Monday December 10, 2018

World Heritage Day: How Delhi’s Hindu heritage was eclipsed by foreign invasions

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By Shilpika Srivastava

From becoming the capital city of almost every single dynasty and empire that blossomed in India, Delhi has lineage, history, class and then some more. The seeds of Delhi spread not in the misty myth, but very firmly in the ground – put there by the Hindu pedigree, as the historical texts suggest.

Around 1400 B.C., there existed a powerful and magnificent city of Indraprastha – the city of PandavasMahabharata suggests that the Demon Maya, who was said to be the best architect of his time, built the fabled city of Indraprastha after Dhritarashtra partitioned the Kingdom of Hastinapur into two in order to cut down the enmity between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

In fact, there are historical evidences that suggest that the area has been settled for around 2500 years. Last year, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) started its excavation at Purana Qila in hope to unearth Painted Grey Wares (PGW), which could have proved the existence of the Mahabharata period. Also, an excavation conducted inside the fort grounds in the early 1970s unveiled Black Polished Ware and PGW that dated back to 300 B.C. The excavation gave boost to ASI and its historians’ belief that the fort’s site was, indeed, a part of the mythological Indraprastha.

Upinder Singh’s book, Ancient Delhi, also makes a reference of a place called ‘Dillika’. Also, the heroic poem, Prithviraj Raso, penned by Chand Bardai, links ‘Dhilli’ with a Rajput king and Mehrauli’s iron pillar.

Pasanaha Chariu of Vibudh Shridhar, an Apabhramsha writer, provides the first reference to the legend of the origin of the name ‘Dhilli’ for Delhi. He says:

हरियाणए देसे असंखगाम, गामियण जणि अणवरथ काम|
परचक्क विहट्टणु सिरिसंघट्टणु, जो सुरव इणा परिगणियं|
रिउ रुहिरावट्टणु बिउलु पवट्टणु, ढिल्ली नामेण जि भणियं|

It literally means: There are countless villages in Haryana. The villagers there work hard. They don’t accept domination of others, and are experts in making the blood of their enemies flow. Indra himself praises this country. The capital of this country is Delhi.

Countless invaders who were attracted to the riches and wealth of India, found their calling in Delhi. Being located on the banks of River Yamuna, the erstwhile city of Indraprastha soon became the Pole Star that every marauder wanted to win over.

Delhi has witnessed the rise and fall of almost eleven cities. Therefore, every dynasty that ruled the area left its distinct streak over the city’s architecture. During the entire hotchpotch, from the decline of Indraprastha to the invasion of Muhammad of Ghor, the Hindu heritage that the city had beautifully preserved faded away gradually in the darkness of time.

The rule of Qutbuddin Aibak, the slave and successor of Mohammed Ghori, saw Sultanate being reinforced, and then began a chapter of cultural experimentation and efflorescence in language, food, and architectural techniques. There ran an anabolism of the cultural traditions of Central and West Asia, and these when synthesized with the indigenous architectural styles of India gave rise to a distinct building style called Indo-Islamic.

The earliest buildings during this time were created using materials from the Hindu and Jain temples. Quwwat-ul-Islam, Delhi’s first congregational mosque was built over the substratum of a Hindu temple, and beams, brackets and columns from 27 temples were utilized in its construction.

From 1526 to 1757, the Mughal Emperors accomplished huge power in India. The Empire sustained in a diluted form, for another hundred years, until 1858 and was slowly grasped by the British presence.

Conspicuously, the Indian architecture during the Mughal period was greatly prejudiced by Persian styles depicting a uniform pattern both in structure and character.

The emergence of Mughal Raj saw the evolution of the Hindustani language, which was the precursor to Hindi and Urdu, however, the Hindustani dance form was hugely affected by the Mughal patronage. It is also notable that the concoction of Persian words into the vocabulary proved to be a long lasting cultural change.

The Western frontier region changed its tune from an “Indian” or Hindu characteristics and progressed more towards an Islamic or Arab identity. This, on the other hand, led to the modern nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan that resonate more with the Arab culture than the Indian culture. Not necessarily bad, but certainly a hard hit for “Indian” heritage.

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

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Hindus don’t oppose anyone, don’t aspire to dominate: RSS chief

“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

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Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)