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Adina Masjid, Malda District, West Bengal
Feb 2013

Shiv Mandir Desecrated

The Adina or Friday mosque is situated on National Hiighway No. 34 between Raiganj in West Dinajpur district of West Bengal and MaIda. 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 mingle 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 statuettes.

Passage of time must have taken its toll on the condition of the Adina mosque. Lay eyes are unlikely to have captured what experts had seen earlier. Amongst them, who better than Cunningham. Let us see what Alexander Cunningham, Director General of ASI had to say after his visit during 1879-80, in his report entitled A Tour in Bihar and Bengal Volume XV: 

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 stone is 4 feet in length, and apparently formed part of a frieze. The main ornament is a line of circular panels 7'14 inches in diameter formed by continuous intersecting lotus stalks. There are five complete panels, and two half-panels which have beer.' 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, Part II:

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 (rom 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 discovered similar trefoils at Kylas over figures of Parvati, (see report Part I of last year). That these trefoils are really the canopies over the statues originally enshrined 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, had 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 tumed 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. 

A more recent work of scholarship is entitled Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal by Dr Syed Mahmudul Hasan. In his words:

There is a difference of opinion especially between 1.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 partial enough to quote various scholars at length, although he betrays some unhappiness at the allegation about use of Hindu material. 

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.


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