MDI Comment: It is common to hear in Islamophobic and Hindu Ultra-Nationalist discourse, the myth that Hindus were massacred and thousands of temples destroyed by Muslim rule in India. However, some of the foremost scholars of Indian history have examined the sources and they skillfully debunk the myth. Islamic rule, generally, was tolerant to non-Muslims and did not force convert them from their religion, nor arbitrarily destroy their places of worship.
Below has been reposted three articles negating the myths of deliberate and targeted temple demolitions and massacres against Hindu populations by historical Muslim rulers of India:
- ‘It’s A Myth That Muslim Rulers Destroyed Thousands Of Temples’ by Revati Laul (interview with Dr Richard Eaton)
- It is High Time to Discard the Pernicious Myth of India’s Medieval Muslim ‘Villains’ by Professor Audrey Truschke
- Mythification of History and ‘Social Common Sense’ By Dr Ram Puniyani
A summary of the History of Islamic India can be found here.
‘It’s A Myth That Muslim Rulers Destroyed Thousands Of Temples’
The next time you are stuck in a conversation on whether India was ruled by oppressive Muslim kings or not, whether Hindus were converted en masse to Islam in medieval India, just ‘Richard Eaton’ the phenomenon and you will get your answers
Richard Eaton is the Wikipedia, the Google and, many would argue, the last word on medieval and Islamic history in India. His bibliography is too vast to list, but the vast repertoire includes Islamic History As Global History, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 and Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives. After the destruction of the Babri Masjid and a myriad speculative conversations around how many temples Muslim rulers had destroyed in India, Eaton decided to count. That became a book titled Temple Desecration and Muslim States in Medieval India. In other words, he is the best myth-buster there is and that’s precisely what he did to the audiences at THiNK. Eaton explains why it’s crucial today for us to get our history right. Especially on the period he writes about.
EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
You are now working on a magnum-opus history of medieval India, often construed as ‘the Muslim period’. Can you explain why the descriptor ‘Muslim period’ doesn’t work for you?
The book I’m working on now is called The Lion and the Lotus. The lion represents Persia and the Lotus, India. It’s the story of two intersecting megapolises — Persian and Sanskrit. The idea is to escape the trap of looking at this period as the endless and dreary chapter of Hindu-Muslim interaction, if not conflict, which is the conventional and historically wrong approach.
Can you explain why this is historically wrong?
Because religion is anachronistic. Contemporary evidence does not support the assumption that religion was the primary sign or indicator of cultural identity. That is a back projection from the 19th and 20th centuries, which is not justified by the evidence. For example, a word that was typically used to describe rulers who came from beyond the Khyber Pass was not ‘musalmaan’ but rather Turushka or Turk. An ethnic, not religious, identity. What’s fascinating is that the early Turkish rulers, the Ghaznavids, began as foreigners and conquerors; over time, they were behaving more and more like Rajput dynasties. Like Mahmud of Ghazni, for instance. He took the basic credo of Islam — “There is no god but Allah” — translated that into Sanskrit and put it down on the coinage to be freely minted in north-western India. It was an attempt to take Arabic words and structure them into Sanskrit vocabulary. This is a history of assimilation and not imposition. In Vijayanagar in the Deccan, you will find that most of the government buildings were built with arches and domes. You think you are inside a mosque but you are not. Vijayanagar had Hindu kings. This means that the aesthetic vision of Iran has seeped into India so much now that it’s accepted as normal.
What about the masses in this period from 1000 to 1800 AD, who were Hindu?
Okay, let’s talk about ordinary people. You find that languages like Telugu, Bengali, Kannada and Marathi have absorbed a huge amount of Persian vocabulary for everyday concerns. Take another example from the Vijayanagar empire in the south. I talk about south India because that’s where Islam did not have as long a penetration as in the north. The Vijayanagar kings had these long audience halls described as hundred-column and thousand-column palaces — hazaarsatoon. A concept that goes all the way back to Persepolis where you literally do have a hundred columns. You take the floor plan of Persepolis, Iran, in the 4th century BC, which is pre-Islamic, and place it side by side with the floor plan of a palace at Vijayanagar. It’s exactly the same. Neither was built by Muslims. Persepolis was built by Zoroastrians in the 3rd or 4th century BC. And Vijayanagar was built by Hindus in the 14th century AD. Neither has anything to do with religion, but both have everything to do with power. It’s like the present day spread of Coca Cola or Tuborg beer. It’s aspirational but not religious. And it all happens over a period of time.
Which is why you also don’t like the use of the word ‘conversions’ for this period? You say conversions suggest a pancake-like flip, which is not how Islam spread. What do you mean by that?
I hate the use of the word ‘conversions’. When I was studying the growth of Islam in Punjab, I came across a fascinating text on the Sial community. It traces their history from the 14th to the 19th century. If you look at the names of these people, you will find that the percentage of Arabic names increased gradually between the 14th and 19th centuries. In the early 14th century, they had no Arabic names. By the late 14th century, 5 percent had Arabic names. It’s not until the late 19th century that 100 percent had Arabic names. So, the identification with Islam is a gradual process because the name you give your child reflects your ethos and the cultural context in which you live. The same holds true when you look at the name assigned to god. In the 16th century, the words Muslims in Bengal used for god were Prabhu or Niranjan etc — Sanskrit or Bengali words. It’s not until the 19th century that the word Allah is used. In both Punjab and Bengal, the process of Islamisation is a gradual one. That’s why the word ‘conversion’ is misleading — it connotes a sudden and complete change. All your previous identities are thrown out. That’s not how it happens. When you talk about an entire society, you are talking about a very gradual, glacial experience.
You also examined at length the destruction of temples in this period. What did you find?
The temple discourse is huge in India and this is something that needs to be historicised. We need to look at the contemporary evidence. What do the inscriptions and contemporary chronicles say? What was so striking to me when I went into that project after the destruction of the Babri Masjid was that nobody had actually looked at the contemporary evidence. People were just saying all sorts of things about thousands of temples being destroyed by medieval Muslim kings. I looked at inscriptions, chronicles and foreign observers’ accounts from the 12th century up to the 18th century across South Asia to see what was destroyed and why. The big temples that were politically irrelevant were never harmed. Those that were politically relevant — patronised by an enemy king or a formerly loyal king who becomes a rebel — only those temples are wiped out. Because in the territory that is annexed to the State, all the property is considered to be under the protection of the State. The total number of temples that were destroyed across those six centuries was 80, not many thousands as is sometimes conjectured by various people. No one has contested that and I wrote that article 10 years ago.
Even the history of Aurangzeb, you say, is badly in need of rewriting.
Absolutely. Let’s start with his reputation for temple destruction. The temples that he destroyed were not those associated with enemy kings, but with Rajput individuals who were formerly loyal and then become rebellious. Aurangzeb also built more temples in Bengal than any other Mughal ruler.
(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 47, Dated 23 November 2013)
Posted on the Wire, 9th January 2016
It is High Time to Discard the Pernicious Myth of India’s Medieval Muslim ‘Villains’
Whatever happened in the past, religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. It is thus disingenuous to single out Indian Muslim rulers for condemnation without owning up to the modern valences of that focus.
The idea that medieval Muslim rulers wreaked havoc on Indian culture and society – deliberately and due to religious bigotry – is a ubiquitous notion in 21st century India. Few people seem to realise that the historical basis for such claims is shaky to non-existent. Fewer openly recognise the threat that such a misreading of the past poses for modern India.
Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor (r. 1658-1707), is perhaps the most despised of India’s medieval Muslim rulers. People cite various alleged “facts” about Aurangzeb’s reign to support their contemporary condemnation, few of which are true. For instance, contrary to widespread belief, Aurangzeb did not destroy thousands of Hindu temples. He did not perpetrate anything approximating a genocide of Hindus. He did not instigate a large-scale conversion program that offered millions of Hindu the choice of Islam or the sword.
In short, Aurangzeb was not the Hindu-hating, Islamist tyrant that many today imagine him to have been. And yet the myth of malevolent Aurangzeb is seemingly irresistible and has captured politicians, everyday people, and even scholars in its net. The damage that this idea has done is significant. It is time to break this mythologized caricature of the past wide open and lay bare the modern biases, politics, and interests that have fuelled such a misguided interpretation of India’s Islamic history.
A recent article on this website cites a series of inflammatory claims about Indo-Muslim kings destroying premodern India’s Hindu culture and population. The article admits that “these figures are drawn from the air” and historians give them no credence. After acknowledging that the relevant “facts” are false, however, the article nonetheless posits that precolonial India was populated by “religious chauvinists,” like Aurangzeb, who perpetrated religiously-motivated violence and thus instigated “historical injustices” to which Hindus can rightly object today. This illogical leap from a confessed lack of reliable information to maligning specific rulers is the antithesis of proper history, which is based on facts and analysis rather than unfounded assumptions about the endemic, unchanging nature of a society.
