Architecture Pakistan: Bhong Mosque

Posted on July 27, 2009
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Architecture, Travel
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Owais Mughal

Pakistan has numerous mosques which are envy of the world because of their architecture as well as detailed decoration. This is our second post in the series of highlighting such grand mosque architecture in Pakistan. Our first post of this series was about masjid Mahabat Khan in Peshawar.

Today’s post is about the fomous Bhong Mosque located in a town called Bhong.

Bhong mosque is famous for its architecture as well as the decoration done here. The extensive calligraphy done of verses from Quran here makes it one of a kind place in Pakistan. There are pictures of Islam’s holiest places framed in real gold. The roof of the complex glitters with the extensive mirror work done on it. It is said that every square meter of this mosque has some decoration or design made on it.

This mosque is a living catalog of decorative techniques for public buildings either invented or practised in both Pakistan and India. The architecture of the mosque and decorative patterns are mostly local. One major exception is a gateway which takes its design from a similar gateway in Baghdad.

Following photo is a sample of intricate roof work done at Bhong Mosque.

How to Get There:

Bhong is located 35+ kilometers west of Southern Punjab city of Sadiqabad (pop 180000) and 50+ kilometers west of Rahimyar Khan. Sadiqbad itself is located on National Highway N5 and it is the largest city in Sindh-Punjab border area. From Sadiqabad, take Sadiqabad-Kashmore road upto a small town called Ahmadpur Lamma. From there a road goes westward to Bhong.

The map below shows Bhong’s location as compared to other major towns and highways in the vicintiy.

Following satellite image shows location of the Bhong masjid complex as well as the road connecting it to Sadiqabad.

Following satellite image is a further zoom-in on the Bhong complex.


History and Myth:

It is said that town of Bhong and the mosque were built by a local landlord named Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar.

The construction on the Bhong mosque continued contniuously from 1932 to 1982. It is said that the landlord built this mosque because of a dream he had and he believed that he will die if he ever stopped construction on the mosque (unconfirmed). It is also said that he died within a week after construction was stopped on the mosque in 1982 (unconfirmed again!). However, what is confirmed is 50 years of construction on this mosque as well as the immense generosity Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar had shown in sponsoring a project this gradiose for half a century. Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar’s family claims direct descendence from Bahawalpur’s Abbassi family. Sons and grandsons of Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar still look after the mosque. They also form a strong political influence in Sadiqabad – Rahimyar Khan area with atleast two grandsons of Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar who have/had been elected MPs and Ministers.

It is also said that during 50 years of continuous construction on Bhong mosque, 1000 artisans were employed. These were the best men of their trade in both Pakistan and India.

More on the Decoration:

An excerpt about Bhong mosque taken from Insight Guide goes like this:

Every surface of Bhong Mosque is aglow and vibrant. Tiles are widely used in the complex, not just the heavenly blues that speak of Multan, but other colors alongside, often used to create a patchwork effect. Some frescoes have traditional designs and others jolly baskets of roses that look like scraps from a Victorian album, writ large. Even the glass is all painted or stained and the light shines through in a myraid of colors. There are exquisite inlays in wood and mother-of-pearl. White marble is carved with intricate designs and onyx is also much in evidence.

Is the Decoration Overwhelming?

Some people are of the opinion that decoration done here is ‘too much’ and it shadows or hides the real architectural beauty of the mosque. Those who have visited this place will tell you that all objections of not following contemporay architecture goes into background becuase of the strong feeling one gets here of love and devotion which must’ve gone in the decorative work done here. Once again let me quote an exceprt from the Insight guide which says:

It (the decoration on the mosque) does have the feeling of something done with great love and devotion, and with noble motive of teaching traditional skills. It is a sermon in stone, a hymn to the tastes of the common man in the rickshaw, the very best of the popular art of the subcontinent combined in one building.

More on Architecture:

For the benefit of toursits, there is also an information plaque in English at Bhong Mosque. I would like to pick following excerpt from that plaque.

Formally the mosque reflects the traditional regional style with its 3 ribbed domes and 8 minarets at the corners and the entrance. In addition Rais Ghazi borrowed the stylistic elements from mounments in Lahore, Iran, Spain and Turkey. He mixed these with the Western Colonial elements on 1940s which appear in the guest houses and market.

