India is an interesting country. No country ruled by Muslims for almost a millenium succeeded in maintaining it’s pre-Islamic religion without the aid of any foreign power. We don’t know for sure, but the tenacity with which the hills of Kabul were held for almost 350 years may have resulted in the change of attitude – rule the country, forget about conversion. Let the religion percolate. This means, as a general rule, temples were not destroyed in the lands they were ruling. Most of the desercations happened during invasions and cross-border raids. Exceptions exist in no mean number though like Aurangzeb’s destruction of Mathura . Take the case of Bahamani-Vijayanagar fights. Do you call them battles between two religions or battles between two kingdoms trying to annex each other? Do you call the desercation of Ahobilam a religious prize or a political prize?
A major reason which may have prompted this is, after some initial attempts to convert, the policy of live and let live may have been applied due to the fierce resistance encountered. They were just content by asking a token Jaziya tax and nothing more. Another thing to be though about here was that whoever the rulers are, they tried to be on good terms with the Rajputs for whatever reasons, but never tried to destroy them even in times of weakness. In light of all this, the question which comes to mind is, was there an Islamic Conquest of India first of all? Or is it some Central Asian hoardes trying to rule from India as like Kanishka did or Rudradaman did? Or is it like Mihirakula trying to invade India for wealth as like Ghazni did? Unlike elsewhere, what we even saw is, in those days of high religious tensions, many Muslim Commanders fought for Hemu against a proclaimed Muslim called Akbar. Hindu subjects tolerated Jain and Buddhist kings and there were persecutions in those ages. How different are Muslim kings for them?
A few examples of Muslim rulers trying to be on good terms with Hindus from the earlier days is below –
1. An inscription near Bidar dated 1326 where Muhammad bin Tughluq ordered repairs of a Siva Temple
2. Shihab-al-Din(1355-73) of Kashmir rebuked his Prime Minister for melting idols in temples to fund the economy
3. Sikandar Lodi tells it’s not lawful to lay waste temples
4. The story changed completely with the advent of the Mughals. In return for a peaceful kingdom, they even scrapped off Jaziya and extended state patronage to temples.
And as to the destruction, with the exception of some bigots like Sikandar of Kashmir(Paraspur, Bijbehara, Tripuresvara, Martand), the case was either an invasion(1323 – Invasion of Warangal – Bodhan, Warangal and Pillalamarri or 1202 – Invasion of Bengal by Bhaktiyar Khilji – Nalanda, Vikramasila) or a raid(1311 – Malik Kafur – Chidambaram and Tirupati) or a rebellion(1635 – Shah Jehan – Orchha or 1659 – Afzal Khan on the way to crush Shivaji’s rebellion – Tuljapur). Another motivation is the looting of the image of the patron deity of the state. This was done by all Indian rulers alike(1512 – Udayagiri Balakrishna by Sri Krishnadeva Raya or the more famous Vatapi Ganapati and 1579 – Ahobilam for Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah). Before whitewashing everything, we need to note that whenever a Muslim kingdom was occupied or a Muslim rebelled, no monument patronized by them was destroyed.