Meenakshi Jain writes two very interesting, well researched and important book on the dispute surrounding the Ram Janambhoomi Babri Masjid. The narrative of the dispute has been dominated by the leftist historians and in these two books Meenakshi Jain provides what might be called, the right-wing Hindu perspective on the dispute. These two books systematically destroy the devious and facile arguments bandied by the leftist historians on the dispute, demolish their argument systematically by quoting literary, documentary, epigraphic and archaeological sources. She studied in detail the 12000-page evidences and judgement of the Allahabad HC while writing this book. Interestingly many of the leftist historians (who still continue to pontificate on the issue while writing in left leaning magazines), when under oath accepted that many of their premises were indeed false.
I follow the works of Dr Jain, and in one of her interviews she narrates the difficulty she faced in getting these two works published. She mentioned the vice-like-grip that the leftist historians have over historical publications who can squelch any publication which challenge the narratives bandied by them. She stated that while all the publishers she approached appreciated the book, agreeing that it was based on solid evidences, but were clearly expressed their discomfiture in publishing it as its contents were what they called ‘pro hindu’ and that she was challenging the dominant narrative on the issue. She said that it was only with the help of the archaeologists that she could get her work published. Anyone who follows Indian historical publications will vouch the Indian archaeologists seem to be in constant conflict with the leftist historians. Much of the mainstream historical narrative that is pedalled in India by the leftist historians will hardly stand scrutiny, when challenged on the alter of archaeological or other historical evidences.
Leftist historians and the Babri Masjid Dispute
The mainstream intellectual and argumentative heft on the Ramjanambhumi/Babri masjid dispute has been provided by the Left leaning intellectuals and historians of this country mostly occupying senior teaching positions in institutions like JNU, DU and AMU. In November 1989, the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, issued a paper titled, “The political abuse of History: Babri Masjid- Ramjanambhumi Dispute – An analysis by twenty-five historians”. The signatories included practically the entire faculty of that ‘famed’ institute. In February 1990, Prof. R S Sharma, a giant leftist historian delivered a lecture at the AP History Congress which was published as a monograph titled, “Communal History and Ram’s Ayodhya”.
The main arguments advanced by these ‘eminent historians’ on the dispute are as follows;
- They challenged the antiquity of Ramayana and Ram Bhakti. The leftist historians have tried to dismiss the importance of Valmiki Ramayana. According to them Rama bhakti acquired a cult status only after Tulsidas wrote his Ramcharitamanas.
- They challenged the present day of Ayodhya as a birthplace of Rama. The importance of Ayodhya as a Hindu city was challenged. Prof Sharma argued that Ayodhya ‘has not been a ‘tirth’ of a very long standing’ and that Ram worship and Ramayana acquired currency and popularity pretty late in history. It was also argued that Tulsidas had attached no importance to Ayodhya as the birthplace of Ram or as a place of pilgrimage.
- They challenged the belief that Babri Masjid stood on the site of the birthplace of Rama and according to them there was no evidence to prove that the Masjid was built over any temple. Also that there was no mention of the demolition of the Ramjanambhumi temple at Ayodhya before the 19th
Antiquity of Ramayana
Dr. Meenakshi Jain challenges the left historians view that Ram cult is a recent phenomenon, by providing evidences which clearly point to the to the pan Indian presence of the Rama cult beginning fourth or the fifth century AD.
Literary evidences proving the antiquity of Ramayana
- Kautilya (fourth century BC) was familiar with the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata. In his Arthshastra he advises the king that Ravana and Duryodhana should not be emulated for it would lead to ruination.
- During the reign of Kushan ruler, Kanishka (2nd century AD), the Mahavibhasha makes a mention of Ramayan of 12,000 slokas. Also in the second century, Buddhist writer Kumarlata, in Kalpanamaditika, mentions the public recitation of Ramayan.
- In the 4th-5th century AD, Kalidasa the court poet of the Guptas, stressed on the divinity of Ram, in his work Raghuvansham and described Rama as Ramabhidhano Hari (Hari known as Rama).
- The Vakataka queen and daughter of Chandragupta I, Prabhavatigupta, was a devotee of Ram. She issued two inscriptions dedicated to Rama in the last quarter of the fourth century AD. Her son, Pravarsena II, wrote Setubandha in which Ram is regarded as identical to Vishnu. He built a Rama temple in his new capital, Pravarapura (probably modern Paunar, Wardha), (built between AD 431 and 439).
- In the 6th century AD, Varahamira in his Brhatsamhita formulated rules for making images of Ram.
- The story of Ramayana and Ram finds reference in all Puranas. Vishnu Purana, Matsya Purana, Padma Purana, Vishnudharmottara Purana, Garuda Purana etc.
- Not only was Ramayana famous in India, references to the Ramayana are also found outside India. The Rama story also finds reference in the Buddhist and Jain texts.
- In 251 AD K’ang-seng-hui produced the Jataka form of Ramayana in Chinese. In AD 472, another Chinese translation was prepared of the ‘Nidana’ of Dasharatha Jataka from the lost Sanskrit text, by Kekaya. In this text Buddha is shown recounting the story of Rama to a land owner, who is deeply disturbed by the death of his father.
- The Simhala poet-king Kumardasa composed the Janakiharan in Sanskrit.
- The 7th century Cambodian inscriptions attest to the popularity of the Ramayana.
