FROM USTAD AHMAD MIMAR TO MIAN KAREEM BAKSH MIMAR – MOVEMENT FROM EMPEROR SHAH JAHAN TO MAI HIRAN LAHORI
In 1632 a most ambitious project of a mausoleum was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan and the project was given to his Chief Architect Ustad Ahmad Mimar Lahori. The project was created with no financial considerations in mind. After 1900, there was a Mashki in Lahore, living in the vicinity of Gumti Bazaar. By Mashki we means a water carrier, and water was as scarcity in this city all the time. These water carriers were in great demand. The most famous Mashki of Lahore was Gulu Mashki, attached to the wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. But an even more famous Mashki was Saqa, who saved the life of Emperor Humayoun, and was made Emperor of Hindustan for a day, at his own request. But let us get back to our Lahori Mashki. Toiling with water mashks all his life, the fellow died a natural death. This man had a very loving wife, who wanted his name to be remembered forever. There was a saving of Rs 500 in their house. Probably the house itself got converted. And as permission was required to construct a mosque, Mr Tapp, the Municipal administrator gave same willingly to her. Now was required a person who could execute the project in Rs 500. The lady sent for not only an able but reputedly a very honest man, Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar. This fellow promised to have the mosque made from start to finish within the 500 rupees. That included the design on paper, the passing from the municipality, bricks and mortar and everything. Start of the project started with the sacrifice of a lamb in the foundations of the mosque, which was the usual practice at that time.
Initially the mosque was hidden from sight, but I got interested in its story and we went to see it in 1977. At that time constructions in front of it had fallen and it was clearly visible in the chowk of Rang Mahal, Lahore. Well no barriers could hold my enthusiasm for a mosque built by my own grandfather. And I climbed and scaled every portion of it. Majeed Bhatti, the photographer was with me and he photographed many of these episodes of mine. I evoked a great passion in me. For emperors building things was one thing, for a poor woman another thing all to gather. Her love and her soul were in the mosque and so was the work of my grandfather. Such stories have to be told. Emperors get their stories written all the time. No one to write the story of compassion of poor people. I write it down with dignity and respect. But it is to be noted that the mosque has individuality, and architectural balance, which was the hall mark of Islamic architecture. Today all these aesthetics are gone with the new wave of totally illiterate Maulvis capturing the mosques. If given free reign, they would destroy all our traditional mosques and replace them with horrendous structures of concrete and steel. The grace of Allah saved the Badshahi mosque from such a venture, when the Nawab Begum of Bhopal took control over its reconstruction. Allah bless the souls of the various Begums of Bhopal doing good for people.