Lucknow is not a very old city, yet is has a very rich cultural and architectural heritage to its glory. It has always been known as a center of Modern Indian life with its rich historical legacy. It  rose into prominence after it became an important center of the independent state of Oudh in 1732 & finally as the capital during the reign of Asaf Ud Daula. The magnificence and splendor which the city boasted of , has to a great extent, gone but still it holds a inherent charm of its own which requires a close internal observation. An acclaimed center of refinement and culture for which it still is remembered throughout the Indian sub-continent so much so that Lucknow has become a byword for cultural refinement. A chief center of Indian music, poetry and dance , it was also center of Islamic learning & philosophy.  Today we shall take a look at one of its historical place known as Tila Shah Peer Muhammad, a place ( Mound)  on the banks of River Gomti.

Machhi Bhawan

The ancient and early settlements of Lucknow were on the southern bank of the River Gomti , around the mound known as Lakshman Tila  and it seems a few villages were located around this area called Lakshmanpur or Lachhmanpuri. In view of its significance, the Sheikhs of Lucknow too preferred to build their fort ‘”Machhi Bhawan” which was the earliest part of the modern Lucknow. That large fortress was demolished after the debacle in first uprising between 1858-1860. Actually Machhi Bhawan fort comprised a much larger area than that which was contained within the limits of the old fort of that name and which was surrounded by high walls , the side facing the river was having the appearance of a castle, In 1784 the Great Imambara too was built as a famine relief measure within the Machhi Bhawan area. During the Nawabi, the first bridge was also built near this place known as Pucca Pul.

Muchee Bhawun [Lucknow], by Darogah Abbas Ali, c 1874 by British Library, Source:
A View of the mosque along with the picture of tomb of Shah Peer Muhammad ( Photo Credit – Anil Dhiman)

Tiley Wali Masjid

The high ground on the river side is crowned by the mosque of Aurangzeb , Jama Masjid Alamgiri or in todays context , Tiley wali Masjid.  The tila , or the famous hillock , is the highest point of the city situated at the extremity of the south bank of the Gomti. It appears that when Aurangzeb visited the city of Lucknow, he ordered a mosque to be raised on the banks of the river Gomti. I found a reference in Bahr-i-Zakhkhar where it mentions that Fiday Khan Koka, the 17th century architect of the Emperor Aurangzeb  oversaw the construction  of this mosque along with the tomb of Shah Peer Muhammad, Fidayi Khan Koka was the same person who supervised the construction of Badshahi mosque in Lahore and Pinjore Gardens in Punjab. This confirms that it was built during the reign of Alamgir ( 1658-1707), I found a Chronogram in an old biographical account of Shah Peer Muhammad that gives us the exact year of completion of this mosque and that is 1079 Hijri ( 1668 AD) and it makes clear that the mosque was built during the later years of Shah Peer Muhammad.

A view of Tiley Wali Masjid during a congregational prayer

The imposing & majestic mosque rises above the right bank of river Gomti on the mound (Tila ) appears like the crown of Lucknow. Since it was erected on a raised platform, the three domes and slender towers dominate the city’s skyline. The mosque comprises of a large prayer hall divided into three compartments, being the central one larger than the other two at the sides. Identically, the central dome is taller and larger than the other two. It has a simple but outstanding symmetry and sobriety of decoration and it may be considered to be the last important Mughal edifice in Lucknow. The water for Wuzu for extracted from River Gomti. In older times people used to come in bullock carts , tonga and horses to offer Friday prayers and there was an arrangement for Ladies as well but due to increased no of people now , the arrangement had to be taken back.

Night view of the mosque

Shah Peer Muhammad Chishti

Before you reach the mosque, to its north east lies the mausoleum of Shah Pir Muhammad after which the mound is actually known as Teela Shah Peer Muhammad. Shaikh Peer Muhamamd Alavi was one of the foremost scholar and a highly revered spiritual figure of his time. A native of Jaunpur , he was born in Itawan village near Mariayahu ( jaunpur) in 1619. He was a keen learner and life long student, he obtained his primary education in his native town but he travelled to places like Manikpur, Qannauj, Delhi finally completing his education under Shah ‘ Abdul Qadir Umari of Lucknow .

After finishing the rational sciences, he turned towards spiritual education and became a disciple of Shaikh Abdullah Sayyah Chishti who ordered him to settle permanently in Lucknow as a teacher and guide. Thereafter he proceeded to complete Umrah & Haj . Subsequently as per the instruction of his mentor, he finally came and settled in Lucknow. Earlier he used to live near the Tomb of Hazrat Shah Mina but this time he chose a place at the mound, built a hospice not far from the tomb of Shah Mina and founded his school. It was the reign of Aurangzeb when he established this madrasa. His learning & piety attracted a large number of students from all over the country & abroad who would come to learn at his feet. He spent his entire life teaching students and nurturing pious souls who in turn benefitted an entire generation.  He lived a very simple saintly life without keeping anything for tomorrow. After spending years of an exemplary life of piety and devotion, he died on 13 Jumada II 1083 Hijri (1672 AD) and was buried on the mound to the east of mosque where he had taught for years. His tomb was erected later on a raised platform and has a dome crowned by lotus finial designs. Shah Peer Muhammad was succeeded by Maulana Shah Afaq Lakhnawi . His other notable students were Mulla Ghulam Naqshband Laknawi ( originally from Ghosi Jaunpur ),  Mulla Ghulam Rasool and Mulla Azmatullah who wrote manaqib ul Asrar. Recently the letters of Shah Peer Muhammad has been published by the Persian research Centre, Aligarh.

