The Mughal Influence on Vaisnavism, Part 49

BY: SUN STAFF - 16.4 2019

Jami Masjid, Mandu

A serial presentation of the Mughal effect on Vaisnava society.

Over the last several segments of this series we have been summarizing the evidence presented by authors Shourie, Narain, Dubashi, Swarup and Ram Goel in their book, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, which provides a very detailed survey of the temples destroyed in India by the Muslim invaders. We are generally using the terminology "Muslim" here, because the long era of invasion by the Islamists greatly preceded the Mughal era, and has long outlived the Mughals.

And much to the angst of some readers, we are generally using the term "Hindu" here to describe the non-Muslim residents of India. While we agree with all the contemporary arguments that the Hare Krishna devotees are not Hindus, but Vaisnavas, we are still left to work within the general historical and academic framework when dealing with topics like the Mughal influence in India. There is generally little differentiation made between Shaivite and Vaisnava, both of whom are cast under the "Hindu" umbrella in comparison to the Muslims, who are also not often differentiated by sects like Shi'a, Sunni, or Sufi.

In the case of the of Hindu Temples, the authors have employed an even broader definition, using "Hindus" to describe a very liberal confederation including not only the Vaisnavas and Saivites, but also the Buddhists and Jains, all of whom they categorize as being followers of sanatana-dharma. In hopes that the reader will not take the religious labels too strictly in this regard, we return to the narrative description on the Muslim legacy of temple destruction.

"Putting together all available evidence - literary and archaeological - from Hindu, Muslim and other sources, and following the trail of Islamic invasion, we get the pattern of how the invaders proceeded vis-a-vis Hindu places of worship after occupying a city or town and its suburbs. It should be kept in mind in this context that Muslim rule never became more than a chain of garrison cities and towns, not even in its heyday from Akbar to Aurangzeb, except in areas where wholesale or substantial conversions had taken place. Elsewhere the invaders were rarely in full control of the countryside; they had to mount repeated expeditions for destroying places of worship, collecting booty including male and female slaves, and for terrorising the peasantry, through slaughter and raping, so that the latter may become a submissive source of revenue. The peasantry took no time to rise in revolt whenever and wherever Muslim power weakened or its terror had to be relaxed for reasons beyond its control.

1. Places taken by assault: If a place was taken by assault - which was mostly the case because it was seldom that the Hindus surrendered - it was thoroughly sacked, its surviving population slaughtered or enslaved and all its buildings pulled down. In the next phase, the conquerors raised their own edifices for which slave labour was employed on a large scale in order to produce quick results. Cows and, many a time, Brahmanas were killed and their blood sprinkled on the sacred sites in order to render them unclean for the Hindus for all time to come. The places of worship which the Muslims built for themselves fell into several categories. The pride of place went to the Jami' Masjid which was invariably built on the site and with the materials of the most prominent Hindu temple; if the materials of that temple were found insufficient for the purpose, they could be supplemented with materials of other temples which had been demolished simultaneously. Some other mosques were built in a similar manner according to need or the fancy of those who mattered.

Temple sites and materials were also used for building the tombs of those eminent Muslims who had fallen in the fight; they were honoured as martyrs and their tombs became mazars and rauzas in course of time. As we have already pointed out, Hindus being great temple builders, temple materials could be spared for secular structures also, at least in the bigger settlements. It can thus be inferred that all masjids and mazars, particularly the Jami' Masjids which date from the first Muslim occupation of a place, stand on the site of Hindu temples; the structures we see at present may not carry evidence of temple materials used because of subsequent restorations or attempts to erase the evidence. There are very few Jami' Masjids in the country which do not stand on temple sites.

2. Places surrendered: Once in a while a place was surrendered by the Hindus in terms of an agreement that they would be treated as zimmis and their lives as well as places of worship spared. In such cases, it took some time to eradicate the "emblems of infidelity." Theologians of Islam were always in disagreement whether Hindus could pass muster as zimmis; they were not People of the Book. It depended upon prevailing power equations for the final decision to go in their favour or against them. Most of the time, Hindus lost the case in which they were never allowed to have any say. What followed was what had happened in places taken by assault, at least in respect of the Hindu places of worship. The zimmi status accorded to the Hindus seldom went beyond exaction of jizya and imposition of disabilities prescribed by Umar, the second rightly-guided Caliph (634-44 A.D.).

3. Places reoccupied by Hindus: It also happened quite frequently, particularly in the early phase of an Islamic invasion, that Hindus retook a place which had been under Muslim occupation for some time. In that case, they rebuilt their temples on new sites. Muslim historians are on record that Hindus spared the mosques and mazars which the invaders had raised in the interregnum. When the Muslims came back, which they did in most cases, they re-enacted the standard scene vis-a-vis Hindu places of worship.

4. Places in the countryside: The invaders started sending out expeditions into the countryside as soon as their stranglehold on major cities and towns in a region had been secured. Hindu places of worship were always the first targets of these expeditions. It is a different matter that sometimes the local Hindus raised their temples again after an expedition had been forced to retreat. For more expeditions came and in due course Hindu places of worship tended to disappear from the countryside as well. At the same time, masjids and mazars sprang up everywhere, on the sites of demolished temples.

5. Missionaries of Islam: Expeditions into the countryside were accompanied or followed by the missionaries of Islam who flaunted pretentious names and functioned in many guises. It is on record that the missionaries took active part in attacking the temples. They loved to live on the sites of demolished temples and often used temple materials for building their own dwellings, which also went under various high-sounding names. There were instances when they got killed in the battle or after they settled down in a place which they had helped in pillaging. In all such cases, they were pronounced shahids (martyrs) and suitable monuments were raised in their memory as soon as it was possible. Thus a large number of gumbads (domes) and ganjs (plains) commemorating the martyrs arose all over the cradle of Hindu culture and myths about them grew apace.

In India, we have a large literature on the subject in which Sayyid Salar Mas'ud, who got killed at Bahraich while attacking the local Sun Temple, takes pride of place. His mazar now stands on the site of the same temple which was demolished in a subsequent invasion. Those Muslim saints who survived and settled down have also left a large number of masjids and dargahs in the countryside. Almost all of them stand on temple sites."

Jami Masjid, Champaner