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Reclaiming Hindu Temples: Episodes from an Oppressive Era

Reclaiming Hindu Temples: Episodes from an Oppressive Era

by   Chandni Sengupta (Author)  
by   Chandni Sengupta (Author)   (show less)
5.0 Ratings & 3 Reviews
Sold By:   Garuda Prakashan

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Reclaiming Hindu Temples: Episodes from an Oppressive Era by Chandni Sengupta is a detailed, academic look at the Sultanate period, or the early medieval period, which marked the imposition of Islamic fundamentalism in India

From the 13th Century to the arrival of the Mughals in the 16th Century, several dynasties ruled from Delhi, called Sultans – like the Slave dynasty, the Khaljis, the Lodhis, etc – and created havoc in the areas within and around Delhi. They were specifically enthused by their holy war, and indulged wantonly in destroying Hindu temples, killing Hindus, capturing their women to be sold later, and imposing taxation and other methods to torture the Hindus and alienate them from the normal body-politic; besides effecting mass conversions at sword-point.

Sengupta quotes copiously from the sources like the court historians of these barbaric rulers, which expose the glee with which they carried out such pogroms. In doing so, the author has systematically exploded the oft-repeated line from historians, who claimed that this period spawned synthesis of syncretic culture, under the influence from the Sultanate rulers. “This period did not have a single moment of peace for the Hindus,” says the author.

More Information

ISBN 13 9781942426745
Book Language English
Binding Paperback
Total Pages 232
Publishers Garuda Prakashan  
Category Indian History   Hinduism   Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS)  
Weight 260.00 g
Dimension 13.00 x 20.00 x 2.00

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The Book is an excellent attempt at bringing out the facts about the Sultanate period in India. The Book is a landmark as far as re-writing history is concerned. Kudos to the author and the publisher for this excellent work.
Review by - Souri Sengupta, January 31, 2022


This book is a new research work not only for the students of history but for all those who wanted to know about their culture and impact and affect on their religious spaces at the time of Muslim invasion and thereafter. It is quite surprising that scholars of history have counted the demolition of temples as a normal act by Muslim invaders and portrayed them as divine rulers. But Dr. Chandni Sengupta has provided a fresh insight in it and with the support of authentic and primary sources proved that demolishing of Hindu temples was not only a political act but a religious zeal of the foreign invaders to establish their religion and rule on indigenous population of the Indian subcontinent. Starting with the description of destruction of twenty seven Jain temples to built Qutub Mosque to the destruction of Vishweshwar temple in Banaras by Aurangzeb to built Gyanvapi Mosque, Dr. Chandni has rightly put in that Hindu temples are always being the site of contestation for Muslims and they never have a secular approach neither they were tolerant. I highly recommend this book as it provides an insight of the past and current demands of reclaiming the ancient sites of temples by indigenous population.
Review by - Mamta Tyagi, February 06, 2022


Dr. Chandni Sengupta’s recently published book ‘Reclaiming Hindu Temples: episodes from an Oppressive Era’ has succeeded in articulating the concern of the Indian masses. I am pretty sure that the book will stir the dormant conscience of the majority of Indians who have felt cheated in the last seven decades of the Indian Independence. The issues raised in the pages of the books are apt and suggestive. The book is bound to be counted as a social and historical document of our time.
Review by - Parul Yadav, February 09, 2022
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The Deadly Destruction of Sind and Multan


