Bhojsala - Legends, Myths and History

Dhār is a city located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh state in central India. It is presently the administrative headquarters of Dhar District. The town is located 33 miles (53 km) west of Mhow (Military Head Office of War), 559 m (1,834 ft) above sea level. It is picturesquely situated among lakes and trees surrounded by barren hills. The ancient name Dhara Nagari might indicate some old association with the fabled sword manufacturing in India.

Supposed to be the erstwhile capital of the legendary king Bhoj of Parmar dynasty, the present day town of Dhār is dominated by a large stone fortress surrounded by the modern town. The date of  fortress construction is not documented by inscription, but Jahāngīr visited the place in 1617 and referred to it in his memoirs, stating that  “. . . when Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq was proceeding to the conquest of the Deccan, he built a fort of cut stone on the top of the ridge. Outside it is very showy and handsome, but inside the fort is devoid of buildings”. Jahāngīr's attribution of the fort to Muhammad ibn Tughluq (1325–51) is confirmed by the general similarity of the fortifications to those at Tugluqābād in Delhi. The attribution is also supported by the policies of the Tughluqs who sought to consolidate their control over the territories conquered by the Khaljīs. Muhammad bin Tughluq signaled his wish to exercise power over the southern parts of his dominion by making Daulatābād the imperial co-capital in 1337. 

That Dhār was a key staging-post on the road to the Deccan is shown by the fact that when Ala’al-Dīn Khiljī dispatched Ayn al-Mulk Mūltānī to subdue Mālwa in the early fourteenth century, the latter made Dhār the provincial capital and served there as governor until 1313 after which time he was transferred to Daulatābād. It was still the capital of Mālwa some years later when Ibn Batuta travelled to the Deccan. The fort at Dhār stands on the north-eastern edge of a circle of tanks, channels and earthen ramparts that made Dhār, in effect, a moated, circular city (Figure below). This plan is alluded to in Merutuga's Prabandhacintāmani and is similar to that at Warangal in the Deccan. As the circular configuration is probably mentioned by Padmagupta in his Navasāhasākacarita, a work that casts King Bhoja's father Sindhurāja as a latter-day Vikramāditya, it seems likely that the plan was already taking shape in the tenth century.

Dhār. Plan of the medieval town showing the location of monuments and disposition of the ramparts.
In the exact centre of the circular city is the tomb of Kamāl al-Dīn Mālawī (circa 1238–1330). This Chishtī saint, called Mālawī because of his long residence in Malwa, was a follower of Farīd al-Dīn Mascūd Ganj-i Shakar (1175–1265) and Niaām al-Dīn Auliyā’ of Delhi (circa 1243/4–1325). Some details about Kamāl al-Dīn are recorded in Muhammad Ghawthī's Gulzār-i abrār, a reliable hagiography of Sufi saints composed in 1613. The custodians of Kamāl al-Dīn's tomb have served in an unbroken lineage for almost seven hundred years; their history can be found in an informative volume by Rām Sevak Garg. The structures in the complex belong primarily to the fifteenth century as documented by inscriptions still in situ.

Next to the tomb is a spacious hypo style structure. When this structure was constructed is not recorded, but an inscription of AH 795/1392–93, dug up in the small graveyard of the adjacent enclosure, mentions that the mosques of Dhār had fallen into disrepair and that they were renewed by Dilāwar Khān. This tructure was used for offering Friday prayers and is referred to as Kamal Maula’s Mosque in present representations of Archaeological Society of India (ASI).

