Tomb of Asif Khan
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Tomb of Asif Khan

The Tomb of Asif Khan is a magnificent edifice crowned by a high bulbous dome. Asif Khan’s tomb is situated in Shahdara Bagh, adjacent to Akbari Sarai, in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Like that of other noble persons in the Mughal courts, Asif Khan’s tomb is also octagonal in shape and embellished using attractive designs and colours. Octagonal shaped tombs were only used for Mughal nobles and never for Mughal emperors.

Asif Khan was the title given to the Mughal statesman Mirza Abdul Hassan Jah, who was also known as Asif Jah. He was the brother the of Empress Noor Jahan, father of Arjumand Bano Begum who later became the consort of Shah Jahan under the name of Mumtaz Mahal, and he was also brother-in-law to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Asif Khan was elevated as Khan e Khana, commander in chief, and became governor of Lahore a year later.

Asif Khan died in a battle against the forces of rebel Raja Jagat Singh in 1641 and his tomb was commissioned to be built by emperor Shah Jahan. It cost 300,000 rupees and four years from 1641 to 1645 to complete the construction of this marvellous erection. The tomb is only separated by Akbari Sarai from Jahangir’s tomb which makes an axis.

Layout

The garden, where to tomb stands, measures 300 yards to each side and was divided by long pools along pathways into four squares (the Persian Chahar Bagh system). Each square is set with fountains, water reservoirs, and trails. The tomb once had water reservoirs at its four corners to fed fountains and pathways.

The garden was accessible through the gates erected on its northern and southern walls. The southern gate is a double storied structure, square in shape, serves as the primary entrance to the garden complex. Its southern face is decked with red stone and white marble while the other three faces are decorated with plasterwork. Its interiors feature small chambers. Its central portion features a tall two-story iwan portal finished with stucco work and flooring is done in geometrical design brickwork. The northern side gate is known as Jawab (response) gate, a two-storied structure with a central arched iwan portal flanked by four smaller portals. Its front is adorned with intricate tile work (Kashi Kari) but much of the intricate ornamental work has already gone. There is a small mosque found in the eastern wall which was used as a residence during the British era while there is access to Jahangir’s Tomb via the Akbari Sarai in the western wall.

Architecture

Asif Khan’s tomb was built in Central Asian style architecture.  The tomb was noted to feature some of the finest examples of building art and craft at the time of construction.

Standing in the centre of a vast garden the tomb is erected on a 3-foot 9-inch elevated podium accessible by stairs. It was built octagonal in shape with each side measuring 38 feet 8 inches with access to its interior from eight sides and arched window looking into the tomb. Each side of the tomb has a deeply recessed iwan or alcove.

The exterior of the tomb was originally decorated with red sandstone and rich marble stone inlay work. Its finishing was done with stucco tracery and blue Kashi tiles. The high bulbous double dome, resting on the octagonal base, was originally covered with white marble finishing. The use of bulbous domes was initiated by Emperor Shah Jahan and were never used before.

The interior of the tomb, renowned for its lavish use of white marble and precious inlay, ornamented with very bold stucco design, tile mosaic, and Ghalib Kari. The inner dome ceiling is decked in high plaster relief of interlacing patterns. The central cenotaph is made of pure marble carved with inscriptions from the Holy Qur’an like that in the nearby tomb of Emperor Jahangir. The floor on which the tomb stands was built red limestone (Sang-e-Abri) which does not exist anymore.

Sikh Era Mutilation

During the rule of the Sikh Empire, Asif Khan’s tomb along with Jahangir’s Tomb and other monuments were heavily damaged. Notable Sikh rulers like Gujjar Singh, Lahna Singh, and Subha Singh carried out the damages and planted large Pipal trees next to the tomb to obstruct its views which were removed later. Its marble, various decorative stones, and sandstones were pillaged and installed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and to build the Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Lahore.

If the tomb had existed in its original shape with all designs and colours, it would have been a masterpiece. It did not attract much attention because its beauty was snatched by the Sikhs. It was later repaired by did not gain its glory. Also, the gardens and gateways were repaired too by the British and its walls were swept away by flooding in 1955 when River Ravi was inundated, and a second flood occurred in 1973 while repair work was carried out in 1986-87. But the tomb and its walls are still in disappointing condition.