From Kurukshetra to Somanatha


Foundation of the Dark Age


Temples Destroyed by the Ilbari Turks


The Wrath of the Khaljis


The Bigotry of the Tughlaq Dynasts


Temple Desecration in Regional Sultanates


The Story of ‘But Shikan’—The Slayer of Idols


The Lamentable Iconoclasm of the Lodis





Historical writing on the medieval period has largely been confined to the political, economic, cultural, and socio-religious developments that took place during the period of Islamic occupation. While the political institutions and buildings established by the Turks have been glorified in books, there have been very few attempts to look at the true nature of the Turkish rule in Bharat. The history of the Delhi Sultanate is a history of violence and bloodshed, but in order to present a positive image of the Muslim Sultans, historians have purposely focussed on institutions, buildings, economic measures, while completely ignoring the actual nature of the Sultanate rule.
The history of the Delhi Sultanate is replete with instances of temple desecration, forced conversions, and slaughter of Hindus. Unfortunately, most of the historical works have not focussed on the manner in which Hindus were humiliated during this period. After the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Bharat, which was called “Sone ki Chidiya” or “Golden Bird” was plunged into the Dark Age during which many excesses were committed against the Hindus.
The iconoclasm inherent in Islam dictated the actions of the Sultans who destroyed temples wherever they went.
Numerous, in fact, thousands of temples were destroyed, and in many cases, mosques were erected in their place. From North to South, wherever the Islamic armies went, temples were demolished. Some of the most iconic temples of Bharat like the Somanatha Temple and the Modhera Sun Temple in Gujarat, the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain, the Martand Sun Temple in Kashmir, the Krishna Janamsthan Temple in Mathura, among others, had to face the wrath of the invading armies. Numerous textual sources as well as archaeological findings have pointed to the destruction of temples during the period of the Delhi Sultanate. The fact that the Sultans followed an agenda of death and destruction and left no stone unturned to harm our temples and our religious practices cannot be denied or justified in any way.
This book, titled Reclaiming Hindu Temples: Episodes from an Oppressive Era, is a genuine attempt at reframing the historical narrative on the Delhi Sultanate, particularly with regard to the desecration of our temples that was carried out during that period of history. It is a welcome departure from the established historical writings which have tended to focus on the Delhi Sultanate as a period of “peace” and “prosperity”. In this book, the author has not only focussed on the destruction of temples, but has also attempted to analyze the Hindu resistance that was put forth against the excesses committed by the Sultans, thereby, challenging the established idea that the Hindus were passive and incapable of defending their territories and their religion. By focussing on the works of Persian chroniclers, which were the official accounts of the state, the author has proven beyond doubt that the Sultans detested Hindu edifices and commanded their ruination.
This book is a pathbreaking work, and is a milestone in the lager project of re-writing the history of Bharat. This well-researched work is a laudable effort, and I would like to congratulate the author and the publisher for bringing out such an important book which will certainly prove to be a reference for those interested in learning about the destruction of temples and the humiliation of our ancestors by the Islamic invaders.

-Advocate Monika Arora

Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India National Convenor, Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA)


The Islamic conquest of Bharat is perhaps the bloodiest part of Indian history. This tale of terror is marked by numerous instances of plunder, genocide, loot, rape, and all kinds of atrocities that can possibly be imagined by the human mind.

