Badshahi Masjid, the Emperor’s Mosque is the fifth largest mosque in the world. Let us dive into the chapters of history to study this epitome of Mughal architecture.
it is one of the most famous landmarks in Lahore. Aurangzeb Alamgir commissioned the construction of the Badshahi Masjid in 1671. The construction was completed in 1673 under the supervision of his foster brother Muzaffar Hussain also known as Fidai Khan Koka.
It has significant importance in Mughal Architecture. It was one of the largest mosques during the Mughal era, the second-largest masjid in Pakistan, and the fifth largest in the world.
Its full name is Masjid Abul Zafar Muhyuddin Muhammad Alamgir Badshah, which is engraved on a marble stone at the entrance.
Capacity of Badshahi Masjid
The large courtyard with an area of 276,000 square feet can accommodate 100,000 worshippers. The main central hall of the Masjid has the capacity of 10,000 worshippers.
Location of Masjid
Badshahi Masjid is a Mughal-era mosque in Lahore. This masjid is located on the western part of old walled Lahore city,.
During Aurangzeb’s era, the Ravi River was located near the northern side of the mosque. The mosque’s foundation was kept high in order to avoid flooding. According to some sources, Aurangzeb Alamgir had constructed some barriers at the edge of the river, in order to avoid the flow of water near Masjid.
Eventually, with the passage of time, the river has changed its course due to barriers, and now the river is pretty far from the Masjid.
Viscinity of Badshahi Masjid
The masjid also consists of a library, which comprises historical and informational books in Arabic. The library has many Arabic Tafasirs (detailed explanation of Quran).
Outside the main entrance of the Masjid is Hazuri Bagh. The main entrance of the masjid faces the Alamgiri Gate of Lahore Fort. This gate was constructed by Aurangzeb Alamgir in 1674. This gate is one of the famous landmarks and has also been printed on Pakistan’s currency.
In the center of Hazuri bagh, is Hazuri Bagh Baradari (A pavilion with 12 doors). It was constructed in 1813 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to commemorate his capture of Koh e noor diamond. Koh e noor diamond was held by Shuja Shah Durani. Ranjit Singh used Hazuri Bagh as his royal court.
Roshnai Gate (Gate of Lights):
Roshnai gate is one of the thirteen entrances to the walled city of Lahore. It was the primary entrance of the royal delegations from outside Lahore during Mughal and Sikh eras. This gate was lit at night to facilitate travelers; therefore, it was named Roshnai Gate (Gate of Lights).
It is considered to be the oldest gate of a walled city and is preserved in its original form until now.
Tomb of Allama Iqbal:
On the left side of the Masjid Gate is the Shrine of Allama Iqbal designed by the chief architect of Hyderabad, Nawab Zain Yar Bahadur.
Tomb of Sikandar Hayat Khan:
On the right side of the Masjid Gate is the tomb of Sikandar Hayat Khan, who was a statesman during British rule and also the Prime Minister of Punjab.
Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh:
Next to Hazuri Bagh is the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which contains the urns of Ranjit Singh. Its construction was initiated by his son Kharak Singh and was completed by his youngest son Duleep Singh.
The urns of Ranjit Singh are in the center and are surrounded by urns of four satti queens.
Gurudwara Dera Sahib:
Nearby is Gurudwara Dera Sahib. It is the Samadhi of Guru Arjan Dev, 5th Guru of Sikhism. He died in 1606. The presence of both Sikh heritage sites is a symbol of inter-religious harmony in Pakistan.
Details of Badshahi Masjid:
A Symbol of Heritage:
Lahore city is not only unique in its history and attractiveness but is also home to some fascinating Mughal architecture. Among the list of magnificent Mughal age structures, is one of the most beautiful huge Badshahi Masjid.
All around the globe, the believers of different religions have constructed their worship places with utmost belief and passion. This belief, respect, and passion have constructed some of the amazing structures with their own unique style. Their unique construction styles reflect their culture and religion.
One thing is common among these wonderful structures is that it reflects the majestic styles and standards. Muslims too have maintained a royal style in their constructions. They kept their Masajids spacious and tall in their designs. Huge alcoves, wide doors, and large domes were the symbol of their constructions.
Badshahi Masjid is recognized for its royalty and majestic value among all these masjids.
