It is true that the temple of Kešavadeva which was destroyed and replaced with an Îdgãh by Aurangzeb, was built by Bir Singh Deva Bundela in the reign of Jahãngîr. But he had not built it on a site of his own choosing. An age-old tradition1 had continued to identify the KaTrã mound (on which Aurangzeb’s Îdgãh stands at present) with the spot where KaMsa had imprisoned the parents of Šrî KrishNa, and where the latter was born. The same tradition had also remembered with anguish that an earlier Kešavadeva temple which stood on this spot had been destroyed by an earlier Islamic iconoclast.
Romila Thapar has herself testified to this tradition about Kešavadeva. Referring to descriptions of the Mathura region by Greek historians, she writes, “The identification of Sourasenoi, Methora and Iobares/Jomanes do not present any problem. But the identification of Cleisobora or Carisobora or the other variants suggested such as Carysobores remain uncertain.... The reading of Cleisobora as KRSNpura has not yielded any firm identification. A possible connection could be suggested with Keshavadeva on the basis of this being an alternative name for KRSNa and there being archaeological evidence of a settlement at the site of Keshavadeva during the Mauryan period.”2
Dr. V.S. Agrawala is well-known for his study of the sculptures and inscriptions found on the ancient sites of Mathura and around. He was Curator of the museum at Mathura as well as that at Lucknow. He makes the following observations:
1. “Mathurã on the Yamunã is famous as the birthplace of KRishNa. It was the scat of the Bhãgvata religion from about second century BC to fifth Century AD…3
2. “Brãhmanical shrines of Mathurã began to be built quite early as shown by the discovery of an epigraph, viz. the Morã Well-Inscription as well as other records like the lintel of the time of ŠoDãsa. It was in the reign of Chandragupta Vikramãditya that a magnificent temple of VishNu was built at the site of KaTrã Kešavadeva… 4
3. “The rich store of Brãhmanical images in Mathurã Museum is specially noteworthy. The formulation of these images was a natural result of the strong Bhãgavata movement of which Mathurã had been the radiating centre from about the first century BC… The chronological priority in the making of Brãhmanical images to that of the Buddha should be taken as a settled fact on the basis of an image of Balarãma from JãnsuTî village. It is definitely in the style of the Šuñga period. Patañjali also writing in the same age informs us of the existence of shrines dedicated of Rãma and Kešava i.e., Balarãma and KrishNa…”5
An inscription of Svãmî MahãkSatrapa ŠoDãsa recovered by Pandit Radha Krishna in 1913 testifies that a temple dedicated to Vãsudeva existed at Mathura in the first century BC. “From an examination of the stone,” writes Professor H. Luders, “Mr. Ram Prasad Chanda came to the conclusion, which undoubtedly is correct, that the epigraph was originally incised on a square pillar which was afterwards cut lengthwise through the inscribed side into two halves and turned into door jambs.”6 Scholars have differed regarding the location of the temple mentioned in the epigraph. The latest to study and interpret the inscriptions of ŠoDãsa is Professor R.C. Sharma. “Luders thought,” he writes, “that it belonged to the Bhãgvata shrine of Morã about 12 kms to the west of Mathurã. But V.S. Agrawala opined that it must have originated from the site of KaTrã, the famous Bhãgvata spot. We shall see that the conjecture of Agrawala carries weight… The upper part of the inscription is corroded and five lines cannot be made out properly. The remaining part is better preserved and it can be translated as: ‘At the great temple of Lord Vãsudeva, a gateway and a railing was erected by Vasu son of Kaušiki Pãkšakã. May Lord Vãsudeva be pleased and promote the welfare of Svãmî Mahãksatrapa ŠoDãsa.’ This is the earliest archaeological evidence to prove the tradition of the building of KRSNa’s shrine.”7 It is possible that some more inscriptions may surface in future and take the tradition of KrishNa-worship at Mathura still farther in the past.
