Delhi: Recently, an Instagram series on #MughalEraMandir started by historian Rana Safvi and author Sam Dalrymple has won the hearts of netizens. Exploring the lanes of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), they have come across temples of Old Delhi, which were built under different Mughal Emperors. Contrasting the history plagued by bigotry that we read today, the series on Mughal-era temples highlights the harmonious culture that we have inherited.
Shahjahanabad is a fascinating place for any history enthusiast as it houses, even today, many buildings which are over a hundred years old. Over the years some buildings have been rebuilt and renovated, while some have been reduced to ruins. Amid these heritage buildings are the temples built in the Mughal reign, well documented in Safvi's book Shahjahanabad: The Living City of Old Delhi. While some of these temples have received heritage status, many of them are taken care of by private trusts or families. "Some of these mandirs are too small, just like not every mosque is under ASI, similarly these smaller mandirs are also taken care of by private parties and did not receive the heritage status," points out Safvi.
Near Daryaganj's Dilli Gate is the Prachin Jain Mandir built by the Shri Digambar Jain sect. The temple was built under the reign of Emperor Akbar Shah II by his treasurer Lala Ishwaridas. According to Maulvi Zafar Hassan, the earliest date that one can note from the mandir is 1830, which suggests that the mandir must have been built somewhere around that. The main hall of the mandir houses images of all twenty-four Tirthankars along with painted ceilings. The roof houses a series of domes shaped like an inverted lotus. Many of these mandirs reflect the typical architectural pattern followed during the Mughal era. Safvi continues, "The dome pavilions that you see on the temples of Shahjahanabad are very similar to the Mughal architecture."
Some of these mandirs are community temples. Chitragupta Ka Mandir belongs to the Mathur community of Shahjahanabad, who were scribes. It is believed that Chitragupta was their family deity. Therefore, the Mathurs have erected a temple as a tribute.
The lanes of Shahjahanabad have many exciting stories to tell; one of such is from the Charan Das Ki Bagichi. Located behind the busy streets of Chawri Bazar is a temple devoted to Sant Charan Das, who was born as Ranjit Singh in 1706 in Alwar. He had moved to Fatehpuri Beri, presently known as Chattarpur, and had dismantled the caste system. Among his followers was the Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah, who also dedicated a Radha-Krishna temple.
As we walk down the streets of Old Delhi, we find more such temples telling the story of life. The Kaleshvar Nath Temple or Chaurasi Ghante Ka Mandir (temples of 84 bells) represents the cycle of eighty-four rebirths in Hinduism before one can finally be born as a human. However, Maulvi Zafar Hassan claims that there were 104 bells in that temple in 1919, which the devotees offered. True or not, these temples narrate the stories from the past that has evolved.
The Urdu Mandir or the Lashkari Mandir that stands across the Red Fort at the beginning of Chandni Chowk is also known as the Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir. Its red domes are credited for its name, which could be seen from afar. When Emperor Shah Jahan shifted his capital to Shahjahanabad, he invited many Jain merchants, some of who also joined the army. One of the soldiers kept an idol of Tirthankar Parsvnath in the tent, and since the army camp was located near the Urdu Bazar camp market, the temple was named Urdu Mandir or the Lashkari Mandir (Army Temple). Legend has it that Emperor Aurangzeb had issued an order prohibiting anyone from beating drums around Shahjahanabad. However, the sound of beating drums continued. Annoyed, the emperor himself went to the temple. While the sound of beating drums continued, he could not see anyone playing it. Probably spooked, he rolled back his order on drums and allowed the beating of drums.
Ladliji Ka Mandir, or the Bada Mandir, also brings many interesting anecdotes. Built in 1756 by Naval Goswami Pradyumanji, the temple is devoted to Radha-Krishna. The statue of Radha is of brass, while Krishna is carved out of black marble. Interestingly, Lord Krishna has many Muslim devotees; among many is the Urdu-poet Maulana Hasrat Mohani, who had also written many verses on the praise of Lord Krishna:
Aankhon Mein Noor-e Jalwa-e Be Kaif-O Kam hai Khaas
Jab Se Nazar Pe Unki Nigaah-e Karam Hai Khaas,
Kuch Hum ko bhi aata ho ki de Hazrat-e-Krishna,
Iqlim-e Ishq aap ke zer-e Qadam hai Khaas,
Hasrat ki bhi Qubul ho Mathura mein Haziri,
Sunte hain Ashiqo'n pe tumhara Karam hai Khaas
(When he cast at me his especially kind glance,
My eyes lit up with a nameless unending vision
Revered Krishna, bestow something on me too,
For at your feet lies the entire realm of Love
May that you accept Hasrat too at Mathura.
I hear you are especially kind to Lovers)