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Why were the temples first targets of the conquerors?

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  • Last Updated : 21 Sep, 2022
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Temples and mosques were wonderfully built because they are the places to worship. They exhibit the power, abundance, and greatness of the ruler.

How did the temples define the importance of the ruler?

Temples resemble the richness, power, and wealth of rulers. In order to show the world the richness, kings consider it a prestigious thing and constructed beautiful temples. Take the case of the Rajarajeshvara temple. An engraving makes reference that it was worked by King Rajarajadeva for the love of his god, Rajarajeshvara. Notice how the names of the ruler and the god are practically the same. The ruler took the god’s name since it was propitious and he needed to seem like a divine being. Through the customs of love in the sanctuary, one god (Rajarajadeva) respected another (Rajarajeshvara).

Building the temples

The biggest temples were completely developed by rulers. The other, lesser divinities in the temples were divine beings and goddesses of the partners and subordinates of the ruler. The temple was a small-scale model of the world managed by the lord and his partners. As they adored their divinities together in the regal temples, maybe they brought the simple rule of the divine beings on the planet.

As each new administration came to control, kings needed to underline their ethical right to be rulers. Building worship places gave rulers the opportunity to announce their close relationship with God, particularly significant during a time of quick political change. Rulers additionally offered support to the learned and devout and attempted to change their capitals and urban areas into incredible social communities that carried popularity to their standard and their domain.

Buildings and rulers

Architecture reached new heights during Mughal rule. Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, and mainly Shah Jahan were immensely interested in literature, art, and architecture. In his autobiography, Babur mentioned his interest in laying out gardens.

These gardens were called Chahar bagh(four gardens). After Akbar, some of the most beautiful Chahar baghs were constructed by his descendants in Kashmir, Agra, and Delhi.
There were many prominent architectural innovations that took place during Akbar’s rule.

During Shah Jahan’s reign, various prominent elements of Mughal architecture were fused together to make great constructions. A lot of construction activities happened during the rule of Shah Jahan mainly in Agra and Delhi. The ceremonial halls were built for public and private audiences. Shah Jahan’s audience halls were particularly built to simulate a mosque. The podium on which his throne was there was generally described as the qibla, The concept of the king as an agent of God on earth was proposed by these architectural appearances.

The relationship between justice and the court was highlighted by Shah Jahan in his newly built court in the Red Fort, Delhi. The development of Shah Jahan’s audience hall was anticipated to convey that the king’s integrity would treat the rich and the poor as equals forming a world where all could live together in peace. His capital was Agra in the beginning years of his rule. In this city, the king constructed homes on the banks of the river Yamuna. These were set in the centre of gardens constructed in the Chahar bagh arrangement. Shah Jahan accustomed the river-front garden in the design of the Taj Mahal, the greatest architectural accomplishment of his rule.

Why were the temples first targets of the conquerors?

Since rulers constructed temples to exhibit their commitment to God and their influence and riches, it isn’t business as usual that when they went after each other’s realms they frequently designated these structures. 

The Muslim sultans did not call themselves the epitome of god but the experts of the Persian court stated the sultan was the “shadow of god”. As the rulers came to power, kings highlighted their right to be rulers. So they did things like constructing worship places to display their relationship with God to the world. The kings also transformed their capitals into prominent cultural ventures. This brought the name and fame. The kings also constructed reservoirs and tanks to make water available.

At the beginning of the 10th century when the Pandyan ruler Shrimara Shrivallabha assailed Sri Lanka and suppressed Sena I (831-851), the Buddhist priest and writer Dhammakitti mentioned: “he eliminated every one of the assets … The sculpture of the Buddha made completely of gold in the Jewel Palace … also, the brilliant pictures in the different cloisters – every one of these he seized.” The catastrophe for the pride of the Sinhalese ruler must be vindicated and the following Sinhalese ruler, Sena II, requested his general to attack Madurai, the capital of the Pandya. The Buddhist writer noticed that the campaign put forth an extraordinary attempt to find and reestablish the gold sculpture of the Buddha.

Also in the early years of the eleventh century, when the Chola lord Rajendra I assembled a Shiva temple in his capital he filled it with valued sculptures seized from crushed rulers. Rajendra I was a contemporary of Ruler Mahmud of Ghazni. During his missions in the subcontinent, he went after the temples of crushed rulers and stole from their riches and icons. King Mahmud was not a vital ruler around then. In any case, by obliterating sanctuaries – particularly the one at Somnath – he attempted to win credit as an incredible legend of Islam. His main aim was to loot the immense wealth stored in the temple. It was said that 700kgas of gold was looted by him. In the political culture of the Middle Ages, most rulers showed their political may and military accomplishment by going after and stealing from the temples of defeated kings.

Temples were destroyed when the kings had disputed between them. Temple destructions mainly happened to display the power and wealth of kings. When a king defeated the other, the dominant king removes the kuladevata (idol) from the temple and installs his kuladevata in the temple of the defeated king. This is mainly done to insult though defeated king and to send a message to people that they have to pay their tributes to him from now on. 

Sample Questions

Question 1: In between the 8th and 18th centuries, there were mainly two types of structures constructed. What were they?


Tombs, palaces, forts and private temples and First type and the buildings and constructions meant for public like temples and mosques, tanks and wells, bazaars etc are second type of structures.

Question 2: Mention any 3 important temples built in the southern part of India.


  • Brihadiswara temple in Tanjore was built by the cholas
  • The pallavas built shore temple and rath temple
  • Gopurams of Kanchi and Madurai were build by the Pandyas

Question 3: Why were religious places i.e. temples and mosques constructed marvellously?


Temples and mosques were wonderfully built because they are the places to worship. They exhibit the power, abundance and greatness of the ruler.

Question 4: Discuss the Khajuraho temples.


It is located  in present day Madhya Pradesh. These temples were built by Candela dynasty in 9th and 10th century. The complex has the royal private temples which means the common people were not allowed inside.

Question 5: Discuss about pietra dura.


It is a decorative art. In this technique, highly polished different coloured stones were cut and fitted as per requirement. This art came to light immensely in 16th and 17th centuries.

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