Dhār. Interior of the Mosque at the tomb of Kamāl al-Dīn. Unknown photographer, 1902. Courtesy of the British Library, Photo 2/4(90), item 4303212.
The mosque at Kamāl al-Dīn was displaced as the focus of Friday prayers when Dilāwar Khān, assuming the title Amīd Shāh Dāwūd Ghōrī, built what is called the Lāt masjid as the new Jāmic in 1405.30 The Lāt masjid derives it's name from the pillar or lāt lying outside the building. Being a monolith cast in iron, the pillar is a technological marvel that has drawn considerable attention through the centuries. Jahāngīr reports that Dilāwar Khān installed the pillar outside the building. Where it was before Dilāwar Khān's time has not been discussed in a definitive fashion. As the old Jāmic at Kamāl al-Dīn was modelled on Delhi, it seems likely that the pillar at Dhār played an analogous role to the iron pillar at the Qutb and so stood at Kamāl al-Dīn between circa 1305 (conquest of Dhār and building of the first Jāmic) and circa 1405 (declaration of independence by Dilāwar Khān and the building of the second Jāmic). The location before circa 1305 remains uncertain. Originally some 13.5 m in length, the pillar was broken when the Sultan of Gujarāt attempted to move it in the 1500s. The three surviving portions are now placed on a small platform outside the Lāt mosque. The only dated inscription on the pillar records a visit by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1598 while on campaign towards the Deccan.The Lāt masjid is situated at the south-eastern edge of the old town near to what would have been the gate to Māndu. Because Māndu had long served as a hill-retreat for those at Dhār, it was natural for Dilāwar Khān to have built the new Jāmicon this side of the town. A similar pattern is seen at other centres, notably Chanderi, where a new Jāmic was constructed on the western edge of the town in the same period.

The first account of Dhār in a western language is found in John Malcolm's Report on the Province of Malwa, that was published in 1822. Malcolm's treatment of Dhār is brief, but in his historical survey he notes that it became the capital under Bhoja in the eleventh century. In a footnote Malcolm gives an extended account of one of  the folk-tales that were current in his time. According to one story, Bhoja made a vow to build a series of dams “to arrest the streams of nine rivers and ninety-nine rivulets”. A location was found in the kingdom that allowed the king to fulfil this vow and the dams were duly built at the site we now call Bhojpur. The dam at Bhopāl, according to this story, was built by the king's minister. In his description of Dhār, Malcolm is very brief, saying only that: “The materials of its finest temples appear to have been appropriated to build Palaces and Mosques for its new sovereign. The city did not however, remain the capital of the Mahomedans for long. Alif Khan (the son of Dilawur Khan) who became celebrated under the name of Hoshung Sha, removed the seat of Government to Mandoo”. In a footnote he adds: “I took, when last at Dhar, a fine polished stone tablet of large dimensions, on which there was a Hindu Inscription, from a ruined Mosque, where this sacred writing had been placed as the floor of the Mimbur or pulpit of the Mahomedan place of worship”. This is the first reference to the mosque of Kamāl al-Dīn and to the numerous inscribed slabs that subsequent visitors repeatedly observed in the floor of the building. Aside from the obvious fact that Malcolm makes no reference to the Bhojśālā, and clearly describes the building as a ruined mosque, what draws our attention is the inscribed slab he extracted from the minbar. This has not,  been noted or traced; there is a tantalizing possibility that his “fine polished stone tablet” is the missing part of the inscription containing the drama Pārijātamañjarī composed by Madana, the preceptor of the Paramāra King Arjunavarman, on which more below.

