Among the many talking points in the BJP’s ongoing election campaign in Gujarat is the renovation of the 11th-century Kalika Mata temple complex in Pavagadh in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 18 this year. The BJP government in the state claims to have redeveloped the temple complex after “amicably shifting” a dargah built atop the temple, to construct the temple’s ‘shikhar and kalash’ or superstructure and spire, and to unfurl the temple flag.
As per the party, this was done 500 years after “invaders” broke down the shikhar and constructed a dargah over it.
Right from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the BJP’s star campaigners have been citing Pavagadh as an example of “reclaiming and restoration of India’s cultural and religious pride” under the Modi-led central government.
On Thursday, speaking at Kalol in the foothills of Pavagadh, Modi first invoked “the blessings of Mahakali” as India takes over the presidency of the G-20 summit, and went on to blame the Congress for “taking pleasure” in the insult to places of faith and worship. Modi said, “Earlier, seeing the Pavagadh temple without a shikhar used to be a heart wrenching experience. It was a 500-year-old insult meted out by invaders. I had vowed to change it… Was Pavagadh not in existence during the Congress rule? But they were not able to see the strength (of the shaktipeeth) that I could see. We launched a campaign to end the insults to Gujarat’s faith… The Congress party enjoys insults to faith and worship… I don’t know what is wrong with them. You can lose elections but it cannot become the reason for you to lose your mental balance… We used to lose our deposits earlier but we never behaved like this.”
In a fresh attack on Friday, Modi blamed the Congress for having a ‘mindset of slavery’, while speaking about the Pavagadh temple in Anand district. He said, “The Congress has a mindset of slavery. There are many examples of it. One is the Maa Kali temple in Pavagadh, which was destroyed by invaders 500 years ago. They broke the Mahakali temple and destroyed its shikhar. For 500 years, there was no shikhar reconstructed, no dhwaja unfurled. This is the Congress mindset… Should it not have been done after Independence? It hasn’t happened now because of Modi, but because of the power of your vote… Their mindset of slavery doesn’t allow them to take pride in the country’s faiths…”
According to a note from the trustees of the Kalika Mata temple, shared during the inauguration of the renovated complex in June, the temple located in Champaner town, was an erstwhile kingdom ruled by Rajputs who “took pride in being descendants of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan”. It is said that the toe of the right foot of Ma Sati fell here. Hence, the Kalika Mata temple is revered as a Shaktipeeth, and Rajput kings used to unfurl its flag. UNESCO has designated Champaner-Pavagadh as a World Heritage Site, calling it the “only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city”. This also includes the Kalika Mata temple and the Jama Masjid at the foothill.
In the 15th century, Sultan Mahmud Begda conquered Champaner where he set up his capital and “destroyed the shikhara of the temple”, as per a note put out by the trust. The Sadanshah Pir dargah is believed to have been built around that time.
A lore goes that Sadanshah Peer, originally a Hindu fakir who embraced Islam to be part of Mahmud Begda’s court after he established his Sultanate in Gujarat and captured Pavagadh, played a key role in saving the temple from being destroyed.
Relocating the dargah was the most challenging part of the redevelopment work, a trust member said on condition of anonymity. “We also rebuilt the dargah as part of the settlement,” said the trustee. The temple and the dargah were rebuilt by Ahmedabad-based architect Ashish Sompura, who is also building the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
According to the developers, the redevelopment was done “without disturbing the idol, which is embedded in the wall, at the floor level”. The mountain was cut to size to bring the idol to a level where it would be visible to a person standing even outside the temple, the developers had told The Indian Express in June. The redevelopment used around 3,600 cubic feet of Bansi Pahadpur red sandstone from Rajasthan, the same that is being used to build the Ram temple at Ayodhya. The dargah was also rebuilt using the same stones.
The dargah, earlier situated atop the garbha griha of the Mahakali temple, was shifted to around 50 feet away as an independent structure in the same complex that has a distinct minaret design around the walls. The site where the dargah stood earlier made way for the shikhara and the gold-plated kalash.
In March 2018, the family of the diwan administering the dargah moved the Gujarat High Court against the Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board, the tourism department as well as the temple trust. Later, in 2019, in a joint submission by the petitioner, Diwan Shamsher Sha Murtuja, and the respondents, it was decided to settle the matter with “allotment of a separate earmarked land in the temple complex”.