How bulldozing of Nimrud by IS reminds us of Genghis Khan, Mohammad Ghori

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By Harshmeet Singh

Islamic State militants’ strike at Nimrud is termed by many as an attack on our heritage. Archaeologists all across the world are expressing outrage about the bulldozing of the capital of ancient Neo-Assyrian Empire, Nimrud.

Since the site was first excavated in 1840s, a number of relics had been taken to the British and New York museums while the iconic winged bull statues were left at their position, and were resurrected by the Iraq Government in the 1970s and 1980s. This vicious attack comes just a week after an IS video showing its fighters raising havoc at the Mosul museum and destroying the Assyrian artefacts.

To some historians, these attacks are reminiscent of the Mongol invasions in the Middle East part of Asia under the ruthless Genghis Khan.

India’s brush heritage destruction

There is no dearth of historical sites in India. A prosperous land from the ancient times, India was always on the radar of different rulers, many of whom carried out ruthless invasions in India. With minimalistic respect for India’s cultural heritage, a number of invaders bulldozed many a historic sites.

Somnath temple, Gujarat

The Somnath temple first came under attack from Mahmud of Ghazni who was infatuated by its splendid fortunes. The stories of the destruction he brought to the Somnath temple can be heard far and wide. Zakariya al-Qazwini, an Arab geographer of the 13th century gives a detailed description of Ghazni’s destruction in his works.

Reconstructed by the local kings, the temple once again came under fire from Alauddin Khilji’s army in 1298. The army set out to bring the temple to the ground. The last of the many attacks on the temple was recorded 1665 when Aurangzeb ordered its destruction. Notwithstanding multiple attempts to vanish its existence, the temple stands tall today after its reconstruction was ordered by Vallabhbhai Patel, the erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister, in 1947.

Nalanda

Once the world’s prime centre of learning which attracted students from China, Korea, Central Asia and Tibet, Nalanda was demolished by Bakhtiyar Khilji, ruler of the Mamluk Dynasty in 1200 CE. His act of destruction of Nalanda was a part of the series of raids he carried out in different parts of Bihar to make a name for himself.

The newly established Nalanda University is an attempt to make it regain its lost global glory. International funding coming from Japan and Singapore is a reminder of its once International stature.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

Apart from attracting visitors from all over the world, the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple also attracted the ire of a number of past rulers of India. The temple was first destructed in 1194 CE by Qutb-ud-din Aibak when he was the deputy of Mohammad Ghori.

It faced one of its biggest crises when Aurangzeb demolished it and constructed the Gyanvapi mosque at its site. The present form of the temple was built by Ahilyabai Holker who got the temple constructed near the Gyanvapi mosque.

Buddhas of Baniyam

IS’s recent series of attacks has a striking resemblance to the Taliban’s acts when they destroyed the iconic Buddha statues at Baniyam, Afghanistan by drilling holes into its face and filling them with dynamites before exploding them. One of the greatest remains of the Gandhara art, the twin statues of Buddha were under attack since Genghis Khan had first set his eyes on them in 1221.

The destruction of world’s heritage at the hands of ISIS is not a loss of any single country. If the group’s activities aren’t curtailed at the earliest, we won’t be left with anything to call ‘heritage’.