Friday, August 11, 2017

Jandiala Baoli and Mosque


The town of Jandiala Sher Khan is located about 13 kilometers northwest of Sheikhupura, an important provincial town in the Mughal empire. Although the town was located on a floodplain, there were no nearby sources of water, requiring local residents to dig wells to irrigate their crops. During the reign of Emperor Akbar, a man of means known as Sher Khan settled here.

Heeding the advice of a local dervish named Syed Ghaznavi, Sher Khan built a monumental step-well (known as a baoli) to provide easier access to the water table. Sher Khan also built a caravanserai-like structure over the stairs to the well, either serving as a type of inn or providing space for merchants to sell goods to travelers moving to and fro along the road between Lahore and Kashmir. Immediately to the southeast of the baoli he also endowed a small mosque.

The design of the step-well is quintessentially Akbarian. The groundplan is conceived as a central domed chamber surrounded by eight smaller rooms, a motif known as hasht bihisht ("eight paradises"), a Mughal innovation derived from Timurid precedent. In Akbar's era, the hasht bihisht motif was employed in all manner of buildings, such that "Ideas of funerary and residential architecture were almost entirely interchangeable" (Koch, p. 46).

However, palace dwellings, gatehouses, and other non-mortuary buildings usually employed a flat roof rather than a projecting central dome, a rule maintained here. The profile of the roof was typically enlivened with multiple chattris that substituted for domes; at times these took the form of highly refined pith-helmet like structures such as those found at Fatepur Sikri, whereas those at Jandiala were less refined and more substantial.

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