When the iconic Laxmi Narayan Temple (also known as Birla Mandir) opened in 1936 it was the first temple to be built in Delhi in several centuries. So many large temples had been destroyed by Muslim invaders and rulers that Hindus simply stopped building their places of worship in Delhi. The accumulated fear of a millennium of destruction had prevented Hindus from even thinking of building a temple. In fact, Delhi’s St James Church, the largest Christian church built by the British in India, is 100 years older than Birla Mandir. Author Rajat Mitra points out that when the temple came up, the architects who built it cried with joy realising what a historical moment it was for the people of Delhi. (1)
The reconstruction of the Ram Janmabhumi Temple at Ayodhya is once again a moment of catharsis for Hindus. It is the first historic temple freed from the servitude of Islam. Not surprisingly a number of artefacts such as stone pillars, a five-feet lingam and broken statues of gods and goddeses have been unearthed as the site is being excavated for laying the foundations of the new Ram temple. (2) The discoveries not only buttress the claim of archaelogists and Hindus that the Mughal emperor Babar had indeed destroyed the original temple of Lord Rama, it is yet another blow to the pseudo-secular scholars and fake historians such as Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar who had the audacity to claim there was no such temple.
The new finds at Ayodhya are a pointer to the over thousand year iconoclastic fury of the Muslim invaders. If one begins to calculate the total number of Hindu (plus Jain, Buddhist and Sikh) temples destroyed by Muslims in India, the final figure would be staggering and it would still be an estimate, and in all likelihood a low one. This is because not all invaders and rulers systematically recorded every single instance of temple destruction.
In the two-volume ‘Hindu Temples; What Happenened To Them’, Sita Ram Goel, Arun Shourie, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubashi and Ram Swarup mention that Mahmud of Ghazni robbed and burnt down 1,000 temples at Mathura, and 10,000 in and around Kanauj. One of his successors, Ibrahim, demolished 1,000 temples each in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and Malwa. Muhammad Ghori destroyed another 1,000 at Varanasi. Qutb-ud-Din Aibak employed elephants for pulling down 1,000 temples in Delhi. Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur destroyed 200 to 300 temples in Karnataka. A sufi, Qayim Shah, destroyed 12 temples at Tiruchirapalli. Adding up the temples destroyed by just six Muslim rulers gives you the stupendous figure of 15,212. Such exact or approximate counts, however, are available only in a few cases. (3)
Goel and his co-writers created what is the most exhaustive work on temple destruction and desecration in India and its near abroad. They cited from 80 histories spanning a period of more than 1,200 years, starting with the Baghdad historian Al-Biladhuri, who wrote in Arabic in the second half of the ninth century, and coming down to Syed Mahmudul Hasan who wrote in English in the 1940s. “Our citations mention 61 kings, 63 military commanders and 14 sufis who destroyed Hindu temples in 154 localities, big and small, spread from Khurasan in the west to Tripura in the east, and from Transoxiana in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, over a period of 1,100 years. In most cases the destruction of temples was followed by erection of mosques, madrasas and khanqahs, etc., on the temple sites and, frequently, with temple materials.”
But why were temples targeted? The Muslim invaders and rulers knew – or cared – little about India’s history, its hoary civilisation and high philosophy, but they certainly knew their religious duty towards the country’s infidels and idol-worshippers. Says historian Kishori Saran Lal: “Instruction and inspiration about this duty came to them from three sources – the Quran, the Hadis and the personal exploits of the Prophet. Every Muslim, whether educated or illiterate knew something about the Quran and the Hadis. The learned or the Ulama amongst them usually learnt the Quran by heart and informed their conquerors and kings about its teachings and injunctions. The Prophet’s deeds, even the most trivial ones, too were constantly narrated with reverence. The one supreme duty the Quran taught them was to fight the infidels with all their strength, convert them to Islam and spread the faith by destroying their idols and shrines.” (4)
List of Prominent Temples Destroyed
There are many mosques all over India which are known to local tradition and the Archaeological Survey of India as built on the site of and, quite frequently, from the materials of, demolished Hindu temples. Most of them carry inscriptions invoking Allah and Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, quoting the Quran and giving details of when, how and by whom they were constructed. The following list is merely a fragment from the vast material left behind by Muslim chroniclers in India.
Debal, Sindh. In 712 CE, after having suffered 14 massive defeats at the hands of the Hindus of Sindh and Makran over the previous 68 years, the Arabs finally tasted victory. This was at Debal in the kingdom of Sindh. Situated on the coast, the city of Debal was so called because of its ‘deval’ (from devalaya, meaning home of the gods). It contained a citadel-temple with stone walls as high as 120 feet and a dome of equal height. It was a “magnificent temple of huge proportions”. (5) After the Arabs captured the city, through the treachery of the Buddhist leaders of the city, the invaders destroyed the temple as well as Buddhist temples in Sindh.
Vasudeva Temple, Mathura: When Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Mathura in 1018, he saw a building of exquisite structure, which the inhabitants said had been built, not by men, but by heavenly beings. The wall of the city was constructed of hard stone, and two gates opened upon the river flowing under the city, which were erected upon strong and lofty foundations, to protect them against the floods of the river and rains. (6)
On both sides of the city there were a thousand castles, to which idol temples were attached, all strengthened from top to bottom by rivets of iron, and all made of masonry work ; and opposite to them were other buildings, supported on broad wooden pillars, to give them strength.
In the middle of the city there was a temple larger and firmer than the rest. It was the legendary temple of Vasudeva. Mahmud wrote: “If any should wish to construct a building equal to this, he would not be able to do it without expending a hundred thousand thousand (100 million) red dinars, and it would occupy 200 years, even though the most experienced and able workmen were employed.”
Among the statues of gods there were five made of gold, each 15 feet tall, “fixed in the air without support”. In the eyes of one of these idols there were two rubies, of such value, that if any one were to sell such as are like them, he would obtain 50,000 dinars.
On another, there was a sapphire purer than water, and more sparkling than crystal; the weight was 450 miskals (1 miskal = 4.5 grams). The two feet of another idol weighed 4,400 miskals, and the entire quantity of gold yielded by the bodies of these idols, was 98,300 miskals – that’s 442 kilos of pure gold. There were also 200 silver idols, but they could not be weighed without breaking them to pieces and putting them into scales.
After grudgingly admiring the unparalleled beauty of the temple which barbarian raiders like him could never hope to build, and burning up with envy at the advanced civilisation of the Hindus, Mahmud gave orders that the temple should be burnt with naphtha and fire, and levelled to the ground. The work of an estimated two centuries was reduced to smoke and ashes.
Somnath, Gujarat: The Shiva temple at Somnath was destroyed or desecrated six times. In 1024, Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundered the temple and broke its jyotirlinga. He took away a booty of 20 million dinars. In 1299 Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji’s governor Ulugh Khan razed the temple a second time. The next destruction happened in 1395 under Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of the Gujarat Sultanate. Mahmud Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat, destroyed it in 1451. The Portuguese attacked Somnath in 1546. The sixth and final destruction was by Aurangzeb in 1665.
Amir Khusrau, the sufi scholar and historian during the reign of Alauddin Khilji, was witness to the second destruction. According to him, the statue of Somnath (Shiva) was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims. “They made the temple prostrate itself towards the Kaaba. You may say that the temple first offered its prayers and then had a bath (i.e. the temple was made to topple and fall into the sea). He (Ulugh Khan) destroyed all the idols and temples, but sent one idol, the biggest of all idols, to the court of his Godlike Majesty (Mahmud Ghazni) and on that account in that ancient stronghold of idolatry, the summons to prayers was proclaimed so loudly that they heard it in Misr (Egypt) and Madain (Iraq).” (7).
Nataraja Temple, Brahmastpuri (Chidambaram), Tamil Nadu: Khusrau shows his perverted and depraved nature while describing the scene of destruction at the temple of Lord Shiva. “‘Here he (Malik Kafur) heard that in Bramastpuri there was a golden idol. He then determined on razing the temple to the ground. It was the holy place of the Hindus which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care, and the heads of Brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents. The stone idol called Ling Mahadeo, which had been a long time established at that place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their v*****s for (sexual) satisfaction, these up to this time the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break. The Musalmans destroyed all the lings and Deo Narain fell down, and the other gods who had fixed their seats there raised their feet, and jumped so high, that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they any legs to stand on.” (8)
Quwwat al-Islam Masjid, Qutb Minar, Delhi: This fort of the Hindus was conquered and the Jami Masjid built in the year 1192 by Amir Qutbud-Din Aibak, the slave of Sultan Mohammad Ghori. “The materials of 27 idol temples, on each of which 2,000,000 Delhiwals (high-denomination coin current at that time in Delhi) had been spent were used in the construction of the mosque.” (9)
Jami Masjid at Malan, Palanpur, Gujarat: “The Jami Masjid was built by Khan-I-Azam Ulugh Khan… who suppressed the wretched infidels. He eradicated the idolatrous houses and mine of infidelity, along with the idols with the edge of the sword, and made ready this edifice. He made its walls and doors out of the idols; the back of every stone became the place for prostration of the believers.” (10) The date of construction of the mosque is mentioned as 1462 in the reign of Mahmud Begada of Gujarat.