To create this blended form of architecture, artisans were brought to Bhong from several places in Pakistan. It is said that most of the master masons and craftsmen came from Rajastan while calligraphers and painters from Karachi.

There are two prayer halls in the masjid comples. One is for men and another one for women. These prayer halls and a library are all built on top of a 3m high platform. The platform itself contains store rooms and workers quarters. An ablution pool and guest accommodations are found at an intermediate level, where as student boarding rooms are located at the lower level.

Another excerpt from the information plaque gives details about construction and decorative material as:

Materials and crafts used range from the traditional (teak, ivory, marble, coloured glass, onyx, glazed tile work, fresco, mirror work, gilded tracery, ceramic, calligraphic work and inlay) to the modern and synthetic (marblized industrial tile, artificial stone facing, terrazzo, coloured cement tile and wrought iron).

Trivia:

1. Bhong Mosque won the Aga Khan Award for architecture in 1986.
2. Rais Ghazi Muhammad Indhar, the sponsor and builder of Bhong Mosque was posthumously confered with ‘sitara-e-imtiaz’ by the President of Pakistan on March 23, 2004.
3. Government of Pakistan issued a postal stamp with Bhong Mosque on its face on May 12, 2004.
4. Public school arrived in Bhong in 1960s. Until then the mosque was also the only center of education for area children.
5. The Aga Khan architecture award plaque on the mosque recognizes following aritsans who worked on the mosque: Haji Rahim Bukhsh, Mistri Faiz Mohammad, Allah Diwaya, Nabi Bukhsh, Hafiz Anwar, Faiz Bukhsh, Wahid Bukhsh, Rahim Bukhsh, Sysd Shah Ghulam Mahmood, Abdul Ghani, Allah Bukhsh and Ahmad Bukhsh.

Photo Credits:

1. Max Laxton
2. Qaisar Raja Ghaffar
3. Cheemy

References:

1. Insight guide to Pakistan – 2000
2. Photo collection of Bhong mosque
3. The most beautiful Bhong Mosque
4. Google Earth
5. Where in Bhong by S.A.J Shirazi

17 Comments on “Architecture Pakistan: Bhong Mosque”

  1. Raheel says:
    July 28th, 2009 1:35 am

    What a splendid architectural heritage, Pakistan is blessed with. Indeed, the design, decoration everything is outstanding but the most surprising thing is the location of this Masjid. We usually find the architecture and art at major population centers like Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar etc. But bhong being such a remote terrain, still owns a master-piece like this. Amazing!

    Pictures are wonderful!
    Adding this place in my ‘to be visited’ list.

  2. July 28th, 2009 8:15 am

    Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    - “awesome Architecture. Muslims has extraordinary skill in Architecture”
    - “suban allah”
    - “Man what a master peice”
    - “The Great”
    - “Really worth to visit. I have been there when i was working at a power plant in Guddu, distt Kashmore.”
    - “Beautiful”
    - “Great!”
    - “been there a while ago, when it was still under construction- it is AWESOME!”
    - “MASAHALLAH”
    - “nice work….”
    - “nice nick……Choto Sparkel”
    - “This is all bcoz of Moughals !”
    - “Pakistan Zindabad!!!!!!!!!”
    - “TRUE ALLAH IS GR8…PAKISTAN ROX…I LIVE PAKISTAN…”
    - “v all love pakistan”
    - “pakistan zindabad”

  3. Rahman says:
    July 28th, 2009 9:33 am

    Excellent and beautiful.

    So much about the country that is worth exploring.

    Why is it that everyone will fight on the smallest thing and find faults in everything but not take a minute out to appreciate good things.

    Reading comments on other posts, I can see our national blood pressure is really high :-)

  4. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 9:56 am

    I enjoyed the facebook comment that ‘this is all because of Mughals’ :)

  5. Tina says:
    July 28th, 2009 10:01 am

    Personally, I like elaborate and detailed structures…other people may have a different taste and prefer simplicity over “fussy”.

    What matters in either case is coherence and harmony. I can

  6. July 28th, 2009 10:10 am

    We are always so interested in public buildings that make use of colored cement tile. It is our specialty too. This Mosque is certainly one for great inspiration for decorative effects that can be applied elsewhere. Thanks for your informative post and the photos ! Lundy

  7. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 10:46 am

    One tourist book on Pakistan even says that people of ‘taste’ will find the decoration here overwhelming. I refrained from using the word ‘taste’ here because taste in art/architecture is a relative term. The decoration here does have appeal for local population who have ‘taste’ for such splendour and color, and that is what makes this place unique and worth-visiting. Like i worte in the post too that one can feel the love and devotion of sponsors and artisans that must’ve gone in constructing this masjid with all the detailed decoration.

