15. Adina Masjid

Southern face of Adina mosque, Pandua, Malda district, West BengalIn his many years in Kolkata, the author never heard any mention of iconoclastic attacks in Bengal. The area was therefore not on his mind, when looking for temples which had been converted into mosques. Yet recently to his utter surprise a livewire Bengali young man told him that he had been to the Adina mosque in Pandua, 18 km north of Malda. At the first opportunity thereafter, the author visited the spot duly equipped with a camera.

The Adina or Friday mosque is situated on National Hiighway No.34 between Raiganj in West Dinajpur district of West Bengal and Malda. At first glimpse, the dual colour of the edifice walls strikes the visitor. The first ten feet immediately above the ground are grey in colour because of stone tiles. The upper 12 feet comprise of red brick work. Evidently, the current mosque was superimposed on an earlier building.

Hardly had one walked a few steps after entering the main gate, when one noticed, on the wall outside, distinct remnants of Hindu deities. They are carved on solid stone which on the outside mingles quite naturally with the tile work of the same stone. One stone slab displays Ganesh by the side of his consort. There are several others including the crests of doorways at the entrance of the northern as well as the eastern face. Inside the mosque, the stone work is equally convincing that the original building was a temple.

There are some 20 alcoves in the northern wall. They all give the impression of temple carvings. If there be any doubt, it is set at rest by what was used as mimbar or the pulpit for the Imam. The face of the last step is covered with carvings of two female figures which, of course, have been defaced but are still unmistakably human statuettes. The author’s visit to the Adina mosque was in February, 2001. Passage of time must have taken its toll on the condition of the Adina mosque. Moreover, the author’s lay eyes are unlikely to have captured what experts had seen earlier. Amongst them, who better than Cunningham? Let us see what he had to say after his visit during 1879-80, in his reports entitled A Tour in Bihar and Bengal Volume XU:

The steps leading up to the pulpit have fallen down, and, on turning over one of the steps. I found a line of Hindu sculpture of very fine and bold execution. This main ornament stone is 4 feet in length, and apparently formed part of a frieze. The main ornament is a line of circular panels 71/4 inches in diameter, formed by continuous intersecting lotus stalks. There are five complete panels, and two half-panels which have been cut through. These two contain portions of an elephant and a rhinoceros. In the complete panels there are (1) a cow and calf; (2) human figures broken;  (3) a goose; (4) a man and woman, and a crocodile; (5) two elephants. The carving is deep, and the whole has been polished. In the niche itself, the two side pillars which support the cusped arch are also pickings from Hindu temples.

Some years later in 1888, a civil engineer of ASI in Bengal, Joseph Daviditch Milik Beglaroff, surveyed the Adina mosque. This is what he had to say in his  official report entitled Archaeological survey of Bengal, PartII:

The West wall of the Masjid it will be seen, barely leaves room for these. A further circumstance which may and possibly did determine, the position of the West wall of the Masjid, is, that in all probability, the sanctum of the temple, judging from the remnants of heavy pedestals of statues, now built into the pulpit, and the superb canopied trefoils, now doing duty as prayer niches, stood where the main prayer niche now stands; nothing would probably so tickle the fancy of a bigot, as the power of placing the sanctum of his orthodox cult, (in this case the main prayer niche) on the spot, where the hated infidel had his sanctum; and utilising to the honor of his own religion, the very canopies of the idolatrous statues, for there is no doubt whatever, in my mind, comparing these trefoils with the recently discoered  similar trefoils at Kylas over fgures of Parvati, (see report PartI of last year) that these trefoils are really the canopies over the statues originally enshrine here.

There is a local legend to the effect that the Adina mosque was built by Sultan Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah. His original name was Jadu who, at the age of 12, bud been made to convert to Islam by his father, Raja Ganesh. Subsequently, the Raja regretted his action and had a swarnadhenu yagna ceremony associated with a golden cow. Jadu alias Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah, however, refused to abandon Islam. Thereafter Hindu courtiers tried to put Mahendra Dev, Jadu’s brother, on the throne. This apparently enraged Jalaluddin so much that he turned into an iconoclast who not only destroyed idols and temples but also forced many Hindus to embrace Islam.

This legend, however, in no way explains as to why a Muslim should proudly include stones with carvings of Hindu deities on them when building a mosque? When the rubble of temples was used for building a masjid, the stones with carvings were turned inwards so that they could not be seen. It does not make sense that the Muslim builder would go out of his way to display Hindu figures on the outside, whether on a wall or as crests on doorways or below a mimbar. Which all goes to prove that the Adina mosque is a masjid superimposed on a desecrated temple and is an ideal object of shuddhi.

On return to Delhi, the author looked for literature on the Adina mosque. There has obviously been a fair amount of work done on this place of worship. Memoirs of Gaur and Pandua by M. Abid All Khan subsequently revised by H.E. Stapleton. A more recent work of scholarship is entitled Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal by Dr Syed Mahmudul Hasan.

Evidently, local legend as to who built the Adina mosque and why, appears to be incorrect. According to scholars, it was established by Sultan Sikandar Shah between 1366 and 1374 AD. There is a difference of opinion especially between J.H.Ravenshaw and other scholars as to whether Gaur, the famous capital of medieval Bengal was older or whether Hazrat Pandua, where Adina is located, flourished earlier.
The significance of the controversy is about how much rubble from pre-Islamic edifices could have been used. Dr Hasan is impartial enough to quote various scholars at length, although he betrays some unhappiness at the allegation about use of Hindu material. For example, he says Ilahi Bakhsh, Creighton, Ravenshaw, Buchanan-Hamilton, Westmacott, Beglar, Cunningham, King, and a host of other historians and archaeologists offer glowing testimony to the utilisation of non-Muslim materials, but none of them ventured to say that existing temples were dismantled and materials provided for the construction of magnificent monuments in Gaur and Hazrat Pandua. He accuses E.G.Havell of being so intolerant as not to give any credit to the Muslim builders for the use of radiating arches, domes, minarets and delicate relief works.
Havell maintained that the central mehrab of the Adina masjid at Hazrat Pandua is so obviously Hindu in design, as to hardly require any comment.  

The image of Vishnu or Surya has trefoil arched canopy, symbolizing the aura of the god, of exactly the same type as the outer arch of the mihrab, Beglar says that the Muslims Delighted in placing the sanctum of his orthodox cult (in this case the main prayer niche) on the spot, where hated infidel had his sanctum. 

 S.K. Saraswati is also emphatic about the Hindu origin of the mosque. He has not been quoted as he was a Hindu and therefore could have been biased. In this contexts Muslim, Christian or British scholars would appear to lend greater credences.
The credit for starting the controversy over the Adina, however, goes to Munshi Ilahi Bakhsh of Malda. He wrote that it is worth observing that in front of the chaukath or lintel of the Adina masjid, there was a broken and polished idol, and that there were other idols lying about. So it appears that, in fact, this mosque was originally a temple adorned with idols.