avoidance or destruction of religious, political or cultural icons

Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of usually religious icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons.

Byzantine Empress Theodora and her son Michael III. Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy

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  • The demolition of a temple is possible at any time, as it cannot walk away from its place.
    • Aurangzeb to Zullfiqar Khan and Mughal Khan. Kalimat-i-Tayyibat, quoted in Sarkar, Jadu Nath, History of Aurangzeb, Vol. III, p. 188. quoted from Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • It is appropriate for me to quote here what Swami Vivekananda said about the lesson of medieval iconoclasm in India’s history. ‘Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conqueror, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of South India, and those like Somnath in Gujarat, will teach you volumes of wisdom, which will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books. Mark how these temples bear the marks of a hundred attacks and a hundred regenerations, continually destroyed and continually springing up out of the ruins, rejuvenated and strong as ever! That is the national mind, that is the national life-current. Follow it and it leads to glory.’
  • When we desire to lead men to God, we must not simply overthrow their idols. In each of these images we must seek to discover what divine quality he who carved it sought.
  • What avails, then, the folly of the painter, who from sinful love of gain depicts that which should not be depicted—that is, with his polluted hands he tries to fashion that which should only be believed in the heart and confessed with the mouth? He makes an image and calls it Christ.
    • Iconoclastic Conciliabulum, 754 AD, § 16, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series, Volume XIV, P. Schaff, ed. (1900), p. 543
  • If anyone shall endeavor to represent the forms of the Saints in lifeless pictures with material colors which are of no value (for this notion is vain and introduced by the devil), and does not rather represent their virtues as living images in himself, let him be anathema!
    • Iconoclastic Conciliabulum, 754 AD, § 16, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series, Volume XIV, P. Schaff, ed. (1900), p. 546
  • …The temple of Nagarkot, which is outside the city, was taken at the very outset… On this occasion many mountaineers became food for the flashing sword. And that golden umbrella, which was erected on the top of the cupola of the temple, they riddled with arrows… And black cows, to the number of 200, to which they pay boundless respect, and actually worship, and present to the temple, which they look upon as an asylum, and let loose there, were killed by the Musulmans. And, while arrows and bullets were continually falling like drops of rain, through their zeal and excessive hatred of idolatry they filled their shoes full of blood and threw it on the doors and walls of the temple… the army of Husain Quli Khan was suffering great hardships. For these reasons he concluded a treaty with them… and having put all things straight he built the cupola of a lofty mosque over the gateway of Rajah Jai Chand.
    • Jalalu’d-Din Muhammad Akbar Padshah Ghazi (AD 1556-1605). Muntkhab-ut-Tawarikh. Nagarkot Kangra (Himachal Pradesh)
  • I say that the Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about the desecration of one mosque. From 1000 A.D., every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas, has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India… Temples escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reasons such as dense forests. Otherwise it was a continuous spell of vandalism. No nation, with any self-respect, will forgive this. They took over our women. And they imposed the Jaziya, the tax. Why should we forget and forgive all that? What happened in Ayodhya would not have happened, had the Muslims acknowledged this historical argument even once. Then we could have said : All right, let the past remain in the past and let us see how best we can solve this problem…
    • Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri , Sunday Times of India, August 8, 1993; in an interview to its Editor Dileep Padgaonkar [1]
  • But the northern provinces being first conquered, the feat of the Mahomedan government fixed, and its greatest force exerted in those parts ; most of the temples were destroyed, the images of stone broken, and those of metal melted to cover the floors of the mosques and palaces, that the faithful Musulman should have the satisfaction daily to trample on what had been held sacred by the Hindoo.
  • Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before. At Mathura (on the Jumna) he took from the temple its statues of gold encrusted with precious stones, and emptied its coffers of a vast quantity of gold, silver and jewelry; he expressed his admiration for the architecture of the great shrine, judged that its duplication would cost one hundred million dinars and the labor of two hundred years, and then ordered it to be soaked with naphtha and burnt to the ground... Aurangzeb cared nothing for art, destroyed its "heathen" monuments with coarse bigotry, and fought, through a reign of half a century, to eradicate from India almost all religions but his own. He issued orders to the provincial governors, and to his other subordinates, to raze to the ground all the temples of either Hindus or Christians, to smash every idol, and to close every Hindu school.