A core aspect of the historian’s craft is precisely that we cannot assume things about the past. Historians aim to recover the past and to understand historical figures and events on their own terms, as products of their time and place. That does not mean that historians sanitise prior events. Rather we refrain from judging the past by the standards of the present, at least long enough to allow ourselves to glimpse the logic and dynamics of a historical period that may be radically different from our own.
Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs”
In the case of Indian Muslim history, a core notion that is hard for modern people to wrap our heads around is as follows: It was not all about religion.
Aurangzeb, for instance, acted in ways that are rarely adequately explained by religious bigotry. For example, he ordered the destruction of select Hindu temples (perhaps a few dozen, at most, over his 49-year reign) but not because he despised Hindus. Rather, Aurangzeb generally ordered temples demolished in the aftermath of political rebellions or to forestall future uprisings. Highlighting this causality does not serve to vindicate Aurangzeb or justify his actions but rather to explain why he targeted select temples while leaving most untouched. Moreover, Aurangzeb also issued numerous orders protecting Hindu temples and communities from harassment, and he incorporated more Hindus into his imperial administration than any Mughal ruler before him by a fair margin. These actions collectively make sense if we understand Aurangzeb’s actions within the context of state interests, rather than by ascribing suspiciously modern-sounding religious biases to him.
Regardless of the historical motivations for events such as premodern temple destructions, a certain percentage of modern Indians nonetheless feel wronged by their Islamic past. What is problematic, they ask, about recognising historical injustices enacted by Muslim figures? In this regard, the contemporaneity of debates over Indian history is crucial to understanding why the Indo-Islamic past is singled out.
For many people, condemnations of Aurangzeb and other medieval Indian rulers stem not from a serious assessment of the past but rather from anxieties over India’s present and future, especially vis-à-vis its Muslim minority population. After all, one might ask: If we are recognising injustices in Indian history, why are we not also talking about Hindu rulers? When judged according to modern standards, medieval rulers the world over measure up poorly, and Hindu kings are no exception. Medieval Hindu political leaders destroyed mosques periodically, for instance, including in Aurangzeb’s India. Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs” for one reason: They were perpetrated by Hindus rather than Muslims.
Religious bigotry may not have been an overarching problem in India’s medieval past, but it is a crucial dynamic in India’s present. Religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. Non-lethal forms of discrimination and harassment are common. Fear is part of everyday life for many Indian Muslims. Thus, when scholars compare medieval Islamic rulers like Aurangzeb to South Africa’s twentieth-century apartheid leaders, for example, they not only display a surprising lack of commitment to the historical method but also provide fodder for modern communal fires.
It is high time we discarded the pernicious myth of India’s medieval Muslim villains. This poisonous notion imperils the tolerant foundations of modern India by erroneously positing religious-based conflict and Islamic extremism as constant features of life on the subcontinent. Moreover, it is simply bad history. India has a complicated and messy past, and we do it and ourselves no justice by flattening its nuances to reflect the religious tensions of the present.
Audrey Truschke is a historian at Stanford University and Rutgers University-Newark. Her first book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court will be published by Columbia University Press and Penguin India in 2016. She is currently working on a book on Aurangzeb that will published by Juggernaut Books.
Published in the Milli Gazette
Mythification of History and ‘Social Common Sense’ By Ram Puniyani
The discipline of history has come to the center stage of social debate for last two decades. We have witnessed a worsening of inter-community relations and spreading of derogatory myths against minority communities in particular and weaker sections of society in general. The rising tide of communal violence is standing on the myths against the minority community, which are based on a particular interpretation of history.
These myths are very peculiar. When scratched a little, one can see the falsity of the same. In our context the period of medieval times is the one maximally misused for manufacturing such myths. It should be noted that the bias of our history is towards the kings and heroes of the past and toilers, women, slaves, shudras, the poor peasants, the sections which make the history by providing the very ground on which these ‘nobles’ stand, are missing from the discourse of history.
In today’s parlance many a myths have assumed the status of unshakable facts. Generally it is assumed that Muslim kings destroyed Hindu temples to spite the Hindus. Today’s ‘social common sense’ believes that not only Somnath temple but also Ram Janm bhumi temple, Kashi Vishwanth temple, the Mathura Krishna Janmasthan and thousands of other temples have been destroyed by the Mughal aggressors. The general and sweeping statement apart let us have a look at some of these demolitions. Mahmud Gazni on way to Somanth encountered the Muslim ruler of Multan (Abdul Fat Dawod), with whom he had to have a battle to cross Multan. In the battle the Jama Masjid of Multan was badly damaged. Further on way he struck compromise with Anandpal, the ruler of Thaneshwar who escorted his army towards Somanth with due hospitality. Gazni’s army had a good number of Hindu soldiers and five out of his 12 generals were Hindus (Tilak, Rai Hind, Sondhi, Hazran etc). Before proceeding to damage the temple he took custody of the gold and jewels, which were part of the temple treasury. After the battle he issued coins in his name with inscriptions in Sanskrit and appointed a Hindu Raja as his representative in Somnath. Similarly Dr. Pattabhi Sitarammaiya in his History of India describes the circumstances under which the Kashi Vishwanth temple had to be razed to the ground. He states that when Aurangzeb’s entourage was on way from Delhi to Kolkata the Hindu queens requested for the overnight stay in Kashi to enable them to have the Darshan of Lord Vishwananth. Next morning one of the queens who had gone to have the holy prayer did not return and was found in the basement of the temple, dishonored and raped by the Mahant of the temple. The Mahant was punished and the temple was razed to the ground as it had become polluted due to this ghastly act. Aurangzeb gave land and state support to build another temple.
It should be noted that Hindu Kings were not far behind in attacking and damaging temples when it became a political necessity for their rule or for the lust of wealth. Retreating Maratha armies destroyed the temple of Srirangtatanm, to humiliate Tipu Sultan whom they could not defeat in the battle. Parmar kings destroyed Jain temples. A Hindu king called Shashank cut off the Bodhi tree where Lord Gautam Buddha got his Nirvana. Similarly Kalhan a Kashmiri poet describes the life of King Harshdev of Kashmir, who appointed a special officer, Devotpatan Nayak (An officer who uproots the images of Gods) to usurp the gold from the temples. Aurangzeb did not hesitate to destroy the Jama Masjid in Golconda as Nawab Tanashah refused to pay him tribute for three consecutive years and hid his wealth underneath a mosque, which was damaged by Aurangzeb to recover his ‘dues’. Also many a Muslim kings gave Jagirs to the temples to keep their subjects happy. It is clear that kings from both the religions destroyed the places of worship for the sake of amassing wealth or for other political purposes.
Similarly the myth that Islam spread on the point of sword is equally baseless. It is true that many a ruling nobles and Rajas adopted Islam to rise in the hierarchy of the Mughal emperors. Also some families must have adopted Islam out of fear of the Muslim kings. But this conversion is a small trickle compared to the majority of Dalits (then called untouchables), the poor toiling peasants who took to Islam to escape the tyranny of Brahmins and zamindars. This was out of a longing for social justice, which prompted them to interact with the Sufi saints who unlike Ulama were mixing with the poor and the deprived of the society and adopted local idioms. It was in response to the appeal of peaceful Sufis and the longing to achieve social justice that majority of Shudras got converted to Islam.
Similarly the glorification of Shivaji and Rana Pratap for establishing Hindu Kingdoms is a total myth. Rana Pratap was longing for a higher status in the Mughal administration and having been denied that, entered into a battle with Mughal king Akbar. Now this was by no means a fight between Hindus and Muslims. Akbar was represented in the battle by Raja Mansing and an army, which was a mix of Rajput soldiers and Muslim soldiers, while Rana Pratap’s army also had Muslim (Pathan) and Rajput soldiers. His second in command was Hakim Khan Sur, whose mazar is the place of annual festival in Haldi Ghati even today. After Rana Pratap, his son Amar Singh was granted higher status in Mughal administration and he became a close ally of Jehangir. Similarly Shivaji was struggling for removal of corruption and a higher control of local resources, His confidential secretary was Maulavi Haider Ali, and the chief of his cannon division was Ibrahim Gardi.
Also his close ally at the time of his escape from Agra forte was none other than Madari Mehtar, a Muslim prince in whom Shivaji reposed all his trust.
