Prachin Mandir, Danteshwar, Vadodara, Gujarat

A forgotten edifice of perhaps the 9th – 13th century which was a golden period in the history of the Baroda State is the Prachin Mandir where the Hazira stands today in Danteshwar. The Baroda State, traditionally rich in culture, history, art, architecture, literature and philosophy was ruled by valorous Hindu kings for centuries.

 

The State was attacked repeatedly by the Muslim invaders particularly the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals. It was the mighty Marathas who managed to end the tyrannical rule of the Mughals in 1732. Unfortunately, a fair number of temples, palaces, halls, bhoga mandapasgurukuls and dharmashalas had been reduced to rubble by the fanatic Muslims.

 

The Mughals had taken over several sacred Hindu sites which were equipped with well-laid out gardens, tanks, unique rainwater conservation mechanisms and stepwells or vavs. One such site is where the Hazira has been built using the debris of the Hindu temples that stood there once.

 

The Hazira houses the graves of Qutb-ud-din Muhammad Khan (tutor of Jahangir) and his son Naurang Khan (held important offices in Gujarat) who served Akbar. Akbar, though portrayed by the British historians as a peaceful Muslim who appreciated and understood Advaita philosophy was exactly like his predecessors and ancestors – a true radical and an inveterate Hindu hater.

 

In fact, there are innumerable incidents of his religious intolerance, barbarism and atrocities in several chronicles and court records. He was a prolific destroyer of Hindu temples, known to have slaughtered cows and Hindus, responsible for the dishonour of countless Hindu women and children and encouraged his army and men to do the same.

 

It is therefore unsurprising to find several mosques on the sites of Hindu structures across the country. The Hazira sits on an octagonal platform with five niches on each side with the central niche in alignment with the cardinal directions as per the tenets of the auspicious Shilpa Shastra. The openings have stone jali work in geometric patterns.

 

Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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