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Iconoclasm
Adhai Din ka Jhopra: Instant Vandalism
Jul 2015

 A furlong beyond the dargah of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti is the triple temple complex built by an ancestor of Prithiviraj 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 with 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 sided 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 feet 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 Chauhan, 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 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.

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