Thursday, July 12, 2007

Aurangzeb -- As he was according to Mughal Records -- Part III -- Demolition of Hindu temples

Keshava Rai Temple

'Even to look at a temple is a sin for a Musalman' Aurangzeb
Umurat-i-Hazur Kishwar Kashai Julus (R.Yr.) 9 Rabi 24/13 October 1666

It was reported to the emperor (Aurangzeb) that in the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura there was a stone railing presented by Bishukoh (one without dignity i.e. Prince Dara Aurangzeb's elder brother). On hearing of it, the emperor observed, 'In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a temple and this Bishukoh has installed this kathra (barrier railing). Such an act is totally unbecoming of a Musalman. This railing should be removed (forthwith)'. His majesty ordered Abdun Nabi Khan to go and remove the Kathra which was in the middle of the temple. Khan removed it and informed the emperor that the idol of Keshava Rai was in the inner chamber. The railing presented by Dara was in front of the chamber and that formerly it was of wood. Inside the Kathra used to stand the sevaks of the shrine (pujaris etc) and outside it stood the people (khatq).

Note: Aurangzeb's solemn observation recorded in his own court's bulletin that "in the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a temple" and therefore, presentation of a stone railing to Keshava Rai temple by Dara was "totally unbecoming of a Musalman" casta serious doubts about a few instances of religious toleration and temple grants attributed to him. Only two years before his long awaited death, he had ordered (1st Jan 1705) to "demolish the temple of Pandharpur and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the temple... It was done". Akhbarat, 49-7, cited in J.N. Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol. III, 189).

Demolition of Kalka's temple

The asylum of Shariat Shariat Panah Qazi Abdul Muqaram has sent this arzi to the sublime court: a man known to him told him that the Hindus gather in large numbers at Kalka's temple near Barahapule (near Delhi) a large crowd of the Hindus is seen there. Likewise, large crowds are seen at the mazars of Khwaja Muinuddin Shah Madar and Satar Masud Ghazi. This amounts to bidat (heresy) and deserves consideration whatever orders are required should be issued.

Saiyid Faulad Khan was thereupon ordered by the emperor to send 100 beldars to demolish the Kalka temple and other temples in its neighborhood which were in the faujdar of the Khan himself; these men were to reach there post haste and finish the work without a halt.

Note: Kalkaji's temple which stands today was rebuilt soon after Aurangzeb's death (1707 A.D) on the remains of the old temple dedicated to Godess Kali. The two Akhbarat dated R. Yr. 10 Rabi 1, 23 and Rabi II, 3 (Sept. 3 and Sept. 12, 1667) provide details regarding the demolition of the temple on Aurangzeb's orders. Since 1764, the temple has been renovated and altered several times but the main 18th C structure more or less remains the same. The site is very old dating back to emperor Asoka's time (3rd C B.C.) There is mention of Kalkaji in the Maratha records of 1738 -- "People flock to the teple in large numbers especially during Navratri."

General order for the destruction of Temples

The lord cherisher of the faith learnt that in the provinces of chatta multan and especially at Benaras the Brahmin misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools and their admirers and students, both Hindu and Muslim used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire their vile learning. His majesty, eager to establish Islam issued orders to governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and with the utmost urgency put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers.

Note: This is not the only instance when Aurangzeb prevented the Muslims from acquiring knowledge and wisdom of the Hindu philosophical works and other Sanskrit and Bhasha classics or sharing spiritual and intellectual experience and this stifled the process of fusion, or at least bridging of the gulf between the two creeds with very different approaches, principles, values, levels of intellectual attainments and period of evolution of ideas. A general order of this type to put down the teaching and public practice of religion by the Hindus was used as a ground to demolish some of the most venerable shrines of India during the next few years, but despite the severe and comprehensive nature of the order, is failed to wrest from Banaras its unique prestige and position as the chief centre of learning of the Vedas, Dharmashastras, the six systems of philosophy, Sanskrit language and literature and Astronomy.

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