Varanasi Again – 44: Of temples and mosques

The Gyanvapi kupa, and the statue of the Nandi bull escaped demolition and desecration by the hordes of Emperor Aurangzeb when they destroyed the original Vishveshwara temple in the year 1669 CE. This was the last time the temple would be destroyed; but this was not the first time.

What? The question naturally crops up in the mind of the inquisitive reader. Not the first time, you say? No, comes the answer, definitely not!!

The temple to Vishveshwara or Vishwanath, was first destroyed by a Sultan of the Slave dynasty who ruled from Delhi. His name was Qutub-ud-din-Aibak. Yes, you would know him best from the structure he built in Delhi to commemorate the Islamic conquest of India – the Qutub minar, and the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in the same complex which houses the Qutub minar.

The mosque, whose name means ‘Might of Islam’, was built after destroying the 27 Jain and Vedic temples that were housed in that complex previously, and using their rubble as building material for the mosque. This would become a favourite modus operandi of the later rulers too – destroy the temple, and use its foundations, pillars, plinth, lintel, sometimes walls and arches, and even its rubble of desecrated and mutilated sculptures and figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses, to build the mosque. It was convenient too! Why go scurrying for building material when you can ‘recycle’ it? These pieces of rubble can still be seen in several such structures today, pointing accusing fingers at our erstwhile rulers.

Anyway, let me not digress (I have already digressed, haven’t I?), and return to the story of the Vishveshwara. The Vishveshwara temple was originally destroyed in the year 1194 by the orders of Qutub-ud-din-Aibak, and such was the hand dealt that no one even tried to restore the structure for almost forty years. Later, when Qutub’s daughter, a character deified by the Mumbai film industry in a Bollywood flick, Razia Sultana took over the throne in Delhi she built a mosque over that very area, using the rubble which was still lying around, and named it (you guessed it!) after herself – the Razia Sultana mosque. The mosque still stands today……!!!

When the mosque had finally, and irrevocably, been built, and all hope was lost, the Hindu subjects of the Delhi Sultanate finally mustered courage to build another temple to Vishveshwara or Vishwanath, but away from the original site (where, now, a mosque stood), and in the complex of the shrine of Avimukteshwara.

The temple was finally built at the end of the 13th century to be demolished again, twice, in the 15th century – once by the Sharqui Kings of Jaunpur, and second time by Sikandar Lodhi, the emperor of Delhi. It was rebuilt again in the compound of Avimukteshwara in 1585 CE by a wealthy merchant of Benaras named Raghunath Pandit, but better known in history books as Todarmal. It was this temple, flanked by four mandapas, and four shrines to ancillary deities, that was finally demolished in 1669CE, and the Gyanvapi mosque built over it using, again, rubble from the erstwhile temple……

To be continued………….

Do check out these Amazon Bestsellers from the author –

The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures
Daffodils: A Bouquet of Short Stories

By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

3 comments

  1. Reading through of such fate of our Ancient temples , what they went through at the hands of those cruel rulers , it really saddens us , and what Hinduism had to face but still standing tall , it is all by the grace blessings of our Almighty .

    Thanks for bringing these to light. Keep up the good work Brother.

    Liked by 1 person

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