The tomb, along with the adjacent Akbari Sarai and the Tomb of Jahangir, is on the tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Akbari Sarai
Posted in Monuments Punjab

Akbari Sarai

The Akbari Sarai (Palace of Akbar) is a large oblong shaped courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb and Asif Khan’s Tomb in Lahore city in Punjab province of Pakistan.  This unique Mughal era structure was built in 1637 to host travellers and caretakers of Jahangir’s Tomb. It also served as mail station known as dak chowki.

History

The court historian to the Emperor Shah Jahan, Abdul Hamid Lahori, mentioned the original name of the building as “Jilu Khana-e-Rauza (attached court of the tomb) in his book the Padshahnama. The name Akbari Sarai began to be called during the reign of Islam Shah Suri in mid-1550s, not during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Architecture

The Sarai measuring 797 feet by 610 feet covering 12 acres of land is bordered by a raised terrace containing 180 cells with front verandas and a common passage. The Sarai has four Burjes in its corners containing elaborate chambers feature an elliptical hall in front with a veranda and an octagonal room in the back.

It is accessible by two stately entrances on its north and on the south. Featuring typical Mughal style art, these gates are beautifully adorned with frescoes and Ghalib Kari (a network of ribs in stucco and plaster applied to curved surfaces in each archway). Its topographies including the decorative elements, the style of the structure, the size of the bricks used for construction; the Sarai and the eastern entrance gateway to the Jahangir’s tomb, featuring a large double storied iwan linked by four other smaller arched niches, are believed to have been built in the same period.

To the west of the Sarai, in the middle of the row of cells, is a mosque from the Suri period with three splendid domes. Although most of the fine artwork is already gone, its sandstone facing decoder with inlay work is graceful. The cells which line the complex and its gateways date from the Shah Jahan period in the mid-1600s.

Administration

The Sarai actually served as a state guesthouse and was administered by a Shahna (official caretaker) and several assistants. It also had a physician and a resident baker. Fodder for animals, hot and cold water, and bedsteads were provided free of cost.

During the Sikh era, Maharajah Ranjit Singh converted the complex into a cantonment of one of his foreign generals called Musa Farangi. It was also used as a private residence. Likewise, during the British era, it was used as a rail depot and severely damaged following the construction of the nearby rail line.

All three monuments – Akbari Sarai, the Tomb of Jahangir, and Tomb of Asif Khan – were inscribed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Hidden Treasures of Lahore
Posted in City Breaks Punjab

Hidden Treasures of Lahore

Lahore is the second largest city and the cultural hub of Pakistan. The city has a charming longstanding history and is entirely rich in tourist attractions, mostly of historic and cultural significance. However, sadly, only a few conventional landmarks out of a cluster are known to the general public and tourists. The “Hidden Treasures of Lahore” has not yet been unearthed properly.  The wealth of attraction that is still hiding behind deserves to be known to the public and tourists which certainly will add to the historic significance of Lahore.

 Wazir Khan Baradari

The Wazir Khan Baradari (12-door pavilion) is sited between the Punjab Public Library (PPL), National College of Arts (NCA), and the Lahore Museum and is accessible from the PPL road. It was named after Hakim Ilumddin titled ‘Wazir Khan’, a benefactor of numerous impressive buildings across Lahore including the splendid Wazir Khan’s Mosque and Wazir Khan’s Hammam ( also known as Shahi Hammam), in the Walled City. The Baradari is surrounded by a fine garden with a large number of palm trees. The two-story pavilion has been incorporated into the grounds of the Punjab Public Library in 1860 and serves as a reading room. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Wazir Khan Baradari was used as a museum and as the Settlement and Telegraph Office under the British rule.

Maryam Zamani or Begum Shahi Mosque or Barood Khana Wali Masjid

Maryam Zamani was one of the queens of Emperor Akbar, mother of Jahangir and sister of Bhagwan Das. She built a mosque near Masti Gate of the Walled City in 1614 AD and is believed Lahore’s earliest surviving example of the Mughal era mosque that influenced the construction of the larger Wazir Khan Mosque. Thus it was named after the queen Maryam Zamani who was actually born Rajkumari Hira Kunwari, a Rajput princess, the daughter of Raja Bihari Mal of Jaipur (the then Amber). The mosque has a beautifully adorned prayer hall with a remarkable central dome adorned by muqarnas and painted frescos. The Mosque is close to the Akbari gate entrance and was once used as gunpowder factory by Ranjit Singh thereby called Barood Khana Wali Masjid. However, it was restored in 1850 under the British.