This book is a product of many years of learning and re-learning Indian history. There is a considerable contrast between what I happened to learn in classrooms and the actual history which I was acquainted with later. What began as an ambitious project of trying to gather textual evidence about the desecration of temples in the medieval period, has culminated in the form of a book. As a student of history, I have always been deeply interested in the history of Islamic invasions as these invasions not only changed the social, political, cultural, and economic fabric of our nation, but also ushered in a period of doom and devastation for the people of the country. Many scholars have tried to project this phase of Indian history as a period of great prosperity and cultural efflorescence, thereby, undermining the destructive nature of Islamic rule in India.
The medieval period is commonly divided into two distinct phases—the period concurring with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, roughly 12th to early 16th century, and the establishment of the Mughal rule, spanning from the mid-16th century to the mid-19th century. In both these periods, the Muslim rulers, who established their suzerainty over the Indian subcontinent, were responsible for the demolition of numerous temples across the length and breadth of the country.
This book has not been written with a specific audience in mind and can be read by readers of all age groups and professions. However, students of history who wish to delve into medieval India, particularly the aspect of temple desecration, might find this book useful.
I realize that this book might create a great deal of controversy, but it is important to present the correct narrative on the destruction of temples and the motives of the Islamic invaders. This book is only a small drop in the ocean and much more work needs to be done to free Indian history from the clutches of certain dominant ideologies that have successfully hijacked the historical narrative over the past many decades.
The book comprises nine chapters, apart from the Introduction. The Introductory Chapter is critical for understanding the historiography of medieval India, and the way in which one set of historians presented a glorified history of the Islamic rule, while branding those historians, who wrote the truth, as “Hindu Fundamentalists”. Chapter 1 deals with the Arab conquest of Sind and the manner in which the Hindu and Buddhist temples in the region of Sind and Multan were destroyed by the Arab marauders in the 8th century. Chapter 2 presents a narrative on the destruction unleashed by Mahmud Ghazni. This chapter provides an analysis of textual references on the desecration of temples by Ghazni as part of his Holy War. Chapter 3 provides an introduction on the Ghurids and their expansionist aims. This chapter also deals with the devastating impact of the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, with particular emphasis on the ruin of temples at the hands of invaders such as Muhammad Ghori and Qutubuddin Aibak. Chapter 4 discusses the desecration of Hindu temples by the Ilbari Turks, particularly Iltutmish. This chapter also focuses on the Holy War perpetrated by the successors of Iltutmish, as well as the nobles of the Sultanate. Chapter 5 provides an introduction to the Khalji dynasty and discusses the fury of Alauddin Khalji, the infamous Sultan, who is well-known for his destructive streak. Chapter 6 discusses bigotry of the Tughlaqs, including the vexatious nature of the eccentric king Muhammad bin Tughlaq and his successor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Chapter 7 outlines the devastation caused by the invasion of Timur as well as the catastrophic impact of the Regional Sultanates with regard to the breaking down of temples in various regions across the country. Chapter 8 sets forth a brief history of early Islamic rule in Kashmir and the calamitous effects of the Shah Miri dynasty, particularly the reign of Sikandar But Shikan, the slayer of idols, who was known to destroy any temple and idol that he set his eyes on. Chapter 9 deals with the desecration of temples by the last ruling dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, the Lodis.
I hope this book is well perceived as an attempt to correct the history writing of the medieval period. The future belongs to those who learn from their past, and if we are to avoid the blunders of the past, Indian history writing needs to change, for if we continue to glorify the invaders and belittle our own warriors, we shall never be able to unshackle ourselves.

May everyone be happy, may everyone be free from all diseases, may everyone see goodness and auspiciousness in everything. May none be unhappy or distressed. Om peace, peace, peace!

“Those who believe, fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut. So, fight against the allies of Satan. Indeed, the plot of Satan has ever been weak.”

-Surah An-Nisa, 4:76

“Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah”

-Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:193


The Muslim invaders who ravaged our temples and looted our idols were imbued with a spirit of iconoclasm, a natural phenomenon which was part and parcel of their socialization.

They were taught, through the injunctions of their faith, that idolators need to be put to the sword and that Islam needed to be established in all the lands that they set out to conquer. There was, therefore, something inherent in their faith which made them so vehemently opposed to the people of other faiths.

Their opposition was not restricted only to the idolators but also the people of all other religious denominations, and numerous churches and synagogues were destroyed by the Islamic expansionist armies in the middle east and other parts of the world. It is interesting to note that Christianity and Judaism are also Abrahamic faiths but even they were not spared by the invading armies of Islam. In Iran, they persecuted the fire worshippers, who were then forced to flee. In Bharat, they mounted serious injury on the socio- religious fabric, which was greatly altered as a result of their advancement into the mainland. It is, therefore, important to analyze the history of Islam and its downright denunciation of other belief systems.

The condemnation of idolatry was propagated by the Prophet of Islam. The pre-Islamic Arab society consisted of idol worshippers who were polytheists. Allah was the supreme God, but every household had their own deities, and every region was associated with the worship of a deity and, at Mecca, the most important deity was Hubal, an idol made of red cornelian. In pre-Islamic Arabia, there also existed the practice of goddess worship, and the three daughters of Allah – Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Al-Mannat – were worshipped by the people of Mecca. The people of Yathrib (later known as Medina) also had their own deities, both household and community ones. Apart from the deities worshipped by the tribes, other religious denominations also found a place within the religio-cultural structure of Arabia. There were Jews and Christians. In fact, Medina had a large Jewish population, and in eastern Arabia, Christian influence was immense. In the pre-Islamic period, Arabia was, therefore, a cosmopolitan region with diverse communities and religious influences.