His respect for other religions is legendry. He had built a mosque near the temple in front of his fort in Raigadh. He paid obeisance to Muslim seers (Hazrat Baba Yakut Bahut Thorwale) and Fr. Ambrose Pinto of Surat. The battles of Guru Govind Singh were far from religious. Though the torture of his children and the carrot of pardon in lieu of conversion to Islam are true, it was more to humiliate the enemy than to spread the religion by the Muslim kings. It must be remembered that Govind Singh had proceeded to Deccan to strike a compromise with Aurangzeb but when on way he came to know of Aurangzeb’s death. Later the compromise was struck with Bahadur Shah in return for higher status in administration. We also cannot forget that when most of the Indian kings felt the stifling policies of British rulers they requested Bahadushah Zafar, who despite his old age accepted the leadership of the rebellion at great personal cost. Also it is worth remembering that many a ideologues regard this anti British rebellion as the ‘First war of Independence’.
We cannot ignore the fact that kings were primarily rulers out to expand their empires or to aspire for a higher status in the administration or to garner more wealth through whatever means.
Some of the myths from the ancient Indian period are also worth recounting. It is asserted that women had a place of honor in ancient India where they were worshipped. This ‘Indian value based place of woman’ is offered as a contrast to the ‘Western campaigns’ of Women’s Liberation movement. Now we know that Manusmriti, the 2-3rd century AD text, makes the position and treatment of women in ancient India very clear for us. As per this: Women (and also shudras) were denied access to sacred learning, and the substitute offered to them was marriage and serving the husband. Also for women performance of household duties was identified with the worship of sacred fire i.e. total domesticity was the domain of women. They were to be under control of father, husband or son depending on the stage of their life, and even in her own house she was not supposed to do anything on her own.
The other myth from this period is about the untouchability. It is being propagated that Untouchability is the creation of Islam. Communities escaped to Jungles etc. to avoid conversion by the tyrannical Mughal rulers, became poor and untouchables. Contrary to this, in fact, the truth is something else. The truth exposes the brutality of Brahminical ideology. First of all, untouchability became the accompaniment of `caste’ system, somewhere around first century AD. That is from first century itself untouchability is the social practice prevalent here. Manusmriti, codifies the then existing practices, which show in utmost clarity the type of despicable social practices, which the upper castes were imposing upon the weaker, lower castes. Now the major incursion, invasions of Muslims began in the subcontinent from 11th century AD. Much before the invasion of Muslim Kings shudras were, treated as untouchables.
The discipline of history is a double-edged weapon. When developed in a rational way with the focus on the lives of the people and communities at large it acts as a cementing force between different communities, in the hands of communalists the same History becomes a mechanism to spread hatred against the ‘other’ community.
(Dr. Ram Puniyani teaches at IIT Mumbai and is member of EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)
Below is a video by Dr. Ram Puniyani detailing counter-arguments to historical misinformation by ultra-nationalists in India.
I want to add few points here as to why Somnath Temple was raided by Mahmud Ghazni.
. The real motive behind it was that the remnants of the defeated coalition army which entered the temple and used it as a shield and fort to attack the armies of Mahmud of Ghazni.The temple was a hub for the enemies of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, including Brahmins of Mathura and Thanesar as well as it was a refuge of Qaramitians and Isma`ilis of Sindh, Iran and Gujarat, who conspired day and night against Mahmud of Ghazni. This was the basic motive that led him to attack the temple, as there was no other way to fight those plotters.
Suppose if there are fighters in a temple who use it as shield and inflict losses upon your army, what will you do? Will you wait or will you raid it?
Furthermore, the Brahmins had propagated and spread amongst the people by all ways and means that the idol of Somanatha was angry with the idol of Thanesar and Muthra that is why Somnath consented to the acts of Mahmud of Ghazni and did not prevent him from destroying it. But now, when Mahmud and his soldiers intended to raid Somanatha itself, the idol of Somanatha is going to eliminate them within a moment since it is the king of all idols, the sea itself comes to worship it during some fixed days. Somanatha was located on the coast of the sea, and the water was extended to Somanatha because of the lunar tide that is a common and natural phenomena. But the priests and spiritual leaders made people to believe that the sea comes to worship the idol of Somanatha.Furthermore, the devotees of Somanatha believed in the superiority of Somanatha over other deities and idols that were worshiped in northern India. Also the worshippers of Somanatha always degraded and demeaned the devotees of other idols, attributing the calamities and defeat of the people of northern India to the weakness of their gods and inabilities of their deities. So the people of northern India incited the king Mahmud to demolish the idol which was a source pride for its devotees in Gujarat and a cause of humiliation for its opponents to expose their false belief and blind-following to Somanatha taking the revenge of their continuous degrading and disgracing.The king Mahmud heard of the false propaganda and rumors by priests that the defeat of northern India at his hands was due to the anger of Somanatha with the idols and deities of northern India. They believed that if Sultan Mahmud only neared to the Somanatha with his army he will face a humiliating defeat. When he heard such myths and fairy tales, he intended to abolish such assertions.The Sultan Mahmud began his journey from Ghazni, Afghanistan on the 10th of Sh`aban in 415 A.H., 17th October, 1024 A.D. and arrived Multan on the 15th of Ramadan, 415 A.H., 20th November 1024 A.H., then he traveled from Multan to Gujarat. In fact, this operation was necessary in order to protect his state from the plots and political intrigue of the king of Gujarat which was a center of evil activities against Sultan Mahmud. The king of Gujarat and his supporters themselves violated the sanctity of the temple because they made it a place of intrigues and political plans instead of a place of worship and adoration. The Indian king fled the city when he feared of his defeat on the hand of Mahmud of Ghazni. When they managed to enter the city, some Indian people stood on the wall and shouted: “Your death brought you here, no one of you will escape safe, and the Somanatha will eliminate you all within a second.” They were fully convinced that the deity has supernatural powers and the king Mahmud would be defeated miraculously. The king Mahmud ordered his army to throw arrows on the fighters inside the temple who were more than ten thousands, fearless and courageous fighters. The fighting lasted for two days, they stood bravely in front of Mahmud, who was attacked from behind by two Indian Kings Dabashalim and Paramdev of neighboring cities with forty thousand fighters. It was a very critical condition for the king Mahmud. However, he prayed Allah (Glory be to Him) asking for help. He divided his fighters into two groups, one of them continued fighting with the warriors of Somanatha and other fought Dabashalim and Paramdev and their 40000 brave men, and thus he defeated both fronts of the fighters successfully. It is also said that the peasants residing in the outskirts of Somnath complained to the King Mahmud that the priests of the temple wrong and loot their prosperity on the name of Somnath, they force them to give their daughters to serve the temple, throwing them into prostitution. They requested the King seeking his help. This led the King to chase the priests of the temple. Thus, the King was required to raid the temple. He entered and captured all its money and wealth and distributed them amongst the oppressed farmers of Somnath.Most of the historical accounts agree that Sultan Mahmud broke the idol of Somanatha but did he did not harm any ordinary citizen, rather, he treated them with mercy, kindness and tolerance.When Mahmud of Ghazni raided it, the false miracle became unmasked when the roof was broken it fell sown on the earth and the priests and devotees faced humiliation. Also the Hindu army was hundreds of thousands of strong men who were defeated by only ten thousands of Muslim fighters.
LOL! To what length will people go to rewrite historical facts. There are still mosques in India, incl. capital city Delhi that have clear inscriptions that they were built by using stones from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. Why such reluctance to own the wrongs of the past? It’s like history books in Pakistan that even bloggers (incl. Salman Zafar) in Pakistan (who risk so much just by writing as in case of bloggers in Bangladesh) are beginning to challenge as a bunch of lies. Hinduism and Christianity have undergone major reforms and that included accepting what all ailed these religions. It’s like rewriting history denying the Spanish inquisitions or all crusades! You refer to Richard Eaton. Well, in the “The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760,” he himself writes, “Overwhelming majority of Muslims in India are Indian natives converted to Islam.” So has he now forgotten about it or is the site essentially for propaganda only. I truly thought the intent was to have an honest dialogue instead of peddling more misinformation.
Even if Aurangzeb wasn’t the jihadist fanatic that Hindus often portray him as, could he still have been an unhinged megalomaniac whose wars so weakened both the Mughal Empire itself and the Hindu states to the south, as to leave both wide open for British colonial conquest?
If Hindus were converted by force to accept Islam, they could have easily converted them back to Hinduism since there is no body to stop them from reconversion. They in fact accepted Islam due to its authenticity and truth. No ruler forced them; otherwise they would have reconverted back to Hinduism. If Muslim rulers really had really applied force, the whole country of India would have been Muslim now. This kind of persecution never happened and it is nothing but a false propaganda by the non-muslims against Islam and Muslims.
