The History of Rama Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid
The Supreme Court of India has just given its judgment for the Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid. The 2.77 acres of the Rama Janmabhoomi land has been awarded to the Hindus and the Muslims have been given 5 acres of land in the same city elsewhere. I really want to congratulate both the Hindus and Muslims for this decision. Things could not have worked out any better than this for both the parties. Now let us build a great temple and a grand mosque at both the locations. It is so unfortunate that case as simple as this one had to drag along for this long.
Now that the case has been closed, let us forgive each other for the riots, bomb blasts and train burnings. Instead let us strive to improve our country and take her back to her past glory. Now, I know that a there might be some misgivings amongst the Muslims and the anti India forces will try to make use of it. The best weapon against such things is truth. News agencies however have not been very useful in spreading the truth and this is especially true with foreign news agencies, which want to portray India in a negative light. Therefore I am writing this article with an aim to present to you correct facts about the history of Janmasthan. This way it is my hope that the people will see this whole thing in a correct way.
Here most of the information I will provide you is coming from a beautiful talk that Michel Danino gave at IIT Kanpur and what I will present is the Archeological evidence, Epigraphical evidence and Testimony of people to address the following questions:
Q1. Is the site of Babari Masjid in anyway related to Rama?
Q2. Was there a Hindu Temple at the spot where the Babari Masjid is located?
Q3. Was this temple willfully destroyed and Masjid was made on top of it?
Q4. Is this conflict historic or is this something that politicians have cooked it up?
Now we all know that the Masjid was demolished in Dec 1992, which was followed by many riots and bomb blasts. It was only 10 years later that ASI was asked to excavate the site. Now prior to this, in 1969–70 Awadh Kishore Narain of BHU performed excavation in Ayodhya and estimated that the city has been under human inhabitation before 17 thcentury BCE and found that the city was of major importance in Buddhism. In Buddhism the city is called Saket and it is mentioned that Buddha stayed at this city for a long time. The city is also of great importance in Jain tradition, where it is claimed that 5 out of 24 Jain teerthankars were born in this city. In the 70s, renowned Indian archeologist B.B. Lal carried out excavations at this is site and found pillar bases around the mosque. This indicated that there was larger structure present at this site prior to the creation of the mosque.
Initially when the investigation first started on this issue they performed a GPR (Ground penetrating Radar) study to look at what is underneath the ground on which the mosque stood. In this study they did see sudden changes in the pattern from the depth of about 0.5 to 5 meters indicating that there might be some pillar bases, slabs or foundation walls there.
On the basis of this Allahabad high court decided to excavate the site and so excavation was done in 2002 and 2003. And what did they find? They did find an ancient mound of about 1Km 2with a culture deposit of the thickness of 10.8m. Based on this observation the time interval over which this site had been under human occupation can be divided into 9 different periods in history, going all the way back to 1300BC.
These 9 Epochs are
Epoch 1 — NBPW (Northern Black polish ware) — 1300–300BC
Epoch 2 — Shunga — 2 ndto 1 stCentury BCE
Epoch 3 — Kushan — 1 stto 3 rdCentury CE
Epoch 4 — Gupta — 4 thto 6 thCentury CE
Epoch 5 — Post Gupta — 7 thto 10 thCentury
Epoch 6 — Early Medieval — 11 thto 12 thCentury
Epoch 7 — Sultanate Medieval — 12 thto 16 thCentury
Epoch 8 — Mughal — 17 thCentury
Epoch 9 — Post Mughal
Now let’s go over these periods one by one
During NBPW (Northern Black polish ware) phase that is from 1300BC-300BC, you see artefacts at this spot but there is no permanent structure here made of stones of bricks. So we know that the main city had probably not expanded up to this site during that time. This spot must have been at the outskirts of the city, while the main city might have been there closer to the river. Now many people make claims that the events of Ramayana happened in between 7000–5000BCE, well if that is the case then from archeological evidence it appears that this might not be the Janmasthan of Rama. This can only be his Janmsthan if Rama was born after 1300BC.
During the Shunga Period (190BCE) Ayodhya was conquered by Shungas of Magadha. During this age we start to see a structure made up of stones and bricks. A mother goddess figurine with other animal figurines was also found at this site from this period. So we see that some sort of a place of worship was established at this spot during the Shunga Period.
