The second attack by the Muslim invader Qutb al-Din Aibak in 1197 – 98 effectively ended the golden period of the Gahadavalas and established a violent intolerant Muslim rule that was determined to destroy every trace of the glorious heritage of Kashi. Kashi, a city that has existed since the dawn of creation grew in stature with sizeable contributions from every Hindu kingdom that ruled over this ancient city.
Qutb al-Din Aibak and his rabid army went on a rampage and desecrated every temple, math and dharmashala in the holy city of Kashi. Women were raped in front of their husbands, fathers and brothers and taken away to become slaves. Children were not spared either, with many of them raped and mutilated and forcibly converted to become slaves of orthodox clerics.
Hindu men were stripped, whipped and beaten to death after being forced to watch the women of their house dishonoured by the barbarians. Rivers of blood flowed with countless bodies strewn about the sacrosanct city. The stench of the decomposing bodies brought hyenas, vultures and predators from the nearby forests into the city.
Every Hindu household was looted and every temple was robbed of its riches. More than 1400 camels were needed to carry away the wealth of the city. It is estimated that over one thousand temples were destroyed and mosques were built on their sites using the debris of the temples.
Qutb al-Din Aibak crowned himself emperor of Akhanda Bharat in 1206. He immediately issued an order for the destruction of temples. During 1206 – 1210, the temples of Kashi Vishwanathji, Kritivasheshwara, Avimukteshwara, Kala Bhairava, Adi Mahadeva, Siddheshwara, Kumbheshwara, Hiranyaksheshwara, Yajnavalkeshwara, Baneshwara, Balishwara, Kapaleshwara, Kapileshwara and others were razed to the ground.
This tyranny was seen in all the sacred tirthasthalas of Akhanda Bharat. During the period of Shams ud-Din Iltutmish, ancient temples were destroyed mercilessly and people were forcibly converted to Islam.
An inscription found in the Vishweshwara Temple states that a merchant from Gujarat named Vastupala rebuilt the temple. Alauddin Khalji was as fanatical as his predecessors and continued to destroy temples between 1292 – 1316. The famed saint Padmasadhu built a grand temple of Padmeshwara opposite the Vishweshwara Temple in 1296.
However, this temple was destroyed by the Sharqi Sultans of the Jaunpur Sultanate and the Lal Darwaza Mosque was built at Jaunpur with the debris of the temple. Interestingly, the Manikarnika Ghat was constructed in stone in 1302 and the Manikarneshwara Temple was built on 24 July 1302 by a devotee named Vireshwara.
By the end of the 14th century, the city had an influx of Muslims who settled in the northern part while Hindus and Buddhists kept themselves to the southern part.
A tumultuous period followed when the city was overrun by the forces of Muhammad bin Tughlaq and later by his successor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. The latter extracted high taxes from the Hindu residents of Kashi and desecrated temples, yagashalas and dharmashalas.
The Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur took over the reins of power in the late 14th century. They imposed heavy taxes on pilgrims visiting Benares, destroyed temples and hauled away stones, sculptures and jewels for the construction of mosques in Jaunpur.
Though some pious devotees tried to rebuild the temples between the late 12th century to the late 15th century, they were destroyed by successive Muslim invaders. The city suffered heavily when Lodi dynasty seized power from the Sharqis and burned a major part of the city.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about History of Banaras is taken from archives