Hindu temples convert into Mosques

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Aurangzeb had often remarked about a very bright light shining in the far distant southeast horizon and in reply to his enquiries regarding it, was told that it was a light burning in a temple of great wealth and magnificence at Vrindavan. He accordingly resolved that it should be put out and soon after sent some troops to the place who plundered and threw down as much of the temple as they could and then erected on the top of the ruins a mosque wall where, in order to complete the desecration, the emperor is said to have offered up his prayers.

The temple today is 55 feet tall. Before its upper part was destroyed on Aurangzeb’s orders in anticipation of his visit to Vrindavan in 1670 AD, the mandir was reputed to be twice that height.

Begun in 1191, the mosque stands on the site of a pre-Islamic temple whose ruins were incorporated in the structure. The immense congregational mosque in Delhi known as Quwwat al-Islam (Might of Islam) was one of the first built in India. This idol house (of Rai Pithora) was converted into a mosque. The idol was taken out of temple. But the structure of the idol housekept standing as before. Material from twenty-seven temples, which were worth five crore and forty lakhs of Dilwals, were used in the mosque, and an inscription giving the date of conquest and his own name was installed in the eastern gate.

Vandalized idols are also seen lying around the mosque. What you see is one example.

A furlong beyond the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is the triple temple complex built by an ancestor of Prithviraj Chauhan. The complex is, for the last 800 years, popularly known as “Adhai Din Ka Jhopra” (the shed of two and a half days). So called, because the triple or three temples were converted into a Masjid over only two and a half days. After the second battle of Tarain in 1192 AD, in which Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghauri defeated and killed Prithviraj Chauhan, the victor passed through Ajmer. He was so awed by the temples that he wanted them destroyed and replaced instantly. He asked Qutbuddin Aibak, his slave general, to have the needful done in 60 hours time so that he could offer prayers in the new masjid on his way back.

Another view of the complex.

The Gazetteer of Jaunpur district dated 1908, written by H.R. Nevill, the district collector of Jaunpur, confirms that the temple was demolished by Ibrahim Naib Barbak, the brother of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq who erected the Jhanjharimasjid in honour of a saint called Hazrat Ajmali. Not far from Jhanjhari is what is popularly known as the Atala Devi masjid. On two sides, in front of this rectangular edifice, are rows of two-storeyed cloisters. Opposite the mosque is also a similar cloister, which now houses a madrassa. According to the gazetteer, there stood an equally large temple built by Raja Vijaya Chandra of Kannauj, the father of Jaichand. Khwaja Kamal Khan demolished the temple in 1364 AD and Ibrahim completed the mosque in 1408 AD.

Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, 1526-37, was the iconoclast of Vidisha, preceding Aurangzeb. He captured the town and about the first thing he did was to desecrate the Vijay Mandir claiming that the conquest of Bhilsa was in the service of Islam. The episode is recorded in Mirat-I-Sikndri. About 200 years earlier, Sultan Alauddin Khilji, 1293, had also enjoyed the “devout” pleasure of damaging Vijay Mandir. The honour of being the first iconoclast, went to Sultan Shamsuddin Iitutmish, 1234, yet another half a century earlier. This episode is described with relish in Tabqat-I-Nasiri. Not many temples have had the misfortune of having been desecrated four times. Being a huge structure, built in solid stone, it was able to survive and be restituted a mandir, three times.

What you see is that the face of the statue is chopped off.

The other well known monument in Dhar is the Lat Masjid named after a square metal pillar whose total height must have been about 41 feet and which is preserved in three pieces of 7, 11 and 23 feet in a small compound next to the mosque. There is no rust anywhere, which is an indication that it may be made of metal not different from the iron pillar near Qutab Minar. According to Luard, the inscriptions on the eastern and northern gates indicate that the mosque was inaugurated by Amid Shah Daud Ghori, also known as Dilawar Khan, on January 17, 1405. The word “inaugurated” has been intentionally used, instead of Luard’s use of “erected” because, evidently, the edifice is a mandir converted into a masjid. The Lat masjid has neither minarets nor the traditional hauz in which the devotee can wash his hands and feet before performing namaz. It is a large rectangular pavilion with a great deal of open space in the center. The four-sided pavilion originally stood on some 300 square shaped stone pillars.

Any number of pillars on the eastern or the end opposite to where the mehrab and the mimbar are have at their lower end, defaced carvings of murtis reminiscent of Vishnu.

The Aina or Friday mosque is situated on National Highway No. 34 between Raiganj in West Dinajpur district of West Bengal and Malda. There are some 20 alcoves in the northen wall. They all give the impression of temple carvings. If there be any doubt, it is set at rest by what was used as mimbar or the pulpit for the Imam. The face of the last step is covered with carvings of two female figures, which, of course, have been defaced but are still unmistakably human statuettes.

Entrance of mosque has temple carvings. If you like to know more please read Prafull Goradia’s book on the subject or What Happened to Hindu Temples by Sitaram Goel (two volumes published by Voice of India).

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