“If we speak about the importance of the heritage of Pakistan, We are so blessed to inherit a multi-style, diverse architecture and heritage. Our assets are very strong. We have a bountiful and diverse legacy. We have so much variety of monuments, that it would be hard to find such diverse culture and heritage in a single country/region.
At one place have temples and Gurudwara’s, at the same time we have Masjid’s and tombs. We have palaces, Forts. Pakistan is very rich in heritage.
If we speak about Badshahi Masjid, this was constructed during the time of Aurangzeb Alamgir. This is the climax of Mughal Architecture.”Samia Tahir (Lecturer Archeology – University of Punjab).
Constructed with carved red sandstone and the domes from Badshahi Masjid stands tall with its religious and majestic influence.
The masjid has 3 story minarets at its 4 corners. The minarets are 196 ft high and 67 ft in circumference. The Azaan (the call of prayer) from its high minarets echoes the greatness of the Almighty five times a day.
On the outside of Badshahi Masjid are a historic Huzuri Bagh from the Sikh era and Alamgiri Gate constructed by Aurangzeb Alamgir which is a symbol of the Royal Fort also known as Lahore Fort as known now.
Aurangzeb Alamgir started the construction of Badshahi Masjid in 1671. The construction took two years to complete. This majestic structure’s construction was supervised by the Emperor’s foster brother, and Governor of Lahore, Muzaffar Hussain also known as Fidai Khan Koka.
“Mughal-age is one of the brilliant chapters in Pakistan and their buildings and structures help us to imagine and judge their social lives. Badshahi shows us what is essentially part of a Masjid. The construction of modern-day Masjid is somehow influenced by Badshahi Masjid. If we study the development and designs of Masjids in Pakistan, Badshahi Masjid is definitely the top tier among them. Since this was constructed based on a royal ruling, the status of this masjid still remains a symbol of royalty.
If we look from a tourism point of view, we can develop different types of tourism. Archeological tourism among those categories is of very significance. Further in archeological tourism if we specifically look into Mughal heritage tourism, we have great assets. For instance, if we speak of India, we take the Taj Mahal as a Mughal monument and if we look at the counterpart in Pakistan it would be Badshahi Masjid. “Dr. Muhammad Hameed – Head of Archeology dept, University of Punjab.
The Main Entrance:
The massive entrance and the masjid are built on a 6-meter plinth to avoid flooding from the Ravi River. It has 22 ascending steps. Initially, it was built from variegated stones, and later during repairs, red sandstone was applied to the stairs.
On the left side of the grand entrance and stairs is the tomb of Dr. Allama Iqbal, designed by the chief architect of Hyderabad, Nawab Zain Yar Bahadur.
On the right side of the grand entrance and stairs is the tomb of Sikandar Hayat Khan, who was a statesman during British rule and also the Prime Minister of Punjab. He was the one who mainly initiated the restoration of the work by implementing a tax system.
After ascending 22 steps comes the main entrance of the Badshahi masjid. The art and the style of construction give the door a more majestic look, unrivaled to any other religious structure.
The main entrance has the name of the masjid, Masjid Abul Zafar Muhyuddin Muhammad Alamgir Badshah, and the name of the foster brother of the emperor who was assigned to look after the construction.
After passing thru the main entrance, comes the grand courtyard which is almost square in shape. The place for ablution is on the 1st floor of the main entrance with paths leading from the left and right of the main entrance.
The courtyard has a square-shaped fountain in the center of the courtyard.
After the fountain, is the main building of the masjid. It has huge alcoves and 3 dominant domes made of white marble. The golden crowns of the domes reflect light throughout the day.
The Structure, Designs and Symbolism:
“If we study the construction styles of Mughals in detail, from Babur, Humayun, or Akbar. We see that Babar has not contributed enough in the architectural chapter. He constructed a garden Aram Bagh in Agra. When his son Humayun inherited the throne, he faced resistance from Sher Shah Suri who was a rebel against his kingship.
He was exiled to Iran, and then Shah Tawasaf of Iran helped Humayun to great extent. Not only he brought an army from Iran to get his throne back, but he also brought masons, artists, craftsmen, and other special skills personals with him. Especially in calligraphy and miniature painting the names Abdul Samad and Mir Ali are mentioned in the history that came with him.