- In the 9th century, an East Iranian version of the Ramayana appeared in Khotanese, an Iranian dialect.
- The oldest manuscript of the Ramayana of Valmiki, dated 1075, is preserved in Nepal.
- Rama was included by the Jains in their list of sixty-three great personalities (shalakaputras).
- Jain version of the Rama story can be found in Vasudevahindi of Sanghadasa in Prakrit which was composed in the 3rd or the 4th century AD.
- In the Jain text Dharampariksha (AD 1014) composed by Amitagati, Rama was portrayed as the ‘all knowing, all pervading protector of the world”.
- The Ramayana was written in Tamil called Iramavataram (the descent of Rama) by Kampan between 9th and the 12th century, in Kannada (Pampa Ramayana) in the 11th-12th century and in Telugu (Ranganatha Ramayanam) in the 13th Krittivasa wrote the first Ramayana in Bengali 100 years before Tulsidas, while sant Ekanath wrote Bhavartha Ramayana in Marathi, also before Tulsidas. Finally, in AD 1574, Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitamanas which is hailed as the greatest epic of Hindi literature.
Sculptural evidences proving the antiquity of Ramayana
- The earliest representation of an episode from Ramayana has come to light in form of a terracotta figurine from Kaushambi dated 2nd century BC, depicting Ravana carrying away Sita after abducting her, and she is depicted dropping her ornaments (so that someone can locate her whereabouts).
- The artists of the Kuasan period represented the story of Rishyasringa on a stone pillar (now housed in ASI Museum, Mathura) who is performing the Putrakameshti yagna for the birth of Dasarath’s four sons.
- Terracotta panels portraying scenes from the Ramayana dating 5st century AD were discovered in the Gonda and Bahraich districts indicating the presence of a Vaishnava temple of the Gupta period. The terracotta figurines represent the exploits of Hanuman. There is also a figurine which shows the meeting between Lakshmana and Supanakha. A Gupta period stone panel from Mathura shows Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, a scene from the Uttara Kanda.
- A brick temple in Bhitargoan (Kanpur) of the Gupta period, depicts a scene of Ram and Lakshmana seated and engaged in a conversation. In his book on Bhitargaon temple, scholar M. Zaheer mentions two terracotta sculptures which depict scenes from the Ramayana; one showing Sita offering alms to Ravana in disguise, and the other depicted Rama and Sita sitting together.
- Two stone panels of the Gupta period, one at Allahabad museum depicts Ram and Lakshman with Sugriva and other monkeys while the other panel is housed at the State Museum, Lucknow (dated 10th century). It shows Rama as amongst the 10 incarnations of Vishnu. Similar stone panels were also found in Dalmau, Rai Bareilly and Faizabad which indicate the continuity of Rama tradition in UP.
- The depictions from Ramayana are found in practically all states of India. These examples are only illustrative and representations of the story of Ramayana are found also in Central and South India.
- Bihar; 7th century AD temple of Aphsad in Nawadah, 8th century AD terracotta from Chausa, (now in Patna Museum),
- Bengal; 6th century AD sculptures of Ramayana discovered during Paharpur excavations (now in Rajshahi dist, Bangladesh), Distinctive images of Ram, Sita and Lakshman of the Pala period were also discovered from Ganeshpur in Rajashahi district.
- Tripura; The standing image of Hanuman found at Unakoti district (11th-12th century)),
- Assam; The 12th century ruins of a temple of Deoparvat in Shibsagar district depicts Ram, Lakshman, Sugriva and Hanuman,
- Orrisa; The 6th-7th century ruins of the Shatrughnesvara temple at Bhubneshwar depicts sculptures containing the story of Rama.
Epigraphic evidence proving the antiquity of Ramayana
- The Nasik cave inscription of the Satavahana king of Pulumavi (AD 131-159) eulogizes his father, Gautama Putra Satkarni as Ram.
- In an inscription of the Aulikara ruler Vishvavarman, in Gangdhar (Jhalawar District, Rajasthan) dated 424 AD, the King is described as Lord Ram.
- The Gupta ruler, Skandagupta, compared himself to Rama.
- A coper plate inscription of the Gahadavala dynasty (vikram year 1166) stated that Govindrachandra, the son of Madanapala acquired fame like Rama, the son of Dasaratha.
The above-mentioned evidences make it abundantly clear that Ram worship has been a is a well-established fact for ages. Thus, the argument by the leftist historian that it was a phenomenon which acquired currency only in the medieval ages is a bogus argument.
The city of Ayodhya as sacred to Hindus
The leftist historians, especially Prof. R S Sharma, have questioned the identification of ancient Ayodhya with the present city of Ayodhya (some even saying it was in Afghanistan). They have also questioned the sacredness of Ayodhya as a city for the Hindus. However, when asked to aver the same under oath in court, Prof R S Sharma’s former student and a JNU professor of ancient Indian history, Suvira Jaiswal, appearing for the Babri Action Committee, stated, “It is true that the present Ayodhya is the same old Ayodhya..It is also true that it is found from the sources of Jain religion that Saket and Ayodhya are the same.. It is also true to say that at many places; Lord Rama has been referred to as Koshal Naresh (King of Koshal).’ So much for their intellectual honesty!
Ms. Jain in the book provides evidences that prove that Ayodhya and Saket are the same. She mentions of Vasudevahindhi (third or fourth century AD) where Sanghadasa stated “In the north or Sravasti janapada…is located the Kosala Janapad, which is prominent amongst all janapadas. There is situated Saketa, the best of cities…” Vimala Suri’s Paumachariya described Kosala and Ayodhya as identical. The Jain scholar, Jinaprabhasuri who completed his in his work Vidhimargaprapa in Ayodhya in AD 1306 designated it as Aujjha, Kosala, Ikkhagabhumi and Ramapuri. Alexander Cunningham after study of the writings of the Chinese travellers, also concluded that Ayodhya and Saketa were the same. Ancient cities in India have a tradition of identification by several names eg. Varanasi was also called Kashi, Patliputra was called Kusumpur.
A reading of the first verse of Ramcharitmanas also lays bare the falsity of the claim of the left historians that Tulsidas does not accord any significance to Ayodhya as the birthplace of Rama. To commence his work Tulsidas moved from Benaras to Ayodhya, and in the opening verse he writes, “Placing my head on the feet of Sri Hari, I commence the story in the Samvat year 1631 (AD 1574). On Tuesday, the ninth of the lunar month of Chaitra, this story shed its lustre at Ayodhya. On this day of Sri Rams’s birth the presiding spirits of all holy places flock there – so declare the Vedas – and demons, Nagas, birds, human beings, sages and gods come and pay their homage to the Lord of the Raghus. Wise men celebrate the great birthday festival and sing sweet glory of Sri Rama. Numerous groups of pious men take dip in the holy water of the Saryu and visualizing in their heart the beautiful swarthy form of Sri Ram mutter His name.”
In the Ramcharitamanas, Tulsi writes a verse which mentions Rama showing his birthplace, Ayodhya to the vanaras; Sugriva, Angad and Vibhishina, Rama states, “….Although all have extolled Vaikuntha…it is not so dear to me as the city of Ayodhya: only some rare soul knows this secret. This beautiful city is my birthplace; to the north of it flows the holy Saryu, by bathing in which men secure a home near me without any difficulty.”
That Ayodhya was ‘sacred’ features in the Sikh literature as well. Several Punjabi works mention Guru Nanak’s visit to the city. In Pothi Janam Sakhi composed by Bhai Mani Singh, Guru Nanak is said to have stated to his companion Mardana, “Mardania! Eh Ajudhjia nagri Sri Ramchandra Ji ki hai. So chal, iska darshan karie.” (Mardana! This is Ayodhya, the city belonging to Sri Ram, let us go and have its darshan).
That Ayodhya was sacred for the Hindus is also born out of travellers account. William Finch, an English traveller, who visited India between AD 1608 and 1611 mentions the Hindu reverence for Ayodhya. The Austrian Jesuit, Tieffenthaler, who toured Avadh between 1766 and 1771 also describes the celebrations held at Ayodhya to commemorate Sri Ram’s birthday. He writes, “On the 24th of the Tschet month, a big gathering of people is done here to celebrate the birthday of Ram, so famous in entire India..” He saw Hindus worshipping a religious structure in form of a vedi (cradle) in the premises. Walter Hamilton, in his Gazetter of 1828, also mentions the influx of pilgrims who ‘resort to this vicinity where the remains of the ancient city of Oude, and the capital of the Great Rama are still to be seen.”
Apart from these Muslim sources have also written about Ayodhya as a sacred land for the Hindus. Abul Fazl, whose writings are often invoked by leftist historians, has clearly stated in his Ain-e-Akbari that a great religious festival was held in Ayodhya on the birthday of Rama. He noted that Ayodhya was regarded as a ‘sacred ground’ and ‘on the ninth of the light half of the month of Chaitra a great religious festival is held’. He writes that “Rama was born ‘in the city of Ayodhya..esteemed one of the holiest places of antiquity.’
An interesting reference to Ayodhya as the Janambhoomi of Ram comes from the sanad issued by the Mughal authorities in July 1723. Emperor Akbar had granted six bighas of land to the Hanuman Tila at Ayodhya on 28th March 1600, which came up for renewal on 8th July 1723. This was to be renewed to Sadhu Abhayarama Das by the Superintendent of Endowments. In this renewal the scribe of the ‘sanad’ writes that he is writing this from the ‘maulud’ (janambhoomi) of Rama. The English translation of the sanad reads, “This insignificant writer, who is the native of the holy place which is the birthplace of Rama, is reducing it (the sanad) in writing with pen. By order, it is certified that six bighas of land in the province of Oudh which was granted for the construction of Hanuman Tila, is given to Abhayarama in the fifth exalted reign after comparing it with the deed issued on the 13th Ramjan of 1008 i.e 28th March 1600”.
It is commonly believed in Ayodhya that Emperor Akbar, an embodiment of the eclectic Indian syncretic tradition, allowed Hindus to pray in the courtyard of the Babri Masjid, understanding the deep attachment of the Hindus to the place as the birthplace of Ram. He issued gold and silver coins, bearing the figures of Ram and Sita (inscribed with the legend Ram Siya) and also got the Ramayan translated into Persian.
Belief of Hindus in Babri Masjid as Janamsthan of Ram and conflicts/attempts to pray at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya
The documents submitted at in the Allahabad HC reveals interesting evidences of the continued struggle by the Hindus to reclaim the site which was considered by them to be the birth place of Ram. These documents challenge the view propagated by the leftist historians and other liberals that the issue of reclaiming the mosque and creating a temple in its place gained currency only in the 1990s, when the issue acquired political hues. The general belief (amongst both the Hindus and the Muslims of Ayodhya and Oudh) was that the mosque was created at a place that was considered by the Hindus as the birth place of Rama. Babri Masjid is also mentioned as Masjid-e-Janamsthan. Some evidences as quoted in the book, which were presented to the Allahabad HC were;
- A note was submitted to the Faizabad Court in 1822 by Hafizullah, a court official who stated, ‘the mosque constructed by Babur was situated at the birth place of Ram, son of Raja Dasrath and was adjacent to the kitchen of Sita, wife of Ram (i.e Sita ki Rasoi).’
- A report by Sheetal Dubey, the Thanedaar of Oudh, dated, 28 November 1858, mentions to Hawan and Puja organised by Nihang Singh Faqir Khalsa, a resident of Punjab in the middle of the Masjid-e-Janamstahan. He erected an idol of Bhagwan Shri Ram in the mosque and wrote Ram Ram with coal in the entire length and the breath of the masjid.
- On 30 November, 1858, Muhammad Ashgar, the Khatib and Muezzin of Majid-e-Janamsthan made a representation of the incident to the British government. In this representation he clearly stated that Hindus had been worshipping in the outer courtyard (Ram Chabutara) and the Sita ki Rasoi for hundreds of years. Justice S U Khan in his judgement noted that the authenticity of both the document, as well as the identity of the person concerned was irrefutable, as was the continuation of the dispute since 1855. He also opined that documents do prove that Hindus did continue to offer prayers at the Ram Chabutara as well as Sita ki Rasoi.
- The court also noted that the application of Mir Rajab Ali, Khatib of Babri Masjid (05/11/1860), and Md. Afzal, the Mutawalli of Babri Masjid (25/9/1866), highlighted the constant attempt by the Hindu Bairagis to construct a ‘chabutara’ and ‘kothri’ inside the mosque as well as ceaseless attempts to install an idol inside the mosque.
- That the Hindus continued to believe in the mosque as the Janamsthan of Ram and congregated at the place for prayers is borne out of the fact, that in 1877 seeing the rush of Hindu pilgrims at the site, especially during days like Ram Navami, a separate door on the north was opened by the British authorities for these devotees. Interestingly, the land outside was used to set up shops during these important days of worship and the rent of these shops was divided between the Mutawalli of Masjid-e-Janamsthan and the priests of Nirmohi Akhada, who managed the Rama Chabutara and other Hindu structures inside the campus of the mosque. Interestingly there is also a reference of the case filed by the Mutawalli against the priests of Nirmohi Akhara against their unilateral reduction by the latter of his share of earnings from the shops. It was these documents that led Allahabad HC to conclude that the Muslim plaintiffs could not prove that continuous Namaz was ever offered in the premises.
- In 1886 Mahant Ragubar Das filed a suit seeking permission to construct a temple inside the premises. Hearing his case, the District Judge Faizabad, Col FEA Charnier, (after vising the site) in his judgement stated, ‘It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on the land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but since the event occurred 356 years ago, it is now too late to remedy the grievances. All that can be done is to maintain the status quo’.
- When riots broke out in Ayodhya in Nov. 1912, on the issue of cow slaughter during Bakr-Id, R R. Burn the Chief Secretary of the United Provinces wrote to the Govt of India, ‘One perpetual cause of friction (between Hindus and Muslims) was the existence of a mosque on the traditional site of Ram’s birthplace.’ During his visit to Ayodhya on 18 July 1915, to find a solution to the communal problem plaguing the city, the Lt. Governor of Oudh stated, ‘It is very difficult for anyone who is not a Hindu to appreciate the reverence which they feel for the holy land of Ayodhya’.
- Jain cites documentary evidences of several attempts (found in the records of the case and presented to the Allahabad HC) by the Hindus to take over the structure and to pray there were recorded continuously till an idol was finally installed on the night of 23 December 1949. Thereafter, on 29 December 1949, Markandaya Singh, the Addl City Magistrate of Faizabad cum Ayodhya, ordered the attachment of property under Section 145 CRPC 1898. Shri Priya Dutt Ram, Chairman, Municipal Board was appointed as the receiver to take care of the property. He took charge of the property on 5 January 1950 and since then regular ‘bhog’ and ‘puja’ has continued at the site.
- Reference to Hindus praying at the site can also be seen in Urdu and Persian texts. Shakhyh Azamat Ali in his book laments that Hindus has started worshipping at the Babri Masjid by offering bribes to officials. He writes, “…then the Babri Mosque, where there was Sita Rasoi, started the worship openly. Officers, after taking bribes (silver shoes), became their loyal servants.” Similarly, Allama Muhammad Nazamul Gani Khan Rampuri writes in his book, Tarikh-e-Awadh (Hissa Doyam) that “..At last, the tussle went to such an extent that except the mosque adjacent to Hanuman Garhi, the Hindus made butkhana even in the corridor of the Babri Masjid where existed Sita Rasoi.”
