Lahore Badshahi Mosque

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Built by the last of Great Mughals, Aurganzeb, it is among the largest mosques in the world.  No doubt Aurangzeb, well-known for his piety, was fulfilling an urge to pay  the most impressive tribute to God in the form of a grand mosque. Inspired by the Jamia Mosque of Delhi and  Agra, which predate it, the Badshahi Mosque is even more massive than they are.

Aurangzeb entrusted the mosque to Fidai Khan Koka. Above the arched entrance are many small turrets of red sandstone and marble. A tablet of white marble on outer face of this entrance has the following inscription (besides the Kalima): "The mosque of Abu Zafar Mohiuddin Muhammad Alamgir, the Ghazi King, completed under the superintendence of the humblest servant of the household, Fidai Khan Koka, in 1084 AH".

Its exterior walls are painstakingly decorated with sculptured panels. Each corner is marked by a square tower capped with a red sandstone turret with a white marble cupola. The white-capped turret idea is repeated on a larger scale atop the 176-foot minarets which mark the corners of the mosque. These have 204 steps each.

In the chambers above the gate of the mosque are housed relics attributed to the Holy Prophet of Islam, his daughter and his son-in-law. These are said to have been brought to the subcontinent by Amir Taimur.   The relics include a green turban, a cap, a green coat, white trousers, and a slipper worn by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the mark of his foot impressed on a sand-colored stone, and his white banner, with verses of the Holy Quran embroidered on it. The Mosque was built at a cost "exceeding six lakhs of rupees," according to Khulasat-ul-Tawarikh by Sujan Rac.

The courtyard of an immense size 530'x530', dazzles you with its vastness as you enter the peshtaq of the east portal. The prayer chamber is placed on a raised platform, in the tradition of mosques built during Shah Jahan's period, which itself forewarns you regarding  the immense scale of this mosque. The mosque allows over 60,000 worshippers to pray at any one time. The prayer chamber possesses three grand, bulbous marble domes. The prayer chamber measures 276 feet by 83 feet. It has a large central vault with five subsidiary arches on each side and four small octagonal minarets at the corners. The main entrance to the prayer chamber, with three central vaults, is paneled and enriched with marble inlay in lineal floral and geometrical patterns. The marble domes have a refined curvature constructed at the neck. The diameter of the central dome, which is higher than the rest, is 62 feet 10 inches. It is 69 feet high. The domes are crowned with spires of richly gilt brass. The floor of the vast court was originally paved in cooling brick  laid in prayer carpet musalla shapes and bordered with black stone but is now replaced with red sandstone.

Eighty cells (hujras) built into the walls were originally study rooms. The British demolished them in 1856 and rebuilt to form arcades. The splendid mosque structure was subjected to severe damage when it was used as a magazine for storage of military stores. During the inter-Sikh wars,  in 1841 Sher Singh used the minarets for zamburahs or light guns to bombard the supporters of Maharani Chand Kaur in the besieged fort, inflicting great damage to the fort itself. The earthquake of 1840, where it damaged portions of Shah Burj, also shook  and damaged the minarets so that the top storey of the minarets was also lost.  Due to major reconstruction, the damaged portions have been reconstructed. Today, tastefully lit up at night, it presents  a fairy tale appearance  composed as it is of an enormous Timurid aiwan gateway, multi-foiled arch arcading, deep alcoves, bulbous white domes and tall belvedere topped minarets.

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