Dholka is a treasure trove for archaeologists, historians, architects, artists, philologists and theoretical linguistics. This ancient city is deemed to be Matsyanagar or Viratdesh in the Mahabharat where the Pancha Pandavas and Divya Janani Draupadi spent a year in agyatvas.
Dholka was a prosperous town during the reign of the Chaulukya dynasty also known as the Solanki dynasty and their vassals, the Vaghelas who made it their capital. This city was assailed several times during the 12th – 13th century before finally falling into the hands of the Delhi Sultanate and then later the Gujarat Sultanate.
As expected, the Muslim invaders ran amuck destroying countless stunning Hindu and Jain temples in this city. It is estimated that over 52 temples built from the Dwapura Yuga onwards that were considered to be architectural masterpieces of their time were either reduced to rubble with the sanctum sanctorum desecrated in the most horrific manner or converted to mosques with some external modifications.
One temple known as Bāvan Jinālaya derived from the word bāvan that means 52 and Jinālaya that means temple underwent cosmetic changes and was passed off as the Alif Khan Masjid or Khirni Masjid. This temple said to have been built in the 9th – 10th century by the Chaulukya dynasty originally had a large open portico measuring 40 feet by 27 feet supported by 40 intricately carved pillars. It is however unclear to whom this temple was dedicated to as some historians opine that it became a Jain Temple later on before it was changed into a mosque.
This temple was attacked in the 14th century wherein the pillared hall and sanctum sanctorum were converted to a mosque by constructing Islamic elements on the sides in 1377 and placing two domes over two square halls. The entire line of pillars was also filled with a brick wall so that the floral and foliage motifs, Hindu gods and goddesses in the miniature niches and auspicious Hindu iconography adorning the pillars from the capital to the base remain hidden.
This mosque became a brick building with two square minarets, one on each side and three domes built over the existing temple roofs that have the typical lotus pattern and receding ceiling design. The final design was shaped by Alif Khan Bhukai during the reign of Mahmud Begada of the Gujarat Sultanate.
As history should never give any place to barbarians and barbaric acts committed by them, this mosque should never be remembered either. The mosque is falling to pieces and the original temple structure with all its beautiful Hindu architectural elements are no longer relegated to obscurity.
A comprehensive ASI survey will help one ascertain the facts.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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