Reference to the destruction of Ram temple and construction of Babri Masjid in Arabic, Persian and Urdu sources
The leftist historians in have always argued that there exists no proof that Babri Masjid was created by the destruction of a temple. Dr. Jain highlights several works in Persian, Arabic and Urdu which refer to the destruction of the Ram Janambhoomi Temple and the Babri Masjid built thereon. Some illustrative literary evidences are given below;
- Maulana Shams Tabriz Khan translated Maulana Hakin Sayyad Abd-al-Hay’s work Al-Hind-u-fi-al-Islami in Urdu, under the title Hindustan Islami Ahd mein. In the introduction of this book, the author’s son, Maulana Abu-I-Hassan Ali Nadawi alias Ali Mian wrote, “…And among them is the great mosque that was built by the Timurid king Babar in the sacred city of Ajodhya. It is believed that Rama Chandra considered to be the manifestation of God, was born here. There is a long story about his wife Sita. There was a big temple in this city. At a certain place Sita used to sit and cook food for her consort. Well, the said king Babur demolished it and built a mosque at that very place with chiselled stone in 923 AH.”
- Mirza Jan wrote in his Hadiqah I Shuhada, “..they (Muslim rulers) cleared up Faizabad and Awadh also from the filth of false belief, in so much as it is a great place of worship and was the capital of Ram’s father. Here they broke the temples and left no stone-hearted idol intact. Where there was a big temple, they got a big mosque constructed, and where there was a small pavilion, there they erected a plain camp mosque/enclosure. Accordingly, what a majestic mosque Babur Shah has got constructed in 923 AH under the patronage of Saayid Musa Ashiqan! Its date is “Khayr Baqi.” It is still known far and wide as the Sita ki Rasoi mosque.
- The Tariq-e-Awadh stated “ Babur got the mosque built after demolishing the Janamsthan and used in his mosque the stone of the same Janamsthan, which was richly engraved, …which survives even today.” Similarly, the Qaysar-u’t Tawarikh located the mosque in Sita ki Rasoi as well as the Janamsthan.
- Rajab Ali Beg Surur in Fasanah- I-Ibrat wrote, “..a glorious mosque was built during Babur’s regime on the spot where Sita ki Rasoi tomb is situated in Awadh”
- Shaykh Azamat Ali Kaorrawi Nami wrote Muraqqah I Khurawi ot Tawarikh I Awadh, the manuscript of which is preserved in the Tagore Library, University of Lucknow. The parts dealing with the construction of the Babri Masjid and the Hindu Muslim conflict of 1855 was deleted by the Fakhruddin Ahmad Memorial Committee, under whose auspices the book was published. Zakir Kakaurwi published these sections separately under the title Amir Ali Shahid aur Marakhai-e-Hanuman Garhi, which stated, “..’from the rubbish of non-Islamic practices, the magnificent Babri mosque (masjid e sarbaland e Babari) came up in 923 AH under the patronage of Sayyid Musa Ashiqan in the Janamsthan temple (butkhana Janamsthan mein)”.
- The Imam of Babri Masjid Maulvi Abdul Karim wrote the Gumghasta Halat-e-Ajodhya Awadh which was translated from Persian to Urdu in 1979 by his grandson, Maulvi Abdul Gufar. This edition of the book carried the sections pertaining to the destruction of the Janamsthan temple and the construction of a mosque in its place. The revised Urdu edition of the book published in 1981 however omitted this portion.
- A note submitted to the Faizabad Court in 1822 (in connection with the dispute at Ayodhya) by Hafizullah, a court official mentions that “the mosque constructed by Babur was situated at the birth place of Ram, son of Raja Dasarath, and was adjacent to the kitchen of Sita, wife of Ram (ie. Sita ki Rasoi)”.
While the left historians are either silent or dismissive of these literary evidences, they have failed to produce a single evidence either in Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit etc. to assert their claim that Babri Masjid was built on a virgin land.
Archaeological evidence that Babri Masjid was not built on virgin land
Dr. Jain cites archaeological evidences to disprove the hypothesis of the leftist historian that Babri Masjid was built on a vacant land.
Findings by Prof. B B Lal
The first archaeological evidences of the existence of a temple below the Babri Majid was discovered by Prof. BB Lal (former DG of ASI) whose initial findings were published in the Indian Archelogy 1976-77 – A Review. In October 1988, presenting his paper (Historicity of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana: What has archaeology to say in the matter?,) at the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) he stated, “In the Janambhumi area, the uppermost levels of the trench that lay immediately to the south of the Babri Masjid brought to light a series of brick built bases which evidently carried pillars thereon. In the construction of the Babri Masjid a few stone pillars have been used, which may have come from the preceding structure.”. In 1992, a booklet, Ram Janambhoomi Ayodhya: New Archaeological Discoveries printed for the first time, the pictures of the pillar bases taken at the time of excavations by Prof B.B Lal.
Fraudulent behaviour, Intellectual dishonesty and obfuscation by leftist historians (Example I)
The leftist historians were up in arms against these archaeological findings and attacked B. B. Lal. Irfan Habib argued that the discovery of these pillars did not conclusively prove that the mosque stood on the site of a temple. (Prof Irfan Habib delivering the talk “Ayodhya: The National Stake”). They argued that the black stone pillars having Hindu sculptures were used for decorating the mosque and were brought from outside and were not in-situ.