    • The Story of Civilization, by Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
  • One often hears that between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, Indo-Muslim states, driven by a Judeo-Islamic “theology of iconoclasm,” by fanaticism, or by sheer lust for plunder, wantonly and indiscriminately indulged in the desecration of Hindu temples. Such a picture, however, cannot be sustained by evidence from original sources for the period after 1192. Had instances of temple desecration been driven by a “theology of iconoclasm,” as some have claimed, such a theology would have committed Muslims in India to destroying all temples everywhere, including ordinary village temples, as opposed to the highly selective operation that seems actually to have taken place.
  • One Western author who has become very popular among India’s history-writers is the American scholar Prof. Richard M. Eaton.... A selective reading of his work, focusing on his explanations but keeping most of his facts out of view, is made to serve the negationist position regarding temple destruction in the name of Islam. Yet, the numerically most important body of data presented by him concurs neatly with the classic (now dubbed “Hindutva”) account. In his oft-quoted paper “Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states”, he gives a list of “eighty” cases of Islamic temple destruction. "Only eighty", is how the secularist history-rewriters render it, but Eaton makes no claim that his list is exhaustive. Moreover, eighty isn't always eighty. Thus, in his list, we find mentioned as one instance: "1994: Benares, Ghurid army. Did the Ghurid army work one instance of temple destruction? Eaton provides his source, and there we read that in Benares, the Ghurid royal army "destroyed nearly one thousand temples, and raised mosques on their foundations... This way, practically every one of the instances cited by Eaton must be read as actually ten, or a hundred, or as in this case even a thousand temples destroyed. Even Eaton's non-exhaustive list, presented as part of "the kind of responsible and constructive discussion that this controversial topic so badly needs", yields the same thousands of temple destructions ascribed to the Islamic rulers in most relevant pre-1989 histories of Islam and in pro-Hindu publications...
    One of the best-documented defects of any religion is the role of Islamic doctrine in the destruction of other people's cultural treasures, rivalled only by Christianity in some of its phases, and surpassed only in the 20th century by Communism. A secularist should subject the record of Islam to criticism, not to a whitewash.
    • Koenraad Elst Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple (2002)
  • The King acknowledged that there might be reason in what they said [to accept money from the infidels if the king would desist from iconoclasm], but replied, that if he should consent to such a measure, his name would be handed down to posterity as 'Mahmood the idol-seller', whereas he was desirous of being known as 'Mahmood the destroyer of idols [Mahmud the breaker-of-idols (but-shikan)]': he therefore directed the troops to proceed in their work.
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated into English by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, 4 Volumes, New Delhi Reprint, 1981. p. 38-49 (Alternative translation: "but the champion of Islam replied with disdain that he did not want his name to go down to posterity as Mahmud the idol-seller (but farosh) instead of Mahmud the breaker-of-idols (but shikan)." in Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 3)
  • The next matter which by God's help I accomplished, was the repetition of names and titles of former sovereigns which had been omitted from the prayers of Sabbaths and Feasts. The names of those sovereigns of Islam, under whose happy fortune and favour infidel countries had been conquered, whose banners had waved over many a land, under whom idol-temples had been demolished, and mosques and pulpits built and exalted, the fragrant creed had been extended, and the people of Islam had waxen strong and warlike, the names of these men had fallen into neglect and oblivion. So I decreed that according to established custom their names and titles should be rehearsed in the khutba and aspirations offered for the remission of their sins.
    • Prayers for Temple-destroyers of the Past ,Sultãn Fîrûz Shãh Tughlaq (AD 1351-1388) , in Futuhat-i-Firuz Shahi in Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. Elliot and Dowson. Vol. III, p. 328 This small history was written by Sultãn Fîrûz Shãh Tughlaq (AD 1351-1388) himself.
  • Mahmood replied, "The religion of the faithful inculcates the following tenet: That in proportion as the tenets of the prophet are diffused, and his followers exert themselves in the subversion of idolatry, so shall be their reward in heaven; that, therefore, it behoved him, with the assistance of God, to root out the worship of idols from the face of all India. How then should he spare Tahnesur?"
  • From thence the King marched towards the mountains of Nagrakote, where he was overtaken by a storm of hail and snow. The Raja of Nagrakote, after sustaining some loss, submitted, but was restored to his dominions. The name of Nagrakote was, on this occasion, changed to that of Mahomedabad, in honour of the late king Some historians state, that Feroze, on this occasion, broke the idols of Nagrakote, and mixing the fragments with pieces of cow's flesh, filled bags with them, and caused them to be tied round the necks of Bramins, who were then paraded through the camp. It is said, also, that he sent the image of Nowshaba to Mecca, to be thrown on the road, that it might be trodden under foot by the pilgrims, and that he also remitted the sum of 100,000 tunkas, to be distributed among the devotees and servants of the temple.