If this site was a place of worship of Rama is not very clear. Now, a lot of people claim that Rama worship only started in the 1400s-1500s after Tulsidas retold Ramayana in Vernacular. Well this claim can be refuted based on archeological evidences at other sites. During the same period at Kaushambi, which is just 200Km south of Ayodhya, archeologists uncovered a terracotta figure depicting Sita’s abduction by Ravana, you can look at this at Allahabad Museum. This means that legend of Ramayana was present in this region during this time and was popular enough that people were making artistic figures on it.
During the Kushan period (0–300AD) the structure becomes big and many terracotta structures of Gods and Goddesses were uncovered. Again it cannot be confirmed if any of them is Rama. However again wide scale reverence for Rama in India during this period can be confirmed from evidences elsewhere. A cave inscription has been uncovered in Nasik where a Satvahana king, who belongs to the same period, compares himself to Rama. A statue of Rama was uncovered at Nachara Khera Haryana, which has been dated to 300CE and it has the word Ram inscribed on it in Brahmi script. All this shows that by 300 CE Ram is a widely revered figure through out India.
Reverence for Rama is also evident from Gupta Era. In Varahmihira’s Brihat Samhita, he mentions that the statue of Rama should be 120 angulas high, which is the highest height for the statue of any deity. This clearly indicates that Rama held a prominent position in terms of revered deities.
In the post Gupta period 7–10 thcentury CE, we see structure, which is made of burnt brick with a small circular shrine and a square inner chamber and an east entrance. This is clearly a temple, as same structure has been used for temples at other places during this period.
Then 1033 one of Mahmud Ghazni’s generals attacks Ayodhya and is defeated and killed. Now here you must understand that we are always told that Mahmud Ghazni had easy victories in India without any resistance. This is not true, Ayodhya is one example, and Kashmir is another, where Ghazni’s forces were defeated. It is just that we are never told about these things. It took Muslims 500–600 years to really establish their rule in India and they were never able to subjugate the whole country. Compare this to North Africa and Persia, where they were able to do it in just 30 years.
In the early medieval period, Ayodhya finally falls to the Afghans, in 1194. Before this Ayodhya was under Gahadavalas, under whom we see a huge structure about 50m long with three levels and a huge pillared hall.
In the old Babri masjid excavators found pillars with Hindu Gods on them, which clearly shows that the masjid was built on top of a temple. Now here many people object that it is quite possible that these pillars were brought from somewhere else. This is quite a lame argument, why would anybody go through the pains of moving large pillars from one place to the other, just to build an insignificant mosque?
It was very common by Muslims invaders to demolish a temple and then use the pillars from the same temples to build a mosque on top of them, as an example when I visited Qutb Minar about 20 years ago, I was amazed to look at these pillar and loved this art more than the Minar itself. I thought this was some sort of a temple with Ashoka’s pillar in between. It was only later on reading the inscription at the western entrance of Qutb Minar that this structure actually was a mosque built by demolishing 27 Hindu and Jain temples and that these pillars were plastered over to hide the figures. Now the plaster has fallen off and the original figures are being revealed. So it is highly probable that the same thing was done to the temple at Rama Janmabhumi, whose pillars can be seen inside the mosque.
Hans Bakker, based on his studies of various Indian inscriptions, has pointed out that based on his study of the inscriptions there were 5 Vishnu temples in Ayodhya in 12 thcentury with one Vishnu temple present at the very spot of Rama Janmabhumi. You can refer is his book for more details Ayodhya; by Hans Bakker — 1984. When the masjid was demolished, karsevaks brought out an inscription that was written in Nagari script, which talks about a beautiful temple of Govind Hari, who killed a 10 headed demon, which means it is referring to Rama. The date of this inscription has been certified to be mid 12 thcentury by AM Shashtri and KV Ramesh, two very respected epigraphists. This clearly proves that there was a Ram Temple at this location during mid 12 thcentury, but the opponents have termed this inscription as something fabricated by Karsevaks. There is just one issue, for this inscription to be a fake the forgerer must be an expert in Nagari script and that is highly improbable, as not many people know about the nagari script. Moreover determining if the inscription is a fake or not is quite easy, just scientifically date it.