Another inscription found at the same site points to the same tradition prevailing in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. “A fragment of an inscribed stone slab,” writes Dr. D.C. Sircar, “was discovered in 1954 at Katra Keshavdev within Mathurã city, headquarters of the District of that name in Uttar Pradesh. It was presented by the Shri Krishna Janmabhumi Trust, Mathurã, to the local Archaeological Museum.” After describing the size of the slab and the style of writing that has survived on it, he continues, “The characters resemble those of such inscriptions of the seventh and eighth centuries belonging to the Western parts of Northern India as the Banskhera plate of Harsh (AD 606-47), the Kundesvar inscription (vs 718 = AD 661) of Aprajita, the Jhalarpatan inscription (vs 746 = AD 689) of DurgagaNa, the Kudarkot inscription of about the second half of the seventh century, the Nagar inscription (vs 741 = AD 684) of Dhanika, and the Kanaswa inscription (vs 795 = AD 738) of ŠivagaNa.”8The inscription was composed “in adoration of a god whose epithets kãl-ãñjana-rajah-puñja-dyuti, (ma)hãvarãha-rûpa and jañgama have only been preserved”. It leaves “no doubt that the reference is to the god VishNu since the expression mahãvarãha-rûpa certainty speaks of the Boar incarnation of the deity.”9 The hero of the prašasti is a king named DiNDirãja of the Maurya dynasty. “It therefore seems,” concludes Dr. Sircar, “that the king performed the deed in question in the chain of many other pious works and at the cost of a large sum of money. The purpose seems to have been to put garlands around the head of a deity whose name seems to read Šauri (i.e. VishNu; cf. the Vaishnavite adoration in verse 1).”10
That Bir Singh Dev Bundela’s choice of the site was not arbitrary is proved by another inscription discovered by Dr. A. Fuhrer in 1889 “from the excavations made by railway contractors at the Kešava mound.”11It is a long prašasti in Sanskrit stating that “Jajja, who long carried the burden of the varga together with the committee of trustees (gosThîjana) built a large temple of VishNu brilliantly white and touching the clouds.”12 The colophon in prose informs us that the prašastiwas composed by “two ‘wise’ men, Pãla and Kuladdhara (?)” and “incised by the mason Somala in SaMvat 1207 on the full moon day of Kãrttika, during the reign of his glorious majesty, the supreme king of kings, Vijayapãla.” The king cannot be identified with certainty. But SaMvat 1207 corresponds to AD 1149-51. “This king,” concludes the epigraphist, “certainly was the ruler of Mathurã at this period, and Jajja was one of his vassals. This much is absolutely certain, and the inscription also settles the date of at least one of the temples buried under the Kešava mound.”13
Why Aurangzeb Destroyed the Temple
There is no substance in the Marxist statement that the temple was destroyed because it had “acquired considerable wealth” which attracted Aurangzeb’s greed for booty or that the destruction of the temple was “politically motivated as well, for at the time when the temple was destroyed he faced problems with the Bundela as well as the Jat rebellions in the Mathura region.” We have only to refer to contemporary records to see how these explanations are wide of the mark.
The temple of Kešavadeva was destroyed in January, 1670. This was done in obedience to an imperial firmãn proclaimed by Aurangzeb on April 9, 1669. On that date, according to Ma’sîr-i-Ãlamgîrî, “The Emperor ordered the governors of all provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and strongly put down their teaching and religious practices.”14Jadunath Sarkar has cited several sources regarding the subsequent destruction of temples which went on all over the country, and right up to January 1705, two years before Aurangzeb died.15
None of the instances cited by him make any reference whatsoever to booty or the political problem of rebellion. The sole motive that stands out in every case is religious zeal. Our Marxist professors will find it very hard, if not impossible, to discover economic and/or political motives for all these instances of temple destruction. The alibis that they have invented in defence of Aurangzeb’s destruction of the Kešavadeva temple are, therefore, only plausible, if not downright fraudulent. It is difficult to believe that the learned professors did not know of Aurangzeb’s firmãndated April 9, 1669 and the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples that followed. If they did not, one wonders what sort of professors they are, and by what right they pronounce pontifically on this subject.