 Ali Mardan Khan’s Tomb

Ali Mardan Khan was originally a noble at the court of Shah Tahmasp, a Safavid king. After surrendering Iranian Qandahar to Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638, he joined the Mughal court and rose to great heights rapidly and became Governor of Kashmir, Lahore, and Kabul. He was also granted the title of Amir al-Umara (Lord of Lords) in 1639 and became a commander of 7,000 troops as well as appointed viceroy of Punjab from Kabul to Delhi. Besides a commanding figure, Ali Mardan Khan was also a renowned engineer who coined the idea of the construction of a canal from the river Ravi for the supply of water to the Shalimar Gardens, as well as for the irrigation and cultivation of surrounding areas. His tomb is a massive brick construction work standing on an octagonal podium. The structure of the tomb is also octagonal with a bulbous dome and kiosks on angular points. The tomb once stood in the centre of a luxuriant garden and the extent of which could be seen by its double story gateway. The imposing tomb is accessible by a 300 m long walkway through narrow streets of the Railway Carriage Workshop.

Saru Wala Maqbara or Cypress Tomb

The tomb of Sharf-un-Nisa Begam is popularly known as ‘Saru Wala’ Maqbara. Saru is the Urdu term used for Cypress and because of images of cypress trees used on its walls, it is thus called Cypress tomb. Sharf-un-Nisa Begam was a sister of Nawab Zakariya Khan, governor of Lahore province during the reign of Emperor Mohammad Shah Rangeela. Before her death, the Begum would read the holy Quran on daily basis on the first floor of the Chamber and then would deposit the holy book and the jewelled sword, descending by means of a portable wooden stair. After her death, she was buried in the same chamber along with the copy of the holy Quran and her jewelled sword. The unusual tower-like tomb is 16 feet above the ground and was made inaccessible by blocking up all openings in 1745. It is located near to the north of Dai Anga’s tomb in the Begumpura neighbourhood of Lahore. The structure of the tomb is unique in itself for its unusual shape and decoration of the cypress motif as a jewel of Mughal architecture.

Dai Anga’s Tomb

Dai Anga, the wet nurse of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his daughter (Princess Sultan Begum), was the name given to Zeb-un-Nisa (1671 AD). She was the wife of a Mughal noble Murad Khan, magistrate of Biknar under Jahangir. Her splendid mausoleum lies near the Gulabi Bagh gateway in Begampura, outside the Walled City. The rectangular shaped mausoleum with eight rooms encircling the perimeter of a central chamber lies on a raised plinth. A dome with frescoes is directly above the central empty chamber as the actual tomb of Dai Anga lies below in the basement just next to her daughter, Sultana Begum. The interior of the tomb is richly decorated with carved inscriptions from the holy Quran while the exterior with rich Kashi Kari or Qashani tile-work but lost much of its charm.

 Dai Anga Mosque

The real name of Dai Anga was Zaib-u-Nisa, the wife of Mughal noble Murad Khan. She was the wet nurse of Shah Jahan and his daughter and remained a powerful figure in the Mughal dynasty. Several charming monuments associated in her name are still surviving in Lahore. Dai Anga Mosque was constructed in 1635 AD and is located near Lahore Railway station. Small in size yet rich in decor, the Dai Anga Mosque is embellished with multicolored mosaic on floral themes and remained in excellent condition since Dai Anga donated a substantial endowment to ensure its maintenance even after her death. Sadly, during the British rule, it was converted into the residence of a newspaper editor called Henry Cope. However, it was restored to its original state in 1903 and began to serve as a mosque.

Tomb of French General Allard and his Daughter

General Jean Allard (1785-1839) was a French General in the Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who made the Sikh army invincible by training on European pattern. He was died in 1839 in Peshawar and was buried alongside his daughter’s tomb in Lahore. His tomb is located to the east of the main road leading to Jain Mandir from old Anarkali. It was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to honour him, especially with a typical Sikh era cupola dome structure. His daughter, Marie Charlotte, died on 5th April 1827 in Lahore, and she was laid on a mound.

