The Bhojshala in Dhar is a historical site that used to be a Saraswati temple as well as a Sanskrit school during the reign of the eminent Raja Bhoj, around 1010 – 1055 CE. Raja Bhoj is one of the most legendary kings of India, and he ruled from Dhar (1 hour drive from Mandu). He was a great warrior and a renowned patron of the arts and education. He is supposed to have been a great poet himself and wrote several literary works both in Sanskrit and Pali-Prakrit. The historian Sheldon Pollock described him as “the most celebrated poet-king and philosopher-king of his time, and perhaps of any Indian time”. 🙂
The Bhojshala was subsequently vandalized by Muslim rulers and converted into a mosque. The Saraswati idol that was worshipped in this temple is now in a British museum. The Garba Griha of the temple was replaced with a black stone enclosure and a pulpit for offering Namaz. There is a Dargah housing the tombs of Sufi saints next to this monument, and it’s frequented by both Hindus and Muslims.
The Bhojshala is also frequented by devotees of both religions. On Tuesdays, Hindus offer prayers to Goddess Saraswati, and on Fridays, Muslims offer Namaz. However, at times, problems arise when the Vasant Panchami festival occurs on a Friday and both sides want to pray inside on the same day. There are strict timings allotted to both sides on such Fridays. Unfortunately, there have been riots sometimes due to extremists on both sides. 🙁
Luckily, it was mostly deserted and peaceful when we visited on a Monday. Even in Mandu, you can find many temples that have been converted into mosques. Our guide Parvez told us that the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb was the most fanatical of the lot, he not only demolished several temples but also demolished many Dargahs. According to legend, when he tried to destroy the Dargah at Ajmer, God spoke to him and instructed him to rebuild all the Dargahs that he had earlier destroyed.