The socio-cultural fabric of Arabia was overturned by Muhammad (570-632 CE) who claimed to have received a revelation from Gibreel (Archangel Gabriel) in 610 CE after which he began professing a new faith and started winning over adherents. Muhammad, who belonged to the Banu Hashim Clan of the Quraysh Tribe, claimed to be the “messenger of God or Allah” and within a few years, he had acquired the complete loyalty of a small group of Meccan followers who had accepted his religious ideas, which were centred around the belief in one God and the rejection of all deities and idol worship (But Parasti). The established religious norms of Arabia were condemned as Shirk (idolatry and polytheism) by Muhammad. This group of adherents to the new faith, established by Muhammad, came to be known as ‘Muslim,’ that is, those who had submitted to Allah, and the religion came to be known as Islam which meant ‘submission’. Scholars have tried to portray Muhammad as someone who wanted to “unify” the divergent tribes, but this “unification” was accompanied by gross bloodshed of those who did not want to abjure their faith.

The religious beliefs of Muhammad were opposed by the tribal chieftains at Mecca who considered these beliefs to be outrageous and implausible. Muhammad’s own tribe, the Quraysh, was opposed to his religious ideas. The situation in Mecca had become unfavourable for Muhammad who decided to shift to Medina with his band of followers in 622 CE. In Medina, he became an arbitrator of tribal disputes and gained some popularity. Within a couple of years, he began waging wars against his own tribe who he now considered to be “pagan idol worshippers”. The Battle of Badr (624 CE) and the Battle of Uhud (625 CE) were wars fought by Muhammad in order to convert Arabia into the “Land of Islam”. Later, Muhammad entered Mecca, destroyed all the idols housed in the Ka’ba and established his rule over the region. The destruction of idols was a key feature in the aggressive campaign led by Muhammad.

As Islamic conquests spread beyond Arabia, the decimation of idolatry became a prime objective of the armies of Islam. Under the Rashidun Caliphate (Caliphate of the “Rightly Guided” as all these caliphs had been associates of Muhammad), significant territorial gains were made by the Arabs, including Persia, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. The indigenous religions of all these regions were ousted and Islam was established by force in these areas. Under Caliph Umar, the second Rashidun Caliph, inroads were made into Bharat and the region of Balochistan was Islamized. Usman, the successor of Umar, wished to take over more territories in the region which was referred to as ‘Al-Hind’ by the Arabs. The Islamic Caliphs were, therefore, always on the lookout for territorial expansion, and Bharat, which was a land of spiritualism, enormous resources and wealth, became an obvious target.

As advised by their Prophet, the Muslims had to kill the polytheists (Mushriks) and bring an end to Shirk. The Arabs, who invaded Sind, and the Turks, who later invaded the Indian mainland and devastated our country, were imbued with the iconoclastic spirit of their Prophet. The Arab conquerors overran Sind in the 8th century perpetrating heinous acts of violence against the Hindus and Buddhists of the region. After the Arab episode, Bharat had to again face the wrath of the Islamic marauders in the 10th-11th centuries. This was followed by the establishment of Islamic rule in India in the 12th century. The entire period of Islamic rule witnessed enormous death and depredation. This phase of Islamic dominance was an era marked by the presence of regressive practices, prudery, and incomprehensible hatred towards the Hindus. Scholars in the past have tried to legitimize Islamic hegemony over Bharat by trying to project these Sultans are progenitors of “useful” institutions and harbingers of “change”.

