LAHORE - He gets up in the wee hours of the morning to say Fajr prayers at the glorious Wazir Khan Mosque located near Delhi Gate, inside Walled City. This routine Asghar Ali has continued throughout his life for more than five decades. During the day he runs his shop near the mosque and ends his day after offering Isha prayers at the same mosque.

Asghar, who lives in the vicinity of the mosque, says for many people it may be a tourist attraction but for him it is part of his life. "My grandparents came here from India after the Indo-Pak partition. Since then my family has been living here. Everyday many people including foreigners visit Wazir Khan Mosque ,” he told The Nation.

‘A mole on the cheek of Lahore’, as art lovers call it, Masjid Wazir Khan is a world wonder. It was built in 1634-35 A.D. during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan by Ilam-ud-Din Ansari, commonly known as Wazir Khan, who was governor of Lahore till 1639 A.D. The mosque was completed in about seven years.

Colourful ceramics and plaster have been used. Persian art can be seen everywhere in the mosque. Its walls are almost completely suffused with detailed embellishment of kashi kari (tile mosaic), fresco painting, stone and chuna (lime plaster) decoration, and taza kari (brick outline fresco) on both the exterior and interior surfaces. The entire floor is built in cut and dressed small brick work laid in some 13 patterns.

The mosque has been under the extensive restoration since 2009 under the direction of Agha Khan Trust for Culture with the contribution of Government of Punjab.

Rashid Makhdom, senior consultant of Agha Khan, said the Agha Khan Historical Culture Programme has been working on inner area of historic Wazir Khan Mosque , for rehabilitation of its southern facade, western facade, urban rehabilitation of neighbourhood context and acquisition of properties in Chowk Wazir Khan. “The northern bazaar area was conserved in 2013-2015 which cost Rs30 million. And then new project was to restore the east side of Chowk in 2015-2017 that costs Rs130 million that includes walls, lights and other minor parts of street,” he told The Nation.

The scope of the project amounts to Rs533.057 million for the conservation of Wazir Khan Mosque over the period of five years. An amount of Rs200m, under Annual Development Programme funds, has been allocated during the ongoing financial year (2016-2017). Also the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) decided to restore and preserve the heritage in October 2015 and restored the architectural masterpiece Masjid Wazir Khan in 2017 with $1.2 million in funding.

The restoration project included bringing the Chowk Wazir Khan to its original form by digging 2.5 meters to separate the existing street level and the original ground level of the forecourt of the Chowk through archaeological excavations. A retaining wall was built to avoid future encroachments and to ensure a protective bulwark for the hujras.

The total area is 383 km to Chowk Wazir Khan and they restored 57 streets with in the duration of 9-10 months and only the front area is renovated by the organizations. Next plan is to restore the area from Masjid Wazir Khan to Akbari gate.

An appropriate and effective system of display will be designed and implemented in its historic context. The urban design and rehabilitation of Chowk Wazir Khan will be integrated with the conservation design of the mosque. The authority of Walled City aims to preserve the rich ornamentation of tile mosaic, Fresco painting and brick imitation work which is going to attract local and foreign tourists.

Tania Qureshi, Deputy Director of Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA), said that so far the restoration process of Royal Trail from Chowk Kotwali to Masti Gate is in process. This is the second phase of the Royal Trail and 1st phase i.e. Delhi Gate to Chowk Kotwali was completed in 2015. In this restoration process we are improving the facade of all the buildings on the route.

Recently Chowk Wazir Khan has been conserved and is now open for public gatherings and events. This year the Independence Day festival was organized at Chowk Wazir Khan for the residents of the walled city.""The conservation and restoration of Wazir Khan Mosque in a five years plan. So far the PC-1 of the Mosque has been prepared by WCLA and after its approval the work will start depending upon the releasing of budgets." she further said.

 

Oneeba Afzaal & Ansa Razzaq