Vidisha was desecrated in turn by lltutmish,
Alaucldir Khili, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat
and Aurungzeb

12. Four Vandals, One Temple

The Interior of the Bijamandal mosque, Vidisha, which was a splended temple desecrated four times by four times by four BadshahsOne night during the monsoon of 1991, the rain was so heavy that it washed away the wall that was concealing the frontage of the Bijamandal mosque established by Aurangzeb in 1682. This masjid is a centre of attraction in the district town of Vidisha situated some 40 Kms from Bhopal. The broken wall exposed so many Hindu idols that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was left with no choice but to exavate. For three centuries, the idols were buried under the platform, on the northern side, which was used as the hall of prayer conducted specially on days of Eid. Fortunately, the district collector in 1991 happened to offer protection to the surveyors of ASI, who were otherwise reluctant to expose themselves to the wrath of bigots.
Rich treasures of sculpture were thus salvaged. Some of the statues were particularly splendid; some were as high as eight feet. The work of the archaeologists, however, didnot last long. The ASI soon received instructions to stop further work. The officer of the ASI working on the excavations was transferred, as was the colector. Whether this had anything to do with the new Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh, 1991-94, who happened to be the leader of the self-styled secular lobby in Madhya Pradesh, is not known. Since then, the Bijamandal mosque is marking time with a great deal of sculpture  hidden under its southern side.
Cunningham had personally visited Malwa during 1874 AD as well as 1876 AD. This is what he had to write in Volume X of the ASI Report:  

Inside the town there is a stone masJid called Bijay Mandir, or the temple of Bijay. This Hindu name is said to have been derived from the founder of the original temple, Bijay Rani. The temple was thrown down by the order of Aurangzeb, and the present masjid erected in its place; but the Hindus still frequent it at the time of the annual fair. By the Muhammadans it is called the Alamgiri masjid, while Bhilsa (earlier name of Vidisha) itsef is called Alamgirpur. The building is 78 1/2 feet long bye 26 1/2 feet broad, and the roof is supported on four rows of Plain square pillars with 13 openings to the front.

Aurangzeb, 1658-1707, was the last of the iconoclasts who had a go at this edifice which was then known as the Vijay Mandir from which the successor mosque was known as Bijamandal. He celebrated the visit by renaming Vidisha as Alamgirpur. Despite some excavations between 1971 and 1974 which clearly showed that Bijamandal was originally a temple, namaz at Eid time continued right until 1965 when Dr. Dwarka Prasad Mishra’s government banned worship in, what was a protected monument. Mishra earned the gratitude of most Vidishans and man Others in Madhya Pradesh.

Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, 1526-37, was the iconoclast of Vidisha, preceding Aurangzeb. He captured the town and about the first thing he did was to desecrate theVijay Mandir claiming that the conquest of Bhilsa was in the service of Islam. The episode is recorded in Mirat-l-Sikandri. About 200 years earlier, Sultan Alauddin Khilji, 1293, had also enjoyed the ‘devout’ pleasure of damaging Vija Mandir. The honour of being the first iconoclast, however, went to Sultan Shamsuddin lltutmish, 1234, yet another half a century earlier. This episode is describe with relish in Tabqat-I-Nasiri.

Not many temples have had the misfortune of having been desecrated four times. Being a huge structure, built in solid stone, it was able to survive and be restituted as a mandir, three times. The ASI has still to undo the damage perpetrate by Aurangzeb. Excavation work which stopped some nine years ago is yet to be resumed. Admittedly, it is difficult toredeem the pristine glory of Vijay Mandir , whose scale and dimensions are reminiscent ofthe Konark temple. Nevertheless, it would be a shame, if independent India allows its architectural treasures to remain in a state of desecration and remain buried without an attempt to even redeem them.

It is all the more unfortunate that the ASI is not being allowed to work on the site despite pressure from local citizens. No other temple turned mosque has witnessed more repeated agitations and satyagraha, than Vijay Mandir. The citizens of Vidisha relate, how year after year, at Eid time they used to offer satyagraha and get arrested. Leaders who agitated even 50 years ago, are still alive to narrate the saga of their efforts.

Octogenarian Niranjan Verma, a former parliamentarian, remembers how Jawaharlal Nibru found some reason or the other not to meet the delegations led by him. Eventually, he diverted Verma to see Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who could not spare the time to visit Vidisha but deputed Prof Humayun Kabir, the then Education Secretary. The professor was impartial, and immediately conceded in the presence of many a local citizen that it was indeed a temple. However, at this late stage, since the  matter would take on political hues, as a bureaucrat, he could do little.
Verona and his supporters also approached Dr Kailash Nath Katju when he became Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The reply they got was that Verma and his men should first persuade the Congressmen of Vidisha into agreeing that the Chief Minister could intervene in Bijamandal. Not long after that, the delegation met the then Chief Minister Mandloi who, incidentally, was sympathetic. His only problem was the fear of Nehru’s wrath, which he candidly admitted. As already mentioned, Mishra did bring a halt to namaz being conducted in the edifice. His government donated Rs.40,000 for the construction of a separate idgaah nearby. By then Jawaharlal Nehru had been succeeded by the not antipathic Lal Bahadur shastri.
A visit to Vidisha and interaction with the man in the street, would reflect that there is a lingering, although suppressed, but bitter resentment against the government treatment of what they believe to be their dearest treasure, architectural as well as sentimental.The moral of a pilgrimage to Vidisha is that no purpose would be served by hushing up what is naked history.

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