The encyclopaedic care with which Malcolm prepared his report made his book a standard reference and led to its republication in several editions under the title "A Memoir of Central India", including Malwa and Adjoining Provinces. The only other work in circulation was William Kincaid's 1879 edition of the History of Mandu, first published in 1844.40 Kincaid spent most of his life in Mālwa and recorded a number of folk-tales about Bhoja in the 1888 volume of Indian Antiquary. Like Malcolm, he documents popular memories of Bhoja as a great king, with a similar account of the temple and dams at Bhojpur. The Bhojśālā is singularly absent in these stories. In his detailed notes on Dhār and Māndū, added as numbered appendices to the History of Mandu, Kincaid mentions the Akl ka kua or ‘Well of Wisdom’ in front of the tomb of  Kamāl al-Dīn, observing, in passing, that “a loquacious Musalman here recounted to me a number of remarkable stories”. Of the mosque, however, he only says “. . . close by is a small masjid”. While Kincaid was not the most sympathetic of ethnographers, if there had been an active folk-tale about the Bhojśālā, the talkative person he encountered would surely have mentioned it and Kincaid made a note. The silence of both Malcolm and Kincaid on this point shows that there were no living traditions about the Bhojśālā in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Epigraphic research at Dhār began in earnest in 1871 when Bhau Dāji of Bombay sent his agents to take copies of inscriptions at Dhār.44 Dāji died in 1874 and does not seem to have done anything with these copies in the final years of his life. Nonetheless, Dāji did have an active interest in the literary figures at Bhoja's court and the prabandhas attached to Bhoja's name. Of Dhār itself, however, he says nothing.After Dāji, epigraphic research at Dhār was continued by Georg Bühler in 1875, or at least so we are told by C. E. Luard in hisGazetteer of 1908.46 However, Bühler's presence in Dhār is not something I have been able to trace. Bühler's report for 1874–75 documents a trip through Rājasthān in search of manuscripts; his report for 1873–74 also focuses on Rājasthān.47 Indeed in his report for 1873–74 he notes: “In conclusion, I beg to express the hope that Government will be pleased to give me an opportunity and funds to continue the search. Besides the great library at Saidhpur Pattan, Gujarat, there are the royal and private libraries of Kasmir, Jammu, Jaypur, Udaypur, Ujjain, and Dhar, which, if explored, no doubt will yield the solutions of many problems of Sanskrit philology”. This suggests that Bühler never reached Dhār in his quest for manuscripts.

Although Bühler cannot be placed in Dhār, it is nonetheless clear that he had an interest in the Paramāra dynasty and that he was well aware of the importance of Dhār as a centre of literary activity. In the course of his research into the Pāiyalachhīand Navasāhasākacarita, Bühler prepared the first study of the Udaypur praśasti of Udayāditya. In his article on this inscription, Bühler devoted considerable space to Bhoja's learning and proficiency as a poet, citing several manuscripts that supported the assertion in the praśasti that Bhoja was a poet-king. With reference to his temple building activities, also recounted in the Udaypur inscription, Bühler states, “Regarding the extensive building operations which Bhoja undertook according to verse 20, I am unable to bring forward any corroboration from other sources. But it is very probable that a prince, so fond of display as he was, adorned his capital and perhaps even foreign sacred places with architectural monuments”.

To put the matter another way and in a succinct form relevant to our theme, Bühler had before him evidence of Bhoja's interest in literature and architecture, and of Dhār as a centre of literary production, but he did not speculate about the king building a school for Sanskrit studies or a temple to Sarasvatī. This is all the more telling because Bühler actively engaged with traditional knowledge-holders in India and knew about Sanskrit schools. A particularly interesting account of his encounter with Paṇḍits working in the time-honoured manner is found in his report of 1869. This is worth giving in full because it provides a clear sense of how Sanskrit learning and Sanskrit schools operated in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
"After receiving charge of the office of Inspector, I addressed a circular to the Deputies of Surat, Broach, Kaira, Ahmedabad, Káthtiáwar, Rewakantha and Khandesh, requesting them to name the chief towns where Sanskrit manuscripts are found, and to furnish me with lists of the person possessing Sanskrit libraries . . . On my tour, I visited a number of towns where Sanskrit learning is cultivated, amongst which I may mention Ahmedabad, Dholka, Limdi, Rájkoṭ, Gondal, Junágaḍh, Pálitáná, Bhaunagár, Nariad, Cambay, Broach, and Balsár. In all these places I had interviews with the Native scholars and possessors of libraries, and I explained to them the intentions of Government, and the purposes for which the present search for Sanskrit manuscripts is instituted. I mostly met with a very friendly reception on the part of the Bráhmans and Śástrís. They came willingly to talk with me, to show me the lists of their books, and to bring those which I wanted to inspect. At Balsár I held a regular sabbhá, or assembly of the learned, for the purpose of learned discussions. It was well attended. I examined first the pupils of the various Śástrís, and next proposed a few questions to the teachers, which they discussed in their peculiar manner, one upholding the Púrvapaksha, the first proposition, and the other its opposite, the Uttarapaksha. Finally I addressed them on the object pursued by Europeans in studying Sanskrit; the intentions of Government in regard to the cultivation of that language; the purposes for which Sanskrit books are collected, & c. All these topics appear to have great interest for them, as they listened eagerly, and frequently asked question demanding fuller explanations. The ceremony was concluded by the recitation of improvised poetry, and the orthodox distribution of pán, supárí and of dakshiṇá. In Junágaḍh, also, the whole posse of Śástrís was assembled at the examination of the Sanskrit School, and submitted to a rigorous examination in Sanskrit grammar"

