The Mughal Influence on Vaisnavism, Part 48

BY: SUN STAFF - 16.44 2019


A serial presentation of the Mughal effect on Vaisnava society.

In their book, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, authors Shourie, Narain, Dubashi, Swarup and Ram Goel provide an excellent overview of the Muslims destruction of India's temples, in which they focus on the pattern of destruction.

"The Theology of Islam divides human history into two periods-the Jãhiliyya or the age of ignorance which preceded Allah's first revelation to Prophet Muhammad, and the age of enlightenment which succeeded that event. It follows that every human creation which existed in the "age of ignorance" has to be converted to its Islamic version or destroyed. The logic applies to pre-Islamic buildings as much as to pre-Islamic ways of worship, mores and manners, dress and decor, personal and place names. This is too large a subject to be dealt with at present. What concerns us here is the fate of temples and monasteries that existed on the eve of the Islamic invasion and that came up in the course of its advance.

What happened to many "abodes of the infidels" is best described by a historian of Vijayanagar in the wake of Islamic victory in 1565 A.D. at the battle of Talikota. "The third day," he writes, "saw the beginning of the end. The victorious Mussulmans had halted on the field of battle for rest and refreshment, but now they had reached the capital, and from that time forward for a space of five months Vijayanagar knew no rest. The enemy had come to destroy, and they carried out their object relentlessly.

They slaughtered the people without mercy; broke down the temples and palaces, and wreaked such savage vengeance on the abode of the kings, that, with the exception of a few great stone-built temples and walls, nothing now remains but a heap of ruins to mark the spot where once stately buildings stood. They demolished the statues and even succeeded in breaking the limbs of the huge Narsimha monolith. Nothing seemed to escape them. They broke up the pavilions standing on the huge platform from which the kings used to watch festivals, and overthrew all the carved work. They lit huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings forming the temple of Vitthalswamin near the river, and smashed its exquisite stone sculptures. With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city: teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description…

The Muslim victors did not get time to raise their own structures from the ruins of Vijayanagar, partly because the Hindu Raja succeeded in regrouping his forces and re-occupying his capital and partly because they did not have the requisite Muslim population to settle in that large city; another invader, the Portuguese, had taken control of the Arabian Sea and blocked the flow of fresh recruits from Muslim countries in the Middle East. What would have happened otherwise is described by Alexander Cunningham in his report on Mahoba.

"As Mahoba was," he writes, "for some time the headquarters of the early Muhammadan Governors, we could hardly expect to find that any Hindu buildings had escaped their furious bigotry, or their equally destructive cupidity. When the destruction of a Hindu temple furnished the destroyer with the ready means of building a house for himself on earth, as well as in heaven, it is perhaps wonderful that so many temples should still be standing in different parts of the country. It must be admitted, however, that, in none of the cities which the early Muhammadans occupied permanently, have they left a single temple standing, save this solitary temple at Mahoba, which doubtless owed its preservation solely to its secure position amid the deep waters of the Madan-Sagar. In Delhi, and Mathura, in Banaras and Jonpur, in Narwar and Ajmer, every single temple was destroyed by their bigotry, but thanks to their cupidity, most of the beautiful Hindu pillars were preserved, and many of them, perhaps, on their original positions, to form new colonnades for the masjids and tombs of the conquerors. In Mahoba all the other temples were utterly destroyed and the only Hindu building now standing is part of the palace of Parmal, or Paramarddi Deva, on the hill-fort, which has been converted into a masjid.

In 1843, I found an inscription of Paramarddi Deva built upside down in the wall of the fort just outside this masjid. It is dated in S. 1240, or A.D. 1183, only one year before the capture of Mahoba by Prithvi-Raj Chohan of Delhi. In the Dargah of Pir Mubarak Shah, and the adjacent Musalman burial-ground, I counted 310 Hindu pillars of granite. I found a black stone bull lying beside the road, and the argha of a lingam fixed as a water-spout in the terrace of the Dargah. These last must have belonged to a temple of Siva, which was probably built in the reign of Kirtti Varmma, between 1065 and 1085 A.D., as I discovered an inscription of that prince built into the wall of one of the tombs."

