The need to preserve our heritage
“Oonchi Masjid” (a Mosque at height) this strange name struck my mind. Exploring the walled city is my leisure pursuit and here again I got a chance to look for something novel. Traversing the huge aged arches of Bhati Gate Lahore, I began asking the natives about the location of the Oonchi Masjid. To my surprise, the locals informed me that females were not permitted in the mosque. Anyhow, helpless because of my inquisitiveness, I kept walking on a straight path through Bhati Gate Bazaar and reached Mohalla Chomallah (a small board was placed in a dark alley stating “Mohalla Chomallah”) where the majestic Oonchi Masjid is located on a height. It was built on a towering platform owing to which it was called ‘Oonchi’. One can enter the mosque by climbing almost seven feet, which makes twelve steps. In the same vicinity once the khateeb of Oonchi Masjid, Maulvi Imam-ud-Din, resided.
As I reached the gate of the mosque I saw chains and a heavy metal lock. The mosque, house of Allah, was locked for the general public. The nearby vendors informed me that it was opened at prayer timings only and was locked otherwise to avoid any general public entering the mosque. I think this is an issue with most of our mosques and monuments, or maybe the existing security issues have led the mosques to this fate. In any case, it’s sad. Let me tell the authorities, locking up is not the solution, administration and mechanisms should be improved.
The mosque has been completely renovated and rebuilt, losing all its original features. It might have been another wonder like Wazir Khan, Golden Mosque or Mariam Zamani, but unfortunately it’s entirely altered now
The mosque has been completely renovated and rebuilt, losing all its original features. It might have been another wonder like Wazir Khan, Golden Mosque or Mariam Zamani, but unfortunately it’s entirely altered now. I wonder what happened and why it could not be preserved and was it not important that it skipped the eyes of the concerned authorities. Well no reference of its original state is available and nothing can be done now to restore it to its original glory. If anyone reading my article has any reference please do share!
Coming back to our subject, the original mosque is popularly believed to have been constructed by Akbar, though it is more likely to have been built during Aurangzeb Alamgir’s period as seen through the inscriptional evidences.
Moving on I could not enter the mosque so what the locals informed me about the structure was that it has three arched-openings and in one corner is the ablution tank. This information was not enough for me to write for my readers. I got back to different books and just found little information on the mosque. It is said that the building is raised with clay-baked brick though representing hardly anything of the original periods. All the niches of the western wall carry inscriptions, two of which have Quranic verses while the third one mentions the name of Abul Fateh Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar Badshah Ghazi. There are three squat-type domes at the inner side while the roof hardly bears any dome.
There is no inscripted evidence to give it an exact date like we find in other mosques of Mughal era. However, from the inscription as mentioned, it should go back to the early period of Alamgir when his coins also bear his Kunniyat as Abul Fateh, which during the later period is mentioned as Abul Muzaffar.
Although there are neither any remains nor a mention for sure about Akbar having been built any mosque in Lahore yet the historian Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni in his Muntakhabat-ul-Tawarikh mentions, though in a different context, a Sufa or the platform of a mosque having been built here, where the Emperor wanted to court those asking their prayers
Although there are neither any remains nor a mention for sure about Akbar having been built any mosque in Lahore yet the historian Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni in his Muntakhabat-ul-Tawarikh mentions, though in a different context, a Sufa or the platform of a mosque having been built here, where the Emperor wanted to court those asking their prayers.
Bhati Gate holds many mosques like Lal Masjid, Mosque of Molana Rohi, Nomania Mosque and another built by Wazir Khan for females but this Oonchi Masjid is most popular inside Bhati Gate which is not opened for public, sadly! Outside the mosque we see the temporary fruit stalls and other vendors. A Madrassa for learning the Quran is also running inside the mosque.
Here I wonder why these antique mosques are closed to the public. This is one reason that we do not find much about this mosque on Google or even in books on Lahore. Such places should be opened to the public and researchers especially. Today, we hardly find anyone noting down the history and the reason is the same; no access. Other countries make billions from tourism but we are unable to do so. We face this dilemma in terms of tourisms and promoting a soft image of Pakistan these days. These places should be opened to photographers and writers, let them promote the heritage of Pakistan.