CHITRAL: Members of civil society and history lovers have called upon the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to provide funds to preserve the historic Shahi Masjid of Chitral.
Built in 1924 over six kanals close to the Shahi Qila, the sprawling mosque is among the major tourist attractions in the scenic and mountainous district.
Shahi Masjid has a beautiful and an eye-catching structure which is a remarkable feat of architectural mastery of that time. However, the historic building is in need of repairs to preserve its structure. Though some of the damaged portion has been repaired, the work could not be completed due to shortage of funds.
The scaffolding erected around one of the domes was still intact as the repair work was left incomplete. The former ruling family of Chitral, the then Mehtar of the princely state of Chitral Sir Shujaul Mulk and his mother had ordered its construction.
A resident, Habibur Rehman, said the mosque not only served as a place of workshop but the locals also held jirgas in it to discuss various issues. The khateeb of the mosque, Maulana Khaliquzzaman, recalled that the then ruler of Chitral Shujaul Mulk and his mother had gone to Delhi in India before partition on a visit.
He said that they visited the Jamia Masjid Delhi and its architecture impressed them so much that they decided to construct a similar mosque in Chitral. The Shahi Masjid is a replica of the grand Jamia Masjid Delhi that was constructed in early 20th century.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the Jamia Masjid in old Delhi between 1650 and 1656. It was constructed at an estimated cost of one million rupees. It was originally called Masjid-e-Jahan Numa, which meant the mosque commanding view of the world. The Badshahi Masjid in Lahore was also built on the architectural plan of Jamia Masjid Delhi. It was built by Emperor Aurangzeb, son of Shah Jahan.
With three domes and two minarets, the Shahi Masjid has a spacious hall and courtyard that can accommodate over 8,000 worshippers at a time. Maulana Khaliquzzaman said that upon return from Delhi, Shujaul Mulk ordered construction of the mosque in 1919.
He recalled that the mosque was built at an estimated cost of over Rs700,000 in a spam of six years. The prayer leader said that cement or steel/iron was not used in the construction of the building.
“The structure is made of bricks transported from downtown areas as these were not available in Chitral. A sticking mixture made of eggs, goats hair, lime, sand and other materials were used in construction of the building,” he said.
“Those members of the ruling family who donated money for its construction are buried inside the mosque,” Maulana Khaliquzzaman said. He said the mosque needed funds for repair work. He said that there was also a madrassa inside the mosque where children were being imparted religious education.