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
The veneer of plausibility also comes off when we look into the chronology of Hindu rebellions in the Mathura region. We find no evidence that Aurangzeb was faced with any Hindu rebellion in that region when he destroyed the Kešavadeva temple. There was no Bundela uprising in 1670 when the Kešavadeva temple was destroyed. The first Bundela rebellion led by Jujhar Singh had been put down by December, 1635 in the reign of Shãh Jahãn when that Rajput prince was killed and the ladies of his house-hold were forced into the Mughal harem. The second Bundela rebellion had ended with the suicide of Champat Rai in October, 1661. The third Bundela rebellion was still in the future. Champat Rai’s son, Chhatrasal, had joined the imperial army sent against Shivaji in 1671 when Shivaji drew his attention to what was being done to the Hindus by Aurangzeb. It may also be pointed out that our professors stretch the Mathura region too far when they include Bundelkhand in it.
The professors have put the cart before the horse by holding the Jat rebellion in the Mathura region responsible for the destruction of the Kešvadeva temple. The Jats had risen in revolt under the leadership of Gokla (Gokul) after and not before Aurangzeb issued his firmãn of April, 1969 ordering destruction of Hindu temples everywhere. This highly provocative firmãn had come as a climax to several other happenings in the Mathura region. The Hindus of this region had been victims of Muslim high-handedness for a long time, particularly in respect of their women. Murshid Qulî Khãn, the faujdãr of Mathura who died in 1638, was notorious for seizing “all their most beautiful women” and forcing them into his harem. “On the birthday of Krishna,” narrates Ma’sîr-ul-Umara, “a vast gathering of Hindu men and women takes place at Govardhan on the Jumna opposite Mathura. The Khan, painting his forehead and wearing dhoti like a Hindu, used to walk up and down in the crowd. Whenever he saw a woman whose beauty filled even the moon with envy, he snatched her away like a wolf pouncing upon a flock, and placing her in the boat which his men kept ready on the bank, he sped to Agra. The Hindu [for shame] never divulged what had happened to his daughter.”16
Another notorious faujdãr of Mathura was Abdu’n Nabî Khãn. He plundered the people unscrupulously and amassed great wealth. But his worst offence was the pulling down of the foremost Hindu temple in the heart of Mathura and building a Jãmi‘ Masjid on its site. This he did in AD 1660-61. Soon after, in 1665, Aurangzeb imposed a pilgrim tax on the Hindus. In 1668, he prohibited celebration of all Hindu festivals, particularly Holi and Diwali. The Jats who rightly regarded themselves as the defenders of Hindu hounour were no longer in a mood to take it lying.
It is true that the capture and murder of Gokul with fiendish cruelty and the forcible conversion of his family members to Islam, coincided with the destruction of the Kešavadeva temple. But there is no reason to suppose that the temple would have been spared if there was no Jat rebellion. There were no rebellions in the vicinity of many other temples which were destroyed at that time or at a later stage. The temples were destroyed in obedience to the imperial firmãn and for no other reason.
The Logic of the Argument
The real worth of the defence of Aurangzeb put up by the professors becomes evident if we lead their argument for economic and political motives to its logical conclusion. The Kešvadeva temple was not the only place of worship which was wealthy. Many mosques and dargãhs and other places of Muslim worship were bursting with riches in Aurangzeb’s time. But he is not known to have sought booty in any one of them. There were several rebellions led by Muslims against the rule of Aurangzeb. Some of these rebellions had their centres in places of Muslim worship. Yet Aurangzeb is not known to have destroyed any one of these places before or after suppressing the rebellions. So, even if we accept the economic and political motives for the destruction of Hindu temples, an irreducible minimum of the religious motive remains. That alone can explain the erection of an Îdgãh on the site of the Kešavadeva temple and taking away the idols to Agra for being trodden under foot by the faithful.
