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Pakistan’s Magnificent Mosques of the Mughal Emperors (In Urdu)

Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Urdu, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Thai.

Greetings noble viewers, and welcome to The World Around Us. Five hundred years ago in the land of modern Pakistan, there once existed a great empire, the Mughal Empire. The Mughal, meaning “Mongolian” in Arabic and Persian, were descendants of Timur, the founder of the Timurid Empire. During the classical period of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1701, the empire reached the climax of its glory and left a rich legacy of literature, arts, and architecture.

In today’s episode, we’ll be visiting two mosques in Pakistan, the Shah Jahan Mosque and the Badshahi Mosque, built by the Mughal emperors Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb Alamgir, respectively. The architectural masterpieces of the Mughal Empire, including monuments, mosques, temples, gardens, etc., widely adapted Islamic forms such as domes and minarets.

Yet, Mughal architecture remained flexible, incorporating local building traditions, as the empire was generally tolerant of other religions. Eventually, Mughal architecture created an innovative style synthesizing elements from India, Timur, Persia, and even Europe. Of all the Mughal emperors, Shah Jahan was the greatest patron of Mughal architecture.

Shah Jahan, or King of the World, revealed his sharpness and good memory since young. After he was crowned succeeding his father Jahangir in 1628, he named himself the Lord of the Auspicious Conjunctions, being proud of his Timurid heritage. He was also titled the Meteor of the Faith, as he was very religious.

Shah Jahan faithfully visited the tomb of the Sufi saint Mu’in al-Din Chishti in Ajmer, India through the ups and downs till the end of his reign. As he governed the nation with justice, people revered Shah Jahan as a semi-divine king. He was always portrayed with a halo surrounding his face, sometimes with little angels above his head as well.

By his feet, the lion and the lamb lay together as a sign of peace. Indeed, under his reign, the empire enjoyed its greatest prosperity and stability. Under Shah Jahan, Mughal architecture achieved its classical zenith. The architectural style of this period showed symmetry, uniformity of shapes, balustrade columns, arched roofs, and elaborate detail. Most of them were characterized by white marble inlaid with stones.

Shah Jahan’s most famous construction is the beautiful Taj Mahal, which is still considered a wonder of architecture today. To get an impression about the great edifices of Shah Jahan, let us read a poem by the Mughal poet Abu Talib Kalim. This is an ode to Shah Jahan’s palace:

“How beautiful you are, palace, almost like fire! Your radiance illuminates the world like the glow of New Year! Your roof is a mirror for the cheeks of Heaven, The stars receive their light from you. Your building so high, so enormous your throne – The dust underfoot: the great Ctesiphon. Your shade: God’s grace upon the Earth, Beggars entering your door become princes!

No one who has gazed upon your entrance arch Could view with wonder the canopy of Heaven! Within sits Shah Jahan, enthroned in all his might – What could be higher, or possessed of great pomp?”

In addition to imperial buildings, Shah Jahan had constructed numerous mosques in the center of the kingdom and other provinces to accommodate the increasing Muslim population. Many mausoleums for holy men were also constructed or renovated during this period.

Among his famous religious constructions are the Grand Mosque in Delhi, India, the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Pearl Mosque in Lahore, as well as the Jahangir mausoleum and the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta, Pakistan. The Shah Jahan Mosque is also known as Jami Masjid of Thatta.

Built between 1644 and 1647, Shah Jahan Mosque is located in Thatta, an ancient capital of Sindh. This mosque was commissioned by Shah Jahan as a gesture of gratitude to the people of Thatta for sheltering him during his youth. With its 100 domes, the Shah Jahan Mosque is the world’s largest mosque with such a large number of domes. These domes are laid with a mosaic of Persian-style blue and white tiles.

It is the first mosque in this region to be constructed according to the principles of Mughal courtyard architecture. It is also different from other mosques in the sense that it was built with an elongated east-west axis rather than the usual north-south axis. Also used was red brick rather than the pink sandstone and marble more often associated with Mughal buildings.

Another unusual design is the use of pierced stone screens in the three mihrabs which allows for the entrance of actual light. The acoustics of the mosque was remarkable as well, enabling the prayers in front of the mihrab to extend to all sides of the building. Meanwhile, the careful design of a ventilation system provides indoor comfort even during hot summer months.

