The al Aqsa Mosque provides Jerusalem, or al Quds, the distinction of being the “third holiest city in Islam”. Built atop the ruins of Solomon’s Temple, its sacred status derives from the fact that the Prophet visited it in a dream. Mohammed never actually went to Jerusalem in the flesh, but his somnambulance was enough to establish its claim as a holy shrine of Islam. The Muslims did not have to destroy the infidel Jewish Temple themselves, since the Romans had already done it.
But the Muslim invaders of India had a more hands-on approach. During the same period that the Ottoman invaders were repeatedly besieging Vienna, the Muslims of the Mogul Empire were fighting the infidel Hindus on the Indian subcontinent. When Aurangzeb became emperor in 1658, he began a systematic campaign to destroy the infidel temples in Uttar Pradesh.
One of the most sacred shrines of the Hindus, roughly equivalent to Solomon’s Temple and the tomb of Christ all rolled into one, was the temple built on the site of the birthplace of Krishna at Mathura. If you read about the area in a travel guide, the description is dry and not particularly evocative of controversy:
|Mathura & Vrindavan is the city which is associated with the most venerated of Hindu Gods– Lord Krishna. Mathura is the nucleus of Brajbhoomi. The surroundings ‘Braj Bhoomi’ is where Lord Krishna is supposed to have grown up.|
|Mathura which is most popularly known as birth place of lord Krishna is located on the western bank of river Yamuna at latitude 27° 41 min N and 77° 41 min E. It is situated at a distance of 145 Km to the south-east of Delhi and 58 Km north west of Agra in the State of Uttar Pradesh. For about 3000 years it was the focal point of culture and civilization and was an economic hub. It is located at the junction of some relatively important caravan routes.|
A brief historical account hints at the strife that wracked the area:
|After a series of wars of succession, the throne fell to Aurangzeb in 1658 — even though his father Shah Jahan was still alive. A devout Muslim who was displeased with the tolerance his forbears had shown Hindus, he levied taxes that only Hindus had to pay and forbade them from building new temples. He also had Sikh leaders murdered and tried to capture Guru Govind Singh.|
But a deeper examination of the history of the period reveals the ruthlessness and brutality of the Mogul conquerors. According to Francois Gautier,
|American newspapers publish daily commentaries by eminent Muslims, who all want to prove that Islam is a tolerant creed, that the Taliban were an isolated aberration, and that Osama bin Laden is desecrating the scared [sic] non-violent tenets of Islam with his terrible deeds.|
|It is in such times that it is useful to remind the world, particularly the United States – which has chosen as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, a nation which breeds terrorism – that while Pakistan is an aberration of what Islam has stood for since its inception in the 7th century, India is a living example of a peace loving nation, tolerant of other creeds, ethnic groups and religions. Most Western history books, for instance, eulogise the Mughal period in India as a time of refinement and enlightenment, and many of them say that Aurangzeb was a strict but just emperor. What is the truth?|
|Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples to be destroyed and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction. A few examples: Krishna’s birth place temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujarat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Varanasi and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. According to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices.” Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.|
The Hindus themselves, even after three and a half centuries, have most emphatically not forgotten or forgiven the offenses committed against their sacred sites. The view of the Hindunet website:
|Lord Krishna, one of the most important avatars of Lord Vishnu is universally worshipped by Hindus. It was Lord Krishna who gave Bhagwad Gita to the world. Today, the at the birth place of Lord Krishna stands a Masjid (Moslem place of worship), Shahi Mosque, instituted by a foreign invader who destroyed a magnificent temple that stood there for centuries if not more. A Hindu movement is underway to reinstate this temple.|
Excavations have uncovered archaeological evidence of the original temple in the form of idols, statues, and decorations.
There is a movement afoot in India to desecularize the shrines and re-establish Hindu religious control over them. Various organizations aligned or associated with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are planning to right the wrongs of the 17th century by removing the mosques and restoring the original temples. For them, the mosque at Ayodhya was only the beginning; they are simply biding their time until the birthplace of Lord Krishna is itself reborn.
The Great Islamic Jihad has many fronts, and one of them is in South Asia. Our troubles with Islamism in the West loom so large to us, yet there are more people in India than in the United States, Europe, and Russia combined. The subcontinent is a crucial theater in this conflict.
As I have said before, we are in the newest phase of a very old war.
Hat tip: krishna_kirti