The kind of narrative that has dominated the historical discourse over the years has shrouded the imagination of most people with regard to the actual nature of Islamic rule in Bharat. The initial phase of history writing witnessed the influence of the Colonial School of Thought and the Nationalist historians. While most of the colonialists tried to project everything associated with Bharat as backward and degenerate, some of them were absolutely correct in their assessment of India’s glorious ancient past, followed by a period of Dark Age. A section of the colonial historians, who espoused Orientalist beliefs, emphasized the need to delve into the ancient past of India, and they also attempted to create a link between Sanskrit and Classical European languages. They definitely had a larger colonial agenda in mind, but what these Orientalists also ended up doing was to revive our interest in our own ancient past. They also presented a systematic critique of the Islamic rule in India which, according to them, had plunged India into an era of doom and devastation.

The colonial historians were followed by historians belonging to the Nationalist School of Thought who presented a correct narrative on Indian history. They analyzed the ancient and medieval periods and highlighted the striking contrasts between the two. Scholars like R.C. Majumdar presented the unerring picture of Islamic rule in Bharat. These nationalist historians did not shy away from calling a spade a spade, and they did not gloss over the crimes and injustices of the Sultans and later the Mughal rulers. The nationalist historians rightly considered the Muslim rule in Bharat to be a foreign, alien rule, which was a period of degeneration and oppression for the Hindus.

However, some historians like Tara Chand and Mohammad Habib focussed all their energies on trying to project a cultural synthesis that had, according to them, occurred during the medieval period as a result of the Islamic invasions. The works of these historians tended to justify the Islamic rule in India. Habib went as far as claiming that the Turks initiated the process of urbanization and provided opportunities of “upward social mobility” to the menial castes, particularly the artisans and labourers. Habib and those who followed his analysis focussed on the inherent problems within the Hindu social order which enabled the Turks to win over converts to Islam, thereby, diminishing the idea of forced conversions. The theory postulated by Habib served as a background for the Marxists who used his analysis of “upward social mobility” to assert their fundamental belief that the Islamic rule over India was actually a good one.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Marxist School of Thought gained momentum, and a host of Marxist historians began to present their views on Indian history. Many of these historians began to write about the Sultanate and Mughal periods, and their analysis was marred by a lopsided narrative of presenting the Islamic rulers as messiahs of “justice and righteousness”. Historians like Satish Chandra attempted to justify Islamic rule in India by trying to highlight some institutions that were set up by the Sultans and the Mughals. He also focussed on the measures adopted by some of these rulers; for instance, the Market Regulations of Alauddin Khalji, in order to legitimize their rule in Bharat. According to Chandra, the Muslim rulers gave Bharat what the Hindu Rajas could not. He also harped upon the presence of Hindus in the courts of Sultans and Mughal emperors, thereby attempting to present a picture of “secularism” and “tolerance” during the medieval period.

Working within the Marxist framework, some historians became popular for their analysis on destruction of temples. Romila Thapar was one such historian whose work on the desecration of the Somanatha Temple became the textbook for next generation Marxists. Discounting the accounts of chroniclers and other works as exaggerated, Thapar tried to turn the attention on the wealth of Gujarat, which, according to her, was the prime mover for Mahmud of Ghazni. She, however, did not present any logical and conclusive argument on why the temple was destroyed if only looting of wealth was the purpose of the invader. He could have as well raided the docks where items of trade were stocked. After all, they were the actual sources of wealth. For Thapar, the Turks were not iconoclasts, neither were they invaders. They only came to India in search of wealth. Her erroneous theory did not, however, provide any answer for the rampant desecration of temples, forced conversions, and massacre of Hindus. The agenda-driven histories written by Thapar and her ilk tried to present the Islamic invaders as mere adventurers who plundered and raided places in order to obtain reserves of wealth. What these historians, however, purposely did not look were the gruesome brutalities perpetrated by these marauders on the indigenous inhabitants of Bharat.

Western scholarship has also been dominated by the Marxist narrative, and scholars like Richard Eaton have presented a false theory of only eighty temples being destroyed during the entire Islamic rule. Eaton also focussed on the “protection” provided by some Muslim Sultans to temples as well as the reconstruction of a few during the Muslim period. His argument is largely based on a pre- conceived notion of Muslim rulers being