The really really pretty Bhong Mosque is in the small village of Bhong, about 50 kilometres from the city of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Pakistani Punjab. It is something of an icon for the local region, whose unique Saraiki culture is often forgotten between the economic powerhouses of Karachi and Sindh, and the culturally dominant Lahore and Punjab. Mysterious enough being as isolated as it is, Bhong Mosque is also the centre of several mysteries and rumours.
Legend has it that the owners of the mosque – wealthy local landlords – witnessed a death in the family after a halt of its construction. Another family member allegedly died upon the building’s completion, giving rise to a superstition which holds that a break in the construction brings about an untimely death in the family. Redecoration is said to have began immediately, to ward off any other bad fortune, and continues to this day. The result is an elaborately styled mosque whose owners are constantly looking for ways to maintain the decoration and redecoration of the building.
Since leaving Bhong, I have been informed that this legend is just that – a legend. However standing at the Bhong Mosque it’s easy to see how the rumour got started. Despite starting construction in 1932, it still boasts workmen and artists working on the exterior paintwork. The bulbous domes, the intricately carved arches and the high walls are all covered in an extravagant and outrageous riot of colours; red, pink, orange, blue, green; they’re all here, creating the impression of a kaleidoscope more than a house of worship.
The not-huge interior of the mosque building is like an homage to superlatives; if the outlandishly luxuriant lifestyles of Dubai’s glitterati were expressed in a mosque, then this is what it might look like. Walls crafted out of marble brought from Multan and India, and worked on by craftsmen from Rajasthan. Huge carved teak doors bear wrought iron handles shaped into the name “Muhammad” as spelled in Arabic calligraphy. Glazed tiles, jewels, mirrors dot the ceiling, from which elaborate glass chandeliers hang. The entire Qur’an transcribed in miniature on a single sheet of paper.
It might be tempting to criticize the mosque for being so lavish when the town of Bhong (and much of the local region) is quite poor, however on the contrary, the ongoing construction and refurbishment of the mosque has provided jobs for generations of local artisans and labourers. In 1986 it received the Aga Khan award for Architecture for its “use and misuse of signs and symbols” which “enshrines and epitomises the popular taste in Pakistan”.
No, Bhong is not a perfect structure, and its far from understated, but it is very beautiful and very remarkable in both aesthetic and fable.
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Tim Blight from UrbanDuniya is a writer, traveller, amateur photographer and teacher who splits his time between Lahore and Melbourne.
UrbanDuniya features travel and lifestyle stories and photography from Melbourne, Lahore, Sydney, Chennai and around the world.
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wow! what an amazing building!!
It really is!!! Thanks for reading :)
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Honestly, I’m quite pleasantly surprised to come across a travel post so beautifully written about my country Pakistan. Thank you for this. Unfortunately, due to the political turmoil and instability in the country, it’s a rare thing to come across someone traveling to this part of the world and stating the beauty that it still has.
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I live in Los Angeles. My Morning starts with reading the top Pakistani newspaper “Dawn” and today was an article about your visit to the Bhong Mosque, This was a surprise discovery for me and thank you so much to write and to show your fondness and love for my country of origin. Only yesterday I sent a clip on What’s App about Pakistan by world traveler Cynthia Ritchie commenting on the efforts you as foreignerd play to improve the image of Pakistan, Your efforts will definitely add to remove the tarnished image of my motherland. Thanks Again