The Wazir Khan Mosque ensemble in the Walled City of Lahore, Pakistan, was built in 1634 during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658). The mosque was founded by Hakim Ilmud Din Ansari, a physician from Chiniot who was bestowed the Ministerial title of ‘Wazir Khan’ by Shah Jahan, and was later promoted to the position of Viceroy of Punjab. He founded the mosque that now bears his name on the site of the tomb of Syed Muhammed Ishaq (also known as Miran Badshah), a saint who had migrated from Iran in the thirteenth century.
At the time it was constructed, the complex comprised the congregational mosque, a large courtyard, a serai (caravansary), a hammam (bathhouse), a bazaar as well as a special bazaar for calligraphers and bookbinders. The arts of the book – calligraphy, painting, and bookbinding – flourished during Mughal rule.
The Mughals, an Indo-Muslim dynasty (r.1526 – 1858), ruled over most of South Asia and parts of what is now Afghanistan. Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, was a poet and calligrapher. His son and successor, Humayun, persuaded calligraphers and artists – Muslims and non-Muslims – from all over the regions to join his court. Under Akbar’s patronage (r.1556-1605), the court workshop progressively expanded, transforming the arts of the book for almost a century.
Today, the mosque, the hammam, and the calligraphers’ bazaar still stand. The Historic Cities Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through the Aga Khan Cultural Service – Pakistan, has been involved in the conservation of the mosque complex. The Trust has been actively engaged with the Punjab Government in the conservation of the monuments of the Walled City of Lahore and has, since 2007, collaborated in urban rehabilitation and infrastructure improvement efforts in the neighbourhood of the monument.
Compiled by Nimira Dewji