Let’s use common sense. The number of temples as found in the current Indian region is the same as that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or even Kashmir for that matter. Now, are you saying that the number of temples to be found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir is the same as in the Indian region? If your answer is “YES”, we know what it means 😀
Here is a rebutal to Eaton’s thesis :
The Details about “Hindu Iconoclasm”
[pp. 64-76 of ELST Koenraad. 2002. The Case Against the Temple. Delhi: VOI]
A remarkable aspect of the Ayodhya debate is the complete lack of active involvement by Western scholars. Their role has been limited to that of loudspeakers for the secularist-cum-Islamist party-line denying that any temple demolition had preceded the construction of the Babri Masjid. Even those who (like Hans Bakker and Peter Van der Veer) had earlier given their innocent support to the historical account, putting the Ayodhya case in the context of systematic Islamic iconoclasm, hurried to fall in line once the secularist campaign of history-rewriting started.
Given the widely acknowledged importance of the Ayodhya conflict, one would have expected at least some of the well-funded Western academics to embark on their own investigation of the issue rather than parroting the slogans emanating from Delhi’s Jama Masjid and JNU. Their behavior in the Ayodhya debate provides an interesting case study of the tendency of establishment institutions and settled academicians to genuflect before ideological authorities over-ruling scholarly procedure in favor of the political fashion of the day. This is, I fear, equally true of the one Western academic who has substansively contributed to the debate, and whose contribution we will presently discuss.
Massive Evidence of Temple Destruction:
One Western author who has become very popular among India’s history-writers is the American scholar Prof. Richard M. Eaton. Unlike his colleagues, he has done some original research pertinent to the issue of Islamic iconoclasm, though not of the Ayodhya case specifically. A selective reading of his work, focusing on his explanations but keeping most of his facts out of view, is made to serve the negationist position regarding temple destruction in the name of Islam.
Yet, the numerically most important body of data presented by him concurs neatly with the classic (now dubbed “Hindutva”) account. In his oft-quoted paper “Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states”, he gives a list of “eighty” cases of Islamic temple destruction. “Only eighty”, is how the secularist history-rewriters render it, but Eaton makes no claim that his list is exhaustive. Morover, eighty isn’t always eighty.
Thus, in his list, we find mentioned as one instance: “1094: Benares, Ghurid army”. Did the Ghurid army work one instance of temple destruction? Eaton provides his source and there we read that in Benares, the Ghurid royal army “destroyed nearly one thousand temples, and raised mosques on their foundations”. This way, practically every one of the instances cited by Eaton must be read as actually ten, or a hundred, or as in this case, even a thousand temples destroyed. Even Eaton’s non-exhaustive list, presented as part of “the kind of responsible and constructive discussion that this controversial topic so badly needs”, yields the same thousands of temple destructions ascribed to the Islamic rulers in most relevant pre-1989 histories of Islam and in pro-Hindu publications.
That part of course is not highlighted in secularist papers exploiting Eaton’s work. Far more popular, however, is the spin which Eaton puts in this data: Islam cannot be blamed for the acts of Muslim idol-breakers, the blame lies elsewhere….
Apparently in good faith, but nonetheless in exactly the same manner as the worst Indian history falsifiers, Eaton discusses the record of Islam in India while keeping the entire history of Islam outside of India out of view. This history would show unambiguously that what happened in India was merely a continuation of Prophet Mohammad’s own conduct in Arabia and his successors’ conduct during the conquest of West and Central Asia.
That the Arabian precedent is ignored is all the more remarkable when you consider that the stated immediate objective for Eaton’s paper was Sita Ram Goel’s endeavor to “document a pattern of wholesale temple destruction by Muslims in the pre-British period”. Goel’s elaborately argued thesis, telling left unmentioned here by Eaton, is precisely that Islamic iconoclasm in India follows a pattern set in the preceding centuries in West Asia and accepted as normative in Islamic doctrine. Eaton’s glaring omission of this all-important precedent makes his alternative explanation of Islamic iconoclasm in India suspect beforehand.
Instead of seeking the motives of the Islamic idol-breakers in Islam, Eaton seeks it elsewhere: in Hinduism. He admits that during the Hindu re-conquest of Muslim-occupied territories: “Examples of mosque desecrations are strikingly few in number.” Yet, in his opinion, Hindus had been practicing their own very specific form of iconoclasm in earlier centuries. Though they themselves seem to have lost the habit by Shivaji’s time, it was this Hindu tradition which the Muslim invaders copied: “The form of desecration that showed the greatest continuity with pre-Turkish practice was the seizure of the image of the defeated king’s state deity and its abudction to the victor’s capital as a trophy of war.”
One of the examples cited is this: “When Firuz Tughluk invaded Orissa in 1359 and learned that the region’s most important temple was that of Jagannath located inside the raja’s fortress in Puri, he carried off the stone image if the god and installed it in Delhi ‘in an ignominous position’.” And likewise, there are numerous instances of idols built into footpaths, lavatories and other profane positions. This is not disputed, but can any Hindu precedent be cited for it?
The work for which Indian secularists are most grateful to Eaton, is his digging up of a few cases of what superficially appears to be of Hindu iconoclasm: “For, while it is true that contemporary Persian sources routinely condemn idolatory (but-parasti) on religious grounds, it is also true that attacks on images patronized by enemy kings had been, from about the sixth century A.D. on, thoroughly integrated into Indian political behavior.” Because a state deity’s idol was deemed to resonate with the state’s fortunes (so that its accidental breaking apart was deemed an evil omen for the state itself), the generalization of idol worship in temples in the first millennium A.D. oddly implied that “early medieval history abounds in instances of temple desecration that occurred admidst inter-dynastic conflicts.”
If the “eighty” (meaning thousands of) cases of Islamic iconoclasm are only a trifle, the “abounding” instances of Hindu iconoclasm, “thoroughly integrated” in Hindu political culture, can reasonably be expected to number tens of thousands. Yet, Eaton’s list, given without reference to primary sources, contains, even in a maximalist reading (i.e., counting “two” when one king takes away two idols from one enemy’s royal temple), only 18 individual cases. This even includes the case of “probably Buddhist” idols installed in a Shiva temple by Govinda III, the Rashtrakuta conqueror of Kanchipuram, not after seizing them but after accepting them as a pre-emptive tribute offered by the fearful king of Sri Lanka.
In this list, cases of actual destruction amount to exactly two: “Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state deity of Lalitaditya’s kingdom in Kashmir”, and: “In the early tenth century, the Rashtrakut monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Jamuna river) patronized by the Rashtrakutas’ deadly enemies the Pratiharas, but took away special delight in recording the fact.”
The latter is the only instance of temple destruction in the list, even though rehotical sleight-of-hand introduces it as representative of a larger phenomenon: “While the dominant pattern here was one of looting royal temples and carrying off images of state deities, we also hear of Hindu kings engaging in the destruction of royal temples of their adversaries.”
So, what is the “dominant pattern” in the sixteen remaining cases? As we saw in the case of the Lankan idols in Kanchipuram, the looted (or otherwise acquired) idols were respectfully installed in a temple in the conqueror’s seat of power, e.g., a solid image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, seized earlier by the Pratihara king Herambapala, “was seized from the Pratiaharas by the Candella king Yasovarman and installed in the Lakshamana temple of Khajuraho”. So, the worship of the image continued, albeit in a new location; and the worship of the old location was equally allowed to continue, albeit with a new idol as the old and prestigious one had been taken away. In both places, the existing system of worship was left intact.
This is in radical contrast with Islamic iconoclasm, which was meant to disrupt Hindu worship and symbolize or announce its definite and complete annihilation. There is no case of an Islamic conqueror seizing a Hindu idol and taking it to his capital for purposes of continuing its worship there. Hindu conquerors did not want to destroy or even humiliate or disrupt the religion of the defeated state. On the contrary, in most cases, the winning and the defeated party shared the same religion and were in no mood to dishonor it in any way. The situation with Islamic conquerors is quite the opposite.
That is why Eaton fails to come up with the key evidence for his thesis of a native Hindu origin of Muslim iconoclasm. He can show us not a single document testifying that a Muslim conqueror committed acts of iconoclasm in imitation of an existing local Hindu tradition. On the contrary, when Islamic iconoclasts cared to justify their acts in writing, it was invariably with reference to the Islamic doctrine and the Prophet’s precedents of idol-breaking and of the war of extermination against idolatry.
No advanced education and specialist knowledge is required to see the radical difference between the handful of cases of alleged Hindu iconoclasm and the thousands of certified Islamic cases of proudly self-described iconoclasm. It is like the difference between an avid reader stealing a book from the library and a barbarian burning the library down. In one case, an idol is taken away from a temple, with respectful greetings to an officiating priest, in order to re-install it in another temple and restart its worship. In the other case, an idol is taken away from the ruins of a temple, with a final kick against the priest’s severed head, in order to install it in a lavatory for continuous profanation and mockery. Of the last two sentences, a secularist only retains the part that “an idol is taken away from the temple”, and decides that it’s all the same.
For Prof, Eaton’s information, it may be recalled that an extreme willful superficiality regarding all matters religious is a key premise of Nehruvian secularism. While such an anti-scholarly attitude may be understandable in the case of political activists parachuted into academic positions in Delhi, there is no decent reason why an American scholar working in the relative quiet of Tuscon, Arizona, should play their game.
Temples and Mosques as Political Centers
Prof. Eaton develops at some length the secularist theory that temple destruction came about, not as the result of an “essentialized ‘theology of iconoclasm’ felt to be intrinsic to the Islamic religion”, but as an added symbolic dimension of the suppression of rebellions. In some cases this has an initial semblance of credibility, e.g., “Before marching to confront Shivaji himself, however, the Bijapur general [Afzal Khan] first proceeded to Tuljapur and desecrated a temple dedicated to the goddess Bhavani, to which Shivaji and his family had been personally devoted.”
Yet, the theory breaks down when the fate of mosques associated with rebellion are considered. Eaton himself mentions cases which ought to have alerted him to the undeniably religious discrimination in the decision of which places of worship to desecrate, e.g., Aurangzeb destroyed “temples in Jodhpur patronized by a former supporter of Dar Shikoh, the emperor’s brother and arch rival”. But Dara Shikoh surely also had Muslim supporters who did their devotions and perhaps even their intrigue plotting in mosques? Indeed, as a votary of Hindu-Muslim syncretism, he certainly also frequented mosques himself. So why did Aurangzeb not bother to demolish those mosques, if his motive was merely to punish rebels?
Eaton describes how a Sufi dissident, Shaikh Muhammadi, was persecuted by Aurangzeb for teaching deviant religious doctrines, and sought refute in a mosque. Aurangzeb managed to arrest him, but did not demolish the mosque. This incident plainly contradicts the secularist claim that if any temple destructions took place at all, the reason was non-religious, viz. the suppression of rebellion located in the temples affected. As per Eaton’s own data, we find that intrigues and rebellions involving mosques never led to the destruction of the mosque.
He even admits in so many words: “No evidence, however, suggests that ruling authorities attacked public monuments like mosques or Sufi shrines that had been patronized by disloyal or rebellious officers. Nor were such monuments desecrated when one Indo-Muslim kingdom conquered another and annexed its territories.”
Eaton tries to get around this as follows: “This incident suggests that mosques in Mughal India, though religiously potent, were considered detached from both sovereign terrain and dynastic authority, and hence politically inactive. As such, their desecration could have had no relevance to the business of de-establishing a regime that had patronized them.”
One wonders on what planet Eaton has been living lately. In the present age, we frequently hear of mosques as centres of Islamic political activism, not just in Delhi or Lahore or Cairo but even in New York. Sectarian warfare, as between Shias and Sunnis, always emanated from mosques almost by definition, and inter-Muslim clan or dynastic rivalries likewise crystallized around centers of preaching. The Friday prayers always include a prayer for the Islamic ruler, and the Islamic doctrine never separates political from religious concerns. If Muslim rulers chose to respect the mosques, it was definitely not because they were unconnected to politics.
Eaton continues: “Not surprisingly, then, when Hindu rulers established their authority over territories of defeated Muslim rulers, they did not as a rule desecrate mosques or shrines, as, for example, when Shivaji established a Maratha kingdom on the ashes of Bijapur’s former dominions in Maharashtra, or when Vijayanagara annexed the former territories of the Bahmanis or their successors.”
Once people have interiorized a certain framework of interpretation, they become capable of disregarding obvious facts which don’t fit their schemes. In this case, when explaining Hindu non-iconoclasm, Eaton insists in the contrived and demonstrably false theory of the political irrelevance of mosques even though a far simpler and well documented explanation is staring him in the face: unlike Muslims, Hindus disapproved of iconoclasm and preferred universal respect for people’s religious sensibilities.
Raj Bhoja’S Temple:
ontrary to the impression created in the secularist media, Prof. Eaton has not even begun to refute Sita Ram Goel’s thesis. He manages to leave all the arguments for Goel’s main thesis of an Islamic theology of iconoclasm undiscussed. Of Goel’s basic data in the fabled list of mosques standing on the ruins of temples, only a single one is mentioned: “an inscription dated 1455, found over the doorway of a tomb-shrine in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh” which mentions “the destruction of a Hindu temple by one Abdullah Shah Changal during the reign of Raja Bhoja, a renowned Paramara king who had ruled over the region from 1010 to 1053.”
In the main text, Eaton seems to be saying that Goel is an uncritical amateur who “accepts the inscription’s reference to temple destruction more or less at face value, as though it were a contemporary newspaper account reporting an objective fact”. But in footnote, he has to admit that Goel is entirely aware of the chronological problems surrounding old inscriptions: “Goel does, however, consider it more likely that the event took place during the reign of Raja Bhoja II in the late thirteenth century rather than during that of Raja Bhoja I in the eleventh century.”
Either way, the inscription is considerably younger than the events recorded in it. In history, it is of course very common that strictly contemporary records of an event are missing, yet the event is known through secondary younger records. These have to be treated with caution (just like the strictly contemporary sources, written from a more lively knowledge of the event, but also often in a more distortive partisan involvement in it), yet they cannot be ignored, Eaton makes the most of this time distance, arguing that the inscription is “hardly contemporary” and “presents a richly textured legend elaborated over many generations of oral transmission until 1455”. Therefore, “we cannot know with certainty” whether the described temple destruction ever took place.
So, at the time of my writing it has been twelve years since Goel published his list, and exactly one scholar has come forward to challenge one item in the list; who, instead of proving it wrong, settles for the ever-safe suggestion that it could do with some extra research. Given the eagerness of a large and well-funded crowd of academics and intellectuals to prove Goel wrong, I would say that that meager result amounts to a mighty vindication. And the fact remains that the one inscription that we do have on the early history of the Islamic shrine under discussion, does posit a temple destruction. So far, the balance of evidence is on the side of the temple is on the side of the temple destruction scenario, and if evidence for the non-demolition scenario is simply non-existent.
For argument’s sake, we may imagine that Eaton is right, and that the inscription merely invented the temple destruction. That would only mean Eaton is right on this point of detail, but also that the very same inscription proves his main thesis wrong. For, suppose no temple was destroyed, yet the Islamic inscription claims the opposite. In Eaton’s own words: “Central to the story are themes of conversion, martyrdom, redemption and the patronage of sacred sites by Indo-Muslim royalty, as well as, of course, the destruction of a temple.” Temple destruction is thus deemed central to Indo-Muslim identity, even to the point where local histories free of real temple destruction would be supplied with imaginary temple destructions, – so as to fit the pattern deemed genuinely Islamic. This would illustrate how the Muslims themselves believed in (and were consequently susceptible to further motivation by) “an essentialized ‘theology of iconoclasm’ felt to be intrinsic to the Islamic religion” what Eaton dismisses elsewhere as a “wrong” explanation.
For the rest, all that Eaton has done to show against Goel’s thesis is that it is based on “selective translations of pre-modern Persian chronicles, together with a selective use of epigraphic data”. However, the larger a body of evidence, the harder it becomes to credibly dismiss it as “selective”. Goel’s hundreds of convergent testimonies cannot be expelled from the discussion so lightly. But improvement is always possible, and we are ready to learn from scholars with higher standards, drawing their conclusions from a wider and less “selective” body of evidence. Unfortunately, Prof. Eaton has failed to cite us any paper or book on Indo-Muslim iconoclasm which is less “selective”. His own studies silence on each one of the testimonies cited by Goel amounts to a selective favoritism towards the data seemingly supporting the secularist theory.
It is of course true that there are cases (and Eaton delights the secularists by citing some new ones) where Muslim rulers allowed Hindu temples to function, to be repaired, even to be built anew. This was never disputed by Goel, for these cases of tolerance firstly do not nullify the cases of iconoclasm, and secondly they do not nullify the link between iconoclasm and Islamic theology. Muslim rulers were human beings, and all manner of circumstances determined to what extent they implemented Islamic injunctions. Many were rulers first and Muslims second. Often they had to find a modus vivendi with the Hindu majority in order to keep fellow Muslim sectarian or dynastic rivals off their own backs, and in order to avoid Hindu rebellion. But that is no merit of Islam itself, merely a testimony to the strength which Hindu society retained even at its lowest ebb. To the extent that Muslim rulers took their Islam seriously, a world free of Paganism and idol-temples remained their stated Quranic ideal, but political and military power equations often kept them from actively pursuing it.
Richard Eaton’s paper is the best attempt so far to defend the secularist alternative to the properly historical explanation of Islamic iconoclasm as being based on Islamic doctrine. Yet, he fails to offer any data which are incompatible with the latter explanation. There is no reason to doubt his good faith, but like many people with strong convictions, he somehow slips into a selective use of data, contrived interpretations and special pleading, all converging on a single aim: exculpating Islam itself from its own record of iconoclasm.
According to the cover text on his book, Eaton is professor of History at the University of Arizona and “a leading historian of Islam”. Had he defended the thesis that iconoclasm is rooted in Islam itself, he would have done justice to the evidence from Islamic sources, yet he would have found it very hard to get published by Oxford University Press or reach the status of leading Islam scholar that he now enjoys. One can easily become an acclaimed scholar of Hinduism by lambasting and vilifying that religion, but Islam is somehow more demanding of respect.
Raman Sehgal, you have given an awesome rebuttal of the secularist – leftist narrative of Indian history. Hindus should start coming up with such rational arguments , rather than beating up people and shouting them down.
Muslims can be debunked by their own literature. Mohammed on capturing Mecca himself destroyed all idols of Kabba and all polytheists were asked to destroy their Gods or face sword. Secularists think that as muslims crossed Khyber they became secular and left iconoclasm behind. They r living in fools world.
In order to know Islam read Koran in chronological order – that not even 0.001% of muslims have done – if not read chronologically one cannot understand Koran.
ANyone wanting to have a copy of Kooran in chronological order, along with summary of Sira – email me at motorint (at) gmail (dot) com
for rebuttal of above ; read – http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/eaton.html
I personally feel that both Hindu & Muslim fanatics should sit together and start thinking about Indianism rather than making business out of religious hatred…..Its high time our great nation’s true progress is prioritized than this religion hating crap, Abdulsattar Mulla: A Loyal Indian citizen & Muslim
Reproducing some excerpts my article from my blog: https://puneetchandra.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/destruction-of-hindu-temples-by-islamic-invaders/
1. Muhammad bin Qãsim (712-715 CE)
“Muhammad wrote to al-Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq:
‘The forts of Siwistan and Sisam have been already taken. The nephew of Dahir (King Dahir of Sindh), his warriors, and principal officers have been despatched, and infidels converted to Islam or destroyed. In place of idol temples, mosques and other places of worship have been built, pulpits have been erected, the Khutba is read, the call to prayers is raised so that devotions are performed at the stated hours. The takbir and praise to the Almighty God are offered every morning and evening’.”
[- ‘Chach-Namah’, History of India by its own historians, H.M.Elliot, Vol 4, p. 164]
Other authorities say that Muhammad granted peace for 700,000 dirhams and entertainment for the Moslems for three days. The terms of surrender included also the houses of the idols and the fire temples. The idols were thrown out, plundered of their ornaments and burned.
[-Kitab Futuh Al-Buldan of al-Biladuri, translated into English by F.C. Murgotte, Columbia University, New York, 1924, p. 707.]
On reaching this place, he made preparations to besiege it, but the approach was covered by a fortified temple, surrounded by strong wall, built of hewn stone and mortar, one hundred and twenty feet in height. After some time a bramin, belonging to the temple, being taken, and brought before Kasim, stated, that four thousand Rajpoots defended the place, in which were from two to three thousand bramins, with shorn heads, and that all his efforts would be vain; for the standard of the temple was sacred; and while it remained entire no profane foot dared to step beyond the threshold of the holy edifice. Mahomed Kasim having caused the catapults to be directed against the magic flag-staff, succeeded, on the third discharge, in striking the standard, and broke it down. Mahomed Kasim levelled the temple and its walls with the ground and circumcised the brahmins. The infidels highly resented this treatment, by invectives against him and the true faith. On which Mahomed Kasim caused every brahmin, from the age of seventeen and upwards, to be put to death; the young women and children of both sexes were retained in bondage and the old women being released, were permitted to go whithersoever they chose.
[-Tãrîkh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981, Vol. IV, pp. 235]
2. Mahmud of Ghazni, reign as Emir of Ghazna (998 – 1002 CE);
Sultan of Ghazna (1002-1030 CE)
At that time, by order of the Amir Sabaktagin, he (Mahmud Ghazni) destroyed the temple (lit. idol-house) of the Hindus which was on the bank of river Sodra and made his fame (lit. good fortune) equal to the fame of the Lord of the Faith (of Islam).
[-Tarikh-i-Sultan Mahmud-i-Ghaznavi by Firishtah, tr. as The history of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni by Sir Roos-Keppel, G. (George Olof) & Khan, Abdul Ghani, Qazi (1908), p. 5]
The Sultan after this, to make firm the religion of the prophet determined (to wage) a holy war (Jihad) against the infidels of Nagarkot, and to destroy the idol-houses and started.
[-Tarikh-i-Sultan Mahmud-i-Ghaznavi by Firishtah, tr. as The history of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni by Sir Roos-Keppel, G. (George Olof) & Khan, Abdul Ghani, Qazi (1908), p. 17-18]
In 1012 CE, when the Sultan again took his army towards Thanesar to wage Jihad, he sent word to his vassal King Anandpal of Punjab to assist him with soldiers and material. Anandpal gives him all he wants along with a 2000 strong cavalry and sends his brother with a letter wherein he entreats the Sultan to desist from proceeding to Thanesar to destroy and desecrate temples and offers him a huge amount of tribute instead. The Sultan’s reply makes it clear what his intention really is.
“In the religion of the musalmans it is (laid down that this is) a meritorious act that anyone who may destroy the place of worship of the heathen he will reap great reward on the day of judgement, and my intention is to remove entirely the idols from the cities of Hindustan. How then can I prevent myself from going to Thanesar?”
[-Tarikh-i-Sultan Mahmud-i-Ghaznavi by Firishtah, tr. as The history of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni by Sir Roos-Keppel, G. (George Olof) & Khan, Abdul Ghani, Qazi (1908), p. 21]
‘After the Sultan (had purified Hind from idolatry, and raised mosques therein, he determined to invade the capital of Hind to punish those who kept idols and would not acknowledge the unity of God. He marched with a large army in the year AH 404 (1013 CE) during a dark night.’
[- ‘Tarjuma-i-Yamini’, History of India by its own historians, H.M.Elliot, Vol 2, p. 37]
Thanesar (Haryana)-destruction of Chakra Swami Temple
The city of Taneshar is highly venerated by Hindus. The idol of that place is called Cakrasvamin, i.e. the owner of the cakra (Vishnu), a weapon which we have already described. It is of bronze, and is nearly the size of a man. It is now lying in the hippodrome in Ghazna, together with the Lord of Somanath, which is a representation of the penis of Mahadeva, called Linga.
[-E.C. Sachau (tr.), Alberuni’s India, New Delhi Reprint, 1983, p. 117]
After the sack of Thanesar, according to Firishta,
‘the Sultan despatched a little less than two-hundred thousand (lakh) slave girls and slaves from that country and to Ghazni. It is said that that year they counted the city of Ghazni as one of the cities of Hindustan, because many slaves and slave-girls had fallen to each noble.’
[-Tarikh-i-Sultan Mahmud-i-Ghaznavi by Firishtah, tr. as The history of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni by Sir Roos-Keppel, G. (George Olof) & Khan, Abdul Ghani, Qazi (1908), p. 22]
The Sack of Somnath Temple, Gujarat (1024 CE)
The army of Ghaznin, full of bravery, having gone to the foot of the fort, brought down the Hindus from the tops of the ramparts with the points of eye-destroying arrows, and having placed scaling-ladders, they began to ascend with loud cries of Allah-u Akbar (i.e., God is greatest). The Hindus offered resistance, and on that day, from the time that the sun entered upon the fort of the turquoise-coloured sky, until the time that the stars of the bed-chambers of Heaven were conspicuous, did the battle rage between both parties. When the darkness of night prevented the light of the eye from seeing the bodies of men, the army of the faithful returned to their quarters. The next day, having returned to the strife, and having finished bringing into play the weapons of warfare, they vanquished the Hindus.
Those ignorant men ran in crowds to the idol temple, embraced Somnat, and came out again to fight until they were killed. Fifty thousand infidels were killed round about the temple, and the rest who escaped from the sword embarked in ships and fled away.
*Sultan Mahmud, having entered into the idol temple, beheld an excessively long and broad room, in so much that fifty-six pillars© had been made to support the roof Somnat was an idol cut out of stone, whose height was five yards, of which three yards# were visible, and two yards were concealed in the ground.
Yaminu-d daula having broken that idol with his own hand, ordered that they should pack up pieces of the stone, take them to Ghaznin, and throw them on the threshold of the Jami’ Masjid.¬ The sum which the treasury of the Sultan Mahmud obtained from the idol-temple of Somnath was more than twenty thousand thousand dinars, inasmuch as those pillars were all adorned with precious jewels.
[-Habibu-s Siyar by Khondamir; trans. and ed. H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India as Told by its Own Historians. Vol. 4, p. 182-183]
* Mirkhond, the Tarikh-i Alfi, and Firishta, say that some of the Sultan’s men pursued them on the sea, and as Sarandip is mentioned, Briggs considers that probably the dip, or island of Diu, is indicated; but from the historical annals of Ceylon it appears that that island was then a dependency of India.—Upham’s History of Buddhism, p. 31.
© Mirkhond adds that the columns were set with hyacinths, rubies, and pearls, and that each column had been raised at the expense of one of the chief ” Sultans ” of Hind, and that more than 60,000 idolaters were’ slain in this siege.
# “Wilken, in translating Mirkhond, says “cubitos” but the original has, like the Habibu-s Siyar, D’Herbelot makes the five into fifty cubits, and says forty-seven of them were buried beneath the earth.
¬ The Tabakat-i Nasiri says the fragments of the idol were thus distributed, one at the gate of the Jami’ Masjid, one at the gate of the royal palace, one was sent to Mecca, and one to Medina.
Looting of the dead bodies
‘The friends of God (Allah) searched the bodies of the slain (Hindus) for three whole days, in order to obtain booty.’
[- ‘Tarikh Yamini’ of Al-‘Utbi, History of India by its own historians, H.M.Elliot, Vol 2, p. 49]
Mathura (Uttar Pradesh)-destruction Of Krishna Temple
The Sultãn then departed from the environs of the city, in which was a temple of the Hindûs. The name of this place was Maharatul Hind (Mathura). On both sides of the city there were a thousand houses, to which idol temples were attached, all strengthened from top to bottom by rivets of iron, and all made of masonry work
In the middle of the city there was a temple larger and firmer than the rest, which can neither be described nor painted. The Sultãn thus wrote respecting it: – If any should wish to construct a building equal to this, he would not be able to do it without expending an hundred thousand, thousand red dînãrs, and it would occupy two hundred years even though the most experienced and able workmen were employed.
The Sultãn gave orders that all the temples should be burnt with naptha and fire, and levelled with the ground.
[-Elliot and Dowson, op. cit, Vol. II, p. 44–45]
Note: The temple referred to in this passage was most probably that of Kesavadeva, predecessor of those destroyed by latter-day Islamic iconoclasts, the latest by Aurangzeb.
3. Sultãn Sikandar Butshikan of Kashmir (AD 1389-1413 CE)
Destruction of Mahadev Temple, Kashmir
On account of his extensive charities, scholars from Irãq, Khorãsãn and Mawãraun-Nahar started presenting themselves in his court and Islãm was spread. He held in great regard Sayyid Muhammad who was a very great scholar of the time, and strived to destroy the idols and temples of the infidels. He got demolished the famous temple of Mahãdeva at Bahrãre. The temple was dug out from its foundations and the hole (that remained) reached the water level. Another temple at Jagdar was also demolished. Rãjã Alamãdat had got a big temple constructed at Sinpur. He had come to know from astrologers that after 11 hundred years a king by the name of Sikandar would get the temple destroyed and the idol of Utãrid, which was in it, broken. He got this [forecast] inscribed on a copper plate which was kept in a box and buried under the temple. The inscription came up when the temple was destroyed [by Sikandar]
[-Translated from the Hindi version by S.A.A. Rizvi included in Uttar Taimûr Kãlîna Bhãrata, Aligarh 1959, Vol. II. p. 515]
Note: The discovery of an inscription seems to be true, but the reading is obviously wishful and fictitious.
The value of currency had come down, because Sultãn Sikandar had got idols of gold, silver and copper broken and turned into coins.
[-Translated from the Hindi version by S.A.A. Rizvi included in Uttar Taimûr Kãlîna Bhãrata, Aligarh 1959, Vol. II. p. 515]
Jonaraja in his Rajatarangini, mentions a Brahmin Suha Bhatta. He was converted to Islam by the Sufi Mir Sayyid Muhammad and was named “Saif-ud-din”. See Baharistan-i-shahi MS f 12a; Tarikh-i-Haider Malik, MS p.44. He went on to become the commander of King Sikander’s army and committed heinous atrocities on his own community, the Hindus.
John Briggs writes about his misdeeds in detail, in his History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India.
In these days he promoted a brahmin, by name Seeva Dew Bhut, to the office of prime minister, who embracing the Mahomedan faith, became such a persecutor of Hindoos that he induced Sikundur to issue orders proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmeer; and he required that no man should wear the mark on his forehead (Tilak), or any woman be permitted to burn with her husband’s corpse. Lastly, he insisted on all golden and silver images being broken and melted down, and the metal coined into money. Many of the brahmins, rather than abandon their religion or their country, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mahomedans. After the emigration of the brahmins, Sikundur ordered all the temples in Kashmeer to be thrown down; among which was one dedicated to Maha Dew (Mahadev), in the district of Punjhuzara, which they were unable to destroy, in consequence of its foundation being below the surface of the neighbouring water. But the temple dedicated to Jug Dew (Jagdev) was levelled with the ground; and on digging into its foundation the earth emitted volumes of fire and smoke which the infidels declared to be the emblem of the wrath of the Deity; but Sikundur, who witnessed the phenomenon, did not desist till the building was entirely razed to the ground, and its foundations dug up.
In another place in Kashmeer was a temple built by Raja Bulnat, the destruction of which was attended with a remarkable incident. After it had been levelled, and the people were employed in digging the foundation, a copper-plate was discovered, on which was the following inscription:- Raja Bulnat, having built this temple, was desirous of ascertaining from his astrologers how long it would last, and was informed by them, that after eleven hundred years, a king named Sikundur would destroy it, as well as the other temples in Kashmeer. Having broken all the images in Kashmeer, he acquired the title of the Iconoclast, Destroyer of Idols.
[-Tãrîkh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981, Vol. IV, pp. 268–69]
Note: Another deception used again and again of recovering an ancient inscription, that supposedly justified their destruction of temples.
The atrocities perpetrated by Suha Bhatta aka Saif-ud-din, supported by his barbaric king Sikander, on the Hindus reminds one of what the Nazis did to the Jews.
When Suha Bhatta , supported by Sikander’s vassals, exerted to ‘pollute the caste’ of the people (conversion by circumcision & forcible beef eating), the Brahmanas (presumably those of firmer conviction) declared that they would rather die than accept Islam. Thereby ‘Jiziyah’ (durdanda) was imposed. Even the recreant Brahmana servants of the king, who allured by the prospect of self-advancement had abjured Hinduism, were not exempted from Jiziyah. The government probably thought that they secretly clung to their religion.
[-Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, tr. by Srikant Kaul, Vishveshvaranand Institute Publications, 1967, p. 121 ]
Even after Sikander’s death, Suha Bhatta aka Saif-ud-din continued with his torturous treatment of Hindus.
The religious sacrifices and the celebrations of Naga festivals were prohibited. For persons desirous of leaving Kashmir, a passport system was introduced so that no Hindu could escape from Kashmir without being converted. Brahmins tried to escape conversion by burning themselves to death, hanging, drowning and even jumping of cliffs. Brahmins took the bylanes and side roads and left Kashmir. Social life broke down and many Hindus died due to hunger, malnutrition and utter poverty. Many turned to begging on their way to other provinces. Some brahmins disguised themselves as muslims and wandered about the country in search of their families. All education was banned for the brahmins so that they couldn’t teach or propagate their religion, traditions and thus cut the roots of their culture, language and religion. They were reduced to the level of dogs.
[-See Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, tr. by Srikant Kaul, Vishveshvaranand Institute Publications, 1967, p. 100]
Sir Walter R Lawrence writes in his The Valley of Kashmir, There was a certain method in the mad zeal of Sikander, for he used the plinths and friezes of the old temples for the embankments of the city and for the foundation of the Jama Masjid. Having glutted his vengeance on Hindu temples, he turned his attention to the people who had worshipped in them, and he offered them three choices, death, conversion or exile. Many fled, many were converted, and many were killed, and it is said that this thorough monarch burnt seven maunds (261 Kgs.) of sacred thread (janeau) of the murdered brahmins. All books of Hindu learning which he could lay his hands on were sunk in the Dal lake, and Sikander flattered himself that he had extirpated Hinduism from the valley.
