The Golden Mosque

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    And the fight for its sanctity

     

    It was once a much neglected piece of heritage that was beseeching restoration. In 2012, with the funding of USAID the mosque was restored. The fresco was redone, the gilded domes were fixed and the missing corner domelets were rebuilt

     

    Traversing thorough the majestic giant arches of Delhi Gate, one of the thirteen gates of the walled city of Lahore, you make your way to the Kashmiri Bazaar and right at the junction of Shah Almi and Rang Mehal Chowk you will come across a golden glittering majesty, the Golden Mosque. Popularly known as Sonehri Mosque among the locals, you will see it standing on a masonry platform, about one storey above the street level. In old times, it must have been higher than the ground level, as with the passage of time the street levels inside the walled city of Lahore have been raised. This is probably due to repeated construction and uplifting of the roads.

    This Mosque is located at the busiest junction inside the walled city. You will see the hustle and bustle of the Kashmiri Bazaar, the Rang Mehal Chowk, Waan Market and the Shah Almi Bazaar. This is one of the most colourful sights inside the walled city. At night, the Mosque glitters like a piece of gold with all the bulbs and lights of the shops and nearby markets, no doubt it’s a breath taking scene. The best tasting eateries and local foods are also available at the footsteps of the Mosque. One dilemma that we see with most of the monuments, the encroachments are also seen here. The Golden Mosque after partition was encroached upon by many shops and they still occupy the place. According to the shopkeepers, the shops have been rented out by the Auqaf Department.

    You must be thinking why it is called the Golden Mosque or the Sonehri Masjid? The Golden Mosque is small in size but is an astonishingly striking building, and combines perfect symmetry of structure and design. The Mosque has three golden domes (gilded domes) which make it unique from other mosques inside the walled city. Due to its gilded domes this mosque was named the Golden Mosque. You have to climb through several steps for entering the mosque. There is a main pond for ablution and the mosque is functional for all the prayers. There is a small but embellished prayer hall inside. It is decorated with vivacious fresco work and floral designs. In very little space, the artisans used a huge range of colours and patterns to decorate it. On the north and south of the mosque small white domelets are seen which give a fine-looking border to the mosque. Four tall minarets add to the elegance and magnificence of this mosque.

    It was once a much neglected piece of heritage that was beseeching restoration. In 2012, with the funding of USAID the mosque was restored. The fresco was redone, the gilded domes were fixed and the missing corner domelets were rebuilt. The mosque was restored with the original materials that were used in its construction originally. Somehow, during its restoration the encroachments could not be removed and that ugly thing is still seen attached to the mosque. I hope that like Wazir Khan and Shahi Hammam these encroachments are also removed to bring out the original glory of the mosque. It is opened for tourists and one can easily access it. It is also the part of many guided tours that are being conducted inside the walled city now.

    The mosque was built after a “fatwa” from Islamic scholars of walled city who declared that all land belongs to Allah and a mosque or house of Allah can be constructed anywhere and so the construction of the mosque began

    Let’s come to the history of the mosque now. It is reported by the historians that it was built amid much controversy. The mosque was built in 1749-53 AD by Nawab Mir Syed Bhakari Khan, the Naib Subedar of Lahore at the time when Mir Moin ul Mulk was the Subedar during the reign of the Emperor Mohammad Shah. Syed Bhakari was a simple Sufi and religious minded person interested in literature and fine arts. The mosque was built after much debate. The locals of the area resisted the construction in a central crossing place of Rang Mehal and Kashmiri Bazaar thinking it would hamper the traffic movement and passage for the locals would be blocked. According to various historic accounts another controversy over the construction of this mosque was the already existing mosque nearby. The mosque was built after a “fatwa” from Islamic scholars of walled city who declared that all land belongs to Allah and a mosque or house of Allah can be constructed anywhere and so the construction of the mosque began.

    Like many other monuments and mosques of the walled city of Lahore, this mosque underwent a lot changes in different periods of history. During the Sikh rule the floor of the mosque was plastered with dirty materials which were against the sanctity of the mosque. Later the Sikh Holy Book was also placed inside the mosque and it was turned into a Sikh worship place. Seeing the conditions of the mosques, the Muslims got perturbed and offended over the mistreatment of the mosque. The Mohammadens in Lahore during the same period requested the influential Muslim families, the Faqirs Aziz Ud Din and Noor Ud Din, to approach the Maharaja of that time for restoring the mosque and handing it back to the Muslims. After many meetings the mosque was handed over to the Muslims. The Sikhs demanded that the “Azan” was not to be made loudly at any time of the day and the Muslims, to save the sacredness of the Mosque, agreed to their demands. History does not show any harm made to the mosque during the British era. When the British took over Punjab, they handed over the shops near the mosque, which were disputed, to Muslims and restored the mosque again. That was the time when the mosque again got functional and its sanctity and dignity was restored.