Kamran’s Baradari

The Kamran’s Baradari (pavilion with twelve doors) and Garden is the oldest Mughal structure in Lahore often gets bypassed. It was said to have built in 1540 by Mirza Kamran who ruled over Lahore from 1535-40. He was the son of Babar and the stepbrother of Emperor Humayun. Humayun ascended to the throne immediately following the death of Babur and Kamran captured Lahore in 1530 while built this Baradari in 1540. The picturesque Baradari was built as a summer house and used as a place for relaxation of Mughal rulers and recreational place for the Mughal family during summers. It was the time when Ravi flowed at a considerable distance but following the change of river course, it became an island. During the British rule, the red sandstone Baradari was used as a toll house to collect tolls from boats. It was renovated after independence and serving as a tourist attraction. It is about 15 min drive from the walled city.

Zebunnisa’s Tomb and Garden

Zeb-un-Nisa (1637 to 1702), literally meaning “most beautiful of all women”, was the talented and learned daughter of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. She was a passionate poetess and wrote under the pen name of “Makhfi”. She loved Lahore so much and built a garden at Nawankot where she was laid to rest in 1669. Her tomb was embellished with precious stones, pavilions and fountains now only the remains of the garden can be seen. It is located across a junction known as Samanabad Mor on Multan road. However, there are still conflicting accounts about her burial place as some believe she was buried in Agra, India.

 Dara Shikoh’s Mosque

Dara Shikoh (20 March 1615 – 30 August 1659) was the eldest son of the fifth Emperor Shah Jahan and the brother of Aurangzeb Alamgir and Jahanara Begum. He held a great affection for Lahore due to his deep devotion for Sufism, particularly for the Sufi mystic Hazrat Mian Mir. The area around the shrine of Hazrat Mian Mir was called ‘Darapur’, where Dara Shikoh built a beautiful mosque. The mosque has an exquisitely styled ‘Palki’ domes and has been extended, making the heart of Mian Mir Village. The high tower mosque is decorated artistically and known as ‘Khawaja Behari Mosque’ because of the nearby tomb of Hazrat Khawaja Behari who was a devout disciple of Hazrat Mian Mir.

 Nadira Begum’s Tomb & Garden

Nadira Banu Begum (14 March 1618 – 6 June 1659) was the wife of Dara Shikoh.  She was a famous poet and remained the Governor of Punjab during the 1640s. Aurangzeb’s rise to power posed as a grave danger to Dara Shukoh’s immediate family and supporters. Nadira died in 1659, several months before her husband’s execution, and was buried near the shrine of Hazrat Mian Mir in a square shape tomb whom she and Dara Shikoh were spiritually attached. It is a two storey Baradari constructed with massive brick masonry and is surrounded by an enormous water tank.

Anarkali’s Tomb

The octagonal Tomb of Anarkali (Nadira Begum who belonged to the harem of Emperor Akbar and was given the title Anar Kali meaning the pomegranate bud) is one of the most significant buildings of the Mughal period and was built in 1615 by Emperor Jahangir (Saleem) when he ascended to the throne. It was built in the memory of his beloved who was buried alive behind the walls by Emperor Akbar in 1599 for her romantic folly with Saleem. Her tomb arrogantly stands in the enclosure of the Punjab Civil Secretariat. It has lost all original decorations as it underwent changes from time to time. It was surrounded by a fine garden called “Anarkali Garden” but was put to several uses. The mausoleum was occupied by Kharak Singh during the Sikh regime and it remained the residence of General Ventura, the Italian General of Ranjit Singh’s Army. Later, it was converted into a Christian Church during British rule. The mausoleum serves as Punjab Records Office since 1891.

Qutbuddin Aibak’s Tomb

Qutbuddin Aibak originally was a Turkish slave who was brought to Ghazni by Shahabuddin Ghauri. He rose to the heights of Commander in Chief of the forces of Shahabuddin Ghauri and was crowned in Lahore on the death of Shahabuddin Ghauri in 1206. He then established the Slave Dynasty and became the king who was followed by nine other kings. He had a palace in Lahore in what is known as Anarkali today. It was then called Mohallah Kuttab Ghauri. He was fond of playing polo and died in 1210 while playing polo. His tomb was built by Shamsuddin Altumash. The Qutub Minar in Dehli was built by the great king.

