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The Dispute at Sidhpur

The Fourth Annual Report of the Minorities’ Commission submitted to the President of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 19, 1983, carries an account of a dispute over the Jami’ Masjid at Sidhpur in the Mehsana District of Gujarat. The account raises some significant questions about certain aspects of Islam as a religion and the character of Muslim rule in medieval India. We have to go to primary source materials in order to find satisfactory answers to these questions.

Sidhpur is a Taluka town, sixty-four miles north of Ahmadabad. It is situated on the left bank of the river Saraswati, fifteen miles upstream of ANhilwaD PaTan, the old capital of Gujarat before Ahmadabad was founded in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. ‘In a part of the town,’ says the Commission’s Report, ‘is located what is known as Rudramahalaya complex. This complex was built by Siddhraj Jayasimha in the 12th century. This temple seems to have been destroyed partly by Ulugh Khan in AD 1297-98 and partly by Ahmedshah in AD 1415. Some of the cubicles and a number of pillars on the Western side of the temple it would appear were later converted into a mosque.’1

At the dawn of independence in 1947, Sidhpur was in the territory of Baroda, the princely state ruled by the Maratha house of the GaekwaDs. ‘The princely state of Baroda,’ proceeds the Report, ‘had treated the complex consisting of the mosque and the remnants of the temple as a monument of historical importance. Subsequently, by virtue of an agreement between the Trustees and the Archaeological Survey of India on 31st March, 1954, the mosque was declared as a national monument and its maintenance and protection were taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India. One of the terms of this agreement was that the mosque would continue to be used by the Muslims for offering prayers .’2

The Trustees of the Jami’ Masjid, however, became dissatisfied with the Archaeological Survey which, they complained, was not doing its duty towards maintenance of the mosque. ‘Subsequently,’ continues the Report, ‘a dispute arose between the Trustees of the mosque and the officials of the Archaeological Department with regard to the maintenance of the mosque as according to the Trustees, necessary repairs to the mosque were not being carried out by the Archaeological Department and the mosque was in danger of falling down. These disputes led to some litigation in the High Court which, however, ended in a compromise. An undertaking was given by the Archaeological Department in terms of the compromise that they would carry out the necessary repairs to the mosque. It is alleged that the undertaking was not given effect to and this resulted in further litigation which again ended in a compromise. Under the fresh compromise terms, the Archaeological Department again gave an undertaking to carry out the repairs of the mosque and also to lay out a garden in the courtyard of the mosque. Unfortunately, this compromise again did not bring about a final settlement between the Trustees of the mosque and the Archaeological Department. According to the Muslims, the Archaeological Survey of India, instead of carrying out repairs to the mosque, started digging operations which exposed the relics of the temples and also the rich sculptural carvings on the two wings of the mosque. These exposures appear to have attracted the attention of the Hindus and they demanded that not only should these ancient temple relics be preserved but that the mosque should also no longer be used by the Muslims for offering prayers or they may also be allowed to worship the Siva Linga discovered during the excavations within the premises of the mosque.’3

The Minorities’ Commission came into the picture on October 4, 1979 when it received a letter from the Trustees of the mosque, ‘conveying the apprehensions of the Muslims of Sidhpur that the Hindus were trying to usurp the Jama Masjid.’4 The letter from the Trustees reported: ‘On the 6th September, 1979, one Yogeshwar Dutt had illegally led a huge crowd into the mosque and instigated them to usurp it. He again entered the mosque on 2nd October, 1979 and demanded that Namaz in the Jama Masjid should be stopped and also incited the Hindus to demolish the mosque.’5 The Commission referred the matter to the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India and called for a report.

But before the Commission could receive a reply from the Survey, ‘Begum Ayesha Sheikh, MLA, of the Gujarat Assembly wrote to the Chairman, Minorities’ Commission about the threats to which the local Muslims were being continually subjected by the majority community and especially the Jan Sangh and the RSS elements for their use of the Jama Masjid and that this had created a serious communal tension in the town.’6 The Commission wrote to the Government of Gujarat on December 7, 1979 and asked for a factual report. ‘On 16th January, 1980,’ says the Commission’s Report, ‘Government of Gujarat denied any RSS hand in the demand of the local Hindus for conversion of the Jama Masjid at Sidhpur into a temple as alleged. The State Government further reported that the dispute between the Muslims and the Hindus about the use of the Jama Masjid had been going on for quite some time past and that the local police and State Government were aware of the situation. They also assured the Commission that there was no possibility of any communal trouble at Sidhpur.’7

A Hindu-Muslim riot, however, broke out at Sidhpur on March 14, 1980 and took some toll of limbs and property. ‘The critical stage,’ records the Commission, ‘was reached on 14th March, 1980, when a group of Hindus led by a local Sadhu started Bhajans at the Rudramahalaya. At about 10.00 A.M. a group of boys started closing shops and people started coming towards the Rudramahalaya. Everything was peaceful till the Muslims started assembling for their Namaz around 1.00 P.M. By 1.15 P.M. both Bhajans and Namaz were going on simultaneously. According to reports, some Muslims from the houses adjoining the Rudramahalaya started throwing stones on the Hindus. The Hindus retaliated. By this time about 800 to 900 Hindus and about 300 to 400 Muslims had collected. The police, anticipating trouble, was on the spot along with the Taluka Magistrate. They burst teargas shells to disperse the crowd. The Muslims who had to pass through Hindu localities before reaching their houses, were stoned by the Hindus from housetops and lanes. Six shops were forced open and looted. Two of them belonged to the Hindus. The jeep of the Mamalatdar was also burnt and the Mamalatdar himself also sustained some minor injuries due to the stone throwing. In all 72 persons sustained injuries during the incident on the 14th March, 1980. The situation was brought under control by 2.15 P.m. Curfew was immediately imposed and the situation at Sidhpur remained peaceful for some time barring some minor incidents.’8