If we cannot place Bühler in Dhār, the same is not true of his protégé Dr Alois Anton Führer (1853–1930). He visited central India in 1892–93 and published an account of his tour in the Annual Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey Circle, North-western Provinces and Oudh. Reading Führer's report as a whole, one is struck by the ambitiousness of his itinerary and the lightning speed with which he travelled across Rājasthān and Mālwa. The hurried nature of the tour shows in Führer's frequent mistakes and his basically meaningless comments on architecture. These consist of aesthetic disquisitions with a top-dressing of disparaging remarks about the influence of Islam, a stock-in-trade of British historical interpretation designed to undermine the Islamic rulers of India and highlight the benefit of colonial rule. 

About the temples at Mount Ābū he thus noted: “These two temples are perfect gems of Indian art workmanship and monuments of the architectural, plastic, and decorative arts based on sound principles of design and imbued with the hereditary skill of the artists, and preserved to us from the ravages of time and iconoclastic tendencies of the Musalmân rulers of India”. At Ajmer he admired the design of the mosque, but was compelled to say that it was built “of the spoils of many Hindû temples which were thrown down by the bigotry of these conquerors”.

Like many of his ilk, Führer seems to have combined an impressive personality with enough Indological knowledge to appear convincing, at least to those who did not know better or who did not take the time to check details. Of course the method of all con-artists, academic or otherwise, is to hoover-up other people's ideas, move quickly and create such a flurry of activity that details cannot be checked. Eventually, however, Führer was investigated and forced to resign from his position in the Archaeological Survey of India. That was in 1898. Vincent Smith conducted the investigation and uncovered a breath-taking degree of bad scholarship and bad archaeological practice. Smith's report is essential reading for anyone interested in the Indological and colonial history of north India. 

This background helps us assess Führer's account of Dhār. Thus Smith's report, which tells us that Führer openly admitted that “he was not in the habit of keeping a journal of his tours or of writing up notes of his observations from day to day”, helps explain how Führer could have said that the tomb of Shaykh Changāl “. . . is simply the transformation of a Jaina temple of the 12th century”. Based on this, he concluded: “This mode of adapting Hindû temples to their own service has been practiced by the Musalmâns at Mându, Dhâr, Jaunpur, Zafarâbâd and many other places”. There is, in fact, no trace of reused material in the fabric of the Dargāh or in the small mosque beside it, so either Führer never went there or is mixing up his memories. 

Führer remarked: “The dargâh of Maulânâ Kamâl-ud-dîn, built during the reign of Mahmûd Shâh Khiljî I., in A.H. 861, has a spacious quadrangle with a colonnade of very fine Jaina pillars on each side within the square, and some are very elaborately sculpted in a similar style as those in the Dailwârâ temples at Abû. The floor is formed of black stone slabs from which Sanskrit inscriptions of the 12th century have been effaced. The mihrâbs and mimbar of the masjid proper are very handsome. On two of the columns supporting the central dome of the masjid are inscribed a couple of grammatical sûtras, which show that they were probably part of a scholastic building”. 

