Samar Akram carried out all the research.
Hundred Iconic Figures of Pakistan Movement
Thousands of men and women took part in the Pakistan Movement. Majority of the people are aware of a very few names. It was decided that at least 100 iconic figures of the Pakistan Movement would be displayed. We carried out research on the heroes of independence movement from all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, a special consideration was given to find out the details of ladies and non-Muslim iconic figures of the Pakistan Movement. Ms. Aamna carried out the detailed research; she took data from Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust and a few other organizations. Photographs of these iconic figures along with Urdu and English texts have also been displayed. Despite all the efforts, a few photographs were not available. These 100 figures include 13 ladies and 12 non-Muslims. The data of these iconic figures was collected and reasearched by Ms. Aamna Nadeem. Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust authorities helped in the collection of this data.
In the light of historical warfare, the gallery covers the history of Pakistan from the ancient city of Mehrgarh to the modern city of Islamabad.
▪ Ahmad, Junaid, Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded (AJA Publishers NMC Enterprise, 2016).
▪ Ahmed, Mukhtar, Ancient Pakistan: An Archaeological History, Vol III, IV and V (Foursome Group, 2014).
▪ Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander, trans. P. A. Brunt (Massachusetts, US: Harvard University Press, 1976).
▪ Arrian, Edward James Chinnock, Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander; and, Indica (London; New York: G. Bell & Sons, 1893).
▪ Chakrabarty Dilip K., India: An Archaeological History: Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations.
▪ Coppa, A., et al. "Palaeontology: Early Neolithic tradition of dentistry." Nature, vol. 440, no. 7085 (2006).
▪ Coningham, Robin & Ruth Young, The Archaeology of South Asia: From the Indus to Asoka, c.6500 BCE–200 CE (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
▪ Crindle, J. W. Mc, The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great as Described by Arrian, Curtis, Diodoros, Plutarch and Justin, translations of Alexander's campaigns in Afghanistan, the Panjâb, Soverndh, Gedrosia and Karmania (Westminster England, 1893).
▪ Dani, Ahmad Hassan, History of Pakistan: Pakistan through Ages (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2007).
▪ Dani, Ahmad Hassan, History of Northern Areas of Pakistan (Up to 2000 AD) (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2001).
▪ Dani, Ahmad Hassan, Indus civilization: New Perspectives (Islamabad: Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad Press, 1981).
▪ Dihlavī, Amīr Khusraw, Khazain-ul-futuh, 2nd edition, ed. Mohammad Wahid Mirza (Islamabad: National Book Foundation, 1976).
▪ Frank L. Holt, Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).
▪ Fredunbeg, MirzaKalichbeg, The Chachnamah, An Ancient History of Sind: Giving the Hindu period down to the Arab conquest translated from the Persian (Hyderabad: Commissioners Press, 1900).
▪ Jansen, Michael, “Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley Civilization: Water Supply and Water Use in One of the Largest Bronze Age Cities of the Third Millennium BC”, In T. Tvedt & T. Oestigaard (Eds.). A History of Water: Series III, Volume 1: Water and Urbanization (pp. 52–70) (London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2014).
▪ Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark, “Wheeled Vehicles of the Indus Valley Civilization of Pakistan and India,” in Wheel and Wagon - origins of an innovation, ed. M. Fansa and S. Burmeister, (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2004), 87-106.
▪ Kenoyer, Jonathan M., Kimberley Heuston, The Ancient South Asian World (USA: Oxford University Press, 2005).
▪ Khan, M. Ashraf, et al, “Discovery of Rock Art in Azad Jammu & Kashmir”, Pakistan Archaeology, Vol 32-2017 (Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, 2017).
▪ Kistler, John M., Animals in the Military: From Hannibal’s Elephants to the Dolphins of the U.S. Navy (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011).
▪ Mosely, Leonard, The Last Days of the British Raj (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1960).
▪ Nossov, Konstantin, War Elephants (Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2012).
▪ Paterson, Thomas Thomson, H. J. H. Drummond, Soan, the Palaeolithic of Pakistan (Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan, 1962).
▪ Rehman, Abdul, et al, Pivot of the Punjab: The Historical Geography of Medieval Gujrat (Lahore: Dost Associates, 1993).
▪ Sen, Sailendra Nath, Ancient Indian History and Civilization (New Delhi: New Age International, 1999).
▪ Sheikh, Abdul Majid, “Is Lahore a City of the Late Harappan Era”, The History of Lahore and the Preservation of its Historic Buildings, A symposium held in Cambridge (Brooklands Avenue: Ancient India and Iran Trust, 2018).
▪ Spence, Johnny Torrence, Historic Battlefields of Pakistan (London: Oxford University Press, 2006).
▪ Stein, Aurel, Kalhana's Rajatarangini (Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass, 1900).
▪ Textual evidence regarding Ghubar Khana available in Faqir Khana Museum, Lahore.
▪ Vahia, Mayank N. & NishaYadav, “Reconstructing the History of Harappan Civilization”, Social Evolution & History (Mumbai: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, 2011).
▪ Vidale, Massimo, Growing in a Foreign World: For a History of the “Meluhha Villages” in Mesopotamia in the 3rd Millennium BC, Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project (Italy: University of Bologna, 2001).
▪ Wells, Bryan K., Andreas Fuls., The Archaeology and Epigraphy of Indus Writing (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2015).
▪ Wheeler, R. E. M., Five Thousand Years of Pakistan: An Archaeological Outline (London: Royal India and Pakistan Society, 1950).
▪ Wiseman, Donald J. “Mesopotamia and the East. An Archaeological and Historical Study of Foreign”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 6 (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1996).
▪ Witzel, Michael & Steve Farmer, “Horseplay in Harappa: The Indus Valley Decipherment Hoax”, Frontline, September 30, 2000.
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