Tomb of Malik Ayyaz

The Georgian slave, Malik Ayaz, became the favourite and trusted general of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. In 1021 AD, Sultan Mahmud Ghazni raised Ayaz to kingship and awarded him the throne of Lahore. The city was burnt and depopulated, and taken after a long siege by Mahmud, Ayaz rebuilt and repopulated Lahore. On the ruins of a previous fort, Ayaz built the masonry fort during 1037-1040 on which today’s Lahore Fort stands. During his reign, the city became a cultural and academic centre. His tomb is situated in Rang Mahal on Royal Trail, inside Shah Alam Gate in the walled city. It was ruined during the Sikh era and was rebuilt after independence.

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab World Heritage Sites

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden

The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden are two exceptional royal complexes from the Mughal era. Both monuments are in Lahore, the cultural hub of Pakistan, and boasting of their pride and prestige to date. The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Pakistan in 1981 for their “outstanding repertoire” of Mughal monuments dating from the era when the empire was at its artistic and aesthetic zenith.

The fort is located at the northwest corner of the walled city of Lahore while the Shalimar Gardens are situated along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometres northeast of the main Lahore city. The monuments are located at a distance 7 kilometres from each other.

Dating back to 1the 7th century, both masterpieces reflect the true artistic expression of the Mughals at its peak.  The fort is the only monument that represents the complete history of Mughal architecture in Pakistan. The Shalimar garden, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1642, still retain the glorious Persian and Islamic tradition is a fine example of Mughal gardens.

Lahore Fort

Irregular in design, the Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila is a worldly famous citadel spreading over an area greater than 20 hectares. The fort is located at the northern end of Lahore’s Walled City. It has 21 notable monuments, some of which date as far back as to the era of Emperor Akbar.

The Fort was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire enjoyed the height of its reign. According to records, it was said to be a mud-brick fort in the 11th century but the foundations of the modern Lahore Fort was laid in 1566 during the reign of Emperor Akbar.

The fort featured both Islamic and Hindu motifs in its architectural design. However subsequent amendments were carried out with the passage of time by the succeeding Mughal Emperors.  However, the facility was turned into the residence of Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, after the fall of Mughal Empire and later passed on to British who made some major changes in its design as per their own need.

Shalimar Garden

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. The garden has a unique collage of natural and architectural beauty. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule.  The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. Its construction was influenced by regions like Central Asia, Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Dehli Sultanate and reflects the affinity of Shah Jahan for nature and architecture.

The 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) rectangle garden by crenellated walls of red sandstone is arranged in three terraces descending from south to north with each terrace given a special name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests, yet the general public could enter a specific section of the garden. It is located close to Baghbanpura on the GT road 5km northeast of the city centre. The site of the garden belonged to the Arian Mian Family and Shah Jahan rewarded them with the Mian title for its services and contribution to the Mughal Empire.

Wazir Khan Mosque
Posted in Mosques Punjab

Wazir Khan Mosque

The 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is an outstanding feat of Mughal era architecture. It was commissioned during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Mughal architecture in the subcontinent has been archetypal and has had no matching landmarks built to date.  The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is such a sole and vivid illustration of Mughal architecture. It is also a testimony of their affinity to finesse, frescos and dexterity. It has been described as “a mole on the cheek of Lahore”.

The exquisite Wazir Khan Mosque is named after Wazir Khan, the title granted to Hakim Sheikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari. He was a native of Chiniot who hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in Punjab. Hakim Ansari studied medicine and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Khurram (the future Shah Jahan).  Later he was promoted as governor of Lahore. The young prince, because of Ansari’s competence, bestowed him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.

History

Before the construction of the mosque, Wazir Khan built a tomb or Mazar of a Sufi saint called Syed Muhammed Ishaq, also known as Miran Badshah. The mosque was built between 1634 and 1941 to enclose the tomb of the Sufi saint. Currently, his tomb lies in the courtyard some 10 feet below the main ground of the mosque.

