A furlong beyond the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is the triple
temple complex built by an ancestor of Prithviraj Chauhan. The complex also contained the Sanskrit
pathshala or school founded by the same Chauhan Vigraharaja III around 1158 AD.
He was an avid litterateur who wrote plays. One of these called Harakeli Natak was
carved on plates of black stones which are even today displayed in the Rajputana Museum in
the Akbar Fort in Ajmer. Also, on exhibition are rows of pretty carvings numbering about a
hundred, brought from the complex. Another drama written by a court poet Somadev was
similarly found. The sand stone statuettes have survived nearly 900 years except that the
faces of all the figures were hacked out systematically. The temple complex also has a
long store room which houses more of the many pretty relics. The lesser relics litter the
compound as if they are there for anyone to take away.
This mosque, called Adhai Din Ka Jhopra, is a ready object of shuddhi
or purification to again becoming a temple. Certainly that is what Cunninghum implied.
In the ASI report written by him in 1864-65, he found it difficult to follow some parts of
the plan of the Quwwatul Islam mosque at Delhi, but nearly every part of the plan of the Ajmer
mosque is still traceable, so that the original design of the architect can be
restored without much difficulty.. Externally it is a square of 259 feet each side,
with four peculiar star-shaped towers at the corners. There are only two entrances, one to
the east and the other to the south, the north side being built against the scarped rock
of the hill. The interior consists of a quadrangle 200 feet by 175 feet, surrounded on all
four sides by cloisters of Hindu pillars. The mosque itself, which forms the western side
of the quadrangle, is 259 feet long by 57/1/2 feet broad, including the great screen wall,
which is no less than 11 1/2 feat thick and 56 feet high.
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 Chanhan, 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.
The Jhopra is among the first in a series of temple desecrations perpetrated
by foreign rulers of India. The earlier atrocities were by Mahmud Ghazni, who raided but
did not stay back to rule. The triple temples were so attractive that the desecrator chose
to retain all, or most of the pillars. There are 70 of them under three roofs, which meet
and appear to be one integrated whole. And there are other pillars beyond the covered
edifice, which looks like a pavilion in splendid stone.
The pillars are some 30 feet high gorgeously carved either with exquisite designs up to
a height of about 26 feet, thereafter adorned with delicate figurines. Uncannily, there is
not a single figure whose face has not been cut off. Nowhere on Europe does one see such
acts of vandalism, except what the original barbarian vandals themselves perpetrated under
their king Gaiseric, in the wake of the conquest of Rome in 455 AD. Hereafter, the word vandal
became synonym with wilful desecration and destruction. The figurines on all the relics on
display at the Rajputana Museum as well as those salvaged by the Archaeological Survey of
Indi (ASI) duly locked in the compound of the Jhopra have been systematically
defaced.Amongst the thousands of stone heads, not a single nose or an eye is visible.
Mind you, the ASI has done nothing to excavate or salvage anything in the comlplex since
independence. With the passing of the Protection of National Monulmeets Act, 1951 (see
Annexure II), all archaeological activities have been frozen.The credit for the
excavations goes to Cunningham and Dr. D R Bhandarkar; duing the first half of the 20th
century by the latter. Details, are available in the Rajasthan District Gazetteer, Ajmer,
Muhammad Ghauri presumably Offered prayers within the stipulated two and a half days
Subsequently in about 1200 AD the Adhai Din Ka Jhopra was completed with a well-carved
facade which is best described in the words of the ASI Report for 1893 : The whole of
the exterior is covered up with a network of tracery so finely and delicately wrought that
it can only be compared to a fine lace. Cunningham described the exterior of the
Jhopra even more eloquently: For gorgeous prodigality of ornament, beautiful richness
of tracery, delicate sharpness off finish, laborious accuracy of workmanship, endless
variety of detail, all of which are due to the Hindu masons, this building may justly vie
with the noblest buildings which the world has yet produced.
To come back to Hindu sculpture, Mulkraj Anand has said: This relief
in Ajmer Museum is carved of intricately related figures, obviously intended for
decorative effect. It rises above mere adornment by the delicate application of the chisel
to achieve a composition which is compact and balanced. But there was no mention of
the pathos of defacement and desecration. In fact, there is nothing either compact or
balanced about the edifice. The exterior added by Aibak and his successors comprises
carvings of the verses from the Holy Quran on a yellow and distinctly softer stone
compared to the Hindu edifice behind it. This crudity of effort is overlooked by Mulkraj
Anand, presumbaly as a tribute to his idea of secularism.
Such then was the vandalism with which the sultanate in Delhi began. As
with the Quwwatul Islam masjid next to the Qutb Minar, which was also built by Sultan
Aibak, so with Adhai Din Ka Jhopra at Ajmer. Both are indelible specimens of humiliation
perpetrated by the victor upon the vanquished.