Dholka, one of the most prosperous towns during the reign of the mighty Chaulukya dynasty also known as the Solanki dynasty and the capital of the Vaghelas is believed to be the sacred land of King Virata of Matsyanagar or Viratdesh in the Mahabharat where the Pancha Pandavas and Divya Janani Draupadi spent a year in agyatvas. In fact, serious historians have even managed to map the places in this region where the Pancha Pandavas either rested or spent time in tapas (penance and austerities).
One such place identified with the help of the Mahabharat known as Bheem no Rasodo (Bheem’s kitchen) as well as Panch Pandavo Ni Shala (Pancha Pandavas’s school) is the Prachin Shiv Mandir that was later converted into a mosque in 1361 by Mufakhr Mufarrah during the tyrannical rule of Firoz Shah Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate. As per the inscription found inside, this site came to be called as Tanka Masjid or Jāmi Masjid.
Though it was largely accepted without any proper research, videography or survey all these years that this mosque was constructed using debris from the Hindu temples destroyed in the 13th century, it has now been ascertained that this mosque was given the barest cosmetic change retaining its Hindu splendour everywhere you look.
It would appear that this temple was built by Jayasimha Siddharaja of the Chaulukya dynasty in the 12th century when the Sabarmati River flowed nearby. At the entrance of the mosque, one can see the profusely decorated ceiling that is a common feature of temples built in this period.
One can see the typical entrance porch, pillared walkways and remnants of the antarala, maha mandapa and garbha griha. The pillars are intricately carved from the capital to the base with animals, bells, lamps, miniature niches and Hindu markings though the sculptures in the lower half are now defaced.
The lintels and beams are highly ornamental with torana design, floral and foliage motifs, repetitive patterns and auspicious Hindu iconography. Each ceiling has either a beautiful lotus pattern in the centre surrounded by concentric carved circles or a series of stunning floral patterns.
The roof of the mosque has been constructed over the shikhara of the temple. The entrance doorway to what was the sanctum sanctorum is adorned with tiers of gods and goddesses, musicians, dancers, linear patterns and foliage design on either side as well as a line of sculptures on the Lalata Bimba with the presiding deity seated in the middle.
Interestingly, no effort has been put in from the time of its modification into a mosque to hide the Hindu elements and architectural details. One has to be blind not to see the artistic excellence and grandeur of the Chaulukya dynasty in every inch of the site.
Photography inside this site is not allowed by the management for reasons that are now very clear. A comprehensive ASI survey is in order for one to learn the truth.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian