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Himalaya

Day 26: Lahore

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe view from this cool pavilion out towards the Badshahi Mosque is a reminder of what makes Mughal architecture so fine. It's all about balance and symmetry. Towers, domes, minarets, columns and cupolas, some in red stone, some in white marble, are all gracefully harmonized. The Mughal emperors set out to balance power and pleasure, and no-one ever achieved this more successfully.

It's midday and in the mosque the sandstone slabs are so hot that a thin strip of carpet has been laid out, which is continually being hosed down. This requires a lot of water, as the 500 feet (160 m) square courtyard is one of the largest of any mosque in the world, and can hold upwards of 60,000 worshippers.

Today most of them are inside the shade of the tall Prayer Chamber, ten bays deep and topped by three white marble domes. The imam is giving his address but there seems to be little of the formality of worship in an English church. Some stand to listen, some kneel. People come and go, others talk to each other, some attend to their own devotions while young children run around at the back. Only when it comes to the holy prayer do they all come together to stand in line, barefoot, heads lowered. Then, moving as one, they bow to the waist, stand upright, kneel, press foreheads on the ground twice, then stand up and begin the process over again. There's something simple and powerful about such a communal act of humility in such splendid surroundings.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 26: Lahore
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Lahore
  • Book page no: 55

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