The 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is an outstanding feat of Mughal era architecture. It was commissioned during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Mughal architecture in the subcontinent has been archetypal and has had no matching landmarks built to date. The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is such a sole and vivid illustration of Mughal architecture. It is also a testimony of their affinity to finesse, frescos and dexterity. It has been described as “a mole on the cheek of Lahore”.
The exquisite Wazir Khan Mosque is named after Wazir Khan, the title granted to Hakim Sheikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari. He was a native of Chiniot who hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in Punjab. Hakim Ansari studied medicine and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Khurram (the future Shah Jahan). Later he was promoted as governor of Lahore. The young prince, because of Ansari’s competence, bestowed him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.
Before the construction of the mosque, Wazir Khan built a tomb or Mazar of a Sufi saint called Syed Muhammed Ishaq, also known as Miran Badshah. The mosque was built between 1634 and 1941 to enclose the tomb of the Sufi saint. Currently, his tomb lies in the courtyard some 10 feet below the main ground of the mosque.
Located in the old walled city of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan, the Wazir Khan mosque is situated on the road connecting the Lahore Fort to the Delhi Gate. The mosque covers an area of 279 feet (85 m) x 159 feet (48 m). The building is erected on an elevated plinth and can be accessed through an octagonal interior chamber on the eastern side of the complex. Moreover, a curious feature of it is the incorporation of 22 shops in its ground plan forming a bazaar located on the two sides of a brick paved passage leading to the mosque which exists even now.
The mosque has a single aisle and five bays. The prayer chamber resembles that of the Mosque of Mariyam Zamani Begum located in the same city. Its high arched galleries surround its central brick paved courtyard. Similarly, the arrangement of the 5-bay single-aisle prayer chamber 130 ft long, framed by simple cusped arches carried on deep piers.
The mosque has three domes. The central dome, rising higher than others, accents the elegantly detailed mihrab. The ingenious constructions of double domes help spread the voice of the imam to the extremity of the courtyard. It is also flanked on its four sides by 32 guestrooms (Hijars).
The mosque is constructed of cut and dressed bricks. Its walls are adorned with fresco paintings in charming colors (cobalt, cerulean blue, green, orange, yellow and purple). The walls are divided into compartments “for the reception of glazed pattern” and contain calligraphy in Arabic and Persian languages. Similarly, the grills of the mosque are made up of terracotta.
Likewise, the floors are decorated with colorful tiles with geometrical designs. Another distinguishing architectural feature is the use of 107 feet high minarets; each of its four corners decorated with mosaic tiles. These designs are employed for the first time reflecting the regional style totally uncommon in mosques of Mughal capitals. The domes of the mosque are built in the Lodi style.
The mosque till date is immensely attractive not only to the locals but also nationwide and internationally. Wazir Khan Mosque is a must visit tourist attraction in Lahore. The mosque is a great landmark to carry forward the Mughal style architecture.