Begum Ayesha Sheikh again wrote to the Commission on March 28, 1980, reporting the communal trouble that had broken out on March 14. ‘She also mentioned that the State Government had been deliberately trying to play down the gravity of the incident and, therefore, any report submitted by the State Government would not be fair and impartial. She, therefore, requested that instead of asking for a report from the State Government the Minorities’ Commission itself should undertake an on-the-spot inquiry into the incidents.’9

But before the Commission could decide what to do, another round of Hindu-Muslim riots took place at Sidhpur on April 8, 1980. ‘However again on the 8th April, 1980,’ records the Commission, ‘at about 11.45 A.M. one Muslim was assaulted by three Hindus as a result of which two Hindus were stabbed by the Muslims. Incidents of assault took place thereafter in different parts of the town. Curfew was imposed on the 8th April, 1980, and 42 persons were arrested.’10 On April 14, ‘nine important Muslim representatives including one Member of Parliament met the Chairman and handed over a memorandum on the dispute and requested the Commission to visit Sidhpur.’11

The Commission, however, could not visit Sidhpur without prior consultation with the Government of Gujarat. By that time the State had been placed under Governor’s rule. It had neither an elected Assembly nor a popular Ministry. Shri K.T. Satarawala, Adviser to the Governor of Gujarat, came to New Delhi on May 1, 1980 and met the Chairman of the Commission. After a discussion on the prevailing communal situation at Sidhpur, it was agreed that the Adviser would send to the Chairman ‘a detailed note on the communal incidents which took place during March and April 1980.’12 The Adviser’s ‘Note on Rudramahalaya and Jama Masjid’ was duly sent to the Chairman on May 16, 1980. It was accompanied by ‘a map of the area and some photographs.’13

The Note starts by giving a slightly different version of the status of the Jami’ Masjid under the Baroda State and the frequency of Muslim prayers in the Masjid. ‘The erstwhile Baroda State,’ says the Note, ‘took under protection in 1936-37 the Toranas and other architectural remains of the Rudramahalaya excluding the Masjid portion. After the merger of the State, the Rudramahalaya and other State protected monuments were declared as Monuments of National Importance under the 1951 Act. Subsequently, the Jami Masjid being originally a part of the Rudramahalaya was also declared a monument of National Importance. However, as it was a monument in religious use, an agreement under the Ancient Monuments and Sites and Remains Act was entered into between the Trustees and the Archaeological Survey of India on behalf of the President of India on the 31st March, 1954. At that time, the monument was used for Friday prayers only and that too by a small number of persons.’14

Next, the Note provides the background before the dispute arose between the Survey and the Trustees. ‘In 1959,’ proceeds the Note, ‘the then Superintending Archaeologist recommended that the modern buildings covering the view of the Rudramahalaya and Jami Masjid should be removed for improving the environs and to throw open the grand edifice to view. The Superintending Archaeologist recommended the removal of the intermediate wall also as it was a modern accretion. The proposals were accepted and the acquisition of buildings was undertaken.’15

It took the Survey ten long years to acquire the modern buildings. ‘After compensation was paid,’ continues the Note, ‘the buildings were handed over to the Survey in 1969. The Joint Director General (later Director General) inspected the site on 3.6.69 and after discussion with the Collector, Mehsana, and the Trustees of the Masjid, drew up an Inspection Note in which he instructed that (i) the demolition of buildings should be done in one sweep (ii) the compound wall of the Masjid may be retained with necessary modifications to include the acquired area and (iii) the architectural remains that may be found in the clearance operations should be preserved as they are likely to throw light on the plan of the Rudramahalaya and (iv) a garden should be laid out in the acquired area.’16

For various reasons, the Survey could start operations at Sidhpur only after ten more years had elapsed. ‘As the Trustees were pressing for pulling down the acquired houses, the Superintending Archaeologist, Baroda, inspected the site early in May, 1979 and decided to implement the decision of the Joint Director General of Archaeology by pulling down the acquired houses.’17 The operations were started on May 29, 1980. ‘As the northern wall was very shabby and in a dilapidated condition, it had to be repaired after pulling down. The digging of the acquired area was necessary for the preparation of a garden. He discussed the operation with the Trustees but before any step to pull down the compound wall was taken, the Trustees filed a Writ Petition in the High Court on 12th June, 1979 and an injunction asking the Archaeological Survey of India to maintain status quo in the Masjid area was issued.’18

The Note gives greater details about the litigation and the compromises that followed. The Writ Petition No. 1662 of 1979 versus Union of India was filed by six Trustees of the Jami’ Masjid. They prayed for ‘(a) an order or direction permanently restraining the correspondent, his servants and agents from demolishing the surrounding buildings situated on the southern side of the land bearing survey No. 37 of Sidhpur town in Mehsana district in which the ancient Mosque named Jumma Masjid is situated, without constructing a protecting wall surrounding the said Masjid; (b) to issue an order or direction directing the respondent to erect or allow the petitioners to erect a compound wall surrounding the said survey No. 37 of the town of Sidhpur in Mehsana district; (c) issue an injunction restraining the respondent, his servants or agents from demolishing the walls of the buildings on the southern side and northern side of survey No. 37 which have yet not been demolished by him.’19

