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Archive for March, 2021

Visit to Shahi Hammam & Masjid Wazir Khan, Lahore

“Travelling-it leaves you speechless, and then turns you into a storyteller.”~ Ibn Batuta

Here’s the story: Sheikh Ilmuddin Ansari was a bright young man, from an educated family of Chiniot. He was taught philosophy, Arabic and Persian at home. Then he went on to study Indigenous Indian Herbal Medicine aka Hikmat from a renowned Hakim called Hakim Da’vi in the times of Emperor Jehangir. Sheikh Ilmuddin wanted to shine as a Hakim, and hence moved from Chiniot, to Lahore to Delhi to Akbarabad in search of success. In due time he came to be known as a brilliant healer and was given access to the Mughal Palace, where he became friends with Prince Khurram. There is an interesting legend which tells the story of how he got access to the Palace: “Empress Nurjehan was unwell and she could not walk. Jehangir was very worried, and he sent out a word that if anyone will cure Nurjehan without seeing her or examining her, will get a huge reward. Weird as this precondition may sound, brilliant Hakim Ilmuddin offered to treat her.
To first diagnose her ailment, he asked that Nurjehan walk on a layer of ash on the floor. He then examined the footprints and figured out there was a an abscess/blister in her sole which was the culprit. So next he asked her to put her foot on sand shaped as her footprint, where he strategically placed a sharp object in the area of the blister. This caused the blister to burst. After that, he asked her to place that foot on hot sand so that her ruptured blister was disinfected with heat. In few days Nurjehan recovered and Hakim Ilmuddin Ansari was given loads of money, jewelry and a title of Wazir Khan.”

Wazir Khan was so moved by the honor that as a mark of gratitude, he made a secret holy vow( mannat) to build a mosque.

Wazir Khan remained close to Prince Khurram, perhaps because of their common love for poetry, languages, architecture and aesthetics. Even when there was a rift between Jehangir and Khurram, he sided with Khurram and became his attending physician in prison. Later as Khurram became the Emperor Shahjehan and Wazir Khan became one of his important ministers. As an important minister of Shahjehan he created various architectural marvels. Here we mention two of them.

As we walked into the old walled city of Lahore ( Andaroon Lahore) through the Delhi Gate, our first stop was Shahi Hammam( The Royal Bath). This place is a marvel of science and technology of Mughal times. The Royal Bath had three main chamber: the dressing room, the warm baths, and the hot baths. Also there are rooms for males and others for females. Besides these three main rooms, thereโ€™s also a reception area and a quaint prayer station. .

It is situated adjacent to Delhi Gate. And as informed by our wonderful guide Baber, royal guests would come from Delhi to Lahore. The Delhi Gate in Lahore faces Delhi, and the Lahori Gate in Delhi faces Lahore. It took the travelers several days to arrive Lahore and they were exhausted and covered with dust from the way. So before they went to the Shahi Qila to see the Emperor, or to tend to their business matters, they stopped by at the Royal Bath to take bath and freshen themselves up.

The Hammam was lost out of sight, over centuries, and lost its use as a bath in Sikh and British rules. In British times, it had become an office of the bureacracy in Lahore. However, in 2013 the ambassador of Norway, decided to fund it, to excavate its original structure. Norway is known for its saunas and spas, the ambassador was taken by surprise of the idea of royal bath and hence funded its excavation. The hot furnaces under the bath which used hydraulic system to bring up hot water is a marvel to watch. PS: First few pics are from the royal bath.

In order to fulfill his old holy vow( mannat) he constructed Wazir Khan Mosque near Delhi Gate in the walled city of Lahore.

Masjid Wazir Khan is a relatively small mosque, as compared to other monuments in Shahjehan’s era, but this mosque is very elaborately embellished with decorative art work from various regions and design styles. This small mosque in itself beats all the artistic decorations of any other structure of Shahjehan era. In fact it is known to be the most ornately decorated mosque of that era using various decorative styles from India to Persia to AlHamra. This is the first monument to have used Persian tile work called Kashi-kari, and used motifs from Persian style like grapevine, star shaped flowers and cypress trees, using Persian-style colors: lajvard (cobalt blue), firozi (cerulean), safed (white), sabz(green), naranji(orange), zard(yellow) and banafsh (purple). The faรงade of the entry portal facing Wazir Khan Chowk is decorated with elaborate tile work and calligraphy that includes verses of the Quran, verses of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers for the Prophet, and calligraphic insignias.The main prayer hall entrance has Surah Baqarah inscribed on it. The underside of the dome feature frescoes depicting trees in pairs, pitchers of wine, and platters of fruit, which are an allusion to the Islamic concept of Paradise.