The Argument about Historicity
Now we can take up the last point by raising which the professors seem to clinch their case in defence of Aurangzeb. They question the historicity of Šrî KrishNa and dismiss him as a mythological character who can have no place of birth. The implication is that Hindus are getting unduly excited by associating the Kešavadeva temple with the birth-place of Šrî KrishNa and should cool down after discovering that the temple was built by a Rajput protege of Jahãngîr, at a nondescript place and on a much later date. This is a strange argument, to say the least. It means that the sanctity of a religious place declines in proportion to its dissociation from a historical personality. One wonders if the professors would extend the logic to Muslim ziãrats and qadam-sharîfs which are associated with characters who cannot be traced in any history. Some of theseziãrats have been built on the sites and from the debris of Hindu temples according to unimpeachable archaeological evidence. The qadam-sharîfs are without a doubt the Buddha’s feet carved in the early phases of Buddhism and worshipped in subsequent ages by the Buddhists as well as the Hindus. The Ka‘ba at Mecca was taken over by Muhammad because, according to him, it was built by Abraham in the first instance and occupied by the polytheists at a later stage. Should the Muslims take the desecration or demolition of the Ka‘ba less seriously if they are told that Abraham has never figured in human history? There is no evidence that he did.
Of course, Šrî KrishNa is a historical character which the professors can find out for themselves by reading Bankim Chandra, Šrî Aurobindo and many other savants who have, unlike them, studied the subject. But that is not the point. The Šrî KrishNa for whom the Hindus really care is a far greater figure than the Šrî KrishNa of history. What they really worship is the Šrî KrishNa of mythology. There are many temples and places of pilgrimage all over India associated with this mythological Šrî KrishNa. So are the various šaktipîThas associated with the limbs of Pãrvatî scattered by Šiva during the course of his anguish over her death. So are the various jyotirliñgasand most other places of Hindu pilgrimage. In fact, a majority of the renowned places of Hindu worship and pilgrimage have only mythology in support of their sanctity. Are the professors telling the Hindus that the desecration or destruction of these places should cause no heart-burn to them because the characters associated with these places are drawn from mythology, and that an iconoclast is badly needed in every case for blowing up the myth?
The Birth-Place of Šrî Rãma
Having cleared the “confusion” over the birth-place of Šrî KrishNa, the professors proceed to clear a similar “confusion” regarding the birth-place of Šrî Rãma. We are ignoring their insinuation that the second “confusion” has been created “probably deliberately”. The insinuation has its source in political polemics and not in academic propriety to which professors are expected to adhere. We are also ignoring the implication that Šrî Rãma being another mythological character is not entitled to a place of birth because, mercifully, the professors concede that a place calledRãma-janmabhûmi did exist at Ayodhya, and that it did not occupy the site of a Buddhist monastery demolished by the devotees of Šrî Rãma. We shall only examine the point they have raised, namely, that the mosque known as the Babari Masjid does not stand on the site of theRãma-janmabhûmi.
The professor have referred us to a “Persian text of the mid-nineteenth century” which “states that the Babari mosque was adjacent to the Sita-ka-rasoi-ghar and was known as Rasoi-Sita mosque and adjoined the area associated with the birthplace of Rama”. What they mean in plain language is that the real Babari Masjid, also known as Rasoi-Sita Masjid, has disappeared or been demolished by the Hindus at some stage, and that there is no substance in the current Hindu claim that die mosque known as the Babari Masjid at present stands on the site of a temple built on theRãma-janmabhûmi.
This contention could have been examined satisfactorily if the professors had named the Persian text and told us whether, according to it, the Rasoi-Sita Masjid stood on the right or left of the Sita-ka-rasoi-ghar. We can, therefore, thank the professors only for admitting that the Muslims did raise a mosque on a spot which, we may be permitted to infer, was also sacred for the Hindus. But, at the same time, we cannot help wondering why the professors are at pains to pin-point the exact spot where Šrî Rãma was born instead of conceding that the temple built in his memory must have occupied a large area. Maps of the area in which the mosque now known as the Babari Masjid stands, show clearly that the site of the Sita-ka-rasoi-ghar is adjacent to the mosque. Is it not possible that what is now known as the Babari Masjid was also known as Rasoi-Sita Masjid in the mid-nineteenth century? Moreover, the mosque in dispute has been named as the Babari Masjid by the Muslims and not by the Hindus.
