April 4th, 1995
Akhilesh Mithal

A 'Backward Look' for a Peaceful Step Into the Future


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The vast and spacious courtyard (of the Jama Masjid Dillee) inspires the spirit with worship and is a sanctified and hallowed location.

-Inscription on the east-facing Inscription on the east-facing dalaan

Pakistan, or at least the inspiration behind it has been vindicated by communalists coming to power in Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is time for a backward look.

Twenty-five years ago and earlier India was an idea, a concept and an ideal which had a universal spread. It had a vast extending area from the Amu Dariya (the river Oxus) in the North to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin) in the south. The Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea marked its Eastern and Western limits. The abundance of riches spewed forth by its fields, rivers and mines attracted all manner of peoples and tribes who came and settled here. They melded together and gave the country a history sonorous with the names of philosophers and poets, heroines and heroes and a culture of many splendered hues.

The beauty of the country, its riches and the climate gave the inhabitants a quest for knowledge and the leisure to pursue ideas through to their logical and philosophical conclusions. Humanity was enriched by zero, infinity, place value, the decimal system, algebra, chess, rice, pepper, the rasa theory (of art, literature and music), Buddhism, Jainsm, the Upanishads and great mystic poetry dating back to the pre-Christian times. Seekers of the news in the world of ideas came here as pilgrims because the then Indians were concerned about the problems of being and becoming. Trivial pursuits did not take up all their time, effort and energy.

Today the word India has been reduced to a mere geographical dimension. It is, if you please, a 'sub-continent.' Most rulers of this erstwhile great 'country-become-a-mere-subcontinent' are culture fractured apes of the British.

They are men and women of 'little brain' which cannot carry the weight of concepts and ideas. Those who lead the breakaway movements and made a new state they called 'Pakistan' (or the land of the pure, the clean and the sacred), were afraid of democracy. With Hindus in a numerical majority, they feared the one man one vote system. They thought it would keep them out of power. Their alternative was an 'Islamic' state. This they (mostly Urdu speaking UP Muslims) thought would bind all Muslims in the silken meshes of the revealed laws. The first whiff of democracy saw the new state burst asunder and fragment. The majority of Pakistanis who were Bengalis broke away to form Bangladesh. The UP Muslims are now a discredited, embattled and unwanted lot in what remains of Pakistan. Hindus and Sikhs were butchered after Partition, and escape to India saved the lives of millions. These refugees such as Lal Krishna Advani want to return the compliment by sending Indian Muslims to Pakistan. They are the mirror images of Muslim Leaguers, Hizbees etc. Their victory in Gujarat and Maharashtra shows that Jinnah was not alone, and is not dead.

The communal Hindu exulting in the carnage and blood letting occurring daily in Pakistan (10 or 12 killings per day) has forgotten that the Sikhs were doing as well in disposing of unwanted Hindus in the Punjab not so long ago. Just as the Sikhs want a Hindu-free Punjab where they will not follow the Hindu Code Bill which forces them to give a share to the daughter, the Hindus want a Muslim and Christian free India. In this Hindu-Pakistan everyone will be uniformly, dully, boringly Hindu. The visible manifestation will be provided by khaki shorts in memory of the RSS shakhas with all of them trained in Muslim hatred. Only perceptive observers will notice that these Pak-Hindus are wearing khaki shorts on their minds as well!

The Bharatiya Janata Party / Vishwa Hindu Parishad / Bajarang Dal know that the days of transfer of population are over. They therefore want to cajole, bully, harass and frighten the Muslims into 'integrating' joining the mainstream. The first step is to destroy any visible manifestation of 'deviation.' The mosques built from 1192 to the 19th century offer a target of high visibility. If they can be razed to the ground everyone can see who is in power.

Thus the time, effort and money put into converting the Babri Masjid into the Rama Janmabhoomi (the temple of the spot where the birth of the Lord Rama is said to have taken place) had paid off. Some of those revanchist Hindus who took a leading part in this most successful movement had to renege on their faith. For example, the Arya Samajists. This Hindu sect mirrors the Wahabi Muslims and rejects and reviles idol worship. Its hatred of Muslims enabled it to swallow the idol worship inherent in putting up a temple to an incarnation of the Lord Vishnu.

