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Indian Religions: Muslim Shrines: Adhai-din ka Jhonpra


Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra

No matter what people believe about the secular nature of Muslim rulers in India, the Adai-din ka Jhonpra is the ultimate example of the destruction of a Hindu or Jain temple to construct a mosque.

The mosque is believed to have been built in two and a half days, thus named Adhai-din (two and a half days). Another belief is that its name is attributed to a two and a half day fair held nearby each year. The edifice was originally a Sanskrit college, but Muhammad Ghori converted it into a mosque in 1198 and built a seven-arched wall inscribed with verses from the Koran.

Designed by Abu Bakr of Herat, the mosque is a fair example of early Indo-Islamic architecture and is built from masonry taken from broken down Hindu and Jain temples. Of special mention are the pillars which hold up the ceiling in the main chamber. An intricate jali (screen) under a raised arch was added by Sultan Altamush in 1230AD. Colonel James Tod, the Britisher who was the first to map Rajasthan and write about it in immense detail, describes the Adhai-din ka Jhonpra as a temple in his book Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan Volume I. He writes that "the entire façade of this noble entrance … is covered with Arabic inscriptions … but a small frieze over the apex of the arch is contained an inscription in Sanskrit." The Arabic script he attributes to Ghori who used local masons and artisans to break down this originally Sanskrit centre of learning and built a mosque in its place. Perhaps that is the reason why the mosque was completed in two and a half days, for the original infrastructure must already have existed.

The mosque is entered through a simple gateway in the north, on whose right stands a ruined minaret. The gate leads into a stairway leading up to a small tower from where the muezzin (mosque official) called the faithful to prayer. The front façade consists of a number of small arches built of yellow limestone. The main arch is flanked by six smaller arches of Arab origin wherein tiny rectangular panels allowed for a lighting system, a feature found in ancient Arabian mosques.

The interior of the Jhonpra is more on the design of a Hindu temple than that of a mosque, with a main hall supported by numerous columns. Three pillars are placed over each other to gain more height while the roof is supported on square bays. The columns are of an uncommon design, heavily decorated and quite similar to Hindu and Jain rock temples, each of one being dissimilar to each other. Their bases are large and bulbous, tapering as they gain height, with nichés to house images of gods and goddesses. Even the ceiling is an extensively carved adventure, below which is a pulpit especially constructed to deliver sermons from the Koran.