Location

Located in the old walled city of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan, the Wazir Khan mosque is situated on the road connecting the Lahore Fort to the Delhi Gate. The mosque covers an area of 279 feet (85 m) x 159 feet (48 m). The building is erected on an elevated plinth and can be accessed through an octagonal interior chamber on the eastern side of the complex. Moreover, a curious feature of it is the incorporation of 22 shops in its ground plan forming a bazaar located on the two sides of a brick paved passage leading to the mosque which exists even now.

Architecture

The mosque has a single aisle and five bays. The prayer chamber resembles that of the Mosque of Mariyam Zamani Begum located in the same city. Its high arched galleries surround its central brick paved courtyard. Similarly, the arrangement of the 5-bay single-aisle prayer chamber 130 ft long, framed by simple cusped arches carried on deep piers.

The mosque has three domes. The central dome, rising higher than others, accents the elegantly detailed mihrab. The ingenious constructions of double domes help spread the voice of the imam to the extremity of the courtyard. It is also flanked on its four sides by 32 guestrooms (Hijars).

The mosque is constructed of cut and dressed bricks. Its walls are adorned with fresco paintings in charming colors (cobalt, cerulean blue, green, orange, yellow and purple). The walls are divided into compartments “for the reception of glazed pattern” and contain calligraphy in Arabic and Persian languages. Similarly, the grills of the mosque are made up of terracotta.

Likewise, the floors are decorated with colorful tiles with geometrical designs. Another distinguishing architectural feature is the use of 107 feet high minarets; each of its four corners decorated with mosaic tiles. These designs are employed for the first time reflecting the regional style totally uncommon in mosques of Mughal capitals. The domes of the mosque are built in the Lodi style.

The mosque till date is immensely attractive not only to the locals but also nationwide and internationally. Wazir Khan Mosque is a must visit tourist attraction in Lahore. The mosque is a great landmark to carry forward the Mughal style architecture.

Badshahi Mosque Lahore
Posted in Mosques Punjab

Badshahi Mosque

The Badshahi Mosque, the crown jewel of Lahore, had been the largest mosque in the world for 313 years (1673 to 1986). Built during the reign of the sixth Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, the grand mosque represents an excellent example of the Mughal era architecture although it was built in the late Mughal era – a period of relative decline. The mosque characterizes the beauty, passion, and grandeur of the Mughal era in Lahore. After the fall of Mughal Empire, the mosque served more as a garrison for the armies of Ranjit Singh and the British troops than as a religious place. It is now the second largest in Pakistan and South Asia and 5th largest in the world with a capacity for almost 150,000 worshippers on its grounds.

Location

The mosque is located along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore. It is located to the west of Lahore Fort where the entrance to the mosque faces the Alamgiri Gate of the Fort which was also built by Aurangzeb. Only the lower level Hazuri Bagh separates the two magnificent buildings. To the southern side of the Hazuri Bagh is Roshni Gate, one of the thirteen gates of the Walled city and also located closed to the entrance of Badshahi mosque. The Hazuri Bagh itself was used as a parade ground where Aurangzeb would review his troops and courtiers.

History of Badshahi Mosque

The iconic Badshahi Mosque was commissioned by the last Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (also named Alamgir, meaning conqueror of the world) and was constructed in only two years from 1671 to 1673. Its architecture influences the Jama Mosque in Dehli although it is comparatively much larger in size. It could easily be seen from a distance of 15 km (app 10 miles) on a clear day.

Unlike his ancestors, Aurangzeb did not have much taste for art and architecture and remained more into military conquests during his reign. The construction of the Badshahi mosque was part of a military campaign against the Indian warrior king of the Maratha clan, Shivaji Bhonsle. The construction of the mosque almost exhausted the Mughal treasure and weakened the state itself.

It was built on a six-meter elevated plinth to prevent inundation from the nearby Ravi River during the flooding season. The construction project was entrusted to Aurangzeb’s foster brother Muzaffar Hussain (Fidai Khan Koka) who was also appointed as governor to oversee the projects.

Art and Architecture

The plan of the Badshahi Mosque is a square with each side measuring 170 meters. Its north end was built along the edge of Ravi River and erecting a gate to the riverside was not possible. The southern gate was therefore not constructed to maintain the symmetry. The construction of the mosque features red stone and white marble inlay which deviates the typical architectural features of the mosques in Lahore. The design of the majestic mosque was the inspiration of Indo-Greek, Central Asian and Indian architectural influences.