Thus the Persian text dragged in by the professors creates complications rather than clear the “confusion” which, according to the professors, exists in the Hindu mind. On the face of it, it looks like a deliberate attempt to side-track the issues involved. The suspicion gets strengthened when the professors go on to suggest that prior to the nineteenth century the dispute was not over theRãma-janmabhûmi but over “the totally different site of Hanuman-baithak.” No doubt the suggestion admits, although inadvertently, that there was a Hanuman temple at Ayodhya which also the Muslims had converted into a mosque. But we are trying to straighten the record regarding a mosque standing on the site of the Rãma-janmabhûmi temple.17
Finally, their thesis is that “acts of intolerance have been committed in India by followers of all religions.” Having found it difficult to hide the atrocities committed by Islam in India, they have invented stories of Buddhist, Jain and Animist temples destroyed by the Hindus. We shall examine these stories in some detail at a later stage in this study. Here it should suffice to say that in their effort to whitewash Islam they have ended by blackening Hinduism. The exercise is devoid of all academic scruples and is no more than a neurotic exhibition of their deep-seated anti-Hindus animus.18
The Appropriate Context
What is most amazing about our Marxist professors, however, is that while they are never tired of preaching that facts of history should be placed in their proper context, they have studiously managed to miss the only context which explains simply and satisfactorily the destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic invaders. Our reference here is to the theology of Islam systematised on the basis of the Qu’rãn and the Sunnah of the Prophet. This theology lays down loud and clear that it is a pious act for Muslims to destroy the temples of the infidels and smash their idols. Conversion of infidel temples into mosques wherever practicable, is a part of the same doctrine. We have presented this theology at some length in Section IV.
Destruction of idols and conversion of infidel places of worship into mosques became obligatory on Muslim conquerors and kings whenever they got the opportunity. The plunder which the iconoclasts obtained from infidel places of worship was not the main motive; that was only an additional bounty which Allãh had promised to bestow on them for performing pious deeds and earning religious merit. Those who want to know the relevant prescriptions of Islam should read the orthodox biographies of the Prophet, the orthodox collections of Hadîth, and the authentic commentaries by recognised imãms rather than swallow old wive’s tales told by Marxist professors.
This is the simple and straightforward explanation why Muslim invaders of India destroyed Hindu temples on a large scale and converted many of them into mosques. The economic and political motives, invented by the Marxists, are not only far-fetched but also do not explain the destruction and/or conversion of numerous temples which contained no riches, and where no conspiracy could be conceived.
The Muslim apologists who have been in a hurry to borrow the Marxist explanation do not know what they are doing. The explanation converts Islam into a convenient cover for brigandage and the greatest Muslim heroes into mere bandits. In the mouth of those Muslims who know what their religion prescribes vis-a-vis infidel places of worship, this apologetics is dishonest as well. They should have the honesty to admit the tenets of the religion to which they subscribe. It is a different matter whether those tenets can be defended on any spiritual or moral grounds. That is a subject on which Islam will have to do some introspection and hold a dialogue with Hinduism some day.
Finally, the professors want us to remember that “many Hindu temples were untouched during Aurangzeb’s reign, and even some new ones were built”. The underlying assumption is that Aurangzeb’s writ ran in every nook and corner of India, all through his reign. But the assumption is unwarranted. There is plenty of evidence in Persian histories themselves that there were regions in which Hindu resistance to Aurangzeb’s terror was too strong to be overcome even by repeated expeditions. It is no credit to Aurangzeb that the Hindus in those regions were able to save their old temples and also build some new ones. The Hindus all over north India were up in arms against the Muslim rule during Aurangzeb’s long absence in the South. If they built some new temples, it was in spite of Aurangzeb. The subject needs a detailed scrutiny on the basis of concrete cases located in space and time. It must, however, be pointed out that the professors bid goodbye to all sense of proportion when they gloat on the few temples that survived or were newly built while they forget the large number of temples that were destroyed. They also forget that, in the present context, exceptions only prove the rule.