The Survey decided to contest the Writ Petition. ‘Shri B.L. Nagarch, Superintending Archaeologist, Western Circle, Baroda, filed an affidavit in reply in the Gujarat High Court in July, 1979 wherein he stated that the purpose of demolishing die modern buildings situated around the Jumma Masjid and Rudramahalaya acquired by the Government of India was to arrest further damage caused by the modern accretions and natural causes such as rain and growth of vegetation, that it is the responsibility of the Department to preserve the Masjid and the Rudramahal and they have not interfered with the established religious usage of a portion near the Jumma Masjid and that the Department has taken clearance work necessary for undertaking structural repairs to the roof and back wall which is out of plumb and has some cavities. He further stated that the structures being demolished were not within the Jumma Masjid but outside the monument, that the acquisition was solely with a view to undertaking the repairs to the monument and improve the surroundings by laying a garden. He further stated that the Department would only demolish the modern wall and not any ancient structure.’20

The Honourable Judge suggested a compromise as he felt that the Archaeological Survey was only trying to improve the monument and its surroundings. ‘A ‘Compromise’ was then arrived at according to which the compound walls were to be repaired and a garden was to be laid out in the courtyard of the Masjid. Its back wall was also to be repaired.’21 The Trustees withdrew their Writ Petition on July 30, 1979.

The ‘Compromise’, however, did not work. ‘While digging for examining the foundation of shrines and the back wall of the Masjid, important temple remains were found on the west and the north. According to para 3 of ‘Compromise’ when garden operations (digging) were started in the open courtyard temple remains were found there also.’ The Trustees started ‘hindering further work.’ The Superintending Archaeologist appealed to the Collector of the District. The Collector called a meeting at Mehsana on November 30, 1979. ‘The Trustees were also present in the meeting. It was agreed that further digging should be stopped and that measures to preserve the temple remains such as the provision of a canopy over it could be thought of. It was pointed out that area within the courtyard for the garden was not used for prayers as could be made out from the debris etc., that were lying there.’22

This agreement also did not work. ‘Shri A.S. Quereshi, Advocate for the Trustees, issued a notice dated the 6th Feb. 1980 to the Superintendent, Archaeological Department asking the Department to build the compound walls as per the compromise and cover up the temple remains. The Supdt. Archaeological Deptt. explained in person the importance of the discoveries made and the need for revision of the compromise in the interest of preserving the precious cultural heritage of the country. As Shri Quereshi wanted to visit the site along with Supdt. Archaeological Deptt. he went to Sidhpur on the 8th March, 1980. At first, he agreed to the preservation but later he insisted on closing the trenches in his very presence that day. The Supdt. Archaeological Department ordered closure of the trenches and construction of compound wall and both the works were started in his presence.’23

The Hindus of Sidhpur objected to the covering of the temple remains that had been uncovered. Tension mounted in the town as reports spread that the Survey was filling up the trenches. ‘Upto the 14th March, 1980, a major part of the complex was covered and the northern compound wall was constructed over some length but then the trouble started and the labourers refused to work.’24 On March 15, 1980, the Puratatva Sanskrutik Abhyas and Sansodhan Mandal, an organisation formed by some Hindus of Sidhpur in January, 1980, filed a Civil Application No. 644 of 1980 against the Union of India and Mr. S.R. Rao, Superintending Archaeologist. ‘Their prayer is mainly that the excavated area in the courtyard of the Masjid should not be filled up and that status quo should be maintained in the excavated area.’25 The High Court granted a stay and the Archaeological Survey could not proceed further with the construction of the compound wall.

Yet another attempt at a compromise was made after the riot on March 14 had been controlled. ‘Soon after the incident,’ says the Commission’s Report, ‘a series of meetings were held by the District Magistrate with the representatives of the Muslims and Hindus to work out an amicable solution. An agreement was reached between the representatives of the two communities to the effect that the Muslims would forgo their right of prayer at the Jama Masjid on the following conditions: (a) a suitable plot of land situated near the railway station is allotted to them for the construction of an alternative Masjid; (b) pending the construction of the Masjid by the Muslims on this plot of land, they should be allowed to offer their Namaz at the Jama Masjid; and (c) the Jama Masjid should be maintained as a national monument by the Archaeological Department and should not be open for any other use.’26

But this compromise made by the Muslims of Sidhpur was rejected by some Muslim organisations at the State level. ‘However, on the instigation of some of the Muslim organisations,’ proceeds the Report, ‘the local Muslim leaders, who had earlier agreed in the presence of the Distt. Magistrate to the above terms of settlement conveyed their decision to wait until a decision was taken on the terms of settlement at the State level. At the same time, some of the Muslim organisations stepped up their demand for allowing the Muslims to use the Jama Masjid for Namaz.’27

The Note from the Government of Gujarat gives some more details in this context. ‘On the 26th March, 1980, Her Excellency the Governor visited Sidhpur. She met both Hindus and Muslims and advised them that they should select five persons and then sit together and find out an amicable solution. Since both the parties wanted some Government representative to remain present during the discussion, the Collector was instructed to help them. The same afternoon i.e. on the 26th March, both the parties met and the above proposal was put up by the Muslims and discussed at length. It was decided that they should effect this agreement before the High Court the next day. Next day, they left for Ahmadabad but on the intervention of certain organisations such as the All India Muslim League, Jamat-e-Islami, Gujarat Avkaf and Trust Federation, they decided to wait till a decision at the Gujarat level was taken.’28

Finally, eight Muslim leaders joined together to file a further Writ in the Gujarat High Court on April 5, 1980. The Note gives their names and designations29 as follows:-

  1. Shri Gulzarsha Ahmedshah Hakim, Managing Trustee of Jumma Masjid, Sidhpur.
  2. Haji Hussainbhai Habibur Mansuri, Trustee Jumma Masjid Trust, Sidhpur.
  3. Haji Ibrahim Haji Issak Quoreshi, Vice-President, Jamiet-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, Branch Sidhpur.
  4. Imtiskhan Mahabubkhan Pathan, Secretary, Jamiet-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, Sidhpur Branch.
  5. Maulvi Dawoodbhai Haji Suleman, President, Jamiet-ul-Ulma-e-Hind, Mehsana Distt. Branch-Resident-Patan.
  6. Maulvi Mohammed Ussian Fateh Mohammed, President, Uttar Gujarat Masjid Bachao Samiti, Village Bhagal, Taluka Palanpur.
  7. Abbas Tajmohammed, Vice-President of Uttar Gujarat Masjid Bachao Samiti, Village Bhagal, Tal-Palanpur.
  8. Dr. Rehmatulla Ahmedullah Hakim, President, Gujarat Muslim Vakf and Trust Federation, Ahmadabad.

‘Their prayers,’ according to the Note, ‘are: (a) Jumma Masjid should be declared Masjid open for offering Namaz; (b) To fill up the excavation at the floor of the ‘Kibla’ (Western) wall and in the courtyard of the Masjid before 1.5.80; (c) To put a compound wall where it existed before and it should be of stone and high enough to prevent outside interference; (d) To cover the entire courtyard with stone slab flooring and to rebuild muazams quarter with stone slab; (e) To give permission to the Trustees to have electric points in adequate number.’30

The Muslim Organisations, according to the Note, adopted some other methods also for pressing their demands. ‘Some of the organisations appear to have taken the decision that telegrams should be sent to Government requesting to allow Muslims to use the Jumma Masjid for Namaz and accordingly, a large number of telegrams have been received by Government from the Muslims of Gujarat and Bombay.’31 Again: ‘The Muslims appear to have also decided to send printed letters to Government requesting that any compromise or any writings regarding conversion of Jumma Masjid at Sidhpur into a protected monument will not be binding on them. Accordingly, more than 2400 printed letters have been received by Government.’32

Having ‘considered the totality of the situation in the light of the pepresentation/memorandum received from the Muslims of Sidhpur and the report sent by the Adviser to the Governor,’ the Commission decided to visit Sidhpur for an ‘on-the-spot study of the dispute.’33 But the visit had to be postponed due to various reasons. ‘The Commission was finally able to visit Sidhpur on 2nd November, 1980, when it inspected the site of the Jama Masjid and also held discussions with representatives of the Muslims and Hindus at Sidhpur and the State Govt. officials.’34 The list of persons who ‘appeared before the Commission in connection with the dispute,’ names 15 Muslims, 7 Officials and 5 Hindus.35

As a result of the discussion the Commission suggested an 8-point formula for settlement: ‘(1) The Rudramahalaya complex including the mosque would be retained as a national monument. (2) The Mosque would be maintained in its original shape. The sanctity of the mosque would be ensured by the A.S.I. and the State Government. Also the sancity of the newly exposed temple on either side of the mosque would be maintained. (3) The excavations on the western side of the mosque as well as those in the courtyard on the eastern side of the mosque will be filled up. Ancient relics found in the present excavations would be removed before the filling up. The existing Western Qibla wall of the mosque proper would be restored to its original condition and strengthened. The outer wall which was covering the two towers on either side containing sculptures would not be rebuilt. (4) No worship in any form would be offered by any community within the precincts of the Rudramahalaya Complex. (5) The A.S.I. would not make any further excavations within the mosque area formerly enclosed by the compound wall. (6) No gathering for any religious purpose would be permitted within the Rudramahalaya complex. (7) The enforcement of these items would be guaranteed by the State Government and the Central Government. (8) The State Government would provide at nominal cost an alternative site for the construction of a new mosque at the Government Dharmashala near the clock tower after removing all existing cabins and evicting the occupants of the Dharmashala.’36

The formula was hailed by the then Home Minister and Chief Secretary of the Government of Gujarat. They assured the Commission that ‘they would be able to bring about a solution of the dispute to the satisfaction of both the communities on the basis of the above-mentioned terms.’37 But it did not lead to a final settlement. The Commission records at the end of its Report on this dispute: ‘Five months have elapsed since the Commission visited Sidhpur and settled most of the differences between the two communities over the use of the Jama Masjid and the Rudramahalaya complex. The Home Minister and the representatives of the State Government had extended the assurance to the Commission that they would be able to bring about a satisfactory solution to the above dispute on the basis of the terms of settlement suggested by the Commission within a reasonable span of time. However, no final settlement seems to have been reached yet.’38

The story as related in the Commission’s report combined with the Note from the Government of Gujarat tells us a few things about the behaviour patterns of the different parties involved in the dispute - the Trustees of the Jami’ Masjid, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Government of Gujarat. It also gives us a glimpse of the quality and character of leadership thrown up by the two communities in the dispute over a place of worship. But what interests us primarily in the present study is the ‘temple remains’ exposed by the Archaeological Survey of India in and around the Jami’ Masjid. These ‘temple remains’ point towards a far more momentous story which has yet to be told.


A picture of the ‘temple remains’ exposed in the Jami’ Masjid area at Sidhpur has to be pieced together from five sources which we have arranged according to the extent of details given. First, we have the Note from die Government of Gujarat. Secondly, we have the reply received by the Minorities’ Commission from the Archaeological Survey of India. Thirdly, we have the Annual Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India for 1979-80 and 1980-81. Fourthly, we have a description in the Minorities’ Commission’s Report of what its members saw during their visit to Sidhpur on November 2, 1980. Lastly, we have an article by B.L. Nagarch included in a commemoration volume brought out by a private publishing house in 1987. Shri Nagarch was one of the Superintending Archaeologists at Sidhpur at the time the ‘temple remains’ were sighted.

The Note From the Government of Gujarat

The main purpose of the Note was to narrate the incidents which took place at Sidhpur during March and April, 1980. It refers to ‘temple remains’ only when the narration touches them while describing the dispute between the Trustees of the Jami’ Masjid and the Archaeological Survey. The narration mentions ‘temple remains’ several time in different contexts. But we are left wondering whether they are architectural or sculptural or both.

The Archaeological Survey of India

The Minorities’ Commission had called for a report from the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India immediately after it received on October 4, 1979 a letter from the Trustees of the Jami’ Masjid stating that the Hindus of Sidhpur were trying to usurp the Masjid. The date on which the Commission wrote to the Survey is not given in the Commission’s Report, nor the date on which it received a reply from the Survey. All we have is one para incorporated in the Commission’s Report. It says, ‘The matter was taken up with the Archaeological Survey of India which reported that ruins of Rudra Mahalaya Complex and Jama Masjid at Sidhapur, though forming one Complex were being protected individually under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of Places of National Importance) and were being preserved on the lines they were originally protected. The dispute arose out of demolition of the surrounding buildings, while constructing a protective wall around the Masjid, which exposed some Hindu idols within the precincts of the mosque.’39

The Annual Report of Archaeological Survey of India for 1979-80 published in 1983 has three entries on what was discovered at Sidhpur. The first entry is in Chapter IV which deals with ‘Other Important Discoveries’, State by State. We find the following entry under Gujarat:

  1. SCULPTURES, SIDHPUR, DISTRICT MEHSANA - Shri P.K. Trivedi of the Western Circle of the Survey, discovered sculptures of Hindu and Jaina pantheons, assignable variously from the tenth to eighteenth century AD and an inscribed brass image of Vishnu dated Samvat 1485 (AD 1429). 40

Next, it has the following two entries in Chapter IX dealing with ‘Preservation of Monuments’ in different Circles of the Survey:

  1. JAMI-MASJID, SIDHPUR, DISTRICT MEHSANA - The dilapidated western wall of the mosque is being repaired. While carrying out demolition and clearance of wooden structures from the acquired area the remains of some earlier structures have been found. The work is in progress.

  2. RUDRAMAHALAYA, SIDHPUR, DISTRICT MEHSANA - The clearance of debris after demolition of the modern buildings from the acquired area yielded number of loose sculptures, including remains of an earlier temple.41

The publication has sixty-four plates carrying one hundred and thirty photographs. No photograph of what was found at Sidhpur has been included.

The Annual Report for 1980-81 also published in 1983 has one entry in Chapter IV dealing with ‘Other Important Discoveries.’ It says:

  1. MEDIEVAL SCULPTURES, SIDHPUR, DISTRICT MEHSANA - B.L. Nagarch, P.K. Trivedi and H. Michael of the Western Circle of the Survey noticed sculptures of seated Uma-Mahesvara, a royal worshipping couple, a head of Siva (pl. XXXVI A) and a fragment of Salabhanjika recovered from the Jami Mosque. All these are assignable to circa twelfth century AD.42

The publication has fifty-eight plates carrying one hundred and forty photographs. Only one photograph, A on plate XXXVI, shows the ‘Head of Siva’ found at Sidhpur.

Report of the Minorities’ Commission

The Report has recorded in eight paras what its members saw with their own eyes while visiting the site at Sidhpur. Out of them, six paras - 1-2, 5-6, and 8 - relate to ‘temple remains’. They are as follows:

  1. A portion of the courtyard of the mosque in the east was dug upto a depth of 10 ft. In a portion of this pit a stone Nandi (bull) was embedded in the earth. We also saw several pieces of temple architecture which had been dug up and kept in the pit.

  2. The open site to the North of the mosque was also found similarly dug up and several temple relics were lying exposed in these pits.

  3. There were two cubicles, one at the Northern and the other one at the Southern side of the mosque. In the Northern cubicle, there was a Siva Linga embedded in the earth and an idol carving embedded in the wall while in the Southern cubicle there was only an idol carving in the wall but no Siva Linga.

  4. The Northern and Southern wings of the mosque which had hitherto been covered up were now lying exposed obviously as a result of removal of the covering material on these two wings disclosing rich temple carvings.

  5. The foundation of the Northern wing was also lying exposed and it also revealed rich temple carvings.

  6. A portion of the ground on the Western side of the mosque was also found dug up and this was found to contain some temple relics as well as the stone slabs which had been removed from the outer wall of the mosque.43

It may be mentioned that by the time the Commission came to Sidhpur, a major part of the excavations had been covered up. The Note from the Government of Gujarat states that, ‘upto the 14th March, 1980, a major part of the complex was covered and the northern compound wall was constructed over some length.’44

Article by B.L. Nagarch

B.L. Nagarch is a trained archaeologist familiar with the technical language used for describing details of Hindu temples. He also knows how to identify and describe various sculptures and decorative designs. As the major part of his article is devoted to ‘temple remains’, we have to cite him at some length and under several sections.

1. The Buried Temples

‘For carrying out repairs to the bulged western wall of the masjid and overhanging foundation of the south-western shrine, it was necessary to examine the foundation by excavating. Ornamental plinth of a pre-Solanki temple (Period-I) was found in the course of excavation for underpinning overhanging foundation of south-western shrine. This plinth (jagati) consists of a bhiTTa, kapota decorated with kuDus, karNika, tamala-paTTika (frieze decorated with tamalapatras), plain khura, kumbha decorated with half diamond designs and plain kalaśa (Pl. I). The dislodged courses of the western wall of the masjid below the ground level were also revealed during the course of examination of its foundation by excavation. A Jar in situ was also exposed over the plinth of this pre-Solanki temple.

‘The debris near the entrance of masjid was removed. The hidden plinth of north-western shrine was exposed as a result of excavation for examining its foundation. During the course of examination of the foundation of this north-western shrine, the plinth of another pre-Solanki temple was found (Pl. II). The stone flooring of the plinth showed the use of clamps and dowels for binding the stones together. The mouldings of this plinth show from bottom upwards bhiTTa, kapota decorated with kuDus, antarapatra, karNika, antarapatra, tamalapaTTika carved with tamala-patras, khura, kumbha decorated with half diamond designs, kalaśa and kapota decorated with kuDus.

‘Another exquisitely carved temple attached to the aforesaid pre-Solanki temple (I) was laid bare in the north-west corner outside the mosque while excavating for gardening (Pl. III). The plinth of this temple shows from bottom upwards bhiTTa, kapota decorated with kuDus, antarapatra, karNika, antarapatra, tamala-paTTika carved with tamala-patras, narathara and diamonds in panels. Only the plinth of the maNDapa of this temple has survived. The sanctum of this temple is missing. The door-sill of the sanctum door-way is fortunately in situ. The mandaraka carved with spiral lotus scroll is flanked on either side by a bold kirtimukha. A panel on the right of the kirtimukha on the right depicts worship of GaNeśa (Plate-IV). Four-armed GaNeśa is seated in a niche. He is flanked on the right by a standing male and on the left by a standing female attendant. The niche is flanked on the right by a standing female standing in tribhañga and carrying kaTi and kalaśa and on the left by two female attendants, each standing in tribhañga and carrying kaTi and upraised in praise of god (praśansa mudra). GaNeśa carries chopped off paraśu, padma and modaka-patra. He wears a karaNDamukuTa, hara and sarpayajñopavita.

‘A panel on the left of the kirtimukha on the left shows niche containing an image of a four-armed Kubera seated in lalitasana with his consort. He is flanked on the right by a female chauri-bearer standing in tribhañga and holding a chauri by her right hand. The niche is flanked on the right by two female attendants, each standing in tribhañga and on the left by a male attendant standing in tribhañga. Kubera and his consort wear each a karaNDamukuTa. Kubera holds a purse. His belly has been chopped off.

‘A beautifully carved panel shows a fighting scene (Period-IA) with warriors holding swords in their hands, a horse rider and an elephant (Pl. V). Another panel on narathara depicts a fighting scene with three warriors holding swords, a galloping horse and a running camel.

‘Other noteworthy (Pl. VI) among the scenes carved on the narathara is a hunting scene wherein a man holding a bow and arrow is seen shooting an arrow at the band of seven deers. (Pl. VII).

‘A small shrine of IndraNi opposite the aforesaid temple IA (pre-Solanki), was also laid bare during excavation for gardening after demolishing modern buildings (Pl. VIII). This shrine is composed of two ornamented pilasters and is surmounted by a chhadya carved with lotus petals. Each of the pilasters shows from bottom upwards kumbhika, decorated with half-diamond design, plain kalaśa, shaft showing square, octagonal and circular sections carved with a human figure, kirtimukha with pearls coming out, bharaNi consisting of karNika and padma surmounted by vase and foliage motif. The human figure on the right pilaster is a female standing in tribhañga and carrying kaTi and praśansa mudra. Above this is carved the name of the sculptor VoDa deva in Devanagari characters. The human figure on the left pilaster is a dancing male. Above this is carved the name of the sculptor as Dada.

‘Four-armed IndraNi is seated in lalitasana and carries varadaksha, modakapatra, lotus-stalk and kamaNDalu. She wears karaNDamukuTa, vaikakshayaka, hara, keyuras, valayas, nupuras and a sari fastened by a mekhala. The mount elephant is carved below. On the pedestal is inscribed the name of the sculptor in Devanagari characters (Pl. IX).

‘The mouldings of the plinth of north-western shrine with friezes of sculptures carved on a number of them, were exposed in course of removal of debris and digging for gardening. They show from bottom upwards bhiTTa, bhiTTa, plain jaDaMba, antarapatra, karNika, antarapatra, grasapaTTi, gajathara, narathara, khura, kumbha, decorated with friezes of sculptures and bejewelled kalaSa (Pl. X). Carvings on the plinth and parapet of the sabhamaNDapa of north-west shrine were also revealed during clearance of debris. The full view of the sabhamaNDapa of north-west shrine was exposed after removing the rubble-and-mud compound wall (Pl. XI). The plinth of temple II which served as base for northwest shrine was also revealed (Pl. XII).

‘The open area in front of the prayer hall of the masjid with shabby pavement where shrubs and trees were growing and debris had accumulated and which was not used for prayer, was excavated for laying out a garden. While excavating for garden in the eastern part of open courtyard in front of the prayer hall, the sculpture of an elephant and remains of a temple were found. The ornamented plinth of this temple shows from bottom upwards jaDaMba decorated with bold lotus-scroll, karNika, kapota decorated with kuDus and grasapaTTi (Pl. XIII). The plinth shows that the temple above it was pañcharatha in plan. An underground passage below the plinth of this temple (Period-II) also came to light. Well polished stones have been used for the construction of this underground passage. Besides the sculptures of the elephant mentioned above, a human figure and lotus designs were also found by the side of the beautifully carved plinth of the temple. This temple found during excavation for gardening operation is perhaps of the time of Mularaja (Period-II).’45

2. Smothered Sculptures

‘When the bulged portion of the western wall of the masjid was being dismantled, it was brought to light that this wall was a double wall. When the outer wall was dismantled the debris including sculptural and architectural fragments filled in between the inner and outer wall came out. There was a difference of one metre between the inner and outer wall and all this space was filled with debris. It could now be seen that the inner wall was built out of the vedika pilasters and other ruins of Rudramahalaya. When the outer wall was removed, a number of hidden sculptures of the south-west and north-west shrine, which were previously hidden due to wall, were also exposed to view (Pl. XIV). Noteworthy among the sculptures of the south-western shrine are:

  1. A standing apsaras.
  2. A standing ascetic.
  3. Four-armed VaruNa standing in tribhañga.
  4. Four-armed Vayu standing in tribhañga.
  5. A standing ascetic.
  6. A standing naked ascetic.
  7. Two-armed dancing female-deity holding a sword and a chopped head.
  8. Two-armed female-deity holding añkuśa and kapala.
  9. A standing ascetic.
  10. A standing female with her right hand upraised and left hand in kaTi.
  11. A niche-shrine on the northern bhadra (central projection) containing an image of eight-armed ChamuNDa standing in tribhañga.

‘Noteworthy among the sculptures of the north-western shrine are:

  1. A chopped niche.
    2,3. A standing bearded ascetic holding a dagger in his right hand.
  2. Four-armed standing NiRriti with a serpent canopy above his head.
  3. Four-armed standing Yama with his head and hands chopped off.
  4. A standing ascetic holding a kamaNDalu in his left hand.
  5. A standing ascetic wearing a kaupina. His right hand is upraised.
  6. Two-armed dancing female-deity. A dancing dwarf male attendant is seen on her right.
  7. Two-armed standing female-deity.
  8. A standing ascetic. His right hand is upraised and he holds a knife by his left hand.
  9. Two-armed dancing female-deity.
  10. A niche-shrine on the southern bhadra containing an image of sixteen-armed Śiva with his right foot upraised and placed on a lotus. A warrior with a sword is shown below the lotus. Śiva holds sarpa, khaTvañga and kheTaka in his surviving hands. He is multi-headed.’46

3. Inside the Qibla Wall of the Masjid

‘While the bulged and out of plumb western wall of the Jami Mosque was being dismantled the following sculptures and architectural members embedded inside the wall came to light:-

  1. An elephant rider.
  2. A beautiful head of Śiva.
  3. A dancing gaNa.
  4. A bust of a four-armed bearded male-deity.
  5. A bearded male drummer.
  6. Fragments of an elephant.
  7. Three busts of Śalabhañjika bracket figures.
  8. An image of four-armed dancing Siva (NaTaraja).
  9. Fragments of an amalaka.
  10. Fragments of chandrika.
  11. Fragments of SaMvarNa roof of the maNDapa.
  12. Fragments of śhikhara decorated with chaitya-gavakshas.
  13. Fragments of vedika, kakshasana and rajasana.

‘Among the sculptures recovered from the western wall of the mosque noteworthy is a head of Siva wearing elaborately carved jaTamukuTa. The expression of his face with half open eyes, gracefully carved nose and prominent chin is serene (Pl. XVI). It measures 40 x 25 x 25 cms.’47

4. Converted Shrines

‘During the course of dismantling of the western wall of the mosque, two of the three shrines which were converted into mosque, were also exposed to view. The debris filled inside them was removed. The shrine on the southern side has inside it a circular yonipaTTa fixed into its floor. The śivalinga above this yonipaTTa is missing. The rear wall of this shrine has niches composed of three pilasters and each surmounted by a small pediment of chaitya arches. One of the niches contains seated Uma-Maheśvara on the mount bull and the other contains a donor couple (probably King Siddharaja Jaisingh and his queen). The bearded male (Siddharaja Jaisingh) is shown standing with folded hands in an attitude of supplication. His queen is standing on his left. On the southwestern corner is a small water cistern for storage of water (Plate-XVI).

‘The ceiling of the shrine is elaborately carved. The architrave of the ceiling is carved with padmalata and cut-triangles. The ceiling is carved with a kirtimukha at each corner. This domical ceiling has four concentric courses of lotuses. The centre of the dome is carved with a full-blown lotus. It has an elaborately carved door-way. The ceiling of the antarala is carved with fine full blown lotuses. The shrine measures 2.08 x 2.15 x 3.07 mtrs.

‘The northern shrine measures 2.19 x 2.02 x 2.95 mtrs. internally.

‘The architrave of the ceiling is elaborately carved with lotus scroll and cut-triangles. Each of the corners of the ceiling is carved with a kirtimukha. The domical ceiling consists of three courses of lotus courses of concentric circles. At the centre of the domical ceiling is carved a full blown lotus. There is a chandraśila in front of the shrine.

