This white marble mosque was commissioned by Shah Jahan I (1628-1657) during his visit to Babur's grave in 1645 (1055 A.H.), and marks his military victory in Balkh, for which gold commemorative coins were also struck.
The mosque stands on the thirteenth terrace of the garden below Babur's grave, and comprises three bays. It is open on three sides with archways -- three to the east and one to the north and south -- that feature cusped horseshoe arches. The fired brick structure of the mosque is faced with white marble and decorated with carvings on the parapet and plinth and small roundels above each arch. Large marble slabs, one of which has been replaced, span the three structural bays. The qibla wall, recently re-faced in white marble, is articulated by a slight central projection corresponding to the internal mihrab. There are eight carved marble finials on the parapet.
The marble elements of the mosque remained disassembled, in preparation for restoration, for about three decades before being restored in 1964-66 by the Italian Archaeological Mission led by B. C. Bono. It suffered damage during subsequent fighting and was restored again by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC)between 2003 and 2006.
Babur, in the early 16th century, built the garden today known as Baghe Babur. Of the over ten gardens he is known to have built in the Kabul region, it is the only surviving garden and its survival can best be attributed to Babur, the first Mughal Emperor having been buried here and his successors, notably the emperors Jahangir and Shahjahan making a pilgrimage to the garden and ordering additional structures to be built here.
Shahjahan, better know as the builder of the famed Taj Mahal, commissioned the white marble mosque in Baghe Babur in AD 1638. Sited to the west of Babur’s grave enclosure, on a lower terrace within the garden, the mosque is one of the most significant historical buildings in Kabul. As with the Taj and Babur’s grave enclosure, white marble was the predominant building material used for the construction of the Mosque. Building elements such as the foliated arch, decoration on the plinth and the original parapet used for the mosque are also typical of Shahjahani buildings.
This report documents the restoration of the Mosque conducted by the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme.