Was Pune’s Punyeshwar temple destroyed to build a Muslim shrine? Historian disagrees

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Following claims by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) claims that the Punyeshwar and Narayaneshwar temples in Pune were demolished to make way for dargahs, writer and historian Sanjay Sonawani has conjectured that there were no temples on the land when the Kwaaja Sheikh Sallauddin Shrine was built in the 14th century.

Speaking to India Today, Sonawani said it was around 1328 that Sheikh Saluddin Gazi Chisty, a Sufi saint, came to Devagiri along with the invader Allauddin Khilji. At that time, Khilji had already established the Delhi sultanate.

Alauddin Khilji had invaded Ramdevrai’s kingdom in Devagiri area around the year 1290, he had signed a treaty signed with Ramdevrai of Devagiri. But Bhillam, the son of Ramdevrai, decided to rebel a few years later. Consequently, Alauddin Khilji sent Malik Kaffur to Devagiri to once again to invade the Yadav Kingdom. This time, Sufi saint Sheikh Saluddin Gazi Chisty came to Devagiri, and later to Pune, with Arab Sadar, the commander of Kaffur.

Devagiri was completely destroyed in the attack, but Malik Kaffur did not destroy the Grishneshwar temple, the Elora caves or the Kailash caves of Lord Shiva. This shows that Malik Kaffur respected other religions, said Sonawani.

Kaffur continued to camp in Devagiri area (present Aurangabad) for some time. Later, he ordered his commander Arab Sadar to attack Kondana (present day Sinhanad). So in 1320, Commander Arab set his camp near Punavadi village, which is modern day Pune.

Historical records say that Sheikh Sallauddin Gazi Chisty had accompanied him. It is believed that this was a regular practise by invaders to have a religious expert along with the army, to boost the troops’ morale and also give religious preachings.

It was in Punavadi that Sheikh Sallauddin Gazi Chisty had a small shrine constructed. After his demise in 1358, the shrine was converted into a dargaah, Sonawani said. Today, it is in Pune’s Kasba Peth.

Now, the question arises whether Puneshwar Temple existed at this place or not. According to principles of Sufism, Sufi saints never allowed the demolition or destruction of any religious place to spread their beliefs, shared Sonawani.

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