Gachinala Masjid, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh: “During the august rule of Muhammad Shah, there was a well-established idol-house in Kuhmum. Muhammad Salih who prospers in the rectitude of the affairs of Faith, razed to the ground, the edifice of the idol-house and broke the idols in a manly fashion. He constructed on its site a suitable mosque, towering above the buildings of all.” (11) The date of construction is mentioned as 1729-30 A.D. in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah.
Krishna Janmabhumi Temple, Mathura: The temple of Keshav Rai at the site of Lord Krishna’s birth in Mathura was built at a cost of Rs 33 lakh by Rao Bir Singh Bundela in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605-27). “It had excited the envy of many Muslims, before Aurangzeb, who however had not Aurangzeb’s opportunities and power. It had become a centre of pilgrimage for the whole of India.” (12)
In 1670, Aurangzeb levelled the temple to the ground following which he issued a farman: “In this month of Ramzan, the religious-minded Emperor ordered the demolition of the temple at Mathura known as the Dehra of Keshav Rai. His officers accomplished it in a short time. A grand mosque was built on its site at a vast expenditure…..Praised be the God of the great faith of Islam that in the auspicious reign of this destroyer of infidelity and turbulence, such a marvellous and [seemingly] impossible feat was accomplished. On seeing this instance of their strength of the Emperor’s faith and the grandeur of his devotion to God, the Rajahs felt suffocated and they stood in amazement like statues facing the walls. The idols, large and small, set with costly jewels, which had been set up in the temple, were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Jahanara, to be trodden upon continually.”
Gyanvapi Mosque, Varanasi: It was constructed by Aurangzeb after destroying the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple. In ‘Hindustan Ki Masjidein’, Maulana Abdul Hai writes with an air of quiet triumphalism: “It is said that the mosque of Benares was built by Alamgir on the site of the Bisheshwar Temple. That temple was very tall and (held as) holy among the Hindus. On this very site and with those very stones he constructed a lofty mosque, and its ancient stones were rearranged after being embedded in the walls of the mosque. It is one of the renowned mosques of Hindustan. The second mosque at Benares (is the one) which was built by Alamgir on the bank of the Ganga with chiselled stones. This also is a renowned mosque of Hindustan. It has 28 towers, each of which is 238 feet tall. This is on the bank of the Ganga and its foundations extend to the depth of the waters.” (13)
Adina Masjid, Pandua, Bengal: For hundreds of years the remains of a massive Shiva temple in Bengal lies smothered by a mosque. The Muslims who built their place of worship over the temple were in such a hurry, or careless, or simply brazen that they didn’t completely erase the Hindu carvings of Lord Ganesha, elephants, a rhinoceros, a cow and calf, human figures, a goose, a man and woman, and a crocodile.
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 titled Archaeological Survey of Bengal, Part II: “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 ease the main prayer niche) on the spot, where the hated infidel had his sanctum; and utilising to the honour 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 discovered similar trefoils at Kylas over figures of Parvati (see report Part I of last year) that these trefoils are really the canopies over the statues originally enshrined here. (14)
Taste for Barbarism
The inventive minds of the Islamic rulers came up with new and macabre ways to insult the Hindus. Goel observes other methods of telling the “truth” about the idols had been devised by the more imaginative among the swordsmen of Islam. Feroz Shah Tughlaq had the idol at Puri perforated and dragged along the road to Delhi. The pieces of the idol at Kangra were given to the butchers for being used as weights while selling meat. The copper umbrella of the same idol he got recast into pots for heating water with which the faithful washed their “hands, feet and faces” before saying their prayers. Mahmud Khalji of Malwa had the idol at Kumbhalgadh reduced to lime which was put in paan (betel-leaves) and the Hindus were forced to “eat their god”. (15)
Amir Khusrau describes with glee how Feroz Shah Tughlaq got bags full of cow’s flesh tied round the necks of Brahmins and had them paraded through his army camp at Kangra. Muhmud Shah II Bahmani bestowed on himself the honour of being a ghazi, simply because he had killed in cold blood the helpless Brahmin priests of the local temple after Hindu warriors had died fighting in defence of the fort at Kondapalli, Andhra Pradesh.