In his book, “Ayodhya: Archaeology after demolition”, D. Mandal, an eminent leftist historian, sought to discredit B.B. Lal’s findings. Interesting however is the basis of his dismissal! He did not do any original archaeological or other research while dismissing Prof Lal’s findings. During his cross examination by the Allahabad High Court, he confessed that his book was based ‘chiefly’ on the photographs taken by BB Lal near Babri Masjid. The court was then constrained to observe in surprise, “Only on that basis, he (Mandal) wrote a book, and analysed the belief of the people, whether the disputed structure was constructed after demolishing a temple or that there existed any temple of 11th or 12th century which was demolished before its construction.’ The Court said, “the entire opinion of the witness is short of the requirement under section 45 of the Evidence Act 1872 to qualify as an Expert.” The Court further noted that though Mandal had tried to dispute B.B Lal’s findings, he “could not dispute the existence of some structures beneath the disputed structure but refuted the claim that it was a massive temple of the 11th or the 12th century and instead suggested that it could have been structure of 13th to 15th century.”
Shireen Ratnakar, another leftist historian, had written an introduction to Mandal’s book justifying her stand admitted in court, “It is substantially correct that I wrote my critique on the basis of the said sole photograph (by B B Lal)..some sketches..given in my introduction..are purely..hypothetical..in India I have not done any digging and excavation on my own.”
New archaeological evidence after 1992
On 18 June 1992, forty remnants both archaeological and sculptural were found in the in the 2.77 acre of land that was acquired in front of the Babri Masjid which kept on pointing towards the evidence that there indeed existed a temple below the Babri Masjid. The finds included a fragmentary image, amalaka, chhaya jala etc. Dr. Rakesh Tiwari, Director, UP State Archaeology, prepared a list of 263 artefacts which related to Hindu temple, and stated in court that these had been found at the site during levelling.
Vishnu Hari Inscription
During the unfortunate event of the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992 an inscription was found which should have settled the controversy regarding the existence of a temple under the Babri Masjid. This inscription, on a stone slab which fell from the wall of the Babri Masjid during its demolition was approximately 5 feet by 2.25 feet. It has 20 lines. The slab was diagonally broken into two, resulting in the loss of a few letters in every line. Prof Ajay Mitra Shastri, a specialist in Epigraphy and Numismatics on examining the slab provided a gist of its contents, and stated that the slab was engraved in chaste and classical Sanskrit of the 11th-12th century. It recorded that a beautiful temple of Vishnu Hari was constructed in the temple city of Ayodhya, situated in Saketa Mandala. It described God Vishnu as destroying king Bali and the ten headed Ravana. Dr. K V Ramesh, the renowned epigraphist and the former Director of Epigraphy, ASI, was entrusted with the task of deciphering the inscription and providing its comprehensive translation. Ramesh dated it to the mid twelfth century and the most important information he found was the mention of Govindachandra, of the Gahadavala dynasty who ruled over a vast empire from AD 1114 to 1155. He stated that the temple referred to in the inscription was built by Meghasuta, though the inscription was inscribed later by his successors. Allahabad HC accepted Ramesh’s reading of the inscription. The discovery of this ‘Vishnu Hari’ inscription, its reading by an expert epigraphist and acceptance by the judiciary should have in the normal course settled the issue for anyone that a temple indeed existed on the site on which Babri Masjid was later constructed. Not so for the leftist historians, for whom their ideological commitments have always triumphed over facts and evidence. Historians like D Mandal, Sita Ram Roy and Irfan Habib questioned the genuineness of the inscription itself.
Fraudulent behaviour, Intellectual dishonesty and obfuscation by leftist historians (Example II)
In Feb 1999 D. Mandal claimed that the inscription was intact at the time of discovery and that ‘it may or may not be fake. However, its provenance is definitely not the walls of the Babri Masjid as claimed.” So if it did not come from the walls of Babri Masjid, where did it come from? And if it was intact would the wordings of the epigraph change? D. Mandal had no answers to these questions.
Sita Ram Roy stated in an article that the inscription was of the 18th century vintage (probably in line with the leftist reasoning that the popularity of Ram worship is a 17th-18th century phenomena). Interestingly however he admitted in the court that in the time of writing his article he had not ‘seen the full photograph, estampage of the inscription or its decipherment.’
The most sustained campaign against the ‘Vishnu Hari’ inscription was however launched by Professor Irfan Habib. As we will see his arguments however kept changing with time. Writing in People’s Democracy on 8th December 2002, he stated that the inscription was ‘certainly a plant as far as the mosque was concerned.’ He alleged that the inscription must have come ‘from some private collection’ but was surely not from the Babri Masjid. He however conceded that the inscription was not a forgery and he agreed that the period of the inscription could correctly be placed between 11th to 14th century. Now Prof. Habib did not explain as to how a 5 feet by 2 and a half feet inscription could have been planted in the Babri premises, that too during the unfortunate act of demolition of the mosque when so many people including national and international media was present? How could it be possible that such a large stone inscription was brought in and planted with no body noticing it or mentioning it? He gave no answers to these questions.
In 2006 at the Indian History Congress, Professor Habib however modified his position and alleged that the Vishnu Hari inscription was ‘surreptitiously removed from the Lucknow Museum and paraded off as a find from the Babri Masjid.” He said this “Vishnu Hari” inscription was actually the “Treta ka Thakur” inscription. This inscription was found by the colonial archaeologist, A. Fuhrer in the Treta ka Thakur temple in Ayodhya and Fuhrer had placed it in the Faizabad Museum. This ‘Treta ka Thakur’ was later shifted to Lucknow Museum (where it was listed as Arch. Dept.53.4) from where it, Prof Habib alleged, had mysteriously disappeared. As per Prof. Habib’s formulation this missing inscription (Treta ka Thakur) was what was planted at Ayodhya. It was finally Shri Kishore Kunal, IPS (Retd,) who managed to locate the ‘Treta ka Thakur’ inscription (Arch. Dept.53.4) and published its photograph, which was very much in the possession of Lucknow Museum and had not been stolen. He also checked the Annual Report of the Lucknow museum (April 1950- March 1954) and it precisely matched the “Treta ka Thakur” inscription in the Museum. The entry also clearly stated that the inscription had come from Faizabad Museum.
