Prachin Mandir, Paldi, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Ahmedabad, the seat of power for centuries is dotted with beautiful temples built by the Chaulukya dynasty also known as the Solanki dynasty and the Vaghelas. This prosperous town on the banks of the Sabarmati River came under attack from the Delhi Sultanate and was finally ruled by the Gujarat Sultanate for years.


The most prolific barbarian of the Gujarat Sultanate is Mahmud Begada, who took great pleasure in destroying temples, halls, dharmashalas and everything sacred to Hindus. His army was instructed to loot, desecrate and make sufficient cosmetic changes to temples to pass them off as mosques.


Most of the mosques seen in and around Ahmedabad are actually temples built from the 11th century. The Gujarat Sultanate was too lazy even to make drastic changes to the layout of the existing temple and stuck only to defacing the sculptures, inscriptions, intricate carvings on the panels on the lintel and superficially modifying the auspicious symbols of AUMchakrashankh, lotus, satkona and Hindu iconography that adorned the internal walls, external facades, pillars, ceilings, running beams and brackets.


One such example is the Pattharwali masjid also known as Dastur Khan masjid built in 1463 by Malik Khasazada, a minister of Mahmud Begada. The entrance pillars have stunning Hindu decorative elements like the traditional upward-facing lotus with numerous petals, repetitive linear and horizontal patterns, defaced sculptures in the miniature niches and highly ornate brackets.


As one walks around the mosque, one can see Hindu symbols, iconography and details in every part of the site. The beams and ceilings have elaborately carved receding lotus design with unfolding petals, series of floral motifs and bells, lamps, Matsya, Varaha, Gaja and even musicians, dancers and apsaras on the lower surface of the domes.


The mihrabs also have ornamental Hindu carvings on the sides and near the arch. It is difficult to ascertain the original temple plan and the presiding deity, but it is clear that this was a Hindu establishment which underwent a pathetic cosmetic tampering to become a mosque.


A comprehensive ASI survey is in order to understand what structure stood here initially.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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