Ayodhya – Prelude to Recovery
The movement for the restoration of the Ram Janmabhumi Temple at Ayodhya has brought to the fore a suppressed chapter of India’s history, namely, the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples by foreign invaders. According to Goel, this chapter, though significant, was only a part of the Muslim behaviour pattern as recorded by Muslim historians of medieval India. The other parts were: (16)
1) Mass slaughter of people not only during war but also after the armies of Islam had emerged victorious.
2) Capture of large numbers of non-combatant men, women and children as booty and their sale as slaves all over the Islamic world.
3) Forcible conversion to Islam of people who were in no position to resist.
4) Reduction to the status of dhimmis or non-citizens of all those who could not be converted and imposition of inhuman disabilities on them.
5) Emasculation of the dhimmis by preventing them from possessing arms.
6) Impoverishment of the dhimmis through heavy discriminatory taxes and misappropriation of a major part of what the peasants produced.
7) Ruination of the native and national culture of the dhimmis by suppressing and holding in contempt all its institutions and expressions.
Clearly, Muslims in India have a lot to answer for. Despite having broken the country along religious lines and created Pakistan, which has the dubious distinction of being the first and only country created on the basis of religion, the majority of these Muslims stayed back in India. Contrary to what they claim, the Muslims of India did not stay back because they loved India or were loyal to it; they did so with the cynical view to conquer it through long-term demographic jehad. Despite their betrayal of their homeland, their loyalty to Pakistan and their propensity to cause riots at the slightest provocation, Muslims have been treated as equal citizens with full democratic rights. In fact, while Muslims have exhibited hostility towards Hindus and their customs, most Hindus choose to ignore such open display of fanaticism.
There needs to be a final closure on Hindu genocide and Muslim iconoclasm so that all Indians can move into an era of communal amity. For this to happen, Muslims must come forward and surrender the sites of the most important Hindu temples that were destroyed. Then Muslim leaders must offer a collective apology to Hindus for the genocide of the past 1,400 years. If Germans can apologise to the Jews for the Holocaust, why can’t Muslims apologise to Hindus? Or is the extreme reluctance to acknowledge the crimes of medieval Muslim rulers an indication they approve of the genocide and iconoclasm? Are the Muslims signalling that the Ram Janmabhumi model is the only way for Hindus to reclaim their temples? (17) If that’s the case the biggest loser will once again be the Muslim.
1. Rajat Mitra, My Mind Net, https://www.myind.net/Home/viewArticle/did-the-building-of-birla-temple-in-delhi-end-an-era-of-fear-for-hindus?fbclid=IwAR2IMtODx5XqfcBjkLSJR3TzTVHVV1kkISDJung1ITBFD-eoy33j3wfPe-I
2. Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra, Twitter, https://twitter.com/ShriRamTeerth/status/1263107271233466369
3. ‘Hindu Temples; What Happenened To Them’, Volume II, Chapter 8, http://voiceofdharma.org/books/htemples2/ch8.htm
4. K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, page 36
5. John Jehangir Bede, The Arabs In Sind, 712 – 1026 AD, page 113
6. Al Utbi, Kitab-i-Yamini, https://archive.org/stream/cu31924024066833/cu31924024066833_djvu.txt
7. Amir Khusrau, Tarikh-i-Alai
8. Amir Khusrau, Miftah ul-Futuh
9. Amir Khusrau, Miftah ul-Futuh
10. Amir Khusrau, Miftah ul-Futuh
11. Amir Khusrau, Miftah ul-Futuh
12. Sri Ram Sharma, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, page 141
13. Maulana Abdul Hai, Hindustan ki Masjidein
14. Prafull Goradia, Hindu Masjids, page 102
15. ‘Hindu Temples; What Happenened To Them’, Volume II, Chapter 8, http://voiceofdharma.org/books/htemples2/ch8.htm
16. ‘Hindu Temples; What Happenened To Them’, Volume I, page 2
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Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His work has been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; US Air Force Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies, Alabama; Russia Beyond, Moscow; Hindustan Times, New Delhi; Business Today, New Delhi; Financial Express, New Delhi; BusinessWorld Magazine, New Delhi; Swarajya Magazine, Bangalore; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.
As well as having contributed for a research paper for the US Air Force, he has been cited by leading organisations, including the US Army War College, Pennsylvania; US Naval PG School, California; Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington DC; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; Rutgers University, New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington DC; and BBC.
His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter-terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.