 The full name of Badshahi Mosque is “Masjid Abul Zafar Muhy-ud-Din Mohammad Alamgir Badshah Ghazi” written in inlaid marble above the vaulted entrance. The main entrance of the mosque is accessible by stairs of 22 steps flight from Hazuri Bagh.

The entrance through the massive gate measuring 66′-7″ x 62′-10″ x 65 high including dome lets,  vault 21′-6″ x 32′-6″ high, opens up into an extensive courtyard measuring 528’-8″ x 528′-4″ (278,784 ft2 )that can accommodate up to 100,000 worshippers at a time. It is divided into two levels – the upper and the lower (where the funeral prayers can also be offered). The entire courtyard is enclosed by 80 single Isle arcades measuring 23′-9″ high and plinth 2′-7″. There is a central tank measuring 50′ x 50′ x 3′ deep (2,500 ft2)

The chamber right above the entrance gate of the mosque house relics attributed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), His daughter, and His son-in-law. The chamber features Muqarna (a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture), an architectural feature from the Middle East that was first introduced in the nearby Wazir Khan Mosque

The main prayer hall measuring 275′-8″ x 83′-7″ x 50′-6″ high,  has a central arched niche and five small niches, each one-third of the main. The mosque is topped with three marble domes. Its central dome has a diameter 65′ at bottom (at bulging 70′-6″); height 49′; pinnacle 24 ft and neck 15 ft high while the two side domes measuring a diameter 51′-6″ (at bulging 54′-2″); height 32 ft; pinnacle 19 ft; neck 9′-6″ high.

The interior including the ceiling is decorated lavishly with elegant floral frescos, stucco tracery, and inlaid marble from inside, while the exterior is painstakingly decorated with stone carvings as well as marble inlay on sandstone. The mosque can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time. Each side chamber of the main chamber is spared for religious instructions.

 There are four main three-storey octagonal shape minarets made of red stone and topped by marble canopy. Rising 196′ high from each of its four corners, the outer circumference measures 67’ and inner circumference 8’-6”, and are accessible by a staircase with 204 steps. Likewise, the main building of the mosque has four smaller minarets at each corner of the building.

 Sikh Era Alterations

The entire beauty of the mosque was smashed when Ranjit Singh’s army took over Lahore in 1799 and used the mosque for military purposes. The main courtyard was used as a stable and the Hujras (cells) were occupied by his soldiers. The adjacent Hazuri Bagh was used as official Royal Court.

A moderate earthquake almost 20 years later collapsed the marble turrets at the top of each macerate and the open minarets were used as gun emplacements. During Sikh Civil war in 1841, led by Ranjit Singh’s son Sher Singh, the nearby fort which was besieged by supporters of the Sikh Maharani Chand Kaur was heavily inflicted by bombardment and most of the Dewan Aam (Hall of the Public Audience) was damaged too. Sikh forbade Muslims from entering the mosque to worship and only a small place outside the mosque was spared by the government for worship.

British Era Modifications

Later in 1846 the British controlled the region and continued using the mosque for military purpose but reconstructed the damaged parts which never regained their original look. Moreover, the 80 cells (Hujras) around three sides of the mosque, once used as study rooms during Mughal era and as military stores in Ranjit Singh’s rule, were totally demolished by the British for security reasons and rebuilt to form open arcades. The increasing agony against the irreverence of mosque led to a general resentment in Muslims which lead to indirectly summon the British to vacate and hand over the mosque to Muslims. In 1852 the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque in order to return it to Muslims as a place of worship.

Restoration of Badshahi Mosque

From 1852 onward gradual repair process started but the extensive repair was carried out since 1939 and by 1960 it was totally restored at a cost of 4.8 million rupees. The original floor laid with kiln-burnt bricks set in the Mussalah pattern was replaced with red sandstone flooring. Likewise, the original floor of the prayer chamber had been laid using cut and dressed bricks with marble and Sang-e-Abri lining forming Mussalah got replaced with marble Mussalah.

In 1993, the Badshahi Mosque was put in a tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

 

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