Wazir Khan Mosque:An architectural relic

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By Naeem Khan Niazi

LAHORE, May 11 (APP):Pakistan, land of the pure, was destined to be created as an Islamic state the day first Arab Muslim trader set foot on the sub-continent. The creation of Pakistan in 1947 was made possible as the Muslim civilization spread and preserved itself for centuries
to come. The Islamic civilization provided the Muslims distinct identity in India and this impact was reflected in all spheres of life.
The lasting imprints of Islamic history are conspicuous in all areas of life including religious practices, art, education, and
culture.
The eternal sway of the Muslim culture can easily be traced through the archaeological and architectural preserves in all parts
of the region especially Lahore. The earlier sites constructed on the classical Islamic architectural pattern in the region are famous
for their quality of being picture-less.
Muslim architecture which saw its hey-day during the Mughal period in India when it introduced a fusion of Islamic-Persian architecture and the local art which ultimately came to be known as Mughal architecture, Lahore.
Out of these architectural masterpieces many have stood the test of time and have been preserved for eternity.
The Mughal architecture and the historic city of Lahore have made their mark across the globe and the great English poet John
Milton (1607-80) ‘known for his grand style in the epic poem’ alludes to the Agra and Lahore to emphasize expansive landscape,
“His eyes might there command whatever stood City of old or modern fame, the seat/ Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls / Of Cambalu, seat of Cathian Can,/ And Samarcand by Oxus, Temir’s throne, /To Paquin of Sinaen Kings, and thence To Agra and Lahore of Great Mogul…” The grandeur of the Mughal architecture and advancements was well-known across the seven seas and by the time John Milton penned down his paradise lost in 1667.
Lahore hosts many architectural masterpieces like the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila), Tomb of Shahjehan, Jahangir’s Tomb, Shalimar Garden, and Wazir Khan Mosque. Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden have been on the cultural heritage list of UNESCO since 1981 while Badshahi Mosque and Wazir Khan Mosque have been on the UNESCO’s tentative list to be adopted as a cultural heritage since 1993.
The Wazir Khan Mosque is such an architectural masterpiece which mesmerizes the onlooker with its majestic architecture and extensive faience tile work. The mosque contains some of the finest examples of Qashani tile work, taza kari (fresco) painting, stone and chuna (lime plaster) decoration on the interior and exterior walls. It has been described as ‘a mole on the cheek of Lahore’ while British historian Lockwood Kipling said, “The beautiful building is in itself a school of design”. The Wazir Khan Mosque is a feast for the onlooker for its finest mosaic tile work while the walls have been adorned with Persian poetry and verses from the holy Quran in calligraphy.
Mosque’s floral designs and patterns emerge in symmetrical and harmonious waves which bring a sense of tranquility to the mosque’s echoing halls. It is a haven of tranquility for the worshippers and the knowledge seekers in a city which has been surrounded by the din of the market-places and the noise of the households in the modern walled city of Lahore. The mosque is said to have been built to fortify an ancient subterranean tomb of the saint Syed Muhammad Ishaq Gazrooni, also known as Miran Bashshah, who had migrated from Iran during the 13th century to Lahore. It was once the fancied worship-place for Friday prayers of the emperors for its immaculate beauty and close proximity to the seat of the Mughal empire and is accessible from the Delhi Gate, one of the thirteen gates of the historic city.
Wazir Khan mosque was built in 1641 after seven years of love’s labour on the command of Lahore Governor (Wazir) Hakim Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. Hakim Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari, a native of Chiniot, was the court physician to emperor Shah Jehan and was elevated as Governor (Wazir) of Lahore.
There is another tale about the construction of this architectural wonder. People believe that Hakim Shaikh ilm-ud-din had cured Queen Nur Jahan (1577-1645) and she had rewarded him with all the gold ornaments she was wearing. The gold was set-aside by the Wazir who later proclaimed the construction of Wazir Khan mosque. It is also commonly believed that the Wazirabad (a city in Punjab) was also named after the Governor Shaikh Ilm-ud-din while another mosque Wazir Khan was also constructed in the city. Another hallmark of Wazir Khan mosque is the calligrapher’s Bazaar at the entrance of the mosque which is marked by a large verandah with a dome atop. According to an architectural heritage preserver Kamil Khan, Wazir Khan Mosque has its symbolism,adding that the frescos round the base of the domes with fruits of every kind on the platters and tress in pairs are a reference to the Paradise.
Wazir Khan Mosque is an eternal masterpiece of architecture with a masterful blending of magical calligraphy, geometrical forms and floral decorations into its structural fiber which has turned the mosque into a paragon of artistic beauty, balance and grandness for the generations to come.