Rukn-e-Alam Mausoleum

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Lying just inside Multan Fort in Pakistan, on the south-west side, is the mausoleum of Sheikh Ruknuddin Abul Fath, commonly known by the title Rukn-i-Alam (pillar of the world). The elegant dome is prominent, instantly visible when approaching the city of Multan and is considered to be the second largest dome in the world after Gol Gumbad in Bijapur, India.

Sheikh Ruknuddin, born in 1251, was the grandson of Bahauddin Zakariya. He was raised under the supervision of his grandfather before succeeding him as the spiritual leader of the Suharwardy Silsila after his death. He enjoyed this privileged position throughout imperial circles along with other contemporaries, including saints and scholars and was known for teaching his disciples a range of metaphysical subjects. Ruknuddin also established a madrassa, or religious school, before dying in 1335 AD. Initially buried within his grandfather’s tomb, his coffin was later exhumed and transferred to the present site. Although the exact date of construction for the saint’s tomb is not known, according to popular belief it was built by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq for himself during his governorship of Depalpur and later granted to the successors of the saint by Firuz Shah Tughlaq.

In beauty and grandeur, the mausoleum of Ruknuddin is arguably without equal. The elegant building is physically imposing, octagon in shape, it stands over 100 feet, appearing even higher due to its elevation over ground level. The mausoleum is built entirely of burnt red bricks, and reinforced by beams of Shisham wood. The whole exterior is elaborately decorated with interlocking stars and hexagons, an amalgamation of dark blue, azure and white, a stark contrast to the deep red of the bricks. The unique mosaics are another novel feature, the patterns raised from the background adding a variety compared with other Islamic architecture.

The interior of the mausoleum is octagonal, with inclined walls and corner turrets with a small domed pinnacle. The second level is set in from the first, leaving a narrow balcony for the Moazzan, or public call to prayers. While openings at the lower levels are punctured through the thick exterior wall on the east, south and north faces of the octagon, the west face has an elaborate mihrab (a niche in the wall signposting the location of Mecca) set in a deeply recessed arch. Intricate floral carvings and Quranic inscriptions are carved on wooden bands decorating the mihrab. The third and final storey is the lavish 40 foot dome, adding to the grandeur and impressive feel of the edifice. The mosque in the complex was originally built during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzab.

The monument was renovated during a major project 1977 but is once again showing signs of wear and tear although the structure of the building is stable and the shrine is in a relatively good condition.

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