Since these craftsmen and special skills persons were affiliated with the court of Shah Tawasaf or Persian royal courts, they brought in the same traditions as well. So we can say that the construction soon after Humayun has Persian influence to a greater extent.”Dr. Shaukat Mehmood – Coordinator Research Center, University of Punjab.
The roof of the masjid is decorated with beautiful craftwork. The walls are crafted with colors and stucco work. The minber made of marble is beneath the largest and central dome, from where the Khateeb e Alaa delivers khutba for Friday and Eid Prayers.
Tourists from all over the world and foreign leaders visit to look at the Badshahi masjid.
Marble slabs are used in the corridors of the Masjid. The walls have thick designs. And the borders are of variegated stones (Sang e Abri). The terrace of the Masjid has small designs and the corners have marble pillars that identify the Mughal-era constructions and designs.
“When we enter the Badshahi Masjid and we look at the mega entrance and usually go inside after taking off shoes and we do not look in the details of the entrance hall and gate. If we look at left and right both sides have a dado which has carvings in red sandstone in the form of a lace. It has a lotus flower and a bud of lotus flower. These lace carvings are found extensively in Mughal-era buildings and specifically in Turkish art.
Fresco paintings in the halls have 3 to 4 major elements. One is a vase motive with a flower bouqet. Also we can see vase with fruits like pomegranate in the center, and mango or pears to its side. If we see local fruits we can consider it mangoes. And from that element we can see a bouqet rising on top of that.
These formations are very interesting. We have two connections for these Fresco formations. One is local indigenous formation named as Purnakalasa. The other formation is just trees and shrubs which are in the arches. Another interesting motive which we see is the Cyprus tree. Cyprus is not exclusive to India or local region. It was brought to India during Babur’s era which was planted in their gardens.
If we speak about symbolism, Cyprus tree in sufi symbolism indicates an upright human.
When we pass thru the courtyard and enter the main building of the masjid where the arches and wide walls are. There are arches and cartouches sections made of stucco work. These cartouches are geometrical in shape. We do not see many variations of the flowers inside the masjid initially. They have taken liliaceous sosan variety of flower and plant formation inside these different sizes of cartouches.
Badshahi Masjid has double domes. The external domes are large and different. The internal shell or ceiling of the dome has a web like formation. This formation starts from the center which is usually the sunflower or sun shaped which has radiating lines spreading to the edges.
At the hall’s entrance, we see two types of craftworks. One is Fresco while the other is white on red continuous vine flower. This continuous formation is marble inlay in red sandstone. We cannot tell when the Inlay formation came in, but the art of Pietra dura where the mosaic of stones was made was Italian art.”Dr. Naeela Aamir (Head of Fine Arts Dept – University of Punjab)
Four humungous minarets are at the four corners of the masjid. These minarets are made of Jaipuri red sandstone. Even though these minarets are simple in terms of built and type but they enhance the beauty and impose a royalty of the masjid.
Fall of the Mughals and the Sikhs and British Era:
Famous scholar and writer Mukhtar Masood write that after the minarets of the Alamgiri Masjid the first important minaret to be completed was the Minaret of resolution of Pakistan. The Masjid and the minaret of Pakistan resolution are adjacent to each other. But the distance between these two structures is three centuries which include the Sikh Gurudwara and British Garrisons.
The fall of the Mughals brought days of disrespect to the Masjid.
“When the Muslims decline as we see that with the death of Aurangzeb. The period of around 100 years after his death, when Sikhs started coming here, there were many rulers. For instance, there were rulers who ruled for 2 days, some for 4 days, some lasted a week.
Changes were very quick. It was an era and state of lawlessness. When the heirs of Ranjit Singh started fighting with each other for the throne, they removed the kiosks from the minarets of the masjid, and cannons were deployed. One heir had occupied the Masjid and the other heir had fort under their control.
Both of them started firing at each other with guns and cannons, but the ultimate loss that happened was to either masjid or the fort. That loss remained as it is for a long time.
Masjid was converted to a stable and they started to keep their horses and elephants over there. The destruction in the fort was of its own kind. So we see that the fight between Sikhs has damaged the Muslim heritage to a greater extent.”Dr. Shaukat Mehmood – Coordinator Research Center, University of Punjab.
During the British era, Badshahi Masjid and the royal fort were used as an army garrison station. But due to the increasing displeasure of Muslims, it was reconverted to a Muslim worship place.
Handing Over and Restoration of Badshahi Masjid:
Viceroy of India, John Lawrence handed it over to Muslims again. The restoration of the masjid started in 1939 under the supervision of Sir Sikandar Hayat.
“When British came, where the other buildings like Masjid Wazir Khan had their attention, Badshahi Masjid was also under their focus. But it was not in such a condition that it could be returned to Muslims as it was. The most important aspect was its finances. They did not have that much money to spend on restoring Muslim worship places.
Then they handed over the Masjid to an association of Muslims that they can take care of it. Initially, they gathered some funds and started the renovation and restoration of the masjid. Since it was very comprehensive and needed more funds then Sir Sikandar implemented a tax. The tax was the basis to start its renovation and restoration.
A lot of restoration and renovation work was done from 1939 till 1960. And due to which, a symbol of Mughal-era structure is here with us.”Dr. Ghafer Shahzad – Architect
There is 2 story building in the Masjid, where Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), Hazrat Ali (RA), Hazrat Ghaus Pak few belongings are kept behind glass.
“There is a museum in the upper portion. It has the priceless assets of the old Islamic world. It even has hair strands of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)”Dr. Shaukat Mehmood – Coordinator Research Center, University
Currently, the Auqaf dept of Punjab’s Govt is responsible for the care and maintenance of the Badshahi Masjid.
“Badshahi Masjid is a tourist attraction point based on its location. If Lahore Fort and Minaret of Pakistan were not in the vicinity and if it was a separate masjid like in other cities the tourist’s focus might not be the same.
Now since the tourists come to see Lahore Fort and they come to see a royal majestic Masjid which has a Mughal history linked to it. The visitors to this masjid are not only tourists but also people who come to offer prayers.
The Auqaf dept has made a tourist facilitation center in the Masjid, where booklets, information, and guides are available.”Dr. Ghafer Shahzad – Architect
“If we look around the world overall, Pakistan holds a great value in religious tourism. Where religious places of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Muslims are located because Muslims rule the area for a long time.
So if we look at that, overall Pakistan is a hub, an important place where we can promote religious tourism.”Nafees Ahmad – Lecturer Archeology dept – University of Punjab
“Badshahi Masjid is a big school for tourists. School of embellishments, and motives, and floral elements as well as symbolism. It is a pot puree of many elements coming together which was made their own vocabulary by Mughals.
We split it into pieces but basically, it is an epitome of Mughal Architecture.”Dr. Naeela Aamir – Head of Fine Arts Dept – University of Punjab.
“The architecture is just superb. It is as beautiful as the Taj Mahal. I have come to Pakistan, because its not a country that’s traveled well by Americans. Perceptions of Pakistan’s are so different than the reality. You have so many layers of civilizations here and that’s impressive. And I hope that in the future more Americans will travel here.”American Tourist
“The mosque was beautiful, absolutely stunning. Huge, historical, a highlight for Lahore. We have loved Pakistan and I hope more and more people come to Pakistan to see for themselves that what a beautiful country it is, how welcoming it is and how much there is to see in due. It really offers everything from north to south. It’s been absolutely comfortable, we haven’t been concerned at any point and we hope to come back.”Tourist
“This architecture is super fascinating. I really love it and it iss really mind blowing that a place like this was built so long time ago and it is still in great condition. I really love it and I would suggest everyone visit Pakistan. It is not only a great country but the most beautiful thing in Pakistan is actually the people of Pakistan. I haven’t met friendlier people other than Pakistanis in the whole world by all means. Visit Pakistan, come here and see it for yourself.”Foreigner.
Badshahi Masjid or the Emperor’s Mosque is truly an epitome of Mughal-era Architecture. The majestic structure seems similar to Delhi’s Jamia Masjid which was built by Aurangzeb’s Father, Shahjahan between 1648 to 1656. But it is a masterpiece of the Mughal era. This Badshahi Masjid’s construction is unique amongst the other Mosques. Upon entering the masjid, it brings inner peace and light-heartedness.
It is a must-visit place not only from a tourism aspect, but this majestic structure tells us a story of its own and helps us to envisage the history related to it.
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