Islam established its first formal foothold in India when a mosque was constructed in what is known as the the Qutab Minar complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Mehrauli area of New Delhi. And as a sign of centuries of turmoil to follow, 27 Hindu and Jain temples were demolished to provide the materials and space for the same.
This may not have been the first mosque in India though – it is believed to be the Cheraman Juma Masjid in the Methala village of Kodungalloor taluk in the state of Kerala. It was built around 629 AD, a result of close trade ties between the Arab world and the Chera kings who ruled Cheranad, or ancient Kerala, in that period.
But the Quwwatul Islam, or the Might of Islam, mosque had greater social and political significance after work started on it in 1193 AD by Qutbuddin Aibak, who was left in charge of the region after Mohammed of Ghur (in Afghanistan) defeated the Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan. After Mohammed died, Aibak anointed himself Sultan of Delhi and established what came to be known as the slave dynasty (Aibak was believed to have been a royal slave, although history is not so sure).
Back to the mosque. The urgent need for Aibak to make a mosque was to give his men a place to pray – in that time, religion was all pervasive in society. Finding a largely barren region, but with little money and resources, Aibak went about demolishing 27 Hindu and Jain temples to make space and also to be able to use the materials for the mosque. And this may have set the trend of things to come, as even in the current age we have instances of one religion’s place or worship being forcibly made to make way for another. Reference is to the infamous Babri Masjid case in Ayodhya.
The resulting mosque was nothing like what we know them commonly to be as, with no domes and a mixed architectural style if any at all. For Aibak, it was about putting something together with his army. They probably did not even have anyone at that time who could pass off as an architect or designer.
There are many more anecdotes around this and following developments which I shall cover in subsequent posts. Keep reading.