In his many years in Kolkata, the author never heard any mention of iconoclastic
attacks in Bengal. The area was therefore not on his mind, when looking for temples which
had been converted into mosques. Yet recently to his utter surprise a livewire Bengali
young man told him that he had been to the Adina mosque in Pandua, 18 km north of Malda.
At the first opportunity thereafter, the author visited the spot duly equipped with a
The Adina or Friday mosque is situated on National Hiighway No.34 between Raiganj in West
Dinajpur district of West Bengal and Malda. At first glimpse, the dual colour of the
edifice walls strikes the visitor. The first ten feet immediately above the ground are
grey in colour because of stone tiles. The upper 12 feet comprise of red brick work.
Evidently, the current mosque was superimposed on an earlier building.
Hardly had one walked a few steps after entering the main gate, when one noticed, on the
wall outside, distinct remnants of Hindu deities. They are carved on solid stone which on
the outside mingles quite naturally with the tile work of the same stone. One stone slab
displays Ganesh by the side of his consort. There are several others including the crests
of doorways at the entrance of the northern as well as the eastern face. Inside the
mosque, the stone work is equally convincing that the original building was a temple.
There are some 20 alcoves in the northern 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
The author's visit to the Adina mosque was in February, 2001. Passage of time must have
taken its toll on the condition of the Adina mosque. Moreover, the author's lay eyes are
unlikely to have captured what experts had seen earlier. Amongst them, who better than
Cunningham? Let us see what he had to say after his visit during 1879-80, in his reports
entitled A Tour in Bihar and Bengal Volume XU:
The steps leading up to the pulpit have fallen down, and, on turning over one of the
steps. I found a line of Hindu sculpture of very fine and bold execution. This main
ornament stone is 4 feet in length, and apparently formed part of a frieze. The main
ornament is a line of circular panels 71/4 inches in diameter, formed by continuous
intersecting lotus stalks. There are five complete panels, and two half-panels which have
been cut through. These two contain portions of an elephant and a rhinoceros. In the
complete panels there are (1) a cow and calf; (2) human figures broken; (3) a goose;
(4) a man and woman, and a crocodile; (5) two elephants. The carving is deep, and the
whole has been polished. In the niche itself, the two side pillars which support the
cusped arch are also pickings from Hindu temples.
Some years later in 1888, a civil engineer of ASI in Bengal, Joseph Daviditch Milik
Beglaroff, surveyed the Adina mosque. This is what he had to say in his official
report entitled Archaeological survey of Bengal, PartII:
The West wall of the Masjid it will be seen, barely leaves room for these. A further
circumstance which may and possibly did determine, the position of the West wall of the
Masjid, is, that in all probability, the sanctum of the temple, judging from the remnants
of heavy pedestals of statues, now built into the pulpit, and the superb canopied
trefoils, now doing duty as prayer niches, stood where the main prayer niche now stands;
nothing would probably so tickle the fancy of a bigot, as the power of placing the sanctum
of his orthodox cult, (in this case the main prayer niche) on the spot, where the hated
infidel had his sanctum; and utilising to the honor of his own religion, the very canopies
of the idolatrous statues, for there is no doubt whatever, in my mind, comparing these
trefoils with the recently discoered similar trefoils at Kylas over fgures of
Parvati, (see report PartI of last year) that these trefoils are really the canopies over
the statues originally enshrine here.
There is a local legend to the effect that the Adina mosque was built by Sultan
Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah. His original name was Jadu who, at the age of 12, bud been made
to convert to Islam by his father, Raja Ganesh. Subsequently, the Raja regretted his
action and had a swarnadhenu yagna ceremony associated with a golden cow. Jadu
alias Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah, however, refused to abandon Islam. Thereafter Hindu
courtiers tried to put Mahendra Dev, Jadu's brother, on the throne. This apparently
enraged Jalaluddin so much that he turned into an iconoclast who not only destroyed idols
and temples but also forced many Hindus to embrace Islam.
This legend, however, in no way explains as to why a Muslim should proudly include stones
with carvings of Hindu deities on them when building a mosque? When the rubble of temples
was used for building a masjid, the stones with carvings were turned inwards so that they
could not be seen. It does not make sense that the Muslim builder would go out of his way
to display Hindu figures on the outside, whether on a wall or as crests on doorways or
below a mimbar. Which all goes to prove that the Adina mosque is a masjid
superimposed on a desecrated temple and is an ideal object of shuddhi.
On return to Delhi, the author looked for literature on the Adina mosque. There has
obviously been a fair amount of work done on this place of worship. Memoirs of Gaur and
Pandua by M. Abid All Khan subsequently revised by H.E. Stapleton. A more recent work of
scholarship is entitled Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal by Dr Syed
Evidently, local legend as to who built the Adina mosque and why,
appears to be incorrect. According to scholars, it was established by Sultan Sikandar Shah
between 1366 and 1374 AD. There is a difference of opinion especially between
J.H.Ravenshaw and other scholars as to whether Gaur, the famous capital of medieval Bengal
was older or whether Hazrat Pandua, where Adina is located, flourished earlier.
The significance of the controversy is about how much rubble from
pre-Islamic edifices could have been used. Dr Hasan is impartial enough to quote various
scholars at length, although he betrays some unhappiness at the allegation about use of
Hindu material. For example, he says Ilahi Bakhsh, Creighton, Ravenshaw,
Buchanan-Hamilton, Westmacott, Beglar, Cunningham, King, and a host of other historians
and archaeologists offer glowing testimony to the utilisation of non-Muslim materials, but
none of them ventured to say that existing temples were dismantled and materials provided
for the construction of magnificent monuments in Gaur and Hazrat Pandua. He accuses
E.G.Havell of being so intolerant as not to give any credit to the Muslim builders for the
use of radiating arches, domes, minarets and delicate relief works.
Havell maintained that the central mehrab of the Adina masjid at
Hazrat Pandua is so obviously Hindu in design, as to hardly require any comment. The
image of Vishnu or Surya has trefoil arched canopy, symbolizing the aura of the god, of
exactly the same type as the outer arch of the mihrab, Beglar says that the Muslims
Delighted in placing the sanctum of his orthodox cult (in this case the main prayer niche)
on the spot, where hated infidel had his sanctum. S.K. Saraswati is also
emphatic about the Hindu origin of the mosque. He has not been quoted as he was a Hindu
and therefore could have been biased. In this contexts Muslim, Christian or British
scholars would appear to lend greater credences.
The credit for starting the controversy over the Adina, however, goes
to Munshi Ilahi Bakhsh of Malda. He wrote that it is worth observing that in front of the chaukath
or lintel of the Adina masjid, there was a broken and polished idol, and that there
were other idols lying about. So it appears that, in fact, this mosque was originally a
temple adorned with idols.