Many other ancient cities and towns suffered the same tragic transformation. Bukhara, Samarkand, Balkh, Kabul, Ghazni, Srinagar, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan, Patan, Ajmer, Delhi, Agra Dhar, Mandu, Budaun, Kanauj, Biharsharif, Patna, Lakhnauti, Ellichpur, Daulatabad, Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda-to mention only a few of the more famous Hindu capitals-lost their native character and became nests of a closed creed waging incessant war on a catholic culture. Some of these places lost even their ancient names which had great and glorious associations. It is on record that the Islamic invaders coined and imposed this or that quranic concoction on every place they conquered. Unfortunately for them, most of these impositions failed to stick, going the way they came. But quite a few succeeded and have endured till our own times. Reviving the ancient names wherever they have got eclipsed is one of the debts which Hindu society owes to its illustrious ancestors.

On the other hand, a large number of cities, towns and centres of Hindu civilization disappeared from the scene and their ruins have been identified only in recent times, as in the case of Kãpišî, Lampaka, Nagarahãra, Pushkalãvatî, UdbhãNDapura, Takshšilã, Ãlor, Brãhmanãbãd, Debal, Nandana, Agrohã Virãtanagara, Ahichchhatra, Šrãvastî, Sãrnãth, Vaišãlî, Vikramšîla, Nãlandã, KarNasuvarNa, PuNDravardhana, Somapura, Jãjanagar, DhãnyakaTaka, Vijayapurî, Vijayanagara, Dvãrasamudra. What has been found on top of the ruins in most cases is a mosque or a dargãh or a tomb or some other Muslim monument, testifying to Allah's triumph over Hindu Gods. Many more mounds are still to be explored and identified. A survey of archaeological sites in the Frontier Circle alone and as far back as 1920, listed 255 dheris or mounds which, as preliminary explorations indicated, hid ruins of ancient dwellings and/or places of worship. Some dheris, which had been excavated and were not included in this count, showed every sign of deliberate destruction. By that time, many more mounds of a similar character had been located in other parts of the cradle of Hindu culture. A very large number has been added to the total count in subsequent years. Whichever of them is excavated tells the same story, most of the time. It is a different matter that since the dawn of independence, Indian archaeologists functioning under the spell or from fear of Secularism, record or report only the ethnographical stratifications and cultural sequences.

Muslim historians credit all their heroes with many expeditions each of which "laid waste" this or that province or region or city or countryside. The foremost heroes of the imperial line at Delhi and Agra such as Qutbu'd-Dîn Aibak (1192-1210 A.D.), Shamsu'd-Dîn Iltutmish (1210-36 A.D.), Ghiyãsu'd-Dîn Balban (1246-66 A D.), Alãu'd-Dîn Khaljî (1296-1316 A.D.), Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1325-51 A.D.), Fîruz Shãh Tughlaq (135188 A.D.) Sikandar Lodî (1489-1519 A.D.), Bãbar (1519-26 A.D.) and Aurangzeb (1658-1707 A.D.) have been specially hailed for "hunting the peasantry like wild beasts", or for seeing to it that "no lamp is lighted for hundreds of miles", or for "destroying the dens of idolatry and God-pluralism" wherever their writ ran. The sultans of the provincial Muslim dynasties-Malwa, Gujarat, Sindh, Deccan, Jaunpur, Bengal-were not far behind, if not ahead, of what the imperial pioneers had done or were doing; quite often their performance put the imperial pioneers to shame.

No study has yet been made of how much the human population declined due to repeated genocides committed by the swordsmen of Islam. But the count of cities and towns and villages which simply disappeared during the Muslim rule leaves little doubt that the loss of life suffered by the cradle of Hindu culture was colossal.