Shah Jahan sought refuge in Thatta, after he had rebelled against his father, Emperor Jahangir. Shah Jahan was impressed by the hospitality he received by the Sindhi people, and ordered construction of the mosque as a token of gratitude. Construction of the mosque may have also been partially motivated by a desire to help alleviate the effects of a devastating storm that impacted the region in 1637, and nearly destroyed Thatta.
Shah Jahan's campaigns in Central Asia during this era influenced Shah Jahan Masjid's architectural style. Timurid influences were introduced into the Mughal Empire as his armies pressed towards Samarkand (modern day Uzbekistan).
The profuse use of tiles in this masjid is considered to be the most elaborate display of tile work in the Indian Subcontinent. Unlike the Wazir Khan Masjid in Lahore, another Shah Jahan era masjid, the masjid in Thatta does not employ the use of fresco. It does however use geometrically placed brickwork, a decorative element unusual in Mughal era masjids. Tiles and bricks are clear elements of Timurid architecture.
The mosque's mihrab features pierced screens - an element that is commonly employed on Mughal funerary monuments, but unusual in Mughal mosques. The mosque features excellent acoustics; a person speaking on one end of the dome can be heard from the other end when the speech exceeds 100 decibels. Prayers in the main prayer hall can be heard throughout the entire building.
The mosque is unusual for its lack of minarets. It has a total of 93 domes, the most of any structure in Pakistan.
Have you explored the Shah Jahan Masjid?
Photo 1: Nadeem Khawar
Photo 2: A. Savin