8. Instant Vandalism

A furlong beyond the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is the triple temple complex built by an ancestor of Prithviraj 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 without 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 sides 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 feat 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 Chanhan, 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 a 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.
The pillars are some 30 feet high gorgeously carved either with exquisite designs up to a height of about 26 feet, thereafter adorned with delicate figurines. Uncannily, there is not a single figure whose face has not been cut off. Nowhere on Europe does one see such acts of vandalism, except what the original barbarian vandals themselves perpetrated under their king Gaiseric, in the wake of the conquest of Rome in 455 AD. Hereafter, the word vandal became synonym with wilful desecration and destruction. The figurines on all the relics on display at the Rajputana Museum as well as those salvaged by the Archaeological Survey of Indi (ASI) duly locked in the compound of the Jhopra have been systematically defaced.Amongst the thousands of stone heads, not a single nose or an eye is visible.

Mind you, the ASI has done nothing to excavate or salvage anything in the comlplex since independence. With the passing of the Protection of National Monulmeets Act, 1951 (see Annexure II), all archaeological activities have been frozen.The credit for the excavations goes to Cunningham and Dr. D R Bhandarkar; duing the first half of the 20th century by the latter. Details, are available in the Rajasthan District Gazetteer, Ajmer, 1966.
Muhammad Ghauri presumably Offered prayers within the stipulated two and a half days Subsequently in about 1200 AD the Adhai Din Ka Jhopra was completed with a well-carved facade which is best described in the words of the ASI Report for 1893 : 

The whole of the exterior is covered up with a network of tracery so finely and delicately wrought that it can only be compared to a fine lace. Cunningham described the exterior of the Jhopra even more eloquently: For gorgeous prodigality of ornament, beautiful richness of tracery, delicate sharpness off finish, laborious accuracy of workmanship, endless variety of detail, all of which are due to the Hindu masons, this building may justly vie with the noblest buildings which the world has yet produced.

To come back to Hindu sculpture, Mulkraj Anand has said:  

This relief in Ajmer Museum is carved of intricately related figures, obviously intended for decorative effect. It rises above mere adornment by the delicate application of the chisel to achieve a composition which is compact and balanced. 

But there was no mention of the pathos of defacement and desecration. In fact, there is nothing either compact or balanced about the edifice. The exterior added by Aibak and his successors comprises carvings of the verses from the Holy Quran on a yellow and distinctly softer stone compared to the Hindu edifice behind it. This crudity of effort is overlooked by Mulkraj Anand, presumbaly as a tribute to his idea of secularism.
Such then was the vandalism with which the sultanate in Delhi began. As with the Quwwatul Islam masjid next to the Qutb Minar, which was also built by Sultan Aibak, so with Adhai Din Ka Jhopra at Ajmer. Both are indelible specimens of humiliation perpetrated by the victor upon the vanquished.