Overall, the mosque stuns the visitor instantly with its colorful motifs everywhere. If there is any gold standard for the phrase “eye-candy”, it is Masjid Wazir Khan.


Daylight Saving Time? But why? Why?

I have a love-hate relationship with daylight saving time.
I hate it when I lose an hour of sleep, and LOVE it when I get to sleep an hour extra.

Rest, who cares about the clock time change?
I just do the mental maths for 6 months till the clocks start giving correct time.
BTW I follow the old trick of staying on time: I keep my bathroom and bedroom clocks 10 min fast. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ
Cant do that with cell phone times, so I don’t see cell phone times unless outside.
Car clock: My son does change it despite my disapproval. So it gets changed.
Microwave or gas stove times: How does one change that? I don’t even use them for time check. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The only info I learned from this flyer below is ‘how to change the sundial’ as I have one on my terrace.
So that”s definitely a valuable information.

Now that I am living in Karachi, I did definitely miss the weekend of Canada where the clock got an hour faster. Just for the heck of it. Here in Karachi, Pakistan or in India, we never heard of clocks being changed due to daylight saving time. But we still lived, worked, and slept.

So what difference does it make in the countries where it is done? Did the original indigenous people of North America also had daylight saving time? If they didn’t, as most likely, then how are we now doing any better by making it happen now?
I beg my ignorance and I think I need to read up. There has to be some solid philosophy or scientific argument behind it, even if we don’t get it.
It feels a lot better to know that I am not the only blissfully ignorant person who doesn’t get it. The Native American people also find it funny as below: ๐Ÿ˜€

Here’s daylight saving time in a nutshell:

Because it adds an unnecessary challenge for parents with little kids to put them to bed an hour early.

For those keen to learn and understand more about this idea, here’s some valuable information ๐Ÿ˜€


Sheesh Mahal, Lahore Fort – a gesture of Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz Mahal in her life

We all have known how Shah Jahan poured out his love for his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal after she died in the form of Taj Mahal. The question is did he show this kind of love in her life too, apart from making her bear 14 children?

Shah jahan was a man of extraordinary tastes. And then he had a pretty wife Mumtaz Mahal he constantly wanted to shower her with surprises as his expression of love. Ofcourse when you are super rich, and a king, for you symbols of love only seem to be gold, silver, diamonds and precious stones. Hahahaha.
The legend is that Shah Jahan created his own private quarters in the Lahore Fort ( the fort initially constructed by Akbar), embellished his bedroom and meeting room with frescoes using gold and silver along other colors, pietra dura(marble inlaid with Lepiz, rubies, agate, jade etc). These rooms had airy windows lined with marble carved jaalis that looked upon River Ravi. The breeze from the river kept his quarters cool. On the inner side there was a beautiful courtyard with a fountain in the centre, that went upto 8 feet high. The marble of the courtyard was chosen with different hues that gave the impression of clouds. In fullmoon nights they created a mesmerizing, surreal view.
However, his favourite queen wasn’t too impressed. Apparently, as claimed by the tour guide, she told her husband, “You have money, so you made it out of gold, silver and precious stones. I want something that is unimaginable and priceless. Can you make me a house bringing those stars from the sky?” The metaphor in Urdu is more relatable, “Mere liye aasman se taare la ker ghar bana sakte ho?”
Like every imaginative person, this didn’t seem an impossible feat for Shah Jahan.
He ordered his Persian architect to procure the best convex glass pieces from anywhere in the world. As a result the architect traveled the region as found the right kind in Syria. Hence came into existence of Sheesh Mahal in the Shah Burj section of Lahore Fort.
Shah Jahan it is said, would lie down in his room with his queen, with one single candle lit in the room, and all the mirror pieces would sparkle like stars. And there would be cool breeze of Ravi coming from the windows, and they would see a fountain flowing in from of them in the courtyard under full moon. He would then ask his wife, “Do you like it now?”
And the queen would just give an affectionate smile.
Another thing: All over the walls of Sheeh Mahal apart from convex mirrors and glasses were paintings of King and Queen. One painting was queen serving wine to the king. . One painting was of Radha-Krishna as a tribute to their love.
So this was about the super rich, and their high-end coquetry and expensive swag. LOL.
Also,during Sikh dynasty in Lahore after Auranzeb, Sheesh Mahal became the favourite place for Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his wives.

Here for us the ordinary middle class humans of the Earth, are pictures we attempt to capture with a simple mobile phone camera, of the neglected remains of their luxurious swag. Good news is that they are being restored now, albeit slowly.