The mausoleum of Shah Peer Muhammad

An inside view of the tomb of Shah Waris Hasan Kora Jahanabadi

This mausoleum, built on a raised platform, has unique architecture – a large dome (now painted in golden colour) sits on a tall cylindrical drum making it look like a bulb. There are 3 graves inside the mausoleum, one of the Shah Peer Muhammad, the other two his successors. One of the graves has beautiful marble inlay work.  Above the entrance is a tablet with writing in the Naksh script. On the top is the lotus bud finial seen commonly on top of such domes. In front of the entrance, there are two graves. One is of the Shah Daulat and other one is of Shah Afaq Lakhnawi. The tombs were once decorated with semi-precious stones, but these have long been stolen. An account says that the mausoleum and its Daalan were built by Tahawwur Khan ( Shah Quli Khan) under the supervision of Meer Muhammad Shafi Dehalvi.

Name of Shah Peer Muhammad Shah inscribed on the gate of the Tomb in Naskh script
The Mausoleum of Shaikh Peer Muhammad (Right) and Mausoleum of Shah Waris Hasan ( Left)

Other Buildings near the mosque

Biographical accounts of Shah Peer Muhammad inform us that a full fledged madrasa, a hospice, hostel for inmates, well and reservoir for Wuzu had also been built at this place and this sacred place flourished into a hub of Islamic Learning and traditional sciences at Lucknow where Islamic Sciences along with Philosophy, mathematics, logic were taught and hundreds of students from all over Indian visited Lucknow to acquire knowledge. Nawab Maali Khan had built a fine residential quarter for Shah Aafaq Lakhnawi but like the other structures, it was razed by the British.

Aftermath of 1857

Old timers at Lucknow report that during 1857, the teachers and students of the madrasa held the fortress for more than a month against the British troops who laid siege to the fortress and Machi Bhawan area, when the British finally got control of it, they razed all buildings except the mosque and hanged a lot of people under the tamarind tree at the mound. Prayers were also suspended and the entire complex was closed for the public. There you shall find an unusual mound near the tomb of Shah Peer Muhammad which is the actually the rubble and ruins of the demolished Madrasa and other buildings at the Tila which was bombarded and demolished by the British in July 1857. Half of the city of this area had been turned into rubbles and dust piled till July / August 1858 AD. The dargah of Shah Peer Mohammad came under axe, the place was closed for the common man and a barracks and washrooms were erected for the British Troops, magazines, canons were mounted at the mound. A lot of unsung heroes ( freedom fighters) were hanged at the same place after setting up scaffolds for the hanging.(Muraqqa – e – Khosravi – p – 577-8 ) 
Till 1901, almost forty years had passed and nobody had access to the mosque and the tombs therein.  Hon’ble Raja Sir Mahammad Tasadduq Rasul Khan of Jahangirabad took the initiative to restore the mosque, he approached the Lt. Governor Sir Antony MacDonnell  (1895-1901), convinced him and got hold of the Mosque finally in 1901. At the same time,  Maulana Syed Shah Waris Hasan of Kora Jahanabad came to settle and he started his majalis here at the Mosque, eventually he was made the mutawalli of the Mosque. After Shah Waris Hasan  expired in 1936, his son Shah Waiz Hasan became the trustee and after his death in 1989 , Maulana Fazl ur Rahman took over and now after his demise, his successor Maulana Fazl ul Mannan is the present Imam and trustee.

Shah Waris Hasan

There is an another hall, later built, adjacent to the main mausoleum, where Shah Waris Hasan is lying in eternal sleep. A great scholar and a greater spiritual mentor, Maulana Shah Waris Hasan belonged to Kora Jahanabad ( Fatehpur) where he was born in 1282 Hijri into a family of Saints & scholars. He entered the Dar al – Ulum at Deoband in 1310 Hijri and , graduating from it in 1312 Hijri, he lived in attendance upon Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi and acquired khilafat from him . Thereafter he travelled a lot and finally settled at Lucknow engaging himself in spiritual instruction and guidance. He had unusually large following amongst the elite class including the western educated and high ranking officials at Lucknow and environs and gained huge prominence in his life time. He died on 16 Jumada I, 1355 Hijri (1936 AD )and was buried near the tomb of Shah Peer Muhammad. After Shah Waris Hasan  expired in 1936, his son Shah Waiz Hasan became the trustee and after his death in 1989 , Maulana Fazl ur Rahman took over and now after his demise, his successor Maulana Fazl ul Mannan is the present Imam and trustee.


  1. Historic Lucknow – Sidney Hay – Page 161
  2. Lucknow , the historic city by WH Siddiqui Page 17, 24, 38
  3. UP State District Gazetteers 1959– Page 393
  4. The Tourists’ Guide to Lucknow: – page 130 By Edward H. Hilton
  5. Bahr-i-Zakkhaar – by Wajihuddin Ashraf Amethvi page 393.
  6. Maasir-ul-Kiram – Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgirami
  7. Shamama tul Anbar – Syed M. Zauqi Shah
  8. Makzan-i-Barakat – Khursheed Hasan
  9. Islam In North India – By Umar .M – Page 269
  10. Guzashta Lakhnau – Abdul Haleem Sharar – P.23
  11. Muraqqa – e – Khusravi – Azmat Ali Kakorvi p – 576  
Tiley Wali Masjid – A close shot – Thanks to Mr. Anil Dhiman
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Khalid Bin Umar is a history buff who writes on Micro-history, Heritage, Sufism & Biographical accounts. His stories and articles has been published in many leading magazines. Well versed in English, Hindi, Urdu & Persian, his reading list covers a vast arrays of titles in Tasawwuf & Oriental history. He is also documenting lesser known Sufi saints of India


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