The Shah Jahan Mosque represents the height of tile decoration with many different shapes joined together to complete a design. The geometrical patterns were done by very small tiles, sometimes only half an inch square. As the British historian Henry Cousens remarked, these patterns “required the greatest skill and care in piecing the designs together within their exact limits.” The central dome is decorated with tiles showing a glittering star motif.

These stars combine to make a floral pattern that is arranged in circles around a central motif, which represents a starry sky with all the stars moving around the sun. A dazzling place of light, sound, shapes, and spaces, the Shah Jahan Mosque seems to transport visitors to another, higher realm in which time stands still.

When we return, we will continue our trip in Pakistan to another Mughal mosque, the Badshahi Mosque. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to The World Around Us on Supreme Master Television. We have just visited the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta, Pakistan. Now, we are going to Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan, to visit the Badshahi Mosque, a splendid mosque built by the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir.

Aurangzeb was Shah Jahan’s third son who succeeded to his father’s throne in 1659. Since young, he already revealed his administrative talent. From the beginning of his reign, he applied strict Islamic rules to his subjects, such as the ban on alcohol. He himself also strived to follow the precepts as a Muslim according to his understanding.

Unfortunately, although disciplined in his religious life, he became more and more pulled into belligerence. After having expanded the Mughal Empire to its fullest extent ever, Aurangzeb in his ripe age reflected upon his deeds and was pained with regret. As revealed in his communication to his son at the end of his life, he realized the futility of his actions, waging wars and causing suffering to people.

He said, “I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing… I have sinned terribly, and I do not know what punishment awaits me.” Aurangzeb’s portraits often depict him reading the Qur’an or praying with his rosary. In his spare time, he earned his humble but honest living, copying the Holy Qur’an and sewing caps.

When he passed on at the age of 90 in 1701, he left no personal wealth. As a Muslim who believed in simple living, Aurangzeb did not construct any grand imperial buildings as his predecessors had done. The royal treasury would be a trust for the people, he said.

However, he built mosques all over the kingdom. He also took to repairing mosques more than any of his predecessors. He felt great pride in the maintenance of mosques in detail, such as replacing old lamps, carpets, and other furnishings.

If the emperor every did spend lavishly, it was for the building of the vast and beautiful Badshahi Mosque. As Aurangzeb’s most impressive construction, the Badshahi Mosque or the “Emperor’s Mosque” is located in Lahore. The construction was supervised by his foster brother Muzaffar Hussain.

Built in 1673, it is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Capable of accommodating over 60,000 worshippers, Badshahi is the second largest mosque in Pakistan, after the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. In fact, for over 300 years it was the world’s largest mosque. The spacious site, still now the world’s 5th largest mosque, succeeds in conveying a completely enveloping, serene atmosphere.

The design of the Badshahi Masjid is closely related to the Jama Masjid in Delhi, India, which was built in 1648 by Aurangzeb's father, Emperor Shah Jahan. Badshahi Masjid is a good example of the Mughal style of bold and majestic architecture.

It is built on a raised platform, emphasizing its grandeur. The rooms above the incredible entrance are said to house relics as well as the hairs of Prophet Muhammad.

A vast square courtyard is bordered by the side aisles. In each of the four corners rises a minaret. We can also see the central transept of the prayer chamber.

In the courtyard is the tomb of Allama Mohammed Iqbal, the philospher poet who in the 1930s advocated for an independent Pakistan. The Badshahi Mosque boasts an elaborate ornamentation, including floral designs, cusped arches, and cartouche motifs. They are carved with white marble inlaid into the red surface.

These carvings were much influenced by Indo-Greek, Central Asian, and Indian techniques and motifs. The interior stucco relief and baluster columns are painted with colors to emulate the marble and inlaid stone on buildings of earlier periods. The decorative features formerly reserved for palaces, such as baluster columns and elaborate floral patterns, began to be incorporated in mosques. Thus, the mosque became the emperor’s palace, as Aurangzeb had found doing ritual of prayer more meaningful than courtly ritual.

Today, the Badshahi Mosque is a place of prayer and reflection for many people. It is also a destination for visitors from all corners of the world who come to stand in awe of one of the most beautiful edifices on the subcontinent. This concludes our journey today to the Shah Jahan Mosque and the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan.

These majestic structures with a universal style not only reflect the glorious past of the Mughal Empire, but also represent the sincerity of the ones who built them. May they remain as two of Pakistan’s gems of cultural beauty and spiritual devotion.

Wise viewers, thank you for joining us on The World Around Us. Please now stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May your life be blessed with inner and outer peace.

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