There are many historical mosques in the Talagang district which are noted for their distinctive architectural features. However, the oldest surviving Mughal-era mosque in this district is located in Khichi village.
Khichi is a historic settlement in the district, located about 27 km from Talagang city on Talagang-Khushsab Road. The village is famous for its Mughal-era mosque. This mosque was built in the second quarter of the 18th century. There are a few inscriptions in the mosque which bear the construction and renovation of the mosque in different periods. Apart from epigraphic information, I also had an interview with the present Mutawali of Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi, Pir Habib Bakhsh Makhdoom, on the history of the mosque. He also showed me a handwritten Holy Quran by Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom, the first Mutawali of Shahi Jamia mosque and the ancestor of the Khichi family of Khichi village. He told me about the history of the mosque. According to him, Ghazi Asad Khan was Musheer-e-Khas (a special advisor/assistant) to Aurangzeb Alamgir (d. 1707) built the mosque, and hence this mosque is called Shahi mosque.
According to him, Ghazi Asad Khan, after seizing the fort of Kot Sarang from Sikhs who had risen in rebellion against the Mughals, was going to Soan Sakesar to crush another local uprising. On the way to Soan Sakesar valley, he halted near the present Khichi village. It was there that he heard about Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom. He met Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom and was quite impressed by his piety and religiosity. It is believed that Ghazi Asad Khan, on the request of Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom, laid the foundation of the mosque in Khichi village in 1141 AH / 1728-9 AD as per information provided by Pir Habib and evidenced through inscriptions in the mosque.
If 1141 AH / 1728-9 AD is the assumed date of the construction of the Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi, that means it was not built during the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir. Aurangzeb ruled India from 1069 AH/ 1658 AD to 1118 AH/ 1707 AD. Therefore, as per this date 1141 AH, it was constructed during the reign of Muhammad Shah who ruled India from 1131 AH/1719 to 1161 AH/1748 AD. There are five inscriptions, two old and three modern, in the mosque, which bear the date and name of its builder. The most recent inscription in Urdu is found on the facade of the main portico of the mosque. It shows the date of construction, the name of the builder, and the Mutawali (caretaker) of the mosque. It also shows the name of “Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom under whose supervision Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi was built on the instruction of Ghazi Asad Khan in 1141 AH during the reign of Mohiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir.”
One can see exquisitely carved doors in several historical mosques in the Chakwal and Talagang districts which reflect the mastery of Pothohari craftsmanship
The second modern inscription in both Urdu and Persian is found on the facade of the mosque, which also bears the name of the builder as Ghazi Asad Khan who built the mosque in 1141 AH. Moreover, it also shows that Ghazi Asad Khan was a Musheer-e-Khas to Aurangzeb Alamgir. It also gives information about the renovation of the mosque by Hafiz Mian Muhammad, which is attested to by the inscription on the façade of the mosque. It was also renovated by the Department of Archaeology in 2010. This renovation was carried out under the supervision of the present Mutawali Pir Habib Bakhsh Makhdoom.
There are also two inscriptions in the front hall of the mosque. The first inscription is found on the left of the doorway to the main prayer hall of the mosque which bears that the mosque was constructed by the order of Ghazi Asad Khan Alamgir Thani (the second/the younger) in 1141 AH. It is interesting to note that the title Alamgir Thani is used in this inscription which may correspond to the reign of Azizuddin Muhammad, better known as Alamgir II who ruled from 1168 AH/ 1754 AD to 1172 AH/1759 AD. The name of Hafiz Nooruddin Makhdoom, the first Mutawali of the mosque is also found in the inscription. The fourth inscription which is found above the doorway to the main prayer hall of the mosque bears the date 1357 AH / 1938 AD, which is probably the date of the renovation of the mosque.
Whosoever actually built the mosque, it is certain that it was built during the reign of the later Mughals: most probably during the reign of Muhammad Shah
The fifth inscription in Persian is found on the left of the mihrab on the western wall in the main prayer hall of the mosque which shows only the date of the construction in 1141 AH and the name of the builder Asad Khan.
Anwar Baig Awan, the author of several books and research papers, believes that the mosque was built in 1141 AH / 1728-9 AD, a piece of information that is based on the inscription in the Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi. He writes in the article Zila Chakwal Ki Tarikh aur Asar-e Qadeema which is published in the edited book Tarikh Chakwal: Tarikh wa Saqafat by Dr. Liaquat Ali Khan Niazi (2019) that he also saw a stamped Sanad regarding Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi dated 1141 AH of Alamgir II which owned by Qazi Ghulam Abbas of Alipur in Tharchak village (Talagang district). But, Alamgir II ruled from 1168 AH / 1754 AD to 1172 AH / 1759 AD. The year 1141 AH actually corresponds to the reign of Muhammad Shah who ruled from 1131 AH / 1719 AD to 1161 AH / 1748 AD. Whosoever actually built the mosque, it is certain that it was built during the reign of the later Mughals: most probably during the reign of Muhammad Shah.
The Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi is built in a rectangular plan with three arched entrances that lead to the front hall of the mosque. The mosque was renovated a few times. According to Moulana Tahir Mehmood Azhar, the author of Tarikhi Shahi Masjid Khichi Wa Asar-e-Salheen that the mosque was expanded, and the front hall of the mosque was built in 1257 AH / 1841 AD. There is an inscription on the wall of the front hall of the mosque which bears 1357 AH / 1938 AD which probably appears the date of renovation of the mosque.
Some distinctive features of the mosque are the painting, wooden doors, pillars and ceilings. The main entrance door is intricately carved which was probably made during the second renovation of the mosque that was done either in 1257 AH / 1841 AD or 1357 AH / 1938 AD. The wooden door depicts geometric and floral designs.
The front of the mosque is painted which was done during the second and third renovations of the mosque. Three arched entrances open to the front hall of the mosque which is noted for two inscribed slabs and a wooden ceiling. The wooden doorway opens to the main prayer hall of the mosque. The main prayer hall, which was first built by Ghazi Asad Khan in 1141 AH / 1728-9 AD, is also covered with a wooden roof that rests on decorative pillars. It carries a variety of floral designs. There are four decorative pillars attached to the eastern wall. It seems that there was also an equal number of decorative pillars in the western wall of the mosque as is quite evident from the volutes which are now placed on the wall. The pillars, if there were any, are now probably concealed in the thickness of the wall. Each of the pillars has a single volute carrying floral designs.
Such refined carvings are not seen elsewhere on any of the wooden pillars in the Talagang district. It is quite likely that local masons might have taken inspiration while engraving wooden pillars for the mosques in their respective villages and towns, from decorative wooden pillars in Shahi Jamia mosque Khichi. Such intricate volutes are to be seen in the Jamia mosque of Chawli in the Chakwal district. One can see exquisitely carved doors in several historical mosques in the Chakwal and Talagang districts which reflect the mastery of Pothohari craftsmanship in the art of wood carvings, but it is rare to observe decorative wooden pillars in the mosques in both districts.
Based on the epigraphic evidence, one can say that the mosque was built in 1141 AH / 1728-9 AD, but not by Asad Khan.
As for Asad Khan himself, he served as Wazir (minister) during the reigns of Aurangzeb Alamgir (r. 1658-1707) and his son Bahadur Shah I (r.1707-1712). Asad Khan died in 1128 AH / 1716 AD.