Shiv mandir desecrated: Adina Masjid Friday, Jul 24 2009 

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.


An example of Muslim appeasement: Seven Temples Kept Buried Friday, Jul 24 2009 

14. Seven Temples Kept Buried

Had the two constables of the Reserve Police not been asleep on June 29, 2000, the author would have been denied the privilege of seeing an archaeological treasure of his homeland. For about 20 minutes, he was able to walk around the Rudramahalaya complex at Siddhpur in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. He was also able to take a minute off to have darshan of a Shivling in the premises. He could not go much further because one of the constables woke up and politely told him to leave the precincts as he had strict instructions from the government not to allow anyone to enter the Rudramahalaya.
Siddhpur is to departed mothers what Gaya is for dead fathers. In fact, it is called Matrigaya where a Hindu could offer shraddh to the soul of his mother. Hindu sarovar is where the ceremony is performed. Equally dear is Siddhpur, especially to Gujaratis, as the city is named after Gujarat’s famous monarch who ruled in premedieval times. After he attained siddhi or success as the most powerful king of north-west India, if not the whole subcontinent, he attained the title of Siddhraj. His name was Jaisinh Solanki (1094 to 1143 AD).
On the intervention of the National Minorities Commission in 1983, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been prevented from carrying on any excavations in or around the Rudramahalaya complex where once existed the tallest temple in Gujarat. From its top could be seen glimpses of Patan, the capital of the ancient kings of Gujarat, some 25 kms away. From the top it is believed were also visible some temple mashaals in Ahmedabad when the capital was shifted there by Ahmed Shah in the 15th century. That is 112 kms away.

Even today, the ruins demonstrate the finery of the sculpture. Human faces have been mutilated. The tablet displayed at the spot by the ASI says the following:  

This is the grandest and the most impressive conception of a temple dedicated to Siva   associated with Siddharaj who ruled in the 12th century AD though tradition   accords its construction to Mularaj during the I0th century AD.

The Jami Masjid (mentioned in the blurb) is a modest affair. Its gate is so small that not more than two persons can enter at the same time. On its top are two minarets less than three feet tall. As one crossed the gate, there are four small temple sancti, one on the left and three on the right. It is clear that the sancti had been walled up and converted into a mebraab for the prayer space; Beyond this is the square tank from ancient times which was also used by those who came for ibadat. Beyond, stand a few handsome pillars and carvings that have survived from ancient times.
According to a neighbour, no prayers take place except for the odd Hindu dropping in for darshan of the only surviving Shivling in one of the four sancti. The brick walls of the other three sancti have also been removed although there are only platforms now without the idols.
The National Minorities Commission has influenced governments, both at Delhi and at Gandhinagar into freezing the excavation work that was begun by the ASl in 1979. The details are available across 38 pages in the commission’s Fourth Annual Report dated 1983. Improvement of the environments of the masjid was first conceived in 1959 in response to a complaint repeatedly made by the local Muslims that the ASI had been neglecting the repair and upkeep of the masjid. Yet, after 1983, the commission has not only ensured that the work was frozen but also that all the excavations made should be covered up. And this has been done despite what came out. The author was able to see a stone Nandi bull in a mutilated contion. The rest of the relics were covered up.

According to the report, Begum Ayesha, MLA, played a leading part in the cover up operation. K.T. Satarawala, the then Adviser to the Governor of Gujarat, also played a yeoman’s role by providing a detailed report on the subject. That Muslim appellants were able to push the ASI, is best quoted from the FoulAnnual Report itself.
A.S. Quereshi, advocate, for the (Muslim) Trustees, issued a notice dated February 6, 1980 to the Superintendent, Archaeological Department, asking the department to build compound walls as per the compromise and to cover up the temple remains.  The superintendent explained in person the importance of the discoveries made and the need for revision of the compromise in the interests of preserving the precious cultural heritage of the country

As Mr Quereshi wanted to visit the site along with the Superintendent, Archaeolocical Department, he went to Siddhpur on March 8, 1980. At first, he agreed to the preservation but later he insisted on getting the trenches closed in his presence that day. The superintendent ordered closure of the trenches andconstruction of the compound wall and both the works were started in his presence.
Should the work of the ASI be allowed to be halted by the intervention of the Minorities Commission? Should a commission work at the behest of narrow local vested interests? Or, should not the government rein in the commission from undertaking such obstructionist activity? If there is legitimacy in such activity, would it not be logical that the ASI be wound up? Which, of course, would imply that we have lost interest in the search for our civilisational heritage.

« Previous PageNext Page »