Today the Babri Masjid is an uneasy scar on the consciences of the Hindus who have not been coarsened and desensitized by Muslim hatred. For Muslims, it is an ulcer, an unquiet wound which oozes fear, pain and hatred. The Hindu communalists are troubling the waters to fish in them for future catches. A great big lie is doing the rounds, not of slums and shanties, but of the drawing rooms of the apolitical elite. The pride of Dillee, the Masjid-i-Jahan Numa (the mosque from which you can see the whole wide world) the Jama Masjid, build by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1649-1655 as the fim final master-stroke to complete his city of Shahjahanabad and give it a skyline to make it the envy of the world is alleged to stand at the site of an earlier temple demolished to make place for the mosque and to provide material for it. Another and greater lie caps this one by asserting that the inscriptions on the mosque provide the details of the demolition. Before this mischief proceeds further readers should acquaint themselves with the truth of the matter through the translation of the inscriptions is provided below.

The inscriptions on the Jama Masjid Shahjahanabad Dillee are eleven in number. The mosque dalaan (covered area with openings) has 10 doorways, five on each side, and a high central doorway leading to the Qibla or the niche which points the direction to Mecca (Makkaa Sharief).

As these inscriptions are in Persian (one, the most central is Arabic; Yaa Haadee: O Lord Guide!), they can be misconstrued to mislead the gullible. The photograph shows the text so that shoe who can access the original can read it for themselves. The English Approximation would be something like the following: 

"Created or built by the order of the Emperor who is ruler and Lord of the entire universe; of time present and past with dominions extending to the limits of the earth. He is all conquering, ever-victorious, Lord of fate and fortuen and powerful as the heavens and promulgator of laws which bestow justice with fairness. He is the master of all knowledge, endowed with a nobility of nature and is suprene in command. He is the repository of all wisdom, nobility and grace. Favorite of fortune, he is a firm in his determination as heaven itself.

"All glory surrounds him. His armies are as numerous as the stars in heaven. His magnificence is like that of the Sun, the light of the world, and his court is as spacious and sublime as the etheral firmament."

The second panel continues the eulogies: 

"It is through the Emperor that the devine power has been made manifest; he is the deputy or representative of God upon earth. His greatness is beyond the limits of time. He is the inspired interpreter of God's words, the Quran; the propounds the true faith (Millat-i-Baiza). For other rulers and kings he is both refuge and support. He is the khalifa (viceroy) or God upon th earth. The most supreme and just, most glorious and begin lord; Abul Muzaffar (father and progenitor of victories), Shaabuddin Muhammad Sahib-i-Qiran Saani (lord of the auspicious constellation, equal of the Amir Taimur) Shah Jahan Badshah Ghazi - God is ever aiding him and his kingdom. (May his standards, flags and pennants never dip or droop and and may his enemies be annihilated). Truth stands unveiled and visible to him. He has been inspired and enlightened by the verse 'verily those who believe in God and the day of judgement rises mosques (for the worship of God). "

From the third panel the praises of the mosque take over from the praises of the Emperor-builder.

"The emperor's soul mirrors truth because of his belief in the Hadith (Tradition of the Prophet): 'To God the most favored monuments on earth are mosques.' This mosque, founded by piety and fear of God, raises to the very heavens in its magnificent grandeur. Its foundations are firm and strong as the mountains; its arched galleries are solid as if to illustrate the verse of the Quran which says 'God has placed mountains upon the earth to weigh it down and prevent it from quivering and to save it from tremors.' The splendour of the domes and the minarets which transforms the skyline can be seen across the vast spaces of the firmament. The domes merge with the celestial spheres."

