The world is abuzz with viral pictures, videos and articles on the devastating fire that engulfed and destroyed Notre Dame in Paris. Although, it is claimed by the authorities that the main structures have been preserved, yet it has been a severe blow to the history of France, as the structure stood witness to 850 years of all what happened to France. When a historical monument is harmed, it is not just the damage to the structure, but a massive blow to the culture, heritage and sometimes to even the civilization.
India is no exception to many of historical monuments loss, by accident or for wars. Below are listed a few of the structures within present India which have undergone massive destructions. While Notre Dame is being mourned by the world, these structures and the travesty heaped upon them has been conveniently forgotten by most:
- Somnath Temple in Gujarat has been desecrated and rebuilt multiple times in history, most notably by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024 AD who looted and plundered the wealth, killing thousands of people. After reconstruction by Kumarapala, it was ransacked again by Alauddin Khilji’s army led by Ulugh Khan. Zafar Khan during Delhi Sultanate in 1395, Portuguese in 1546 and Aurangzeb in 1665 destroyed the temple and was finally reconstructed in its present state in independent India under the orders of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
- Martand Temple in Kashmir with its beautiful Kashmiri architecture was built in the 8th century and was completely destroyed on the orders of Sikandar Butshikan in the early 15th century. The invasion not only destroyed the structure but also paved way for the cultural and demographical obliteration of Hindus there. The present day ruins were the background sets of the song ‘Bismil’ in the Bollywood movie ‘Haider’.
- Shaniwar Wada in Pune which was the seat of the Maratha power in India in the 17th century caught fire in 1828 under British rule. The conflagration destroyed all the rich cultural heritage of the Peshwas rule that included Juna Arsa Mahal, Mastani Mahal and a thousand jet fountain in the shape of Lotus. What now remains is just the plinth structure and the main gate known as Dilli Darwaza.
- Warangal Fort in present Telanganain its days of glory stood witness to the prosperity of Kakatiya dynasty but was raided by Malik Kafur, and subsequently by Muhammad bin Tughluq. There is nothing left now but ruins. The seized Koh-i-Noor passed on to rulers and is now the most magnificent jewel on the crown of the British Queen.
- Nalanda University in Bihar attracted scholars from as a far as China and Korea during Magadha dynasty rule. But the whole university was raided and millions of books were burnt by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. The ruined university which produced legends as Aryabhatta, Dharmapala and Nagarjuna were later excavated during British rule. But with the University gone, we lost vast reserves of knowledge and wisdom accumulated in centuries. One can never predict the scientific advancement India would have achieved had this University allowed to function.
- Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi was demolished several times by various rulers and raiders in the history notably by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1194, Sikandar Lodhi and by Aurangzeb in 1669 who replaced it with Gyanvapi Mosque which still stands and is a testimony to the brutal assault to the holy religious site. It was in 1780 that Ahilyabai Holkar from Indore constructed the present day temple at land adjacent to the mosque.
- Gauda in Bengalis now a ruined city on India Bangladesh boundary which stood out for its unique architectural design and rich cultural heritage of Pala and Sena dynasty. Being sacked by Sher Shah in 1539 and Akbar in 1575 subsequently led to the complete devastation of the city. Since then it has been an almost overgrown jungle and the rich cultural heritage was lost.
These are just some of the structures that have been desecrated in Indian history and there have been many more. A country is what its history, art and culture depict and cultivates; and in the events of monumental destructions, the future generations run a risk of forgetting its roots and the vast source of knowledge its ancestors possessed. Nations and citizens must therefore take great care in the preserving these historic monuments, for they are not just places of tourism but channels of wisdom for our future.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated