Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dhar, Mandu and Raja Bhoj's conversion: Islam in Malwa, part-1

Who has not heard of the legendary love story of King Baz Bahadur, a Muslim, and the Hindu girl Rani Roopmati?

The enchanting and eternal love story is spread on every nook and corner in Mandu, the mountain city.

Mandu was once the seat of the great Malwa kingdom that was ruined like Granada and Cordoba in Spain.

While six centuries after inquisition, the sounds of azaan are back again in Al-Andalus, Mandu remains as deserted nearly five centuries after Mughal Emperor Akbar destroyed it in 1562.

The Mandu fort is said to be the biggest single fort in the world and is spread over 80 sq km. The Jahaz Mahal, Hindola Mahal and numerous palaces and mosques stand testimony that once such a state existed in Malwa [the western Madhya Pradesh] in the heart of India that was a cause of envy for even the mighty Mughals.

The Jama Masjid here has the most unique acoustic system in the world. Hardly any Muslims remain in Mandu and we remember the place when the Bhojshala dispute figures in news headlines. Dhar that is close to Mandu was seat of Salateen-e-Malwa [Sultans] for sometime and here exists the temple that was converted by Raja Bhoj.

This Raja Bhoj is said to have converted to Islam after seeing the 'mojza-e-shaq-ul-qamar' [The miracle of moon getting split into two parts]. In fact, there have been several kings of the same name, and hence a section of modern historians question whether it was this particular Bhoj.

Just like Ayodhya, it is a place where right-wing Hindu groups want control. Already, a 5,000 strong police is deployed at this Masjid Kamaal Maula-Bhojshala complex on Friday when Namaz and Hindu's Basant Panchami puja will fall on the same day and in the same premises.

On February 3 this place will see thousands of Hindu activists trying to stop Muslims for prayers. Dhar has a substantial Muslim population. Between Dhar and the deserted Mandu city likes Nalcha Sharif where exists the tomb of a Sufi Saint. Probably Najmuddin Ghaus-ud-Dahar Qalandar.

The splendour of Mandu was such that it was known as Shadiabad [City of Joy] and had a population. It had a population of 15 lakh when poet-king Baz Bahadur ruled Malwa region. It is here at Mandu that Hoshang Shah Ghauri's marble tomb exists.

It is this tomb that inspired the construction of Taj Mahal. The unique Afghan architecture of palaces in Mandu are unrivalled. The Jama Masjid here has the most unique acoustic system in the world. There is no need for loudspeakers, as it has been built in such a way that the sound gets amplified and is heard to a long distance.

If you haven't seen Mandu, you have missed a chapter in the splendour of Indo-Muslim civilization.