The Beautiful Places of Pakistan Episode#03

Greetings!!! To all of you. I hope you are safe and sound. This is the third episode of the most beautiful places of Pakistan. In this article, I have two more interesting places to talk about given below. According to the tradition of this series, I will start with a quote. This time of “Oscar Wilde”.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

Oscar Wilde

1) Badshahi Mosque

The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal-era congregational mosque in Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.

The Badshahi Mosque was constructed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb between 1671 and 1673 and was the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986. The mosque is an important example of Mughal architecture, with an exterior that is decorated with carved red sandstone with marble inlay. It remains the largest mosque of the Mughal era and is the third-largest mosque in Pakistan. After the fall of the Mughal Empire, the mosque was used as a garrison by the British Empire and is now one of Pakistan’s most iconic sights.

The sixth Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, chose Lahore as the site for his new imperial mosque. The mosque was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671, with construction overseen by the Emperor’s foster brother, and Governor of Lahore, Muzaffar Hussein – also known by the name Fidai Khan Koka. Aurangzeb had the mosque built to commemorate his military campaigns against the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. After only two years of construction, the mosque was opened in 1673.

On 7 July 1799, the Sikh army of Ranjit Singh took control of Lahore. After the capture of the city, Maharaja Ranjit Singh used its vast courtyard as a stable for his army horses, and its 80 Hujras (small study rooms surrounding the courtyard) as quarters for his soldiers and as magazines for military stores.

During the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1841, Ranjit Singh’s son, Sher Singh, used the mosque’s large minarets for placement of zamburahs or light guns which were used to bombard the supporters of Chand Kaur, who had taken refuge in the besieged Lahore Fort. During this time, Henri de La Rouche, a French cavalry officer employed in the army of Sher Singh, also used a tunnel connecting the Badshahi mosque to the Lahore fort to temporarily store gunpowder.

During the British Raj, the mosque and the adjoining fort continued to be used as a military garrison. The 80 cells built into the walls surrounding its vast courtyard were demolished by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, to prevent them from being used for anti-British activities. The cells were replaced by open arcades known as dalans.

Because of increasing Muslim resentment against the use of the mosque as a military garrison, the British set up the Badshahi Mosque Authority in 1852 to oversee the restoration and to re-establish it as a place of religious worship. From then onwards, piecemeal repairs were carried out under the supervision of the Badshahi Mosque Authority. The building was officially handed back to the Muslim community by John Lawrence, who was the Viceroy of India. The building was then re-established as a mosque.

In April 1919, after the Amritsar Massacre, a mixed Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim crowd of an estimated 25,000-35,000 gathered in the mosque’s courtyard in protest. Extensive repairs commenced from 1939 onwards when Sikandar Hayat Khan began raising funds for this purpose. The renovation was supervised by the architect Nawab Alam Yar Jung Bahadur. As Khan was largely credited for extensive restorations to the mosque, he was buried adjacent to the mosque in the Hazuri Bagh.

Restoration works begun in 1939 continued after the Independence of Pakistan, and were completed in 1960 at a total cost of 4.8 million Rupees. On the occasion of the 2nd Islamic Summit held at Lahore on 22 February 1974, thirty-nine heads of Muslim states offered their Friday prayers in the Badshahi Mosque, including, among others, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Muammar Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, and Sabah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah of Kuwait. The prayers were led by Mawlānā Abdul Qadir Azad, the then khatib of the mosque.

In 1993, the Badshahi Mosque was on a tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2000, the marble inlay in the main prayer hall was repaired. In 2008, replacement work on the red sandstone tiles on the mosque’s large courtyard was begun using red sandstone imported from the original Mughal source near Jaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Aurangzeb chose an architectural plan similar to that of Shah Jehan’s choice for the Jama Masjid in Delhi, though built the Badshahi mosque on a much larger scale. Both mosques feature red sandstone with white marble inlay, which is a departure from typical mosque design in Lahore, in which decoration is done using intricate tile work.

The mosque’s full name “Masjid Abul Zafar Muhy-ud-Din Mohammad Alamgir Badshah Ghazi” is written in inlaid marble above the vaulted entrance.One of the rooms is said to contain hairs from the Prophet Muhammad’s, and that of his son-in-law Ali.

The courtyard is enclosed by single-aisled arcades. The mosque has three marble domes, the largest of which is located in the center of the mosque, and which is flanked by two smaller domes. The mosque can accommodate 10,000 worshippers in the prayer hall.

The advantage of visiting Badshahi Mosque is that there is a range of places nearby that you can also visit. There are parks, other forts and historical places, and the famous Minar-e-Pakistan as well.

2) Ranikot Fort

Ranikot Fort is a historical Talpur fort near Sann, Jamshoro District, Sindh, Pakistan. Ranikot Fort is also known as The Great Wall of Sindh and is believed to be the world’s largest fort, with a circumference of approximately 32 kilometers (20 mi). The fort’s ramparts have been compared to the Great Wall of China.

The site was nominated in 1993 by the Pakistan National Commission for UNESCO world heritage status and has since been on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The fort is listed as a historical site under the Antiquities Act, 1975 and its subsequent amendments, and is provided protection.

Ranikot Fort is 90 kilometers (56 mi) to the north of Hyderabad on the Indus Highway (N55). There is also easy access to about an hour’s journey from Karachi to Sann on the Indus Highway. The fort is inside the Kirthar National Park, the second-largest national park in Pakistan.

The original purpose and architects of Ranikot Fort are unknown. Archaeologists point to the 17th century as the time of its first construction but Sindh archaeologists now agree that some of the present structures were reconstructed by the Talpur dynasty in 1812 at 1.2 million rupees (Sindh Gazetteer, 677).

The fort is huge, connecting several bleak mountains of the Kirthar hills along contours, and measures 31 kilometers (19 mi) in length. Within this main fort, there is a smaller fort known as the “Miri Fort” which is about 3 km from the Sann gate and is reported to have served as the palace of the Mir royal family. The entire fort structure has been built with stone and lime mortar. The fort is built in a zig-zag form, with four entry gates in the shape of a rhomboid. The four gates are namely: Sann Gate, Amri Gate, Shah-Pere Gate, and Mohan Gate.

The Fort was first restored by Nawab Wali Muhammed Leghari, who was the Prime Minister of Sindh under the Talpur dynasty. Restoration works were undertaken on the fort, particularly on the Sann Gate complex, the fortification wall extending south including the mosque, and the small Meeri fort or palace within the main fort. These were undertaken by the Archaeology department of Pakistan, the Department of Culture of Sindh, and the Dadu District administration. Following allegations of poor construction and favoritism in the award of contracts, an inquiry was instituted in 2005. The Enquiry Commission’s report indicated that the restoration works were poorly done with cement and new stonework without conforming to the “Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites” and recommended a stoppage of further work on the fort. Based on this report further restoration work was suspended in 2006.

I hope you enjoyed this article. See you in the next episode. Good Bye!!!!

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