Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bhong Mosque Sadiqabad

Completion of the large mosque in 1982 in this town of 5000 in the south eastern Punjab concluded the complex which was begun in 1932. Rais Ghazi Muhammad, client, designer, patron and landlord, conceived, directed and funded the entire building program. Over the 50 years of its evolution, the complex has generated job and trained up to 1000 workers and craftsmen in indigenous crafts. Its development included the growth of infrastructures including a market, roads, installation of electricity and running water, irrigation and bus and railroad lines. Until the development of secular education in the early 1960s, the mosque was the principal regional centre for education.

The large mosque and a smaller one, containing a women’s prayer hall and library, sit on a 3 m high platform which contains storage space and worker’s quarters. An ablution pool, the school and guest accommodations are found at an intermediate level. The madressa and student rooms are located still lower. The mosque garden surrounds the north and part of the east side of the complex. A private gate marks the entrance to the garden, along with a water channel which defines the main axis leading to the mosque.

Formally, the mosque reflects the traditional regional style, with its three ribbed domes and eight minarets accenting the corners and entrance. In addition, Rais Ghazi borrowed stylistic elements from monuments in Lahore, Iran, Spain and Turkey. He mixed these with the western colonial elements of the 1740s, which appear in the guest houses and market. Decorative elements and techniques used are also eclectic, though the extensive ornamentation is standard. The structural system combines brick masonry and cement mortar with brick and stone arches and reinforced concrete. Brick domes are set as independents units on top of reinforced concrete roofs.

Materials and crafts range from the traditional teak, ivory, marble, colored glass, onxy, glazed tile work, fresco, mirror work, gilded tracery, ceramics, calligraphy work and inlay to the modern and synthetic marbleized industrial tile, artificial stone facing, terrazzo, colored cement tile and wrought iron. Rais Ghazi used modern materials freely in the ancillary buildings, such as, the gates, the small mosque and the porch of the large mosque. He applied only traditional materials to the mosque interiors. His intention was to represent as many forms of vernacular craft and Islamic religious architectural features as possible, using a combination of modern and traditional materials.


The award is made in recognition of a significant attempt by a single individual to create a local center of learning and building crafts, by establishing it in the village of Bhong, in the district of Rahimyar Khan. It is a complex of buildings, consisting at first of a small mosque, later converted as a prayer hall and library for women, a madressa and residential dormitories for students and visitors. The entire infrastructure required to serve the complex, such as roads and irrigation channels were also built by him for the use of the people. After some years, the grand mosque was constructed.

The complex as it stands today, is fully utilized by the local population and its acceptability with the people has been well established. The madressa is still functioning, although with less importance than in the past. At its peak, students came from Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey.

This tremendous effort of Rais Ghazi Muhammad extended over a period of nearly 50 years from 1930 to 1980, during which time he engaged specialized craftsmen in various trades from all over Pakistan and master masons for the lavish ornamentation and decoration of the buildings of the complex. He patronized and encouraged these craftsmen and set up a workshop for their training and a large number of the craftsmen have been subsequently employed in the restoration of the monuments by the government. Thus he made a monumental effort in the revival of traditional crafts.

The achievements of the master craftsmen over two generations deserve to be recognized. It is sometimes thought that the quality of the architecture produced lacks authenticity in a country with a long historical and cultural architectural tradition.

The buildings are of particular interest because of the skill with which the craftsmen have chosen and brought together vastly different materials and techniques. They have evolved a new kind of craftsmanship by choosing existing manufactured elements and recombining them in original and judicious ways, and producing a new kind of creativity using mass produced elements to generate surprising meanings from new contexts and juxtapositions.

In giving the award to this building complex, the jury wished to make an acknowledgement to the diversity that enriches society. “Popular” buildings might be a little different from the buildings derived from indigenous craftsmanship. The population might love them, and therefore, they have an immense significance for the ordinary people, in spite of the fact that the architects might hate them.

Bhong represents a monumental achievement in these terms. It enshrines and epitomizes the “popular” taste in Pakistan with all its vigor, pride, tension and sentiment. Its use and misuse of signs and symbols express appropriate growing pains in transition and yet may prove significant for the future.

Specialists were gathered from all over Pakistan and India: master masons and craftsmen from Rajasthan; from Multan for glazed tile work, mosaic, woodwork and painting and from Karachi for painting and calligraphy. Craftsmen for the artificial stone work and most of the unskilled laborers were from Bhong. Workshops were set up to train craftsmen in skills that had hitherto been passed from father to son for generations. At the peak of construction, the project employed 1000 workers and trained up to 200 craftsmen. The workshop helped to revive and reserve these indigenous crafts and have contributed to the government’s conservation efforts.


Designed/Patron by: Sardar Rais Ghazi Muhammad Khan (Late)
Status: Completed
Construction Date: 1932
Completion Date: 1982
Client: Sardar Rais Ghazi Muhammad Khan (Late)
Contractors: N/A
Building Style: Vernacular Architecture
Building Type: Religious

Building Usage: Masjid + Madrassah/Tourist Spot

Height: N/A
Location: Bhong Sharif, Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan

Master Craftsmen: Haji Rahim Bukhsh, Mistri Faiz Muhammad, Allah Diwaya, Nabi Bukhsh, Hafiz Anwar, Faiz Bukhsh, Wahid Bukhsh, Rahim Bukhsh, Syed Shah Ghulam Mahmood, Abdul Ghani, Allah Bukhsh, Ahmed Bukhsh.

Description:  THE AGHA KHAN 1986 AWARD
For Architecture

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