The Masjid Wazir Khan is one of the beautiful, elegant and stunning mosques of the world and is a great landmark of architecture. Mosque of Wazir Khan is famous for its colorful fresco and tile decorations, both in its interior and exterior. It was built in seven years, starting around 1634-1635 AD, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. It was built by Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari, a native of Chiniot, who rose to be the court physician to Shah Jahan and later, the Governor of Lahore. He was commonly known as Wazir Khan. The word wazir means ‘Minister’ in Urdu language. The mosque is located inside the Inner City and is easiest accessed from Delhi Gate.
In 1993, the Government of Pakistan recommended the inclusion of the Wazir Khan Mosque as a World Heritage Site in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, where it has been included in Pakistan’s Tentative List for possible nomination to the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
Wazir Khan Mosque was built by the Governor of the Punjab (1041/1632), Hakim Ali-ud-din (sometimes also referred to as Ilmuddin) in 1634. He belonged to the Punjab town of Chiniot on the banks of the river Chenab, Aliuddin had been employed by prince Khurram (later Emperor Shah Jahan) as a physician. He rendered great service to the prince during the various campaigns, and became one of the most trusted aides of the emperor, it was Aliuddin, along with Prince Shah Shuja, who was entrusted with the task of bringing the body of the deceased queen Mumtaz Mahal from Burhanpur to Agra to be buried in the Taj Mahal. He was granted the title of Wazir Khan in 1620, he was raised to the mansab (title) of 5000 foot and 3000 horse (panj-hazari) on Shah Jahan’s accession to the Mughal throne (1037/1628). It is the same Wazir Khan, who was entrusted with the building of the Khwabgah and Hammam-e-Badshahi in Lahore Fort, just before Shah Jahan embarked on his journey to Kashmir in the summer of 1634 from Lahore, his first visit to the Punjab capital after ascending the throne.
Covering an overall area of 279 ° x 159′, the mosque is entirely constructed in cut and dressed bricks laid in kankar lime with a scanty sprinkling of red sandstone in the gate and the transept. The courtyard is divided into two parts the upper part is about 6 cm higher than the lower with the ablution tank in the middle. The courtyard is flanked on its east, north and south sides by 32 small hujras of different sizes. The prayer chamber on the west side is divided into five compartments by massive piers bearing wide, four centered arches and each compartment is crowned by a dome. At the northern and southern ends of the prayer chamber, a small room has been contrived in the central portion while on the eastern end there is a gallery opening into the spiral staircase lending to the roof. The main structural features of distinction are the four corner Minarets, the five domes and transept at the entrance gate on the east. The material used in the construction of the Mosque is a small tile-like brick universally used by the Mughals when stone was unusable or too costly. The only stone used in the building is used for brackets and some of the fretwork (Pinjra). The walls were coated with plaster (Chunam) and faced with a finely-soft quality of the same material tooled to a marble-like surface and colored.
All the external plaster work was richly colored a rich Indian red, in true fresco, and the surface afterwards picked out with white lines in the similitude of the small bricks beneath. The extreme severity of the lines of the building is relieved by the division of the surfaces into slightly sunk rectangular panels, alternatively vertical and horizontal, the vertical panels having usually an inner panel with arched head or the more florid cusped mihrab. These panels, where they are exposed to weather, are generally filled with a peculiar inlaid faience pottery called kashi, the effect of which must have been very fine when the setting of deep red plaster of the walls was intact. The facade of the sanctuary is practically covered with kashi and is divided into the usual oblong panels.
A beautiful border is carried rectangular round the center archway, and inscriptions in Persian characters occur in an outer border, in a long panel over the archway, and in horizontal panels along the upper portions of the lower walls to right and left. The spandrels are filled in with extremely fine designs. With the Minarets, however, the facade of the sanctuary, and the entrance gateway, where a small portion of the surface was left for plaster, the effect of the gorgeous colors against the soft blue of a Punjabi sky, and saturated with brilliant sunlight and glowing purple shadow is indescribably rich and jewel-like.
Right next to the entrance on both right and left sides are several small rooms that were originally designed to be shops. All shops were closed and locked but the veranda right outside each shop was very beautiful, especially the colorful ceiling. Once you enter the mosque’s prayer area, you see a water pond for wuzu (ablution) in the center of the courtyard and a huge colorful mosque-building is visible at the other end of the courtyard. There are small rooms on both right and left sides of the courtyard that were closed and a couple were in use by the mosque administration, imam and the students.
Quite interestingly, In the basement of the courtyard of the mosque is situated the shrine of the saint Syed Muhammad Ishaq Gazruni, who died in the 14th century. On close inspection, it was discovered that the grave visible on the ground level was fake and the real grave was underground, some 10 feet right below the dummy grave on ground. On all four corners of the mosque are traditional high minarets. These minarets are also covered completely with colored patterns and tiles that are in their original pretty colors even after almost four centuries.
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