[-The valley of Kashmir by Sir Lawrence, Walter R. (Walter Roper), 1895, p. 191]
Iskandarpora was laid out on the debris of the destroyed temples of Hindus. In the neighbourhood of the royal palace in Iskandarpora, the Sultan destroyed the temple of Maha Shri which had been built by Pravarasena and another one built by Tarapida. The material from these was used for constructing a Jami’ mosque in the middle of the city.
[-Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuihami, Pir Ghulam Hasan, Vol II, RPD,* Srinagar 1954, p. 180]
The same is corroborated by the Baharistan-i-Shahi:
“Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam and were massacred in case they refused to be converted’,” writes Hasan, a Muslim chronicler. He further observes, “And Sikandarpora (a city laid out by Sultan Sikandar) was laid out on ‘the debris of the destroyed temples of the Hindus’. In the neighbourhood of the royal palaces in Sikandarpora, the Sultan destroyed the temples of ‘Maha-Shri built by Praversena’ and another by ‘Tarapida’. The material from these was used for constructing a ‘Jami’ mosque in the middle of the city.”
“Towards the fag end of his life, he (Sultan Sikandar) was infused with a zeal for demolishing idol-houses, destroying the temples and idols of the infidels. He destroyed the massive temple at ‘Beejbehara’. He had designs to ‘destroy all the temples’ and put an end to the ‘entire community of infidels’,” puts Baharistan-i-Shahi.
In his second Rajtarangini, the historian Jonraj has recorded, “He broke the images of Marttanda, Vishaya-Ishana, Chakrabhrit and Tripureshwara; what what can be said of the evil that came on him by breaking of the Shesha? There was no city, no town, no village, no wood, where the temples of the gods were unbroken. When ‘Sureshavari, Varaha and others were broken’, the world trembled, but not so the mind of the wicked king. He forgot his kingly duties and took delight day and night in breaking images.”
[-Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, tr. by Shrikant Kaul, Vishveshvaranand Institute Publication, Hoshiarpur (1967), p. 96]
[-Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, tr. by Dutt, Jogesh Chunder (1898), p. 60]
[ Muhammad Qãsim Hindû Shãh Firishta : Tãrîkh-i-Firishta, tr by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981)
Marttanda Temple: Famous Vishnu-Surya Temple made by Emperor Lalitaditya Muktapida was near Matan (5 miles from Anantnag)
Vishaya-Ishana Temple: God of Poison, a massive Shiva temple called Vijayeswara was at a modern town of Vijaybror (now Bijbehara).
Chakrabhrit Temple: Vishnu-Chakradhara temple was at Tsakdar Udar near Vijayabror (now Bijbehara).
Tripureshwara Temple: Triphar village near Dal Lake
Sureshwari Temple: Durga-Sureshwari was at the Dal Lake at Ishibar.
Varaha Temple: Vishnu-Varaha was a Varamul (now Baramulla)
[-Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, tr. by Shrikant Kaul, Vishveshvaranand Institute Publication, Hoshiarpur (1967), p. 96 footnotes]
4. Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad Babur (1483-1530 CE)
Babur, the Mongol, who was a direct patrilineal descendant of Timur, was not less ferocious that his predecessors. H.M. Eliot writes,
In his wars in Afghanistan and India, the prisoners are commonly butchered in cold blood after the action; and pretty uniformly a triumphal pyramid is erected of their skulls. These horrible executions, too, are performed with much solemnity before the royal pavilion; and on one occasion, it is incidentally recorded, that such were the number of prisoners brought forward for this infamous butchery, that the sovereign’s tent had three times to be removed to a different station; the ground before it being so drenched with blood, and encumbered with quivering carcases!
[Tuzak-i Babari by Babar; trans. and ed. H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India as Told by its Own Historians. Vol. 4, p. 227]
Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh)
Babur extols the bravery of Rana Sanga of Chittor and gloats over massacring and forcibly converting Hindus in the same breath.
The second is Rana Sanga who in these latter days had grown great by his own valour and sword. His original country was Chitur; in the downfall from power of the Mandau sultans, he became possessed of many of their dependencies such as Rantanbur, Sarangpur, Bhusan and Chandiri. Chandiri I stormed in 934 AH. (1528 CE) and, by God’s pleasure, took it in a few hours ; in it was Rana Sanga’s great and trusted man Midni Rao ; we made general massacre of the pagans in it and, as will be narrated, converted what for many years had been a mansion of hostility, into a mansion of Islam.
[Tuzak-i Babari by Babar; trans. and ed. H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India as Told by its Own Historians. Vol. 4, p. 483-484]
[-Babur-Nama (Memoirs of Babur), tr. by Annette Susannah Beveridge, Vol. I & II, Section III, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, (1922), p. 483–484]
Jauhar and Saka of Chanderi
Not even as much as this did the pagans fight in the citadel; when a number of our men swarmed up, they fled in haste. In a little while they came out again, quite naked, and renewed the fight; they put many of our men to flight; they made them fly (auchurdilar) over the ramparts; some they cut down and killed. Why they had gone so suddenly off the walls seems to have been that they had taken the resolve of those who give up a place as lost ; they put all their ladies and beauties (suratilar} to death, then, looking themselves to die, came naked out to fight. Our men attacking, each one from his post, drove them from the walls whereupon 2 or 3oo of them entered Medini Rao’s house and there almost all killed one another in this way: one having taken stand with a sword, the rest eagerly stretched out the neck for his blow. Thus went the greater number to hell.
By Allah’s grace this renowned fort was captured in 2 or 3 garis* (during an hour), without drum and standard, with no hard fighting done. A pillar of pagan-heads was ordered set up on a hill north-west of Chandlri. A chronogram of this victory having been found in the words Fath-i-daru’l-harb (Conquest of a hostile seat), I thus composed them:
Was for awhile the station Chandiri;
Pagan-full, the seat of hostile force;
By fighting, I vanquished its fort,
The date was Fath-i-daru’l-harb.
[-Babur-Nama (Memoirs of Babur), tr. by Annette Susannah Beveridge, Vol. I & II, Section III, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, (1922), p. 595-96]
Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh)
Next day, at the time of the noon prayer, we went out for seeing those places in Gwãlior which we had not yet seen. Going out of the Hãthîpole Gate of the fort, we arrived at a place called Urwã
Solid rocks surround Urwã on three sides. On these sides people have carved statues in stone. They are in all sizes, small and big. A very big statue, which is on the southern side, is perhaps 20 yards high. These statues are altogether naked and even their private parts are not covered
Urwã is not a bad place. It is an enclosed space. Its biggest blemish is its statues. I ordered that they should be destroyed.
[-Translated from the Hindi version by S.A.A. Rizvi included in Mughal Kãlîna Bhãrata: Bãbur, Aligarh, 1960, p. 277.]
Note: It seems that for some reason, the statues could not be destroyed, though they were mutilated. All of them are Jain statues.
A poem Babur wrote in his Babur-Nama:
For Islam’s sake, I wandered in the wilds,
Prepared for war with pagans and Hindus,
Resolved myself to meet the martyr’s death.
Thanks be to Allah ! a Ghazi (Hindu killer) I became.
[-Babur-Nama (Memoirs of Babur), tr. by Annette Susannah Beveridge, Vol. I & II, Section III, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, (1922), p. 575]
The Battle of Khanwa, Rajasthan
After Babur won this battle with Rana Sangha, Babur gave this order which he himself records in his Babur-Nama.
(c. A trophy of victory.)
An order was given to set up a pillar of pagan heads on the infant-hill (koh-bacha) between which and our camp the battle had been fought.
[-ibid, p. 576]
I can go on and on…the evidence so humongous, the destruction and barbarism so inhumane and enormous, it is never ending.
And just imagine, I haven’t even touched the Mughals. But I should mention what the observations of Babur were about the persecution of Hindus, in his own words and in his own autobiography:
In Hindustan, the populousness and decay, or total destruction of villages, nay of cities, is almost instantaneous. Large cities that have been inhabited for a series of years (if, on an alarm, the inhabitants take to flight), in a single day, or a day and a half, are so completely abandoned that you can scarcely discover a trace or mark of population.”
[Tuzak-i Babari by Babar; trans. and ed. H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India as Told by its Own Historians. Vol. 4, p. 218]
In spite of this, the fact that most Indians, especially the Hindus, who bore the brunt of the invaders, are ignorant of their history is a sign of extreme apathy towards their own kind and their own survival.
If we still close our eyes and bury our heads in the sand, in the name of liberalism and secularism, we will be condemned to the same fate once again. And maybe, this time it will be too late.