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HomeExpositionsHistoryBhojshala battle begins: Here's how Hindu demand is legit

Bhojshala battle begins: Here’s how Hindu demand is legit

A historical guide to Bhojshala in Dhar of Madhya Pradesh where Hindus have been reclaiming a Saraswati yajnashala from Muslims who turned it into a mosque

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An almost three-decades-long Hindu-Muslim dispute over Bhojshala in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, is reignited amid the hearing of a petition by the Hindu Front for Justice Trust. The Hindu petitioners demand an order for an ASI survey of the spot from the court.

News about Bhojshala

The trust submitted an interim application while the Indore bench is hearing another petition on the Dhar Bhojshala already. The Indore bench of the High Court heard the case for about 50 minutes on Monday.

The trust believes that the survey will unearth several sculptures and other Hindu signs especially if an excavation also takes place, which will make it clear this was a mosque imposed on a temple. If a survey is conducted, the trust says, Hindus will regain their right to worship at the Bhojshala of Dhar, as it happened in the Gyanvapi case.

Muslims have predictably objected to this interim application, saying that there is no justification for this application amidst the already filed petition. They also want the petition filed by the Muslim side to be heard first.

Following the directions of the court in April 2003, Dhar’s Bhojshala was opened for Hindus to worship every Tuesday whereas Muslims were allowed to offer namaz on Friday afternoon. On other days, the place is opened as a tourist spot for a fee of Re 1.

In May 2022, the Hindu group above filed a petition that demanded conversion of the Bhojshala into a temple, installation of a statue of Vag Devi (Saraswati), regular performance of Hindu rituals and end to namaz. Recently, while giving an interim application during the hearing on this petition, Hindu Front for Justice Trust demanded a comprehensive survey of Bhojshala on the lines of Gyanvapi.

For the last three decades, Hindu organisations conducted many rounds of satyagraha and movements for Dhar’s Bhojshala. Several incidents of violence and curfew-like situations occurred in Dhar.

The Hindu organisations have warned that the satyagraha will continue continuously for the liberation of the famous Saraswati temple.

History of King Bhoja, Bhojshala

Within the Indian tradition, King Bhoja, who governed central India between CE 1000 and 1055, is regarded as one of the greatest monarchs. He was a well-known patron of the arts, and Hindu scholars who came after him were so respectful of him that they historically ascribed to him a great deal of Sanskrit literature on a wide range of topics, including philosophy, astronomy, grammar, medicine, yoga, and architecture. Śṛṅgaraprakāśa is one of these; it is a highly regarded and influential text on the subject of poetics. The central thesis of the work holds that Sringara is the universe’s primary driving force.

Bhoja started building a Shiva temple in Bhojpur in addition to supporting literature and the arts. The temple would have been double the size of the Hindu temples at the Khajuraho Group of Monuments if it had been finished to the extent he had intended. It is confirmed by epigraphical evidence that Bhoja founded and constructed Hindu temples, and the temple was only partially completed.

King Arjunavarman (CE 1210–15) was one of Bhoja’s successors. He was one of the numerous people in the Hindu and Jain traditions who held Bhoja in such high esteem that they were considered as a king resembling Bhoja or a reincarnation of Bhoja. Merutuṅga’s Prabandhacintāmaṇi finished in the fourteenth century, and Ballāla’s Bhojaprabandha, composed at Varanasi in the seventeenth century, both attest to Bhoja’s continued veneration centuries later.

Following in this tradition, Hindu scholars characterized Bhoja as a remnant of Hindu identity and a shining representation of their ancient culture’s magnificent past in the 20th century. Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, is named after him, or Bhoj-pāl, while some people believe the name originally came from the Sanskrit term Bhūpāla, which means “king” or “Protector of the Earth”.

The site

Colonial Indologists, historians, and administrators were drawn to the Dhār archaeological sites because of their inscriptions. In 1822, John Malcolm brought up Dhār in the same breath as construction projects like the dams that King Bhoja planned and built. Thanks to Bhau Daji’s efforts in 1871, the scientific investigation into the inscriptions of Bhojūālā persisted into the late nineteenth century.

In 1903, a new chapter began when KK Lele, the Princely State of Dhār’s Superintendent of Education, discovered several Sanskrit and Prakrit inscriptions on the walls and floor of the pillared hall at Kamāl Maula. Many academics have researched the inscriptions up to this point. The quantity and variety of the inscriptions on the tablets, including two intricate inscriptions that provide Sanskrit grammar rules, indicate that materials were collected from multiple different structures and a large geographic area.

Archaeology

John Malcolm stated that he took out a panel with writing from the Kamāl Maula. This seems to be the Rāüla vela of Roḍa, an original piece of poetry in the oldest Hindi dialects. The Asiatic Society of Mumbai initially had this inscription, and it was then moved to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai.

One of the tablets containing a collection of Prakrit hymns honouring the Kūrma, or tortoise manifestation, of the god Viṣṇu was discovered by KK Lele. King Bhoja is credited for writing the Kūrmaśataka, however, the record’s palaeography indicates that this copy was engraved in the twelfth or thirteenth century.

Richard Pischel published the text in 1905–06; VM Kulkarni released a revised edition and translation of it in 2003. Inside the structure, the inscription is currently on exhibit.

Lele discovered another inscription that is a segment of a Madana play titled Vijayaśrīnāṭikā. “Bālasaraswatī” was the title held by Madana, the preceptor of King Arjunavarman. According to the inscription, the play was presented in front of Arjunavarman in the Saraswatī temple. This implies that the inscription might have originated from a Saraswatī temple site. Inside the structure, the inscription is currently on exhibit.

There are two more twisted linguistic inscriptions on the structure. Lele called the edifice the Bhojūālā, or Hall of Bhoja, based on these documents, since King Bhoja wrote several works on poetics and grammar, including the Saraswatīkaṇṭhābharaṇa, or ‘Necklace of Saraswatī’.

CE Luard coined the word Bhojaśālā and used it in his Gazetteer of 1908, although pointing out that it was a misnomer. The work of William Kincaid, “Rambles among Ruins in Central India,” published in the Indian Antiquary in 1888, demonstrates that Lele is credited with coining the word “Bhojūālā.” This mentions simply the Akl ka kua, or “Well of Wisdom,” in front of Kamāl al-Dīn’s mausoleum without using the name Bhojūālā.

Despite being a cynical observer, Kincaid’s text suggests that there was “no living tradition about the Bhojālā in the middle decades of the nineteenth century” among the people he met with, as evidenced by the absence of the word Bhojūālā.

Saraswati in Bhojshala

Following the identification of the Bhojaśālā with the Kamāl Maula by Lele and Luard, OC Gangoly and KN Dikshit published an inscription in the British Museum declaring that the sculpture was indeed Rāja Bhoja’s Saraswatī from Dhār. This analysis made a big difference and was widely acknowledged. In the years that followed, the statue in the British Museum was frequently identified as Bhoja’s Saraswatī.

Saraswatī, also known as Vāgdevī, and King Bhoja are mentioned in the sculpture’s inscription. The literal meaning of the word ‘Vāgdevī’ is the goddess of speech, articulation, and education. But further analysis of the inscription by Indian Sanskrit and Prakrit language academics, led by Harivallabh Bhayani, showed that the inscription documents the creation of a sculpture of Ambikā following the creation of three Jinas and Vāgdevī.

Put differently, the primary intent of the inscription is to document the process of creating an image of Ambikā, that is, the sculpture upon which the record is etched, even if Vāgdevī is referenced.

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