‘The shrine has an elaborately carved doorway which has been badly damaged. The ceiling of the antarala is carved with five full blown lotuses.

‘The northern shrine has inside its sanctum a Śivaliñga installed on a yonipaTTa. The rear wall of the sanctum is carved with two niches, one of which contains a donor, a royal couple (probably Siddharaja Jaisingh with his wife). A female is seen holding a parasol above the head of the bearded king the head of whose wife has been chopped off. The pilasters of this niche are highly ornamented. The other niche contains an image of a queen standing in tribhañga. Her both hands and head have been chopped off. She is flanked on either side by two female attendants standing in tribhañga. (Pl. XVIII). Both of these sculptures are of white marble. The other images which are at present kept in the sanctum are:

  1. Bust of a dancing apsaras, her male attendant holding a parasol above her head is depicted on her left. Her right breast has been Chopped off. It measures 45 x 17 x 12 cms.

  2. Śiva NaTaraja inside a niche with a makara toraNa. The niche is flanked on either side by a standing male attendant. It measures 48 x 58 x 25 cms.

  3. A stone slab carved with a niche composed of two circular pilasters and surmounted by a small pediment of chaitya-arches. The niche is carved with an elaborate door from which a woman is seen coming out and catching hold of a child in her right hand. Her head has been chopped off. The niche is flanked on either side by a dwarf male attendant. It is made of white sand-stone and measures 70 x 60 x 42 cms.

  4. Four-armed dancing NaTaraja inside a niche, carrying indistinct paraśu, khaTvañga and kapala. It is made of white sand-stone and measures 40 x 55 x 8 cms.

  5. Head of a deity wearing karaNDamukuTa. It is made of white sand-stone and measures 20 x 15 x 15 cms.

  6. A dancing male. It measures 35 x 27 x 7 cms. Made of white sand-stone.

  7. Head of Yama wearing karaNDmukuTa. He has long moustaches, protruding teeth, bulging eyes, and is bearded. It measures 27 x 15 x 7 cms.

  8. Bust of a bearded male drummer measuring 20 x 19 x 20 cms.

  9. Head of an apsaras measuring 20 x 20 x 20 cms.

  10. Bust of a dancing apsaras. It measures 40 x 15 x 20 cms.

  11. A dancing male inside a small niche. At the left end of this slab is carved a beautiful head of an apsaras whose hair are very elaborately arranged. It is made of white sand-stone and measures 40 x 40 x 25 cms.

  12. A stone slab carved with a dancing male. On his right is carved a bearded male drummer whose head has been partly chopped off. It is made of white sand-stone and measures 32 x 35 x 12 cms.

  13. A bearded male dancing. Both his legs have been chopped off. He has moustaches. It measures 52 x 35 x 20 cms. It is made of white sand-stone. He wears earlobes.’48

The article by B.L. Nagarch is accompanied by eighteen plates of photographs and a plan of the Rudramahalaya complex. The photographs show the ‘temple remains’, sculptural and architectural, discovered in and around the Jami’ Masjid. The plan shows three unexcavated zones where it is most likely that many more ‘temple remains’ are lying buried, waiting to be exposed some day by the excavator’s spade.


  1. Fourth Annual Report of the Minorities’ Commission for the Period 1.1.1980 to 31.3.1981, New Delhi, 1983, p. 130. 

  2. Ibid., pp. 130-31. 

  3. Ibid., p. 131. 

  4. Ibid., p. 129. 

  5. Ibid., p. 133. 

  6. Ibid., pp. 133-34. It may be noted that no Jana Sangh existed at that time, the party having merged itself in the Janata Party in May, 1977. 

  7. Ibid., p. 134. 

  8. Ibid., p. 132. 

  9. Ibid., p. 134. 

  10. Ibid., p. 132. 

  11. Ibid., p. 134. 

  12. Ibid. 

  13. Ibid., p. 140. 

  14. Ibid., p. 141. Emphasis added. 

  15. Ibid., pp. 141-42. 

  16. Ibid., p. 142. 

  17. Ibid. 

  18. Ibid. 

  19. Ibid., pp. 149-50. 

  20. Ibid., p. 150. 

  21. Ibid., p. 143. 

  22. Ibid. 

  23. Ibid., Emphasis added. 

  24. Ibid., p. 144. 

  25. Ibid., p. 151. 

  26. Ibid., pp. 132-33. 

  27. Ibid., p. 133. 

  28. Ibid., p. 146. 

  29. Ibid., pp. 151-52. 

  30. Ibid., p. 152. 

  31. Ibid., p. 146. 

  32. Ibid., p. 147. 

  33. Ibid., pp. 134-35. 

  34. Ibid., p. 135. 

  35. Ibid., p. 139. 

  36. Ibid., pp. 136-37. 

  37. Ibid., p, 137. 

  38. Ibid., p. 138. 

  39. Ibid., P. 9. 

  40. Indian Archaeology 1979-80 - A Review, p. 99. 

  41. Ibid., P. 148. 

  42. Indian Archaeology 1980-81 -A Review, p. 90. 

  43. Fourth Annual Report, pp. 135-36. 

  44. Ibid., p. 144. 

  45. Recent Archaeological, Discoveries from Rudramahalaya and Jami Masjid, Sidhpur’, Kusumañjali: Shri Sivaramamurti Commemoration Volume, Delhi, 1987, Vol. II, pp. 396–97. 

  46. Ibid., pp. 397-98. 

  47. Ibid., pp. 398-99. 

  48. Ibid., pp. 399-400.