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‘Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra’: Ajmer’s oldest mosque stands over the ruins of a Sanskrit pathshala with Hindu and Jain temple features

Alexander Cunningham, who was commissioned as Director-General of ASI in 1871, presented a detailed account of the mosque in ‘Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65’. He mentioned that upon inspecting the site, he found that it was built with the ruins of many Hindu temples.

The rich culture of Indian civilization was destroyed by the Islamic invaders for centuries. One of the oldest examples of the atrocities that were faced in the hands of Mughals is Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra, which literally means ‘Shed of two and half days. In the city of Ajmer, Rajasthan, the mosque ‘Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra’ stands tall under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Though it is visited by hundreds of tourists, the structure is still used by Muslims for Namaz. To understand how it is clear evidence of Islamic atrocities, it is essential to tell its story and what one may find on visiting the site.

History of Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra

Originally a magnificent Sanskrit College (Saraswati Kanthabharan Mahavidyalay) with a temple dedicated to Mata Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom, the building was commissioned by Maharaja Vigraharaja IV. He was a king of the Shakambhari Chahamana or Chauhan dynasty.

As per several documents, the original building was square-shaped. It had a tower at each corner. There was a temple of Mata Sarawati on the western side of the building. In the 19th century, a tablet was found at the site that dated back to 1153 CE. Experts believe that based on the tablet, it can be inferred that the original building was constructed sometime around 1153.

Some local Jain legends, however, state that the building was commissioned by Seth Viramdeva Kala in 660 CE. It was constructed as a Jain Shrine and celebrated Panch Kalyanaka. It is noteworthy that the site has elements of both Jain and Hindu architecture of that time.

The conversion into a mosque

As the story goes, in 1192 CE, Muhammad Ghori defeated Maharaja Prithviraj Chouhan and took over Ajmer. He ordered his slave general Qutb-ud-Din-Aibak to destroy temples in the city. The legend said he had ordered Aibak to construct a prayer section of the mosque on the temple site within 60 hours so that he could pray. That attributes to the name ‘Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra’. However, some experts believe that it was just a legend, and it took several years to complete the construction of the mosque. The name, according to them, came from the two-and-a-half-day fare that takes place in the mosque every year.

There is an inscription at the central mihrab of the mosque that mentions the date of completion as Jumada II 595 AH that converts to April 1199 CE of the English calendar. Later, Qutb-ud-Din-Aibak’s successor Iltutmish beautified the mosque in 1213 CE. He added a screen wall in the mosque. There is an inscription of his name on the northern minaret along with the construction supervisor Ahmed ibn Muhammad al-Arid’s name on the south arch.

Notably, it is not easy to differentiate which part of the mosque was originally a Saraswati Temple and Sanskrit School as ruins from around 25-30 Hindu and Jain temples were used in the construction of the mosque.

Sita Ram Goel’s report on the mosque

Famous Historian Sita Ram Goel mentioned the mosque in his book ‘Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them’. He attributed to the book ‘Asar-Us-Sanadid’ by author Syed Ahmad Khan in which he had mentioned that the mosque of Ajmer, i.e. Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra, was constructed using the materials from Hindu temples.

Alexander Cunningham’s report on the mosque

Alexander Cunningham, who was commissioned as Director-General of ASI in 1871, presented a detailed account of the mosque in ‘Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65’. He mentioned that upon inspecting the site, he found that it was built with the ruins of many Hindu temples. He said, “Its very name ‘Adhai Din Ka Jhopra would seem to point directly to the astonishing rapidity of its erection, and as this could only have been affected by the free use of the ready dressed materials of prostrated Hindu temples.”

Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2 By Alexander Cunningham/Google Books

Cunningham further attributed James Tod, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the British empire who had visited the mosque, in the report. Tod had said that the whole building could have been originally a Jain Temple. However, he also found many pillars with four-handed figures on them that could not have been Jain by nature. Beside those sculptures, there was a single figure of Goddess Kali.

Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2 By Alexander Cunningham/Google Books

He added, “Altogether, there were 344 pillars, but each of these represented at least two of the original pillars. The actual number of Hindu columns could not have been less than 700, which is equivalent to the spoils of from 20 to 30 temples.”

Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2 By Alexander Cunningham/Google Books

‘Conservation’ of Hindu sculptures

As per reports, till the 1990s, there were several ancient Hindu sculptures scattered inside the mosque. In the 90s, the ASI moved them to a secure location to preserve them. How the sculptures were preserved was explained by a Twitter user who recently visited the place.

In a tweet thread, Twitter user Dharmik Stance clicked a few photographs of a closed room inside the premises. He said, “Some rooms have been sealed by ASI on the premises. Have a look at what I saw from the cracks.” The photographs and video added by the Twitter user show the sorry state of the ancient sculptures inside those rooms.

The video and photographs were clicked in March 2022. Upon zooming the photographs, one can clearly see the sculptures of Hindu origin. One of the stones in the room can be seen marked by ASI as AJR5 AJP/92/99.

Other mentions by netizens

In 2015, the popular handle ‘Reclaim Temples’ posted about the mosque and wrote, “Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra, Ajmer was a magnificent Jain temple, until Islamic invader Ghori converted it into a Masjid.”

Another Twitter user neutr0nium published a thread on the mosque. He mentioned that it was ignored for a long time after conversion into a mosque and renovated by Maratha king Daulat Rao Sindhia in the 18th century. However, it remained a mosque. In 1947, ASI took control of the site.

He mentioned that the site does not have any information boards placed by ASI explaining its history. He said, “ASI board just stats that it’s a mosque constructed by Qutubdin and the oldest surviving monument of AJMER.” It is unfortunate that despite being clearly a site that was previously a Sanskrit School and a Hindu and Jain temple, ASI failed to mention the history anywhere at the site and attributed it just to a mosque.

Author Sanjay Dixit wrote, “Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra mosque in Ajmer is an early instance of demolition of temples. Built at the instance of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, allegedly peaceful and secular, by razing a temple of goddess Sarasvati and a Vidyapeeth by Qutubuddin Aibak after Prithviraj’s defeat.”

The painful history of Hindu temples razed to build mosques

There are thousands of sites across India where mosques and other Muslim structures were built after destroying temples. These structures were built using temple materials and/or stand on temple sites. Babri Mosque (handed back to Hindus to build Bhavya Ram Mandir), Gyanvapi Mosque (disputed structure in Varanasi), and Shahi Idgah (disputed structure of Mathura residing inside Krishna Temple complex) are some of the prime examples. Historian Sita Ram Goel has documented around 1,800 such sites in his book Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them. A brief about the book can be read here.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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