THE ACOUSTIC WONDER
Have you ever thought that your voice without a sound system can be heard in a hall as big as a hockey field?
Well you are in for a surprise because such a place does exist in Pakistan as it is an acoustic wonder and sight to visit because of its unique architectural peculiarities and that place is the SHAH JAHAN MOSQUE in THATTA Sindh.
It was the night of Sunday 22nd January 2012, I was returning from a duck shoot from KANGAN KHADI Jheel adjacent to Mureed Khosa near CHOHAR JAMALI the home of the Naval Special Services Group on Thatta Road and it was 9 O’ Clock at night when my hunting entourage led by my hosts the Sarki’s of Thull stopped at the Thatta Mosque.
I was sleeping at that time when a small nudge woke me up that it was time to disembark and say my prayers.
Loo and behold in front of me stood the structure of the Shah Jahan’s Mosque with its majestic grandeur and awe inspiring character that I could not help admiring this wonderful peace of architecture.
I started reading the plaque inscriptions in the mosque that I got some firsthand knowledge about the Shah Jahan’s Mosque.
The famous SHAHI MOSQUE is also called by other names like Jama Masjid Thatta, Shahjahani Mosque and Badshahi Mosque Thatta was built by Emperor SHAH JEHAN the builder king in 1644 A.D and completed in 1647A.D while the floor was built in 1657 A.D and is located in Thatta, Sindh province of Pakistan about 60 miles from Karachi. It has been on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993 and was a gift by the emperor to the people of Thatta for their hospitality.
The mosque is an excellent example of intricate crafty tile work. The mosque has been constructed with red bricks and incorporated with blue colored glaze tiles probably must have been brought from the adjacent HALA district.
This new concept reveals Mughal influence in the types of geometric lines that enclose these stars to make different psychedelic patterns.
This mosque is a prime example of an imperial architectural form of the region by the use of brick and Sindhi tile work. Stylish floral patterns and Kashi work, decorate the spandrels of the main arches.
Various shapes of tiles are square, rectangular and hexagonal which were manufactured and joined to complete a design in a given panel. Various shades of blue on white, and some yellow or purple background produce a very soothing effect in the hot climate of Thatta.
The mosque is a heavy brick structure of simple construction built upon a stone plinth, with heavy square pillars and massive walls. It is centered around a courtyard 169' X 97' and the prayer chamber is of a similar size both are covered by large domes. On the north and south two aisled galleries open by means of arcades onto the courtyard. Ninety three domes cover the entire structure, and are probably the cause of a remarkable echo. The mosque contains the most elaborate display of tile-work in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent.
The main entrance of the mosque has a central domed chamber. The mosque has an open central courtyard of about 15,900 square feet. Arcades of red brick arches highlighted with bands of white surround the courtyard.
The ablution pond is located in a square courtyard within the eastern portion of the mosque. The domes and arches can be seen as a series of lined arches in straight line. Each arch has a small flat apex adorned with beautiful mosaic and tile work.
The main quality and unique feature of Shah Jahan’s Mosque is that it has no minarets. Instead of the typical three domes, there is only one main dome in the prayer hall. Its 93 domes and 33 arches with varying sizes add to their architectural beauty.
It has been built keeping acoustics in mind and a person speaking inside one end of the dome can be heard at the other end when the speech exceeds 100 decibels.
The second most unique feature of the mosque is that it is so well ventilated that even in the sizzling heat of summers you do not need fans or artificial means for cooling.
The third main quality of Shah Jahan’s Mosque is that it has no minarets. Instead of the typical three domes, there is only one main dome in the prayer hall.
The present condition of the mosque is very pathetic and deplorable and needs immediate attention of the authorities. It needs upkeep and renovations which are badly lacking because of the paucity of funds and the apathy of our archeological department.
This mosque should be taken over by the HERITAGE Foundation of Pakistan if we have any, lest it becomes a victim of vandalism and encroachment.
Nations are known for the sense of pride which they have for their cultural heritage and must make endeavor for their preservation and up keep of such sights which reflect upon the glorious past of our famous and successful ancestors who ruled the indo-Pak subcontinent for more than a hundred years.
DR. BABUR ZAHIRUDDIN