Epit­o­miz­ing Glory

The Bad­shahi Mosque re­mains one of the most iconic Mughal era struc­tures till date and serves as a source of pride for Pak­istan.

Southasia - - History - By F. D Sheikh

The his­tor­i­cal city of La­hore has seen re­mark­able ages and em­pires. From the early Mus­lim dy­nas­ties to the Mughal Era, La­hore pre­serves a rich and ma­jes­tic his­tory, the traces of which can still be seen. Even to­day, while walking through the nar­row lanes of the old city one can en­vi­sion the grandeur of by­gone times. Im­pos­ing struc­tures brim­ming with cul­tural in­her­i­tance, ma­jes­ti­cally il­lus­trate La­hore’s glory and en­chant vis­i­tors

and tourists from all over the globe.

Amidst th­ese his­tor­i­cal struc­tures, the Bad­shahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) stands promi­nently in the city’s cen­ter, boast­ing its grandeur and rich, cul­tural his­tory. Vis­i­tors and tourists flock to the sec­ond largest mosque in South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world ev­ery day, of­fer­ing prayers and paying homage to the splen­dor of the Mughal Em­pire.

The con­struc­tion of the mosque com­menced in 1671, un­der the af­flu­ent pa­tron­age of the sixth Mughal Em­peror, Au­rangzeb (the Con­queror of the World). The mosque’s cal­cu­lated struc­ture was com­pleted in 1673. How­ever, the vicin­ity around the mosque area soon flooded dur­ing mon­soon sea­son, ex­plain­ing why the mosque was con­se­quently con­structed on a raised plat­form, op­po­site the La­hore Fort. The con­struc­tion was su­per­vised by the then Master of Or­di­nance and fos­ter brother of Au­rangzeb, Muzaf­far Hus­sain (also known as Fidai Khan Koka). Con­structed with bricks and com­pacted clay, the de­sign and struc­ture of the mosque il­lus­trates the splen­dor of the by­gone Mughal Em­pire. Ad­di­tion­ally, the use of red sand­stone tiles and white mar­ble on the domes gives the mosque an artis­tic touch.

Adorned with stucco trac­ery and fresco work, the main prayer hall of the mosque con­sists of seven splen­didly carved arches. Clad with mar­ble and red sand­stone, four out of eight pres­ti­gious minarets, ap­prox­i­mately 14 feet taller than those of the Taj Ma­hal, can be seen from a far dis­tance. The Bad­shahi mosque court­yard can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date close to 95,000 wor­ship­pers at a time. To­gether with the main prayer hall and por­ti­cos, 100,000 wor­ship­pers can col­lec­tively pray in this royal mosque.

In­side the main gate­way en­trance, the government of Pak­istan main­tains a small mu­seum that con­tains the relics of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), his cousin and son in law, Ali and the Prophet’s daugh­ter, Fa­tima. The Fakir Fam­ily of La­hore that held numer­ous pres­ti­gious posts dur­ing Ma­haraja Ran­jit Singh’s rule, do­nated gen­er­ously to th­ese relics.

Since its con­struc­tion, the Bad­shahi Mosque has seen vi­cis­si­tudes through var­i­ous eras of dif­fer­ent rulers. In 1799, when Ran­jit Singh in­vaded La­hore, he dis­dained the mosque by us­ing its court­yard as a sta­ble for his army horses. Later in 1841, Sher Singh, son of Ran­jit Singh, used the minarets of the mosque to bom­bard his en­e­mies from the pin­na­cle. Af­ter 1857, when the Bri­tish dom­i­nated the sub­con­ti­nent, they con­tin­ued dis­re­gard­ing the mosque by us­ing it as mil­i­tary gar­ri­son. Dur­ing this time, Mus­lim re­sent­ment flamed fu­ri­ously, lead­ing to spo­radic volatile out­breaks through­out the coun­try. Re­al­iz­ing the grav­ity of Mus­lim sen­ti­ments, the Bri­tish set up the Bad­shahi Mosque Author­ity to su­per­vise the restora­tion of the grand mosque as a place of Mus­lim wor­ship. Mi­nor re­pairs to the dev­as­tated ar­eas of the mosque com­menced grad­u­ally. Keep­ing in view the re­quire­ments of the time, fur­ther amend­ments to the struc­ture of the mosque, sug­gested and de­signed by an ar­chi­tect of Hy­der­abad Dec­can, Zain Yar Jang Ba­hadur, were also made. The res- tora­tion work con­tin­ued even af­ter the in­de­pen­dence of Pak­istan and the mosque re­gained its royal majesty by 1960.

To­day it stands pres­ti­giously in the heart of Pak­istan, La­hore, and proudly epit­o­mizes the glory of the Mughal Em­pire.

F.D Sheikh is a free­lance writer. He cur­rently works as an As­sis­tant Au­di­tor at A.F. Fer­gu­son.

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