Petition Claims Jaunpur’s Historic Atala Masjid to be Temple

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The claim is unfounded and does not align with historical records, says Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board representative

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – An Agra-based lawyer has filed a petition in the District Court asserting that the historic Atala Masjid of Jaunpur, currently under the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board’s management, was originally a temple dedicated to Atala Mata.

The case has sparked significant debate and drawn the attention of both historians and legal experts.

The petition by Jai Pratap Singh asserts that the mosque built in 1408 by Sultan Ibrahim was originally the Atala Mata Temple, constructed by Raja Harishchandra Rathore. Singh cites historical references and reports from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), alleging that the temple was repurposed into a mosque following an order by Feroze Shah of the Tughluq dynasty.

Singh points to various reports and writings to bolster his claims. According to him, “The first director of the Archaeological Survey of India reported that Feroze Shah Tughluq ordered the demolition of the Atala Mata temple. However, due to the resistance from Hindus, it could not be demolished and was instead converted into a mosque by Ibrahim Shah.” Singh also refers to the works of E.B. Havell of the Calcutta School of Art, who described the Atala Masjid’s architecture as having Hindu characteristics.

The petition further mentions findings from the ASI, which allegedly include images depicting trishuls (tridents), floral designs, and other Hindu temple motifs within the mosque structure. “The 1865 Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal mentions that there are traces of ‘kush’ on the building of the Atala Masjid, indicating it was originally the Atala Temple and is a monument of national importance,” Singh added.

The Sunni Central Waqf Board has expressed strong opposition to the petition. “The Atala Masjid has been a place of worship for centuries. We respect the judicial process and will present our evidence and arguments in court. We believe in preserving its historical and religious integrity,” a board spokesman said.

Another representative emphasised that the board trusts the judiciary. “The claims presented are unfounded and do not align with historical records,” he said.

Historians have largely dismissed the claims as lacking substantial evidence. Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqui, a historian who specialises in the history of Azamgarh and Jaunpur, remarked: “These assertions hold no historical significance. The remnants found are not indicative of a previous temple. Often, building materials from ruins are repurposed for new constructions, which might explain the presence of certain architectural elements.”

Dr. Siddiqui further noted that such claims are often propagated to incite communal discord. “It is important to focus on historical accuracy and discourage any attempts to spread hatred. After the events of 1992, society should not entertain such divisive narratives,” he said.

Senior civil court lawyer Khalid Khan also weighed in, highlighting the legal precedents. “Another case with similar claims was recently filed in the Munsif Shahr court. The admissibility of that case is still under consideration, with a verdict expected on May 29. The Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Shahi Atala Masjid administration have been named as parties in this new suit as well.”

The ongoing legal proceedings have garnered significant public interest, with many awaiting the court’s decision on the admissibility of the petition. During the hearing, lawyers maintaining the temple notion presented their arguments.

Local reactions are mixed, with some supporting the historical claims presented by Singh, while others view the case as an unnecessary provocation. “We should focus on unity and preserving our shared heritage,” said resident Mukhtar Ahmed. “These divisive issues only create more problems in our community.”

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