AJMER “has been too long the haunt of Mughuls and Pathans, the Goths and Vandals of Rajasthan,” says Tod, to afford much scope to the researches of the antiquary. Whatever time had spared of the hallowed relics of old, bigotry has destroyed, or raised to herself altars of materials, whose sculptured fragments serve now as disjointed memorials of two distinct and distant eras: that of the independent Hindu, and that of the conquering Muhammadan, whose ‘Idgahs and mosks, mausoleums and country-seats, constructed from the wrecks of aboriginal art, are fast mouldering to decay.” Nor are these reflections uncalled for, or too strongly expressed; no vestige perhaps remains of the Ajmer that was taken by Muhammad Ghori in 1193; nor are the Muhammadans anywhere more superstitiously bigoted and insolent than under British rule in Ajmer. Fortunately, the only place worth visiting is no longer used, and consequently is not looked upon by them, equally with the idol-worshipping Hindus, as desecrated by the presence of shoe-leather
On the declivity of Tdrâgaḍh, and just on the outskirts of the city, are the rums of the Arhai-din-kå jhopra or “shed of two and a half days,”—a name indicative of the astonishing rapidity with which it was erected. Tod supposes this splendid ruin to have been a Jaina erection, to which the Muhammadans only added the great screen to convert it into a mosk. A little attention, however, will convince the visitor that like the remains at the Kutb Minar near Delhi, the entire design and arrangement are Muslim but the columns and roofs are the spoils of Hindu or Jaina temples, thrown down by the conqueror, and the materials used to raise this once magnificent temple to the self-exalting creed of Islâm. IN his perplexity as to the origin of such a pile. Tod appropriately quotes the lines:-
“I asked of Time for whom those temples rose,
That prostrate by his hand in silence lie:
His lips disdained the myst’ry to disclose,
And, borne on swifter wing, he hurried by!
The broken columns whose? I asked of Fame;
(Her kindling breath gives life to works sublime ;)
With downcast looks of mingled grief and shame,
She heaved the uncertain sigh, and followed Time.
Wrapt in amazement, o’er the mouldering pile
I saw Oblivion pass with giant stride;
And while his visage wore Pride’s scornful smile,
‘Haply thou know’st, then tell me, whose,’ I cried, ‘
‘Whose these vast domes that ev’n in ruins shine?’
’I reck not whose.” he said, ‘ they now are mine.’”
This masjid, like many others elsewhere, is in an enclosure 260 ft. by 48 ft with towers at the corners, and surrounded on the north, west, and south sides by cloisters, raised on Hindu pillars, but now almost entirely ruined. The principal entrance is on the east side, but there is another with a projecting porch on the south -- the north side being built against the scarped rock of the hill. In the west side of this enclosure is the mosk—or rather what remains of it, about 200 ft. long by 40 ft. wide, supported by five rows of lofty pillars including the row let into the brick wall, -- over 120 in all—and each formed of two Hindu columns. The front row excepted, the remaining four rows support seven octagonal recessed roofs—domes they cannot be called: the front row of columns carries the cloister roofs which fill up the space to the front wall. In front of this is a screen wall 11½ ft. thick, and 56 ft high, pierced with seven pointed arches, the central one much higher than the others, and with the remains of a minar on each side of it. Each arch is surrounded by three lines of writing, the outer in Kufic, and the other two In the Arabic character, and divided from each other by bands of Arabesque ornament, the whole boldly and clearly cut in a hard yellow limestone, discoloured indeed, but still as sharp as on the day it was erected.
On the lower belt of writing on the north minar, General Cunningham was able to read in 1864 the words –
“Saltân-us Sulatin-us-Shark … Abu-ul-Muzafar Ailtamish us Sultâne Nâser Amir-ul Mûminĭn : “
which go to prove that the masjid was completed In the reign of Altamish, A.D. 1211 to 1236; but in the back wall, under the roof of one of the domes, he found a Kufic Inscription in two lines, which, though incomplete at the beginning, has been restored and rendered:—
“This masjid was built during the guardianship of Akbar, the son of Ahmad, by the help of God, the Creator, the Everlasting, in the month Zi-hijjah, five hundred and ninety-six.” (Sept. A.D. 1200.) And if this really belonged originally to this mosk. it would show that it was built in A.D. 1200.
“In gorgeous prodigality of ornament, in beautiful richness of tracery, and endless variety of detail, in delicate sharpness of finish, and laborious accuracy of workmanship, all of which are due to the Hindu masons,” General Cunningham remarks, the two great mosks of Dehli and Ajneer “may justly vie with the noblest buildings which the world has yet produced.” This estimate is perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but not much if restricted to the screen, of which it is to be regretted there is no adequate representation.1
- 1. See Tod, Annals, vol. i. pp. 778—782 (Mad. ed. pp. 665—669); Cunningham, Reports, vol. ii. pp. 258 seqq. ; and compare Fergusson, Hist. Architect. vol. ii. pp. 646—650.