Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chiniot: Badshahi Mosque

Grand entryways and tall towers, or minarets, have long been and continue to be closely associated with mosques. However, the first three mosques were very simple open spaces on the Arabian Peninsula. Mosques evolved significantly over the next 1,000 years, acquiring their now-distinctive features and adapting to cultures around the world.
This elegant and well-designed mosque was built by Nawab Saad UlIah Khan (1595- 1655), the Prime Minister of lndo-Pak Subcontinent during the regime of Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-58). It was built during 1646 to 1655 AD; this mosque is one of the major living grandeur of the town. It is an exceedingly handsome edifice of hewn stone obtained from the hills near Chiniot.
It boasts of handsome mosque built by Nawab Sa’adullah Khan Thahim (1595-1655), Governor of the town under Shah Jehan (1592-1666). [1]

Like Masjid Wazir Khan, Badshahi Mosque Lahore and Jamia Mosque Delhi. Almost all salient features of Muslim architecture are fully reflective in the construction of Shahi Mosque, which because of its artistic skill and calligraphic dexterity seems remarkable even today. The conservation of the Shahi Mosque at Chiniot emphasized the use of local craftsmen and original materials in an effort to redefine the original structure, details and settings.
The most prosperous days of Chiniot were during the reign of Shah Jehan (1592-1666), when Nawab Sa’adullah Khan Thahim (1595-1655) was governor. To him is due to Shahi Mosque, one of the sights of the town. It is an exceedingly handsome edifice of the hewn stone obtained from the hills near Chiniot. [2]

The 16th century Shahi Mosque is located in the heart of Chiniot city. It was structurally sound before the restoration, which involved the eradication of several additional spaces which had altered the original massing, and the reconstitution of the decoration. The mosque is set on a single-storey podium with perimeter shops. The external façades are distinguished by their prominent decoration and by the four corner towers. The internal court has an ablution pool and three domes over a gallery bordering the prayer hall. The intervention, mainly minor repairs and redecoration, was important to re-establish the prominence of the mosque within the urban fabric.
The arches of facade of praying the chamber of the Juma Masjid of Chiniot have only one foil, that in the arch of its porticos, although the mosques built by the Mughal Emperors Shah Jehan (1592-1666) and Aurangzeb (1618-1707) have more than one foil in their arches of the façade on the praying chamber. The Juma Masjid of Chiniot is perhaps the only instance in the whole history of the architecture which has one foil. This is the main feature which shows that Sa’adullah Khan (1595-1655) neither built it nor does it belong to the period of Shah Jehan (1592-1666) and Aurangzeb (1618-1707). It might have been built with out any idea of other mosques. Moreover, history does not mention in this regard. [3]

In his book Shehr Lab-e- Darya (city on the bank of river), Dr. Amjad Saqib concludes by putting forward several arguments in order to suggest that mosque was not built by Sa’adullah Khan. He delineates that if the mosque was built by Sa’adullah Khan it should have been remembered Sa’adullah Khan Mosque rather than Badshahi Mosque.
Bazmi Insari in his research work Ehwal-o-Asar Sa’adullah Khan suggests that Badshahi Mosque was built by Nawab Wazir khan on the basis of similar architectural style of construction of anterooms.
Due to lack of chronological facts and on the basis of mythological approach every writer has attributed construction of masque to different history moguls. In this pursuit, some writers lead the reader to a blind ally where reader is unable to make a decision about the founder of the mosque. History still waits that some day some one would solve this chronological on the basis of facts or architectural evidences, and would add an other chapter of grandeur in this living beauty.

Chronology of Badshahi Mosque

1648 Foundation stone of the Badshahi Mosque was laid down
1655 Construction of the Badshahi Mosque was completed
1816 Used as stable by Ranjeet Singh
1857 Imam of the mosque Noor Ahmad arrested in charge of instigating masses against British Rule
1655 Founder of the mosque Sa’ad Ullah Khan (1595-1655) died
1956 Formulation of administrative committee of the mosque
1960 mosque was given to Oqaf Department
1963 Repair and restoration plane of the mosque (Incomplete)
1964 Formulation of Religious Purposse Committee (RPC) by Oqaf Department
1968 Reconstruction Committee was formed (Incomplete)
1972 Reconstruction work started under patronization of Wali Ullah Khan
1977 Reconstruction work completed in five years
1978 Mosque was opened after reconstruction
1980 rent of shops of mosque amounted to 2, 31, 500
2004 Rented was collected around 11 Lacs

1. Imperial Gazetteer of India (1908) Vol. II, Page 217
2. District gazetteer Jhang District (1929) Page 16
3. “The Juma Masjid at Chiniot” by Dr. M. Abdullah Chughtae, Pakistan Times (1979) 13 July

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