Badshahi Mosque, Lahore
The Badshahi Mosque is located in Lahore, and, unlike most mosques of its time, took a relatively short span of years to complete. The sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the mosque’s creation in 1671, and, despite its intricate design, it was completed just two years later in 1673.
Aurangzeb as Emperor
Like many leaders of his day, Emperor Aurangzeb held his post for many years—49 of them to be exact. He was named emperor in 1658 and did not give up the post until he died in 1707.
Aurangzeb believed firmly in expansion and was responsible for the greatest growth that the Mughal Empire would ever know. As a rich and powerful leader, he managed to expand the Mughal Empire by more than 3 million square kilometers. Part of his expansion plot was the building of the famous Badshahi Mosque.
Unfortunately, however, when Aurangzeb passed away, there was no one who could sustain the kind of rule and power he had once held. And, after his death, the Mughal Dynasty met its end.
Other Structures Commissioned by Aurangzeb
Surprisingly, especially in light of his obsession with expansion and growth, Aurangzeb did not make a great many architectural contributions during his reign, nor was he particularly interested in architecture.
Aside from the great Badshahi Mosque, which would remain the largest mosque in the world for more than 300 years, he only commissioned the Bibi Ka Magbara, located in Aurangabad, and two small mosques: the Moti Masjid and the mosque of Benares.
The Bibi Ka Magbara, which was larger than the Badshahi Mosque, was built first, having been commissioned in 1660. Similar to the Taj Mahal’s intent, Aurangzeb designed the structure to honor his wife, Dilras Banu Begum, after her death.
Construction of the Badshahi Mosque
From the time of its construction, the Badshahi Mosque sat next to the Lahore Fort and near the Ravi River, further emphasizing Aurangzeb’s desire for expansion.
Due to Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in architecture, he appointed his foster brother, Muzaffar Hussain, whom he also made the governor of Lahore in 1671- a position he held until 1675, to supervise the construction.
Not only was the Mosque constructed under the watchful eyes of Aurangzeb and Hussain, but the two also oversaw the construction of a new gate, the Alamigri Gate, which faced both part of the Lahore Fort and the Mosque, effectively but not literally joining the two structures together.
Size and Structure
At the time of its construction, no one had ever seen or imagined a mosque the size of the Badshahi Mosque. Even to this day, it is still quite amazing in terms of its size and overall grandeur.
Now, so many years after its construction, it remains the fifth largest mosque in the entire world and the second largest in Pakistan and South Asia as a whole.
The mosque features a massive main prayer hall, which can comfortably accommodate 55,000 visitors. 95,000 more people can fit into the surrounding courtyard and its connected structures.
The only mosques larger than it include the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, the Grand Mosque of mecca, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.
Similarity to the Jama Mosque
While the Badshahi Mosque is somewhat unique in its design, it is still closely reminiscent of the Jama Mosque of India. The similarities between the two make sense when one considers that the Jama Mosque was built prior to the Badshahi Mosque, in 1648, and that it was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan. Jahan was Aurangzeb’s father and also ruled directly prior to Aurangzeb.
The Jama Mosque alone did not serve as inspiration for the Badshahi Mosque, however. Other obvious influences include Indo-Greek, Indian, and Central Asian architecture.
Main Prayer Hall
The Main Prayer Hall is composed of seven distinctive parts, which are separated by arches. Three of the arches have white marble double domes, while the rest have flat domes.
All parts of the Prayer Hall are heavily decorated. Inside, the décor includes stucco and fresco work and marble. Outside, stone, marble, and sandstone make up the mosque’s design features.
Interesting, the Badshahi Mosque, unlike most other mosques created during the period, only bears two inscriptions.
One is located at the main entrance and reads: “The mosque of Abu Zafar Mohiuddin Muhammad Alamgri, the Ghazi King, completed under the superintendence of the humblest servant of the household, Fidai Khan Koka, in 1084 AH.”
The other inscription features Islamic scripture, known as the “Kalimah” and is located under the main vault in the prayer chamber.
Like most of the rest of the structure, the exterior walls of the Mosque are incredibly detailed and intricately decorated. Sculptured panels make up the walls.
And, at the corner of each wall, stands a tower complete with a turret and cupola. The turrets are made of sandstone, and the cupolas are made of expensive white marble.
The Badshahi Mosque is also unique in terms of the relics it contains. Some of those relics are believed to have belonged to the Holy Prophet of Islam. Others are said to have once belonged to his close relatives, including a daughter and her husband. Among these relics are a turban, a coat, a hat, trousers, and a slipper with a foot imprint captured in stone.
Damage and Restoration
The Mosque once contained eight study rooms that were destroyed by the English In 1856. They were later rebuilt into arcades.
Other damage was sustained when the mosque was used to store military supplies. Many of the minarets, especially their tops, were badly damaged in an 1840 earthquake. However, almost all damages have now been restored, creating a present-day Badshahi Mosque that is very true to its original design and structure.
Google Earth Direct Link of Badshahi Mosque, Lahore (opens in new window)