This is the first published suggestion that the mosque, or the fragments built into it, marked the location of some kind of school. Of course Führer had no evidence for the proposition and he probably developed the idea from Bühler's Sanskrit researches. All the ingredients are there in Bühler's writing and Führer consistently drew on Bühler's work, often copying out Bühler's words verbatim, as Huxley's meticulous research has shown. After Führer was dismissed in 1898, his work was not cited as a source of reliable information. There is circumstantial evidence, however, that Führer's observations were picked up by the local officials with whom he interacted in the course of his tour.

There was a significant increase in research activity at Dhār in preparation for the visit of Lord Curzon in November, 1902. Captain Ernest Barnes, I.C.S., who served as the political agent at Dhār from 1900 to 1904, established a small archaeological department in September, 1902 and placed the Superintendent of State Education, Mr. K. K. Lele, in charge. Just prior, Barnes collected available information on Dhār and Māndu and communicated his findings to the Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay Branch, in June, 1902. Barnes's report contains a wealth of information and includes some important details about the archaeological investigations taking place at the mosque next to Kamāl al-Dīn's tomb. Most importantly, Barnes's report shows that by the time he was writing, Lele had found two serpentine inscriptions giving the alphabet and grammatical rules of the Sanskrit language. These were understood by Barnes as “confirming the local tradition” that the mosque was “known among the Hindoo population as ‘Raja Bhoja ka Madrassa’, i.e. Raja Bhoja's school”.

Concluding his account of the mosque, Barnes wrote: “Finally, a recent close inspection has brought to light the fact that the reverse side of two of the great black stone slabs which form the lining of the ‘Mehrab’ are covered with similar inscriptions, which happily by their position have escaped destruction, but which owing to that same position, it has only been possible up to the present to take fragmental impressions. These impressions seem to show that the inscriptions are a dramatic composition probably on an historical subject, written in the reign of a successor of Bhoja”.69 The state of understanding in the middle of 1902 is therefore clear: the mosque was being called ‘Raja Bhoja's Madrassa’ thanks to the two serpentine inscriptions found at the site by Lele but it was not yet known as the Bhojśālā and it was not yet associated with the goddess Sarasvatī.

Five months after Barnes completed his article, Lord Curzon came to Dhār. This visit was part of a wider campaign, which Curzon was leading, to modernise the government of India, not least the Archaeological Survey.70 During Curzon's visit, Lele reports that the inscribed slabs he had discovered “were seen by His Excellency Lord Curzon, Viceroy and Governor-General of India while yet in the wall on the 2nd November 1902. By his H. E.'s advice they were taken out and have since attracted much attention and interest”. We owe the preservation of this information to S. K. Dikshit who decided to print Lele's account in his 1968 edition of the inscription.71 Lele's report is titled: Summary of the Dramatic Inscription found at the Bhoja Shala (Kamal Maula Mosque), Dhar, C. I., in November 1903. This is of historical importance because it is the first recorded use of the word ‘Bhojśālā’. Coincidentally, the Summary also shows that Lele was a very competent Sanskrit scholar who took just a few weeks to read the inscription and grasp its purport and importance. It seems likely that he was trained in the kind of traditional Sanskrit school described by Bühler.

Lele circulated his report widely. This is shown, firstly, by the account of it given by R. Pischel in the Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India for 1903–04.72 Pischel was concerned with the Prakrit inscriptions and tells us that he received estampages from Professor E. Hultzsch who had them from John Marshall, the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey. For our concerns, the key point is that Pischel accepted Lele's Summary at face value and innocently refers to the “discovery of the two long inscriptions and several fragments found in the Bhojaśālā at Dhār”.Lele also sent his Summary to Hultzsch. This excited Hultzch's interest and, through various intermediaries, he received inked impressions and published the full text in the 1905–06 volume of Epigraphia Indica. As it turns out, the ink impressions came from Henry Cousens who was also studying the antiquities of Dhār at the time. Cousens was concerned with the iron pillar and published his detailed study in the first volume of the Archaeological Survey of India Report for 1902–03. In his attempt to locate the surviving parts of this pillar and the history of their placement and movement, Cousens made enquires through Captain Barnes. In reply Lele wrote: “As soon as your letter came, I drove to the Agency House and made a search for the bell-capital near the Havaldar's house. Nothing like it was found there or anywhere else. But on further enquiries I found, near the bāghbān's house, a flat octagonal slab of ordinary black-stone, which old people say rested upon the lāṭ while it was standing in the Agency garden . . . When Dr. Führer visited Dhar this slab with its support might have appear to him bell-shaped.”

