Prachin Mandir, Dholka, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat

Dholka, a merchant’s haven during the reign of the valorous Chaulukya dynasty also known as the Solanki dynasty and the capital of the Vaghelas is 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. This ancient city used to be dotted with temples, halls, palatial quarters and dharmashalas of unrivalled beauty and ingenuity.


Unfortunately, the city was ravaged in the 12th – 13th century by Muslim invaders who took great pleasure in looting, desecrating and converting temples into makeshift mosques. One such failed experiment of the Delhi Sultanate is the Hilal Khan Mosque “built” by Hilal Khan Kazi in 1333 during the tyrannical rule of Muhammad bin Tughluq.


Also known as Balal Khan Kazi or Bahlol Khān Ghāzi, this site underwent the barest cosmetic changes to become a mosque. The superficial tampering seen in every part of the temple site starting from the entrance porch, through the courtyard, the pillared walkway, the mehrabs and the so-called “indigenous” minarets are garish and lacking in effort, proportion and symmetry.


The entrance porch for instance, has pillars with decorative elements seen in temples, has a seating on all the sides that is common in mandapas and has the typical receding roof design. It is clear that the original structure would have been incredibly impressive with its high ceiling and rich ornamentation on the running beams, capitals and second tier.


A walk into the wide courtyard will give you a real sense of how poorly this temple has been modified into a mosque and has remained this way for all these centuries. The minarets were a subject of praise by British historians as a unique Islamic contribution but a closer look will make one realize that these minarets are nothing more than turrets with Hindu details, elements and proportion from top to bottom.


The mihrabs are a real eye-opener, for they are profusely carved with foliage and floral patterns, auspicious Hindu iconography, repetitive patterns as commonly seen in the entrance doorway of the sanctum sanctorum, defaced inscriptions and miniature niches on the lintel (Lalata Bimba) that are now bereft of sculptures. The sacrosanct shatkona, lotus, bell, lamp, chakraMatsyaVarahaGajaraja and series of floral patterns are seen on the facades, pilasters, brackets of the pillars, on the surfaces of the beams and on the ceilings and roof domes.


One has to be blind as a bat and dumb as a post to believe that this site was “built” by Muslim invaders from scratch. A comprehensive ASI survey must be done to ascertain the truth.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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