The fourth inscription continues in the same vein: 

"At night the arcade and the domes of the mosque become like the consellations and draw a line of beauty across the firmament and horizon. The arches and domes cannot be likened to any work of human hands and has to find comparisions in the work of divinity which created the heavenly bodies. It can be said that in a way these arches and domes are superior to the stars in heaven.

"The shamsa (sunburst motif) of the central portico is more brilliant than the shining lamps of heaven and the klasha (finial in metal) bestows a glow of radiance upon the celestial lamps of paradise.

"Its mimbar (pulpit) of dazzling white marble is a symbol of the ladder which allows worshippers to access the courts of heaven like the mosque of Al Aqsa in Jerusalem. (Here the reference is to the Miraj or the ascent of the Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, to heaven)."

The next inscription continues in the aura of this event: "Behold! God is very close and near, the arch of sublime kindness and concern (benevolence) is visible and manifest at a distance of two cubits and less. Like unto the dawn which heralds the day, relevation showed the right path to believers. The gates (both to the Mosque and to heaven) are open to believers and it is proclaimed upon the high that God Almighty desires his people to enter heaven which was bestowed upon them.

"The stupdendous minarets of this mosque rise into the sky and penetrate the nine heavens to proclaim the truth of the divine words which promise heaven (jannat) for those who practice virtue and perform meritorious deeds. The high roof is the alighting point of angels who descend and rejoice."

The sixth panel gives more praise and records dates.

"The vast and spacious courtyard inspires the spirit with worship and is a sanctified and hallowed location. Breezes of holiness waft through it and incenses of divinity perfume it to make it like the gardens of paradise.
"The central marble tank with its crystal clear water is a place which holds the reflection of the heavens as if to foreshadow the beauty and virtue of the spring Sal-Sabil (A spring tank in heaven). On Friday, the 10th of the month of Shawwal 1060 Hijri corresponding to the fourth year of the third cycle of the august accession to the throne of the Emperor Shah Jahan in an auspicious hour' and at the moment considered most opportune (by astrologers) the foundations of the mosque were laid."

The inscription continues in the seventh panel 

"-- and within a period of six years by the unceasing efforts of deft and highly trained and skilful artisans and masterbuilders under the supervision of devoted and sincere, loyal nobles and officials who gave wholehearted help and assistance, and by the expert guidance to the minutest detail of the most renowned and experienced architects, at the cost of a total sum of Rs 1 million and was completed on the Id-ul-Fitr.

The eighth panel records the first worship in the mosque: 

"This most elegant and splendid function was crowned by the arrival of the Emperor, the shadow of God upon earth who graced the occaison and led the congregation in the performance of the first prayer in this mosque. It was the Id-ul-Fitr prayer.

"Henceforth and throughout the ages to come this mosque becomes a place of ultimate pilgrimage for offering worship for believers, like unto the sacred Masjid of the Holy Ka'aba on the Id-ul-Zuha. This mosque will promote Islam. Those who have traversed the earth and seen with their own eyes all the wonders of the world will not come across any monument more beautiful, majestic or glorious than the Jama Masjid which is the symbol of man's efforts to produce a perfece specimen of the glory of God. It is surpassingly beautiful and supremely sacred."

In the ninth panel the inscription reads 

"No poet, writer, historian or learned man of this or any other age can be expected to describe this mosque in all its glory. May the Lord Almighty God preserve this marvel of building which dazzles the eye with its grandeur."

The concluding inscription says 

"May the glories of this mosque be recited forever, and may the echoes of their rhymes, cadences, and melodies rise to the temples of the heavens themselves. May God protect and preserve the pulpit of the faithful. May he prepetuate the long and prosperous reign of the great and mighty emperor who created this mosque for he is the administrator of justice and the defender of the true faith, and his reign has ushered in an era of peace and tranquility.
"By divine grace, and in the cause of righteousness inscribed by (the scribe) Nurullah."

Thus, all that the inscriptions record are paens of praise, richly deserved, of the mosque, its grandeur and the good taste of its builder, Shah Jahan. There is no mention of the destruction of any Hindu temples.


Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-2000. All rights reserved.
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