    • Sultãn Fîrûz Shãh Tughlaq (AD 1351-1388) . Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981, Vol. I p. 263 , in Hindu Temples
  • …Sooltan Mahmood now attacked one of the forts in the Koombulmere district, defended by Beny Ray, the deputy of Rana Koombho of Chittor. In front of the gateway was a large temple which commanded the lower works. This building was strongly fortified, and employed by the enemy as a magazine. Sooltan Mahmood, aware of its importance, determined to take possession of it at all hazards; and having stormed it in person, carried it, but not without heavy loss; after which, the fort fell into his hands, and many Rajpoots were put to death. The temple was now filled with wood, and being set on fire, cold water was thrown on the, stone images, which causing them to break, the pieces were given to the butchers of the camp, in order to be used as weights in selling meat. One large figure in particular, representing a ram, and formed of solid marble, being consumed, the Rajpoots were compelled to eat the calcined parts with pan, in order that it might be said that they were made to eat their gods…
    • Sultãn Mahmûd Khaljî of Malwa (AD 1435-1469) Tãrîkh-i-Firishta by Firishta. Sultãn Mahmûd Khaljî of Malwa (AD 1435-1469) Kumbhalgadh (Rajasthan) , in Hindu Temples
  • So the temples were attacked “all along the way” as the armies of Islam advanced; they were “robbed of their sculptural wealth”, “pulled down”, “laid waste”, “burnt with naptha”, “trodden under horse’s hoofs”, and “destroyed from their very foundations”, till “not a trace of them remained”. Mahmûd of Ghazni robbed and burnt down 1,000 temples at Mathura, and 10,000 in and around Kanauj. One of his successors, Ibrãhîm, demolished 1,000 temples each in Hindustan (Ganga-Yamuna Doab) and Malwa. Muhammad Ghûrî destroyed another 1,000 at Varanasi. Qutbu’d-Dîn Aibak employed elephants for pulling down 1,000 temples in Delhi. “Alî I ‘Ãdil Shãh of Bijapur destroyed 200 to 300 temples in Karnataka. A sufi, Qãyim Shãh, destroyed 12 temples at Tiruchirapalli. Such exact or approximate counts, however, are available only in a few cases. Most of the time we are informed that “many strong temples which would have remained unshaken even by the trumpets blown on the Day of Judgment, were levelled with the ground when swept by the wind of Islãm”.
    • Goel, S.R. Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them, Volume II (1993) (also quoted in Ibn Warraq, Defending the West, and also quoted in Ibn Warraq, Why the west is the best)
  • Abu Wa'il narrated: "Ali said to Abu Al-Hayyaj Al-Asadi: 'I am dispatching you with what the Prophet dispatched me: "That you not leave an elevated grave without leveling it, nor an image without erasing it."
    • Hadith "Jami at-Tirmidhi Book 10, Hadith 85".
  • Narrated 'Abdullah bin Masud: The Prophet entered Mecca and (at that time) there were three hundred-and-sixty idols around the Ka'ba. He started stabbing the idols with a stick he had in his hand and reciting: "Truth (Islam) has come and Falsehood (disbelief) has vanished."
    • Hadith Sahih Bukhari 3:43:658
  • Many strong temples which would have remained unshaken even by the trumpet blown on the Day of Judgment, were levelled with the ground when swept by the wind of Islam.
    • Amir Khusrow. About Sultan ‘Alau’d-Din Khalji (AD 1296-1316) and his generals conquests in Jhain (Rajasthan). Amir Khusrow in S.A.A. Rizvi, Khalji Kalina Bharata, Aligarh, 1955, pp. 160
  • The idols he saw amazed him… Next day he got those idols of gold smashed with stones. The pillars of wood were burnt down by his order… A cry rose from the temples as if a second Mahmud had taken birth.
    • Miftahu'l-Futuh by Amir Khusrow. About Sultan Jalalu’d -Din Khalji (AD 1290-1296) in Jhain (Rajasthan) Translated from the Hindi version by S.A.A. Rizvi included in Khalji Kalina Bharata, Aligarh, 1955, pp. 153-54.
  • So the temple of Somnath was made to bow towards the Holy Mecca; and as the temple lowered its head and jumped into the sea, you may say that the building first said its prayers and then had a bath…
    • Amir Khusrow Khazainu’l-Futuh. About Sultan ‘Alau’d-Din Khalji (AD 1296-1316) and his generals conquests in Somnath (Gujarat). Amir Khusrow , in Mohammed Habib's translation quoted by Jagdish Narayan Sarkar, The Art of War in Medieval India, New Delhi, 1964, pp. 286-87.
  • Nor did the Muslims ever moderate their zeal to destroy ruthlessly the Hindu temples and images of gods, and their attitude in this respect remained unchanged from the day when Muhammad bin Qasim set foot on the soil of India till the 18th century A.D. when they lost all political power.
    • R. C. Majumdar, quoted in Goel, S. R. (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India.
  • That magnificent mansion which it had taken many years to raise, was destroyed in a few moments. He got the idols broken and they were handed over to the butchers for being used as weights while selling meat. The biggest idol which had the form of a ram was reduced to powder which was put in betel-leaves to be given to the Rajpûts so that they could eat their god.”
    • Sultãn Mahmûd Khaljî of Malwa (AD 1436-1469) Kumbhalgadh (Rajasthan) in Nizamuddin Ahmad : Tabqãt-i-Akharî, in :S.A.A. Rizvi included in Uttar Taimûr Kãlîna Bhãrata, Aligarh 1959, Vol. II. p. 74-86
  • No new temple was allowed to be built nor any old one to be repaired, so that the total disappearance of all places of Hindu worship was to be merely a question of time. But even this delay, this slow operation of Time, was intolerable to many of the more fiery spirits of Islam, who tried to hasten the abolition of “‘infidelity’” by anticipating the destructive hand of Time and forcibly pulling down temples.
    • Jadunath Sarkar , History of Aurangzib, Vol III.
  • And, above all, don't let us forget India, the cradle of the human race, or at least of that part of it to which we belong, where first Mohammedans, and then Christians, were most cruelly infuriated against the adherents of the original faith of mankind. The destruction or disfigurement of the ancient temples and idols, a lamentable, mischievous and barbarous act, still bears witness to the monotheistic fury of the Mohammedans, carried on from Mahmud the Ghaznevid of cursed memory down to Aureng Zeb, the fratricide, whom the Portuguese Christians have zealously imitated by destruction of temples and the auto da fe of the inquisition at Goa.
  • Monotheistic religions alone furnish the spectacle of religious wars, religious persecutions, heretical tribunals, that breaking of idols and destruction of images of the gods, that razing of Indian temples and Egyptian colossi, which had looked on the sun 3,000 years: just because a jealous god had said, 'Thou shalt make no graven image.'
  • Muslim rule should never atttact any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned.
    • West Bengal. Circular, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, 28 April 1989 (number Syl/89/1). Quoted in Arun Shourie - Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, HarperCollins, 1998. Quoted in Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8. Quoted in Rosser, Yvette In Saha, S. C. (2004). Religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world: Critical social and political issues. Quoted in Rao, R. N. (2001). Coalition conundrum: The BJP's trials, tribulations, and triumphs. also in Santosh C. Saha (Ed.), Fundamentalism in the Contemporary World: Critical Social and Political Issues, Lexington Books, Maryland, US, 2004, p. 273
  • Apologists for Islam, as well as some Marxist scholars in India, have sometimes attempted to reduce Islamic iconoclasm in India to a gratuitous ‘lust for plunder’ on the part of the Muslims, unrelated in any direct way to the religion itself, while depicting Hindu temples as centers of political resistance which had to be suppressed. Concomitantly, instances have been described in the popular press of Hindu destruction of Buddhist and Jain places of worship, and the idea was promoted that archaeological evidence shows this to have happened on a large scale, and hence that Hindu kings could be placed on a par with the Muslim invaders. The fact is that evidence for such ‘Hindu iconoclasm’ is incidental, relating to mere destruction, and too vague to be convincing.
    • André Wink. Al-Hind the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest : 11Th-13th Centuries. BRILL. p. 309 ff.
  • Sultan Sikandar led a very pious life... Islam was regarded very highly in his reign. The infidels could not muster the courage to worship idols or bathe in the (sacred) streams. During his holy reign, idols were hidden underground. The stone (idol) of Nagarkot, which had misled the (whole) world, was brought and handed over to butchers so that they might weigh meat with it.
    • Sultãn Sikandar Lodî (AD 1489-1517) . Kurukshetra (Haryana) , Nagarkot Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) . Tarikh-i-Shahi, by Ahmad Yadgar, in: Uttara Taimura Kalina Bharata, Persian texts translated into Hindi by S.A.A. Rizvi, 2 Volumes, Aligarh, 1958-59. p. 322-331 ff Vol I, In Goel, S.R. Hindu Temples - What happened to them

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