Now that his claim that Vishnu Hari Inscription was Treta ka Thakur inscription, and that it had been stolen from Lucknow museum and planted in the Babri Masjid, on 6 December 1992, had been proved to be a hoax and a product of his imagination, since then Prof Habib has maintained a studied silence on the subject.
ASI report of the excavations at the site
The Special (Lucknow) bench of the Allahabad High Court, directed the ASI on 5th March 2003 to undertake excavations at the Babri Masjid site to determine ‘whether there was any temple/structure which was demolished and mosque constructed on the disputed site”. The court was of the view that archaeological evidence would facilitate the resolution of the issue. As per the orders of the court, the ASI carried out excavations at the site during the period 12th March and 7th August 2003 and submitted its report to the court on 22nd September 2003. The main findings of the ASI were:
- The site was first occupied by the people using Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) in the first millennium BC (Period 1)
- The next cultural occupation dated the Shunga period (second-first century BC) when the site witnessed the first structural activity in stone and brick. (Period 2)
- Pottery of the Kushana period (first to third century AD) were found. A massive brick construction was noticed and from this period stone and brick constructions manifested themselves on the site. (Period 3)
- During the Gupta period (4th to 6th century AD) qualitative changes in building activity were not noticed on the sight. Typical terracotta figurines and copper coins of the times were found on the site. (Period 4)
- From the post-Gupta period (7th to 10th century AD) knife edge bowls and a circular brick shrine, with an entrance from the east, were found. (Period 5)
- During the early medieval period (11th to 12th century AD) the remains of a huge structure nearly 50 metres in north south orientation was unearthed. This structure appeared to have been short-lived, as only four of the 50 pillars exposed during the excavations belonged to this level. (Period 6)
- On the remains of the above structure, a massive structure was constructed during 12th to 16th It had a minimum dimension of 50 X 30 cm. Nearly 50 pillar bases with brickbat foundations, below concrete blocks topped by sandstone blocks were found. It could be inferred from the excavations that there were 17 rows of pillar bases from north to south, each row having five pillar bases. This massive structure provided sufficient proof of a building used for public purposes and had remained in use for a long time during the period. (Period 7)
- It was over this structure that Babri Masjid was built in the 16th During this period, glazed ware shards followed by glazed tiles made their appearance. These were probably used in the construction of the Babri Masjid. Celadon and porcelain shards of the period were also recovered. (Period 8). This was followed by the late and the post Mughal period (Period 9).
The ASI Report concluded that “viewing in totality and taking into account the archaeological evidence of a massive structure below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards up to the construction of the disputed structure along with the yield of stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural members including foliage patterns, maalaka, doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having parnala (water chute) in the north, fifty pillar bases in association of the huge structure, are indicative remains which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.”
Fraudulent behaviour, Intellectual dishonesty and obfuscation by leftist historians (Example III)
The left historians kept critiquing the ASI both during and after the excavations. This was despite the fact that the excavations had been conducted in the presence of plaintiffs, their experts, nominees and advocates, and also supervised by court appointed observer, (2 members from the Higher Judicial Service). It is also worthwhile to mention here that with the exception of Suraj Bhan, none of the leftist historians/archaeologists had any experience of field archaeology. He too stated in court that he had done excavations only prior to writing his Ph.D. thesis (yet unpublished). R.C Thakaran stated in court that he was ‘just a table archaeologist.”. D. Mandal admitted that he had ‘acquired’ the knowledge of archaeology and that he possessed no degree or diploma in archaeology. Shereen Ratnagar accepted that she had done no digging or excavation on her own in India. These professional limitations however never deterred these leftists from casting aspersions on ASI and its findings. They even went to the extent of accusing ASI of manufacturing facts. Jaya Menon and Supriya Verma accused the ASI of having created the pillar bases during excavations. However, during their cross-examination neither of them could corroborate their complaints. The court passed a stricture on their conduct stating “As admitted by these two witnesses, they were partisan and interested, yet it is expected from renowned experts that they shall tender opinion objectively but here we found it lacking.”
Apart from challenging discovery of the massive structure and accusing ASI of creating pillars during the excavations the leftist historians challenged ASI’s inference of the discovery of temple below the mosque based on the contention that (a) the discovery of lime, mortar and surkhi in practically all excavated walls of the mosque as well as glazed tiles and ware clearly falsify any pre-Muslim construction. (b) The discovery of animal bones during the excavation falsify the existence of a temple.
Archaeological experts have however challenged these assumptions of the leftists. Lime, mortar and surkhi had been used in India much before the advent of the Muslims. Lime and gypsum had been discovered from the Indus Valley Civilization. Jaya Menon, the leftist historian accepted in court that lime and gypsum was indeed been used in the Harapan, Kalibangan and also in the Neolithic period. Suraj Bhan conceded in his deposition that surkhi was used in Indian since the Kushan times. Prof R.S Sharma had himself stated earlier that surkhi was used in Northern and Western India as mortar and binding material when urbanisation had reached a high point. The use of surkhi in the Gahadavala period (when the Ram temple is said to have been constructed) could be seen in the Dharamchakrajin Vihara in Sarnath, constructed by the wife of Govindachandra.