  8. July 28th, 2009 11:17 am

    Two interesting comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    - “well another interesting fact about dis mosque is that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was coming to inaugurate this mosque’s main gate but his govt was derailed by Zia ul Haq and ZAB was arrested a night before the inauguration……..!”

    - “Don’t say Mosque say Masjid becuse Mosque= Mosquito
    or Mosquito Mchar ko bolte hain”

  9. razia says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:31 am

    impressive, though i wish Muslims cared so much for people and their well being as they do for buildings, from which women are often excluded or sidelined.

  10. Azlan says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:39 am

    Its so beautiful, i m impressed

  11. wasiq says:
    July 28th, 2009 4:26 pm

    I wonder how much public architectural beneficence remains in Pakistan proper. The Bhong mosque was the product of a now bygone era when local grandees would spend out of their own pockets to fund public goods. As you note, construction on the mosque began in the era of Bahawalpur State whose rulers left behind beautiful college campuses, libraries, a zoo, a planted forest, grand boulevards, public parks, and palaces galore. In contrast, almost nothing in the former state, other than a few airports built by Princes from the Gulf, can be credited to the Pakistani state. The Bhong Masjid is only one example of the public spirit that infused the rulers of a now defunct dynasty. Thanks for the piece.

  12. Abdul Hai says:
    July 28th, 2009 8:23 pm

    While reading the post, I was struck by the comment that the expensive mosque was built much earlier than a school in the city. This is similar to Taj Mahal being built by Mughals at the same time Harvard University was started in Boston. Harvard has produced the best scholars who helped USA develop and lead the world. Taj Mahal is just a tourist attraction. I wish Muslims have better priorities. You can build a simple warehouse structure to pray and spend money on education.

  13. Aamir Sajjad says:
    July 31st, 2009 10:02 pm

    What i would like to add is that road from Sadiqabad to Bhong and Kashmore is same yet itsplits at Showk Swaitra , 6 Kilometers ahead of Ahmed Pur Lamma towards North.

  14. Owais Mughal says:
    July 31st, 2009 10:38 pm

    Aamir Sajjad, thanks for the information on road forking from S Swaitra towards Bhong. That is one of the details that i didn;t know.

  15. J roomi says:
    January 6th, 2010 12:45 pm

    This mosque also has a muddrasa where not only boys but girls
    are taught Quran and also education in urdu. This mosque has seen scores of students leaving with assurity that the knowledge they have acquired here will light thier ways forever..There is a very adequately equipped Library as well, so who ever has commented that we muslims are far behind in providing education should get the facts right and then comment.
    This mosque was built in a place where people had no basic understanding of neither religion or education and now there is a charity hospital http://www.agth.org
    fully funded by Rais Wazir Ahmed
    son of Rais Ghazi Muhammad which caters to the need of below poverty level people .It also has a nursing schoool, so hats off to this family who has over the centuries tried to do
    good deeds and help others !!

  16. Imran Khaliq says:
    February 6th, 2010 2:32 am

    Gosh…… Its ammazing!!!!!

    This was the first thing that came in my mind when I steeped out of my car yesterday in the town of Bhong. This mosque is beatutiful and worth seeing, like countless other places in Pakistan. One thing that always disturbes me is the Govermnet’s attitude and seriousness about it.

    Mosque construction started in 1932 and substantional completion was in 1982. It took 50 years to complete it and wow…… the time paid off. There hasn’t been a single day when no repaid or construction work is in progress since its construction started in 1932. Construction is a mix of all Muslim designs that have been adopted over time for mosques in thier empires. Some work has been done with paint brush on walls and wood….. and belive me you cannot spot this with first look….

    Request you all readers to promote the heritage and culture of Pakistan to entire world and tell every one proudly that this is all we have………. we are the best in every thing…. and if some one has the other ideas…… come see us !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Owais Mughal says:
    February 6th, 2010 4:27 pm

    Imran, tell us about how did you reach Bhong. Did you take the road from to Bhong from National Highway (N5) or else?

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