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. 😀