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Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishwanath Temple

By: B Shantanu
May-17-2008
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A few days ago, I came across this "Aurangzeb was even-handed with Hindus, Muslims"statement by TMMK leader M.H. Jawahirulla. He said:

"One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath Temple in Banaras (Varanasi). That was a fact.But late historian Bishma Narain Pande"s research efforts exploded many myths about Aurangzeb"s rule. He explained why Aurangzeb razed the temple at Varanasi," TMMK leader M.H. Jawahirulla, who is a university professor himelf, told IANS.

He razed the temple because the Maharani of Kutch, the wife of one of the Hindu Rajput kings loyal to Aurangzeb, was dishonoured and robbed inside the temple."

Now, the history freak that I am, the immediate thought that came to mind was: Where did the late Shri B N Pande find the evidence for this story?

For this I had to delve deeper.

That is when I came across, "Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishwanath" by Koenraad Elst. And that is where I found the answer to my question.

But first, let us hear the strange episode involving the Maharani of Kutch. In his article, Dr. Elst refers to this "story".

"The story regarding demolition of Vishvanath temple is that while Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges and pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed.

Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made a journey on the Palkis. They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering Puja all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch.

"A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere. When Aurangzeb came to know of it, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately, they found that the statue of Ganesh which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement.

To their horror, they found the missing Rani dishonoured and crying, deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Jagannath"s seat. The Rajas expressed their vociferous protests. As the crime was heinous, the Rajas demanded exemplary action. Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishvanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant be arrested and punished."

Dr Elst first mentions several "holes" in this story:

1. The story is very bizarre, to say the least. First of all, it has Aurangzeb go to Bengal. Yet, in the extant histories of his life and works, no such journey to Bengal, or even any journey as far east as Varanasi, is recorded. There are fairly complete chronicles of his doings, day by day; could B.N. Pande or any of his quoters give the date or even the year of this remarkable episode?
2. Nether was Aurangzeb known to surround himself with Hindu courtiers.
3. And did these Rajas take their wives along on military expeditions? Or was it some holiday picnic
4. How could the Mahant kidnap a Rani who was there in the company of other Ranis, as well as the appropriate courtiers and bodyguards? Why did he take such risk?
5. Why did the "Rajas" wait for Aurangzeb to take "exemplary action": did they fear his anger if they punished the priests or destroyed the temple themselves?
6. And since when is demolition the approved method of purifying a defiled temple, an eventuality for which the Shastras have laid down due ritual procedures?
He then probes deeper into this whole episode. ".Where did B.N. Pande get this story from?

"He (B N Pande) himself writes: "Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, in his famous book, The Feathers and the Stones, has narrated this fact based on documentary evidence.
So, we have to go one more step back in time to find this intriguing "documentary evidence".

Let us turn to this book, now hard to find, to see what the documentary evidence is on which this whole wave of pro-Aurangzeb rumours is based, but which no one has cared to reproduce or even just specify.

This is what Gandhian Congress leader Pattabhi Sitaramayya wrote in his prison diary:

".There is a popular belief that Aurangazeb was a bigot in religion. This, however, is combated by a certain school. His bigotry is illustrated by one or two instances. The building of a mosque over the site of the original Kasi Visveswara Temple is one such. A like mosque in Mathura is another. The revival of Jazia is a third but of a different order. A story is told in extenuation of the first event."

The late Sitaramayya then mentions the story that has been recounted before. Where did he hear it?

"This story of the Benares Musjid was given in a rare manuscript in Lucknow which was in the possession of a respected Mulla who had read it in the Ms. and who though he promised to look it up and give the Ms. to a friend, to whom he had narrated the story, died without fulfilling his promise. The story is little known and the prejudice, we are told, against Aurangazeb persists."

So now, we finally know where the story comes from: an unnamed mullah friend of an unnamed acquaintance of Sitaram ayya"s knew of a manuscript, the details of which he took with him in his grave.

This is the "document" on which secularist journalists and historians base their "evidence" of Aurangzeb"s fair and secularist disposition, overruling the evidence of archaeology and the cold print of the Maasiri Alamgiri, to "explode the myth" of Islamic iconoclasm spread by the "chauvinist" Hindutva propagandists.

It is time to nail such lies - here and now..otherwise an entire generation of Indians might grow up believing fabrications and half-truths that have been the hall mark of our "secular" polity for more than half a century.
Will the mainstream media take notice of this? I think not.

The demolition of Kashi Vishwanath is not "news", it is history.

but the demolition of Kashi Vishwanath to save a Maharani"s honour? Now, thats what I call "news" !


B Shantanu

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References & Notes:

Lies and half-truths in the name of national integration

Bahadur Shah Zafar & "Bharat Ratna" - more than a joke

Distorting history.and getting paid for it and finally,

Will Arundhati Roy pl. stand up for Francois Gautier?




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