The Royal Mosque of Khudabad
Walking up the semi-circular staircase on the eastern side of the complex, and passing through the beautifully-tiled entrance arch, the visitor to the Jamia Khudabad Mosque is meant to feel as though they are entering a grandiose paradise. This reaction stems from the intentional use of specific architectural features. For example, the great height of the entrance arch is actually just a thin façade, bolstered by a half-dome, while two stacked rows of blind arches on the exterior give the impression that the entrance is two stories tall. Once inside the courtyard, the mosque itself appears to be three stories tall, given its horizontal arched arcades, but again, this is a clever visual ruse meant to suggest monumentality and importance.
Although its standardized form simply reflects local Mughal architecture, the Khudabad mosque’s opulent tile decorations (kashi) and fresco paintings make it stand out amongst the other constructions of the Kalhoro leaders. Earlier Kalhoro mosques were simply built and had no embellishments, but the mosque at Khudabad, the capital city of the province, was fully covered in geometric and naturalistic floral designs, including arabesque leaves and blossoming lilies, which further indicate the building’s grandeur and great significance.
Neglect and Destruction
In 1768, the last Kalhoro ruler moved his capital away from Khudabad. Without official support, the fifty-year old Jamia mosque was left to slowly decay.
A little more than a century later, Henry Cousens, a British archaeologist, surveyed and photographed the site. In the Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of Western India, 1895 to 1896, he notes,
“…the great massive Jami Masjid, a building now deserted and neglected. The remains of some very good tile decoration, and its historical associations make the building well worthy of conservation… All over the mosque, and as high as could be conveniently reached, the tile work has been sadly damaged by visitors trying to dig out separate tiles from the walls…”
The following century saw no improvement in the Khudabad mosque’s condition. In fact, during the heavy rains of 1994-95, one of the main domes over the prayer hall collapsed. Two other large domes and nineteen smaller ones were also damaged in the monsoon rains. Some repair work was undertaken in 2009 to stabilize the structure and reconstruct the domes.
Conservation & LUMS
The difficulties inherent in maintaining a structure like the Khudabad mosque have unfortunately left this once outstanding building in poor shape. That is why, in 2015, CyArk trained a team of students at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to scan and document what remains at the site. This digital data can be used to study what remains of the beautiful kashi tile work and fresco paintings, as well as the notable architecture and proportions of the site. Additionally, these scans will prove to be an invaluable resource in the future should the government of Pakistan choose to further restore or reconstruct this Mughal marvel.