This statement is critical because it demonstrates a link between Lele and Führer. Whether Lele met Führer personally or knew him only through his 1893 report is probably something we shall never know for sure. Vincent Smith examined Führer papers in 1898 and noted that the lists of inscriptions and antiquities he found were not Führer's own work, but “prepared by local officials”. Whether this shows that Führer met with Lele and took a list from him is uncertain, but it at least shows how Führer was able to give the correct dates and details for the Dhār inscriptions he mentions in his report. However that may be, the text of Lele's letter printed by Cousens leaves no doubt that Lele knew what Führer had said about Dhār and that he had a degree of respect for it. What this means is that Lele would have been aware of Führer's general understanding of Indian architecture, i.e. that that pre-Islamic temples were “. . . perfect gems of Indian art workmanship”, which in some case were “. . . preserved to us from the ravages of time and iconoclastic tendencies of the Musalmân rulers of India”, and that “. . . many Hindû temples . . . were thrown down by the bigotry of these conquerors” but, nonetheless, Islamic rulers sometimes recycled older buildings to their needs, “. . . a mode of adapting Hindû temples to their own service . . . practiced by the Musalmâns at Mându, Dhâr, Jaunpur, Zafarâbâd and many other places”. Führer was not, of course, the inventor of 
this style of interpretation. It was Führer, however, who introduced these themes to Dhār and it was Lele who developed them in the local setting.

The basic conundrum for Lele was that if the mosque at Kamāl al-Dīn was going to be explained away as a re-used Hindu building, then some sort of Sanskrit basis had to be found for ‘Bhoja's school’, the designation ‘Rājā Bhoja kā Madrassa’ being too manifestly Urdu to serve his purpose. Lele addressed the problem by inventing the term ‘Bhojśālā’. While this was a clever bit of Sanskritisation, it had no basis in common parlance or the architectural types known from śilpa-texts. A dharmśālā was and is a well-known place of refuge for pilgrims, and there are various functional buildings called śālā, such as those used by washer men (dhobīśālā). But there is no such thing as a Sanskrit śālā (that would be vidyālaya, vidyāpītha or jñānapītha) and no śālā named after a king. Lele coined the term to provide the descriptive terminology he needed for the pillared colonnades of the mosque and so advance the idea that the building was indeed an old structure put to new use by the Muslims.

Although Lele busied himself with promulgating the idea that the mosque was the Bhojśālā, and had some success in this , the proposal did not meet with universal acceptance. In Luard's landmark Gazetteer of 1908, the buildings of Dhār are described and ‘Bhoja's school’ duly noted. Because the statements that appeared in this publication were well-researched and represented an official government record, they have been repeated in more recent gazetteers and have enjoyed popular currency. This happened even though Luard openly stated that the name ‘Rājā Bhoja's School’ was “a misnomer”. Why Luard did not simply suppress the misnomer may be explained by the fact that his Gazetteer was meant to be an up-to-date account of realities on the ground, not a definite historical assessment.

Luard's scepticism was well grounded. No text mentioning the Bhojśālā was known in Luard's time and no text or inscription has been found subsequently. This shows that the present ‘tradition’ about the Bhojśālā has been created retroactively from the gazetteers. This conclusion is supported by the application of the sources at the hands of the historian K. M. Munshi. He asserted that: “Close to Sarasvatī-mandira was a large well, still known as ‘Akkal-Kui’ or the ‘Well of Wisdom’”. What Munshi omits to tell us is that he has lifted this information directly from the History of Mandu where it is recorded that the well took its name from the hundred Arabic books that fell accidentally into the well a long time ago, thus giving the name Akl ka kua.The Islamic source of the legend is proven by the fact that akl is an Arabic word.

The comment of K. M. Munshi just cited brings us to the final part of the Bhojśālā puzzle, namely the goddess Sarasvatī. As readers may have noticed, there is no trace of this goddess in Lele's writing or that of his contemporaries. What brought Sarasvatī into the limelight was Tawney's translation of the Prabandhacintāmani. This text, published in 1901, includes several episodes describing King Bhoja's visits to the temple of Sarasvatī at Dhār. Merutunga calls the temple the Sarasvatīkanthābharanaor - Necklace of Sarasvatī, transposing on the building the name of two texts attributed to Bhoja that were known in western India at the time. 

So with Mertunga telling us that Bhoja visited the temple of Sarasvatī and with the inscription of Arjunavarman telling us that the Pārijātamañjarī was performed in the temple of Sarasvatī, all that was missing from the picture was the statue of Sarasvatī herself. This gap was filled in 1924. O. C. Gangoly and K. N. Dikshit discovered an inscribed sculpture in the British Museum and straightaway announced that it was Bhoja's Sarasvatī from Dhār. Gangoly was a celebrated art historian and Dikshit the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, so their discovery was universally accepted and had a significant impact. The British Museum sculpture was repeatedly identified as Bhoja's Sarasvatī in the years that followed, most notably by C. Sivaramamurti, one-time Director-General of the National Museum of India. Some writers, such as K. M. Munshi and V. Raghavan, have also asserted that the British Museum sculpture was from 
the mosque of Kamāl al-Dīn. This is not correct. Already in 1943, C. B. Lele, who had access to the archival sources, reported that the sculpture had been found in the debris of the old city palace in 1875. The city palace was being rebuilt at that time and stands facing the central square of the town. 

Standing figure of the Jain goddess Ambikā at British Museum.
The inscription on the British Museum sculpture is damaged, but clearly mentions King Bhoja and Vāgdevī, another name for Sarasvatī. The editio princeps was prepared by H. V. Trivedi and published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum. A re-examination of the inscription was undertaken by H. C. Bhayani, the well-known Sanskrit and Prakrit scholar. This was published in 1981 in an article co-authored with Kirit Mankodi. Their study showed that the inscription records the making of a sculpture of Ambikā after the creation of three Jinas and Vāgdevī. In other words, although Vāgdevī is indeed mentioned, the inscription's main purpose is to record an image of Ambikā, i.e., the sculpture on which the record is incised. That the sculpture is Ambikā is confirmed by the iconographic features, notably the lion and elephant goad. The composition also leaves space for a mango cluster in one of the missing hands, a frequent attribute of Ambikā. This is alluded to in the inscription which describes the goddess as ‘ever abundant in fruit’.

The current location of the Sarasvatī from Dhār remains an interesting mystery seeing that it is not located in the British Museum. There are famous and ancient Sarasvatī temples at several locations in India, notably Maihar in eastern Madhya Pradesh and in Kashmir. The site in Kashmir is known as Śāradā pītha. Envoys 
from Gujarāt visited this temple in the twelfth century to collect texts so the western Indian polymath Hemacandra could compose his comprehensive grammar, theSiddhahema. A more aggressive approach was taken by the Solankī and Vāghelā rulers toward Dhār. They sacked the city repeatedly in the dying days of the Paramāra regime, removing the libraries to their own cities where Paramāra texts were copied, studied and preserved. The inscription of Vīsaladeva from Kodinar dated 1271 records the creation of a pleasure garden (ketana) and college (sadas) sacred to Sarasvatī. This suggests that in addition to removing books, the western Indian kings also took away the sacred image of Sarasvatī, installing her in a new temple in Saurāstra, not far from Somnāth. The practice of moving images is well-testified. Aside from the examples documented by Richard Davis, attention may be drawn to Jinaprabhasūri (d. 1333) who states that an image of Candraprabha came to Somnāth from Valabhi along with figures of Ambā and Khetrapāla.

1 comment:

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