Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

“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, there’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 façade 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.


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