As regards the glazed tiles, the ASI in its report stated that the glazed tiles found during the excavations were mainly from the rubble and debris of the destroyed Babri Masjid. It stated that the “tile under study…belong to the original construction of the disputed structure.” On the question of the discovery of animal bones, the Court noted that these were recovered from the fills of different periods which were brought from adjoining areas to level the ground from time to time. It was but natural that since they were brought from areas of habitation they would contain animal bones. Further, the court observed that if indeed an Islamic mosque or religious structure was located under the Babri Masjid (as was alleged by the leftist historians), there was no way bones in large quantities could be found there for Islamic scriptures prevent large scale residence or feasting inside mosques.
The proof of leftist historians turning propagandists was on full display when they came to know of the discovery of three recessed niches (element of a temple) in Wall 16 by ASI. Immediately Prof. Habib and D.S Mandal branded this as the proof of the discovery of a qanati mosque (a curtain mosque) below the Babri Masjid. The court expressed its intrigue at this contention, for it was for the first time that anyone had argued that there lay a qanati mosque underneath the Babri Masjid. On cross examination Suraj Bhan conceded that he along with Prof Habib had said so to counter the ’propaganda’ that the remains of a temple had been found under the Babri Masjid. He conceded that his opinion was not based on any evidence/facts and had been formed even before ASI had submitted its report. In his deposition he said, “..I and Prof. Habib had given this statement that remains of an old mosque or Eidgah had been found beneath the disputed site and not any temple. If this propaganda that remains of temple were found at the disputed site, had not taken place, there would have been no occasion for me and Prof. Irfan Habib to give the above statement.”
Here are two videos of archaeologists K K Muhamad and Prof B B Lal on what their excavations at the sites revealed:
Revenue Records of Babri Masjid
To determine the ownership of Babri Masjid, Prof. B.R.Grover examined the revenue records relating to village Ram Kot, Haveli Awadh which was available at the District Record Office (Mahfaz Khana/Tehsil Ofice/Nazrul Office) at Faizabad. They revealed that from the time of the first Regular Settlement in 1861, the land had been shown as Nazrul (Govt.) land and mahants had been declared as the under-proprietors (malikan-e-matahit) of the entire Janamsthan complex. This declaration of the land as Nazrul was never challenged at any point by anybody.
The Settlement Reports of 1893 clearly mentioned the sub plot on which Masjid was situated as Sita ki Rasoi. This was reiterated in the subsequent Settlement Reports of 1936-37 and 1989-90. So there are no records of the Babri Masjid in the documents preserved by the Revenue Department of the Collectorate and Tehsil of Faizabad district.
The Allhabad HC, in its judgement took cognizance of the fact that the entire Mauja had been entered as Nazrul land.
Further, the revenue documents from 1858-61 to 1991 revealed that no Waqf land had ever been associated with the Babri Masjid. A survey of Waqf properties was conducted as per the provisions of the UP Waqf Act of 1936, by the Commissioner of Waqfs. The UP govt. forwarded the report along with the list of Shia Waqfs to the Shia Central Board of Waqfs and the Sunni Waqfs to the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs. Each Waqf Board was required to publish the Report with its list in the Official Gazette, under sub section (1) of Section 5. The Report and the list were accordingly published in the UP Gazette, dated 26 February 1944. However, in these lists there is no mention of any Waqf for Babri Masjid. This was considered to be a ‘fatal flaw’ by the Allahabad HC in case of pro-Babri parties.
The Judgement of the Allahabad HC
The Allahabad HC delivered its judgement on the Babri Masjid Ramjanambhoomi case on 30th September 2010. The salient features of the judgement were;
- The area covered by the Central dome of the disputed structure ‘being the deity of Baghwan Shri Ram Janamsthan and the birthplace of Lord Ram as per the faith and belief of the Hindus’ belonged to the plaintiffs Bhagwan Shri Ram Lalla Virajman and others. (Suit 5). It should be mentioned here that in the Jamshedji Cursetjee Tarachand vs. Soonabai, the Bombay HC had said, “If this is the belief of the community..a secular judge is bound to accept that belief – it is not for him to sit in judgement on that belief.”
- The area within the inner courtyard belonged to the Hindus and Muslims as the two communities had used it for centuries. The area covered by the structures Ram Chaubutara, Sita ki Rasoi and Bhandhar in the outer courtyard belonged to the Nirmohi Akhara. The open area within the outer courtyard, except that mentioned above will be shared between the Nirmohi Akhara and and plaintiffs (Suit 5) as it had been used by the Hindus to worship at both places.
- The share of the Muslims will not be less than one-third of the total area of the premises, and if necessary, they could be given more area in the outer courtyard.
- The court directed that the land that the govt. had acquired, in 1993, should be provided to the parties so that they could develop those areas that they are entitled to and also that there should be separate entry for egress and ingress of the people of different faiths.
- It could not be proven that namaaz had been offered in the building since 1528. Court observed that namaaz had been offered intermittently between 1860 and 16 December 1949.
- The court noted that the place of ‘non-Islamic character’ existed in the site before the construction of Babri Masjid.