Falsifying History

The temple-mosque controversies continually raised by the Rashtriyaswaym Sevak Sangh (RSS) are aimed at creating a false image of life in medieval India. While a few wrong acts of intolerance may have taken place but one should not forget that some forces and persons of intolerance have been present in most stages of history in most places, the wider picture is one of a large number of temples being maintained or even built with the help of Hindu as well as Muslim rulers of medieval times. This has been pointed out repeatedly by several learned historians. The Mughal rulers were not Taliban. But the affiliates of RSS have no point of agitation unless they re-write history according to their own plan.

At a time when the saffron brigade is trying to recreate the Ayodhya episode in several places the policy of Mughal rulers towards the temples of Vrindavan- Mathura region demands review. This Hindu pilgrimage was nearest to Delhi and Agra, two most main centres of the Mughal rule and so it is of significance to know the relationship which the Mughal rulers had with the temples of Mathura and Vrindavan and with their priests and devotees. Dozens of documents of those days are available to reveal the policy of Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan towards these temples. These documents have been available in Vrindavan Research Institute and in some of the temples. These have been studied by Tarapada Mukerjee and Irfan Habib in the papers presented at the 48th and 49th session of Indian History Congress.

According to the study of Mukerjee and Habib, based on documents of Mughal days, Akbar enlarged and consolidated all grants to temples and temple- servants in the Mathura region by his farmaans (dated 27th August, 1598 and 11th September, 1598) in Vrindavan, Mathura and their environs. Jahangir not only continued these grants, he substantially added to these. Jahangir added at least two temples to the list of thirty five already supported by Akbar’s grant of 1598. In addition, he provided 121 bighas of land for 5 families of temple sevaks. Jahangir also visited Vrindavan temples in 1620.

The documents mentioned also reveal that whenever temple priests had any serious problem, they approached Mughal rulers or their senior officials and generally the rulers/ their officials took action to solve their problems. On one occasion the water supply to Radha Kund was stopped, in another case a tax was imposed on the cattle kept by temples, in another case some trees around a temple were cut, in yet another case gardeners of temples were subjected to forced labour. In all these cases complaints were made by priests or others connected with these temples to Mughal rulers or their senior officials. And in all the above mentioned cases, prompt action was taken to solve the problems. The fact that the priests appealed to the rulers/ officials even for problems which were not very important indicates that they expected to get favorable verdicts from them.

In fact there are documents to show that even when there were disputes among two priests or other religious persons connected with temples, the intervention of Mughal rulers or their officials was sought to settle the dispute and the example of at least one such dispute between Damodardas Radhaballabh and Kishan Chaitan is given in one of the documents.

The Nawabs of Oudh gave several grants to the temples of Ayodhya and provided them protection in other ways. The Diwan of Nawab Safdarjung built several temples in Ayodhya and arranged for the repair of other temples. Nawab Safdarjung gave land for the construction of an important temple here. Asafadullah’s diwan gave further help for the construction of a temple.

It should be added that several Hindu kings, not only those who were subordinate to Mughals but also those who were independent, reciprocated this gesture. For example, Shivaji built a mosque in front of his palace in Raigad.

Sense of history should not fall prey to communal propaganda, and the heritage of respecting each other’s religious places should be continued. But the saffronites are determined to falsify history and aggravate communal tensions between two religious communities by every possible way. As the Modi magic is vanishing quickly because of severe economic downturn Modi’s foot-soldiers are in a hurry to create another Ayodhya in Mathura. After all the next general election is not far away and communal polarisation is all they need to win elections.


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Vol. 54, No. 18, Oct 31 - Nov 6, 2021