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Notes on the Geography of Pakistan: Lahore: Bad Shahi Mosque

The Badshahi or King's Mosque at Lahore was built by Aurangzeb and ranks as South Asia's largest mosque, with room for 60,000.

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Pakistan: Lahore: Bad Shahi Mosque picture 1

Standing before the mosque is the Hazuri Bagh, or Hazuri Garden, with Ranjit Singh's white baradari, or pavilion, from 1818. Until an earthquake in 1932, it had a smaller second tier. Before you get too sentimental about its loss, you should know that the whole building was cobbled together from materials swiped from Mughal tombs. The Sikhs made a habit of that. They also prohibited religious use of the mosque behind, which meant that Muslims through the period of Sikh rule prayed from a platform in front of the steps. The Sikhs made the interior of the mosque into an arsenal. The British put an end to that, but it took time. They gained control of the Punjab in 1846 and formally annexed it to British India in 1849, but their initial efforts to reopen the mosque to religious use ran into resistance. Pne leading Sikh wrote that "such permission had never been granted before, and that if allowed it would be strongly objected to by many Sikhs." John Lawrence in 1847 wrote that the Sikhs seemed unable to understand "the political advantage of toleration to every form of religion." Finally, in 1856, the ammo was cleared out, and on the morning of June 11th custody reverted to the Muslim community. (See F.S. Aijazuddin, Lahore: Illustrated Views of the 19th Century, 1991, p. 62-3.)

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A historic photo of the baradari and mosque behind it. The tops of the minarets had been removed after they were damaged by an earthquake in 1840.

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The marble tablet over the entrance contains the kalima or Muslim creed, then continues: "The mosque of the victorious and valiant king Muhyuddin Muhammad [Aurangzeb] Alamgir. Constructed and completed under the superintendence of the humblest servant of the royal household, Fidai Khan, Koka, A.H. 1084 [A.D. 1674]."

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This mosque, like those in Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri, is open to the sky.

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Here's the courtyard, seen from the gateway. Photographs from the 1860s show lines of Ficus religiosa or pipal growing in the quadrangle. As late as the 1870s, despite the mosque being once again a place of prayer, Thornton and Kipling found that it was "by no means a popular place of worship" (Quoted in Aijazuddin, p. 69.)

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A historic photograph of the prayer hall before restoration.

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The "after" shot.

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Looking back to the entrance.

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The prayer hall, like most in India but unlike those of cooler climates, has only a single aisle.

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Engrailed marble arches in a wall of minimally decorated sandstone panels. Compare it with Wazir Khan's mosque, also in Lahore. There, comparable panels were filled with brightly colored mosaic.

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"The best words to remember are No God but Allah and Mohamed is the prophet of Allah."

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Interior.

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Interior.

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Some discarded marble-inlaid sandstone.

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Close-up.

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Maybe those close-ups suggest the rough texture of the building's outer surface.

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The iwan or entrance arch.

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Base of the arch.

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Curve of the arch.

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Facilities for washing.

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The hall and courtyard again.


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