#SheeshMahal #LahoreFort #QueensSwag

A Visit to Shah Jahan Mosque Thatta

Prince Khurram was the son of Emperor Jehangir and a princess of Jodhpur, Jagat Gosain. A brilliant man well versed in Persian, Turkish and Arabic. Very few know that with influence from his Hindu mother, he even was also a patron to many Hindi poets, like Chintamani Acharya Saraswati, and Jagannath Pandit. Another curious fact about him was that he was a good singer himself. Ofcourse he was a doted son of his father and groomed as his heir. So much was he doted, that Jehangir’s favourite Queen Nur Jehan got Prince Khurram married to her pretty niece Arjumand Bano.
However, jealousies dont spare the biggest of kings and queens even. Once Jehangir-NoorJehan’s daughter got married to Shahryar, the queen started to influence her hensure husband to make their son-in-law as his heir. Apparently Jehangir was getting influenced, and hence Prince Khurram in anger revolted against his father, that result in his defeat. Isolated and banished by his father King Jehangir, distraught Prince Khurram went far far in the wilderness of Thatta, Sind, a place that was hardly ever visited by any Mughal King (except Akber) in 1623 The kind hearted people of Thatta hosted him with open arms.
3 years later, the king and the prince patched up and Prince Khurram left Thatta.
In 1627 King Jehangir died and after an internal battle for power, Prince Khurram was crowned as Emperor Shah Jahan.
And he was so benevolent that he forgave his step mother Nur Jahan, gave her a pension of Rs.200,000/annum and made her son-in-law his vazir, giving him the title of Khan-i-khana.
In 1637, the Sindh coast was hit by a severe cyclone and it destroyed Thatta entirely. Now being a King of the entire region, Shahjahan was heart broken, as he had not forgotten the hospitality of the people of Thatta in his worst of times. As a gratitude to the people of Thatta, HE ordered to build the Jamia Mosque in Thatta, which is now known as Shah Jahan mosque. The resplendence of the gift symbolized the benevolence of the people of Thatta. And seeing it today, one can imagine how exquisite and exotic a gift it must have been when brand new.

Today, in the daytime, I made a major check on my bucket list by visiting Thatta, Keenjhar Lake, Makli Necropolis and Shah Jahan Mosque. Just a couple of hours drive from Karachi, I wonder, why did it take so long for me to visit this gem. Unfortunately could not go earlier with Fasih, but many thanks to my boy Ismail Fasih and friend Farah Shams for their beautiful company.

Having visited Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, Agra Fort in Agra, Red Fort, Jama Masjid in Delhi, and Wazir Khan mosque, Lahore Fort in Lahore, and Shalimar and Chashme Shahi gardens in Kashmir valley, I had a fair sense that anything connected with the name ‘Shah Jahan’ has to be something stunning in its aesthetics and mndblowing in its design.
The entrance was ordinary, with no clue what lay behind the unkempt entrance surrounded by thelas of Thatta Rabri, hawkers selling poppadums and a long line of kids in ragged clothes with their out stretched hands begging as we came out of our vehicle. As we walked in, the fountains lined by sky blue commercial tiles stood dry welcoming us.
The closer we got to the main mosque, the more it began to overawe us. The stunning blue and turquoise tiles from Hala, contrasting the terracotta color of their well baked bricks was a combination I had never seen before in any other Shah Jahan monument. As we entered, and walked from one room to another, I was just too overwhelmed and began to actually get breathless. I swear I am not exaggerating.
This mosque is said to be the most elaborate of mosques in the entire South Asia and also the only one with most domes. Its has over 90 domes and curiously has no minarets.
Design wise, this mosque is famous for its acoustics. As we were there, Adhaan for Asr prayers was called, and the Muazzin did not have to use any loudspeaker. The mosque is also a marvel of good ventalation where all the small rooms are airy and well lit without any artificial electricity. It can house upto 20,000 persons during prayers. Ismail my son joined the congregation in prayers, while wearing a short. And imagine, except for one person, who pointed out to him politely about this being now appropriate, no other local made any fuss about it.

Its is such a treasure for the people of Sindh and for Pakistan. Though now considered a Heritage site by UNESCO, there appears any engagement by the govt. in its maintenance or even in making any attempts to market this as a magnet for tourism. This can easily be a source of pride for Sindh if after a little upkeep and attention this is made a place a must to visit for every person visiting Karachi, much like everyone visiting Delhi has to go to Red Fort or Taj Mahal in Agra. With Makli Necropolis and Keenjhar Lake in the vicinity, this can be a prized tourist spot which brings good revenue to the Province and the country.
And ofcourse, this tourism will help alleviate abject poverty so obvious to us, and we will no see the little kids’ outstretched hands begging for pennies like we witnessed today.
And yes, my rant is not just to the govt organizations, I can bet, even most of Karachiites, whether living in Karachi or anywhere on the globe, must have never cared to visit this mosque in their life.
Hate me for saying this, no worries. ๐Ÿ˜€

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