Hidden Jewel: The Elegant Grand Mosque Of Kot Fateh Khan Is A Fine Specimen Of Craftsmanship

Hidden Jewel: The Elegant Grand Mosque Of Kot Fateh Khan Is A Fine Specimen Of Craftsmanship
Like other tehsils of the Attock district, Fateh Jang tehsil is also home to many historical mosques which were built either by mystics or the chiefs of tribes – when the latter founded the new villages. Amongst the historical mosques of Fateh Jang tehsil is the Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan village, a place which is known for the Gheba chiefs who seized the area between Sil and Soan valleys from the Jodhras and held sway there. With the rise of the Ghebas, the power of the Jodhras declined. In time, the Ghebas became the lords of the Sil and Soan valleys.

Kot Fateh Khan village is situated on a bank of Dotal Kas (Nala). It is located about 24 km southeast of Fateh Jang town. The village is noted not only famous for Muslim monuments but also for historical Sikh structures. Three Sikh buildings – a gurdwara and two Samadhis – are located to the west of the Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan.

Decoration on the facade of the portico of the Jamia mosque Kot Fateh Khan

In the past, Kot Fateh Khan village was an important site for the Sikh community due to the Samadhi of Baba Than Singh, who was known for his piety. The Sikh community used to gather at the fair of Baba Than Singh in the month of Baisakh (April-May). According to the Gazetteer of the Rawalpindi District, 4,000 people attended the fair of Baba Than Singh in 1893.

It was due to the liberal policies of Gheba Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan that the Sikh community continued to hold fair and frequented the Samadhi and Gurdwara of Than Singh without any problem. The Gheba Sardars facilitated the Sikh community.

The Muslim monuments of Kot Fateh Khan include a mosque, some havelis and a bridge which were mainly built by Sardar Fateh Khan and Sardar Muhammad Nawaz Khan, whose brief account can be read in The Punjab Chiefs.

Jamia Mosque Kot Fateh Khan

The Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh is noted for beautiful painting work, that is not found in any other mosque of the tehsil. Although there were a few such painted mosques, the majority of those were either renovated or rebuilt.

During my frequent visits to different villages in Jand, Pindigeb and Fateh Jang tehsils in Attock district, I met several oral historians and village intellectuals, who not only narrated to me the stories of the gallantry of the Jodhras and the Ghebas, but also the general history of the Gheba Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan, the mosque and its builder. During interviews with a few village intellectuals of Kot Fateh Khan village, I came to know that the Jamia mosque was first built by Muhammad Khan, the father of Sardar Fateh Khan. Muhammad Khan was known for his chivalry in the region.

Painting work in the Jamia Kot Fateh Khan

A brief account of Muhammad Khan and his family is found in The Punjab Chiefs by W.L. Conran and H.D Craik (1993). According to The Punjab Chiefs, Sardar Fateh Khan was one of the three landlords in Punjab who was exempted from most of the provisions of the Arms Act “as great Sardars and Jagirdars” of Punjab. He was also conferred the title of Khan Bahadur by the British government on the 2nd of January 1888.

The Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan was first built by Muhammad Khan and was a small structure. Later, it was rebuilt by Sardar Fateh Khan in the third quarter of the 19th century and expanded and extended by Sardar Muhammad Nawaz Khan son of Sardar Muhammad Ali Khan (d. 1903) in the 1930s. It is believed that Sardar Fateh Khan brought masons from Attock Khurd to build the mosque. This was because at that time, Attock Khurd was the main centre of local arts and crafts. The masons of Attock Khurd were famous for building grand structures. Their style is reflected in the innovations which they introduced in their work – particularly porticoes, engraved facades, painting work, stucco work, and other architectural and artistic elements. But I believe that local masons also took part in the construction, and they painted the walls of the mosque, which were probably made during the time of  Sardar Muhammad Nawaz Khan.

Main entrance door to the Jamia mosque Kot Fateh Khan

Sardar Fateh Khan built not only the mosque but also the havelis which still dominate the village landscape. It is a three-domed mosque that breaks the village skylines. The main entrance of the Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan is decorated with miniature Jharokhas, which are novel additions introduced by the masons. Such innovations by artisans of Attock Khurd also mark other architecture of the region. They were not only great builders of mosques and havelis but also of temples and gurdwaras. Some of the temples, havelis, and gurdwaras built by masons of Attock Khurd are located in various towns and villages of the Attock district.

Three cusped arches also decorate the upper alcove of the main entrance which is again a novel addition by masons of the Attock Khurd.  The spandrels of the arches of the main entrance also are embossed with two rosettes.

Painting work on the domed ceiling of the Jamia mosque Kot Fateh Khan

The main entrance door, which leads to the courtyard of the mosque, is intricately carved. Almost all the historical mosques of Fateh Jang, Jand and Pindigheb tehsils were noted for magnificent wooden doors which, unfortunately, were removed during renovation. However, some of the exquisitely carved doors can be seen in the Jamia mosque of Thatta village, the Jamia mosque of Maira Sharif and a few mosques of Makhad Sharif.

The Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan is built in a rectangular plan and flanked by two minarets, one of which was rebuilt after its collapse in 1930 by Sardar Muhammad Nawaz Khan. Sardar Muhammad Nawaz Khan was known for his generosity and liberal policies due to which the Sikh community freely held an annual fair at the Samadhi of Baba Than Singh.

Three archways lead to the main hall of the mosque, which is adorned with paintings. The soffits of the arches are decorated with geometric designs whereas the pendentives are decorated with floral scrolls combined with mirrors. The squinches or inner arches, on which domes rest, are also adorned with floral designs with spandrels carrying floral scrolls. Some of the spandrels are decorated with stucco. Such refined paintings are not seen elsewhere in the mosque in Fateh Jang tehsil.

The domed ceiling is also marvelous, with the soffit (central space of the dome) ending in a lotus floral design. The petals of the lotus are accentuated with mirrors. One does not find a such beautiful combination of paintings with glasswork elsewhere in Pothohar. As compared to the Mughal mosque at Wah Gardens and the Jamia mosque of Rawalpindi, the Kot Fateh Khan mosque is remarkable for paintings combined with glass and stucco – a technique not found in other mosques in Pothohar.

There are many three-domed mosques in the Pothohar. Of these, the mosque of Mai Qamro at Bagh Joghian, Islamabad, the Mughal mosque at Wah Gardens, the Jamia mosque of Rawalpindi, the Jamia mosque of Singwala in Talagang district and the Jamia mosque of Tharpal village in Chakwal district are quite prominent. However, the Jamia mosque of Kot Fateh Khan has its own elegance, brilliance and scheme of decoration.

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar