Masjid Wazir Khan - a living legacy

By Tahir Imran Khan

After the advent of Islam in sixth century AD a new style of construction came into being which was later known as Islamic Architecture. It has its won significance and a powerful influence all over the world. In Asia we see many such buildings in Indo-Pak, Iran, Turkey, China, Arabian countries and Central Asian States.

In our region the Mughal period can be said as the golden era which apart from other important events, the art of construction and architecture reached its climax especially in the regime of Shah Jehan.

There are several forts, castles, palaces, gardens, tombs and mosques, which portray this art. In this context, Taj Mahal at Agra is an example of no match, mosques are also one of the most interesting buildings in Islamic World. Among several famous mosques like, Badshahi Masjid, Moti Masjid, Sunehri Masjid at Lahore, Shahi Masjid at Chiniot, Masjid Mohabat Khan at Peshawar Shahi Masjid at Delhi. Masjid Wazir Khan at Lahore is one such glorious buildings of the Mughal Era, constructed by Ilam-ud-Deen Ansari, the Governor of Punjab under Shah Jehan, the successor of Jahangir.

Ilam-ud-Deen Ansari, originally form Chiniot (a small and old town on the left bank of River Chenab in Jhang District of Punjab), became one of the most respectable personality due to his knowledge and intellectual approach, besides being a good physician who cured Nur Jehan and was given the title of Wazir Khan.

Artisans from Chiniot excelled in designing and assisted the construction & designing of Taj Mahal, The Golden Temple, Shahi Masjid at Chiniot. Nowadays, Chiniot is known for its carved furniture.

The Construction of this mosque started in 1934 and took 7 years for completion.

The glorious mosque is made of bricks and faced with gaily-coloured glazed mosaic tiles. It is justifiably famous for the colourful fresco and tile decorations, which adorn both interior and exterior of the building. The use of inlaid pottery decoration in the wall panelling is remarkable. Watching closely, it reveals that each section is a separate piece of tile and the work in strictly inlay and not painted; small bricks laid in Kankar time with a sprinkling of red sandstone. The grills of the mosque are in terra cotta.

The mosque is not a huge as the Shahi Mosque of Lahore. The total area of the mosque is 279.5' x 159', while the hall is 131.3' x 42'. On the corners of the building three are elegantly erected octagonal minarets measuring 107' in height. These minarets are decorated with mosaic tiles and are an outstanding features of art. On request one may get the permission to climb 69 steps of a minaret to the place of muezzin. The gallery offers a superb panorama of the old city.

The prayer hall has five chambers; each surmounted by a dome. The front wall of the mosque is decorated with verses from Quran-a-Pak. The sub halls are also elegantly decorated with verses and tile work. In the central chamber there is an artistically carved wooden pulpit for delivering sermon.

The courtyard is flanked on three sides by 32 small (cubicles hujrahs). In old times mosques served as schools for religious students where they resided.

The floor is built in cut and dressed small brickwork in 13 level was raised to 5 feet from its original level, to overcome the drainage problem, the original floor still exists 5 feet below.

For the embellishment of Wazir Misque, many famous styles have been used such as Fresco, Kashi Kari, Taza Kari (brick imitation), vivid colours, Islamic calligraphy, geometrical patterns, floral designs, and arabesque.

This living legacy is an intricate masterpiece of work, which portrays great devotion and sincerity of its builders and designers. To keep this heritage in its pristine beauty is the need of time.

Lahore