The Badshahi Mosque (Urdu: بادشاہی مسجد) or the 'Royal Mosque' in Lahore, commissioned by the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 and completed in 1673, is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world. Epitomising the beauty, passion and grandeur of the Mughal era, it is Lahore's most famous landmark and a major tourist attraction.
Capable of accommodating 55,000 worshippers in its main prayer hall and a further 95,000 in its courtyard and porticoes, it remained the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986 (a period of 313 years), when overtaken in size by the completion of the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. Today, it remains the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world after the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca, the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca and the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
To appreciate its large size, the four minarets of the Badshahi Mosque are 13.9 ft (4.2 m) taller than those of the Taj Mahal and the main platform of the Taj Mahal can fit inside the 278,784 sq ft (25,899.9 m2) courtyard of the Badshahi Mosque, which is the largest mosque courtyard in the world.
In 1993, the Government of Pakistan recommended the inclusion of the Badshahi 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
Construction of the Badshahi Mosque was ordered in May 1671 by the sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, who assumed the title Alamgir (meaning "Conqueror of the World"). Construction took about two years and was completed in April 1673.
The Badshahi Mosque was built opposite the Lahore Fort, emphasising its stature in the Mughal Empire. It was constructed on a raised platform to avoid inundation from the nearby Ravi River during flooding. The mosque's foundation and structure was constructed using bricks and compacted clay. The structure was then clad with red sandstone tiles brought from a stone quarry near Jaipur in Rajasthan and its domes were clad with white marble.
The construction work was carried out under the supervision of Aurangzeb's foster brother, Muzaffar Hussain (also known as Fidai Khan Koka), who was appointed Governor of Lahore by Aurangzeb in May 1671 to specifically oversee the construction of the mosque and held that post until 1675. He was also Master of Ordnance to Aurangzeb. In conjunction with the building of the Badshahi Mosque, a new gate was built at the Lahore Fort opening into the Hazuri Bagh and facing the main entrance of the Badshahi Mosque, which was named Alamgiri Gate after Aurangzeb.
Inscribed in a marble tablet on the entrance of the Badshahi Mosque are the following words in Persian:
- “The Mosque of Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir, Victorious King, constructed and completed under the superintendence of the Humblest Servant of the Royal Household, Fidai Khan Koka, in 1084 A.H.”
Mosque under Mughal rule (1673–1752)
When it was completed in 1673, the Badshahi Mosque was not only the largest mosque in the Mughal Empire, but also the largest mosque in the world – a record it would hold for 313 years until 1986. It was also one of the largest buildings in the Mughal Empire and the world. On a clear day, it could be seen from a distance of 15 km. The Badshahi Mosque elevated Lahore to greater political, economic and cultural importance in the Mughal Empire.
Mosque under Sikh rule (1799–1849)
On 7 July 1799, the Sikh militia of the Sukerchakia chief, Ranjit Singh, took control of Lahore. After the capture of the city, the Badshahi Mosque was severely damaged when Ranjit Singh used its vast courtyard as a stable for his armies horses and its 80 hujras (small study rooms surrounding the courtyard) as quarters for his soldiers and as magazines for military stores. Ranjit Singh used the Hazuri Bagh, the enclosed garden next to the Mosque as his official royal court of audience.
In 1841, during the Sikh civil war, Ranjit Singh's son, Sher Singh, used the Mosque's large minarets for placement of zamburahs or light guns, which were placed atop the minarets to bombard the supporters of the Sikh Maharani Chand Kaur taking refuge in the besieged Lahore Fort, inflicting great damage to the Fort itself. In one of these bombardments, the Fort's Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) was destroyed (it was subsequently rebuilt by the British but never regained its original architectural splendour). During this time, Henri De la Rouche, a French cavalry officer employed in the army of Sher Singh, used a tunnel connecting the Badshahi Mosque to the Lahore Fort to temporarily store gunpowder.
Mosque under British rule (1858–1947)
When the British took control of Lahore in 1846, they continued the Sikh practice of using the Mosque and the adjoining Fort as a military garrison. The 80 cells (hujras) built into the walls surrounding the Mosque's vast courtyard on three sides were originally study rooms, which were used by the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh to house troops and military stores. The British demolished them so as to prevent them from being used for anti-British activities and rebuilt them to form open arcades or dalans, which continue to this day.
Mosque's return to Muslims and restoration
Sensing increasing Muslim resentment against the use of the Mosque as a military garrison, which was continuing since Sikh Rule, the British set up the Badshahi Mosque Authority in 1852 to oversee the restoration and return of the Mosque to Muslims as a place of religious worship. From 1852 onwards, piecemeal repairs were carried out under the supervision of the Badshahi Mosque Authority. Extensive repairs commenced from 1939 onwards, when the Punjab Premier Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan took on the task of raising funds for this purpose. The blueprint for the repairs was prepared by Nawab Zain Yar Jang Bahadur, the Chief Architect of Hyderabad Deccan.
It was not until 1852 that the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque so that it could be returned to Muslims as a place of worship. Although repairs were carried out, it was not until 1939 that extensive repairs began under the oversight of architect Nawab Zen Yar Jang Bahadur. The repairs continued until 1960 and were completed at a cost of 4.8 million rupees.
Mosque under Pakistan (1947–present)
Restoration work at the Mosque continued after Lahore became part of the new Muslim State of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, the mosque was returned to its original purpose, and extensive repairs were undertaken. By 1960, the Badshahi Mosque stood restored to its original condition at a total cost of 5 rupees (1939–1960).
The Government of Pakistan established a small museum inside the Main Gateway Entrance of the Mosque. It contains relics of the Prophet Muhammad, his cousin Ali, and his daughter, Fatimah, donated by the Fakir family of Lahore who occupied high posts during Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule.
On the occasion of the 2nd Islamic Summit held at Lahore on February 22, 1974, thirty-nine heads of Muslim states offered their Friday prayers in the Badshahi Mosque, including, among others, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization 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 Government of Pakistan recommended the inclusion of the Badshahi Mosque as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where it has been included in Pakistan's Tentative List for possible nomination to the World Heritage List.
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 commenced, using red sandstone especially imported from the original source near Jaipur, Rajasthan, India and the Mosque is now almost restored to its original 17th century condition..