Religious harmony has been the staple of the Indian way of life all through the ages. A temple near Bhopal is a living testimony to this. Dating back to 1845, the Shyam Kaka temple complex near Narsinghgarh, about 100 kms from Bhopal, has a panel depicting Muslim men offering the namaz.
Legend has it that it was built by Bhagali Devi, queen of Shyam Dev Khinchi, a Rajput ruler of the Khinchi clan. But how the unique temple panel came into being is another story.
When the temple was under construction, six Arabs had come visiting. They got into an argument with the head priest, Amara Singh Gurjar, and stressed the superiority of their faith over others, according to Saajan Singh Gurjar, the present priest and a descendant of Amara Singh Gurjar.
“The visitors insisted that Mecca and Medina were the holiest places on earth. In response, Amara Singh offered to take them to the two holy cities without moving a step away. Incredulous, the Arab visitors challenged the priest to do so,” adds Gurjar.
What followed, according to legend, was a divine revelation of Mecca and Medina in the temple complex. And that was when the awestruck Arabs offered prayers at the spot.
"The panel showing the six Arab men was installed as a tribute to this incident," says Gurjar. The unique panel depicts six men dressed in long robes and traditional headgear, in various stages of offering the namaz. It stands out because of the devotion and surrender writ large on their faces. One can’t but be emotional.
The temple and its story remind us that there are numerous places in India where warring religious factions once stood in solidarity. And that it was possible to accept such structures as a commonplace for people belonging to all religions.
And more importantly, it tells us that it was easy to come to terms for people like Amara Singh Gurjar and the Arabs so effortlessly, even though they held different views.
There is no reason why we can’t do it now when we need such solidarity all the more.