A Saraswati Temple – Converted into a Mosque by Muslim Invaders
There are many Hindu temples that were buried in the dust of time or they were broken and other buildings were built over those temples. A very famous temple, Ayodhya, which was demolished and converted into a mosque by the one Mughal invader. But recently the Supreme Court of India has ordered to build that temple again. We will discuss here one such ancient temple, which was once a Saraswati temple, but the Muslim invaders converted it into a mosque which is known as “Arhai Din Ka Jhonpra”
Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra (literally “shed of 2½ days”) is a large and imposing structure in the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan, India. It is one of the oldest mosques in India.
Originally a Sanskrit college with a temple of Saraswati within it, it was converted into a mosque by Qutb-ud-Din-Aibak, on the orders of Muhammad Ghori, in 1192 CE.
However, a large number of architectural members and sculptures of temples are lying inside the verandah of the complex for safety and security purposes by the department which shows the existence of a Hindu temple in its vicinity during circa 11th-12th Century AD.
This mosque, built from the dismantled remains of temples, is known as Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra possibly from the fact that a fair used to be held here for two and a half days.
How it Got Name as “Arhai Din Ka Jhonpra”?
The name Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra is not an old one. It nowhere occurs in any historical or other writing. The building was in old days known only as a mosque, and for centuries this was the only mosque in Ajmer. No mosque is anywhere known as a Jhonpra.
The name Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra was given to it, as fakirs began to assemble here in the times of the Mahrattas (latter half of the eighteenth century) to celebrate the urs anniversary of the death of their leader Panjaba Shah, which lasted for two und-a-half days.
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.
Colonel Tod supposed that the building was a Jain temple which was converted into a mosque by the early Muslim invaders, while General Cunningham supposed that it was built in two-and-a-half days, as its name implies, of the spoils of Hindu temples demolished by the bigotry of the conquerors.
In 1902 a large white marble linga was discovered in the course of excavation in the court-yard. This confirms the Bralimanical character of the early temple, often incorrectly described as Jain.A. L. P. Tucker in the Archaeological Survey Report for 1902-3, p. 81.
Both hypotheses are incorrect. A close examination of the materials used as well as the general plan of the building clearly shows that it was neither a Jain temple nor was it built in two-and-a-half days, of the materials of several temples. Even its conversion into a mosque took up several years.
From an antiquarian as well as an architectural point of view, the Adhai-din-la-Jhonpru is one of the most important buildings in India.
There is no building in India which either for historical interest or archeological importance is more worthy of preservation.” Colonel Tod holds it to be one of the most perfect as well as the most ancient monuments of Hindu architecture” still preservedGeneral Cunningham
In its design and accomplishment, this building was a fit monument of the reign of Emperor Visaldeva. As a work of art, it was an exquisite ornament of the Capital of his Empire. As a specimen of Hindu sculpture, this college building marks the high water-mark of excellence attained in that art.
It was originally one building, as the design easily traceable plainly shows, and was used as a college-house.
It was built in the form of a square 259 feet each side, with cloisters on all the four sides enclosing a spacious courtyard, and four splendid star-shaped cloister towers on the four corners, surmounted by magnificent chantress. The building stood on a high terrace and was originally constructed against the scraped rock of the hill, having the Saraswati Mandir (Temple of Learning) on the western side, and entrances towards the south and east. The interior consisted of a quadrangle 200 feet by 175 feet.
The college was built about 1168 A.D. by Visaldeva, the first Chohan Emperor of India.
Conversion to Mosque
They then began to convert it into a mosque; the alteration consisted principally of the addition of the magnificent screen-wall, consisting of seven arches fronting the western side, and the insertion in the back wall, of the inevitable mihrab or arch inseparable from a mosque, and the erection of a pulpit or mimbar near it.
The emamgah or mihrab in white marble was built in 1199 A.D. and the screen wall was added during the time of Sultan Shamsuddin Altamash, about 1213 A.D. The conversion was carried on under the management of different persons, the names of two of whom are recorded Abubakar, the son of Ahmed (1200 A.D.), and Ahmed, son of Mohammad the Aariz. Thus, the work of reconstruction or conversion lasted from before 1199 to 1213 A.D., a period of more than fifteen years.
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The Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra is rich in inscriptions found buried in the court-yard in 1875-8 A.D., are of exceptional interest to the historian as well as to the student of Sanskrit literature.
These, and the two small inscriptions, which refer to the construction of the original building, long escaped observation is in the Sanskrit language.
The two small inscriptions are placed on the lintels of the small stair-cases and are
श्रोवियाराम देबेन कास्तिमायतनमिवंMeans: “ This building was constructed by the illustrious King Vigrahuraj.”
During an 1875–76 archaeological survey discovered inscriptions referring to a Sanskrit college were unearthed in the mosque premises. Several sculptures and 6 Devanagari basalt tablets (slabs) were recovered from the site. These artifacts are now exhibited at the Ajmer Museum. The tablets are as follows.
Tablets 1 and 2 contain large fragments of a Sanskrit play Lalita-Vigraharaja Nataka. It was composed by Mahakavi Somadeva, in honor of the king Vigraharaja. The play depicts the story of king Vigraharaja. It tells of his love with princess Desaldevi, and his war preparations against a Turkish king named Hammira.
Tablet 3 and 4 contain fragments of Harakeli Nataka, a play attributed to Vigraharaja himself. The play is written in honor of the god Hara (Shiva). The play is dated 22 November 1153 in an inscription.
Tablet 5 contains portions of an untitled Sanskrit poem, which praises several devas (deities). The poem states that the Chahamana (Chauhan) dynasty descends from Surya.
Tablet 6 contains the fragments of a prasasti (praise) of the Chauhan kings of Ajmer. The inscription states that the king Ajaideva moved his residence to Ajmer, and defeated the king Naravarma of Malwa. After handing over the throne to his son, he took up Vanaprastha (retirement) in the forest of Pushkar. His son adorned Ajmer with the blood of the Turushkas (Turkic people) and captured the elephants of the kings of Malwa.
From one of the Delhi Siwalik Pillar inscriptions, we know that in reality Visaldeva-Vigraharaja repeatedly and successfully made war against the Mohamedan invaders,” and finally drove them out of Hindustan.
An amazingly beautiful building whose beauty cannot be described. If it looks so beautiful today then it would have been even more beautiful in its time.
By looking at the carvings on the walls, it can be easily understood that this building must have been a Hindu temple. Apart from this, many inscriptions in the excavation have been found which also proves that this temple was the Saraswati temple built during the reign of Hindu king Vigraharaja.
There were so many beautiful temples that were demolished by foreign invaders. It is our duty to identify these kinds of monuments and promote their reality to the world.
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Ajmer Historical and Descriptive Book by Har Bilas Sarda