Now from 1200–1500CE we do not have much knowledge but by 1500s we see more evidence on the presence of a famous Rama Temple in Ayodhya. There are testimonies of historical figures on this temple. In the Janam Sakhi it is mentioned that Guru Nanak Ji went to Ayodhya and got the darshan of Rama, which means there was a famous temple of Rama in Ayodhya during his time. Tulsidas talks about the destruction of a Rama temple by the Yavanas, which is present in his lesser known work tulsi doha shatak, here is what he says in this work
“ Tulsidas says that in the Samvat 1585 (1528 AD) sometime around the summer season, the ignorant Yavanas (invaders coming from north west) caused disaster and sorrow in Awadh (Ayodhya)
“ Destroying the temple at Ramajanmabhumi, they constructed a mosque. At once they killed many Hindus. Tulsidas cried out — Alas “
So clearly second and third questions are well answered that there was a Rama temple at the Janmasthan and that this temple was willfully destroyed in 1528, two years after the first battle of Panipat in which Babar defeated Lodhi. Now, guys whenever we listen to such destruction of our heritage it is natural to feel enraged. But you must be careful as hatred leads to no good. Most modern day Indian Muslims do not desire destroying our national heritage, they love it as much as the Hindus do, as it is their heritage too. So we must not direct our anger towards them. But at the same time it is important that we know the truth. This is where it becomes very important that we cultivate the discipline to not become passionate. The way I deal with it is that I never add anything personal to it; I assume this destruction to be caused by natural causes, just as an earthquake might have destroyed it. I presume ignorance as the cause of destruction rather than a personal vendetta. The reason why I warned you about this is because what I am going to tell from here onwards might disturb some of you.
Now with that said, let’s address the last question, that is, whether this issue has been brought about recently by politicians or does this struggle predates modern times. So here are a few testimonies from historical figure that point you to the struggles. In 1707 the grand daughter of Aurgazeb wrote this in her letter
“ …Keeping the triumph of Islam in view, devout Muslim rulers should keep all idolators in subjugation to Islam, book no laxity in realization of Jizyah, and keep in constant use for Friday and congregational prayer the mosques built up to strengthen Islam after demolishing the temples of the idolatrous Hindus situated at Mathura, Banaras and Awadh etc, which the wretched infidels have, according to their faith, adjudged to be the birthplace of Kanhaiya in one case, Sita Rasoi in another and Hanuman’s abode in a third and claim that after conquest of Lanka Ramachandra established him there. And as has been stressed idol worship must not continue publicly, nor must the sound of bell reach Muslim ears… “
In 1735, there is a document signed by Qazi of Faizabad that serious riots took place between Hindus and Muslims over the Masjid, that was built by the emperor of Delhi.
Then in 1766–1771 there is the testimony of Austrian Jesuit Joseph Tieffenthaler, where he says
“ Avad called Ayodhya by well read Hindus is a city of remotest antiquity…. Today, this city is not much populated. There was here a temple constructed on the river’s high bank, but Aurangzeb, always mindful of spreading the sect of Mahomet and abhorring the Gentiles got it demolished and replaced by a mosque fronted by two obelisks in order to abolish the very memory of the Hindu Superstition… “
“ Emperor Aurangzeb had the fortress called Ramkot demolished; at the sample he constructed a Mahometan temple with three domes. Others say that it was constructed by Babar. Fourteen pillars of black stone…. can be seen in it, pointing to the location of the former fortress….”
“ Aurangzeb, or, according to others, Babar, got this place razed in order to deprive the Gentiles of the opportunity to practice their superstition; nevertheless they continue to offer a superstitious cult at both places… namely at the house where Ram was born…. By doing three circumambulations while prostrated on the ground “
So you can see that Hindus considered the place sacred enough that despite been destroyed and turned into a mosque Hindus are still visiting this place. Then in 1855 there was a big confrontation between Hindus and Muslims here. Just across the street from the Janmabhoomi is Hanuman Garhi Temple and a Jihad was launched to recapture it. A Muslim chronicle states as follows
“ Ultimately on July 1855, for the tenth or twelfth time, nearly 200–300 Muslims gathered at Babari Masjid, which is situated inside the Sita ki Rasoi … In short, the turbulence reached such a stage that apart from the mitigated mosque at Hanuman Garhi, the Hindus built a temple in the courtyard of Babari Masjid where Sita ki Rasoi was situated. “
There is also an extract from Mirza Jan who was a participant of this Jihad, which mentions
“ Even as the Muslim rulers cleared up Mathura, Benaras, etc from the dust and gross of infidelity, they cleared up Fyzabad and Avadh also from the filth of false belief, inasmuch as it is a great place of worship and was the capital od Rama’s father. Here they broke the temples and left no stone hearted idol intact. Where there was a big temple, there 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 Babar Shah has had constructed in 923 A.H, (1526 CE)…. It is still know far and wide as the Sita ki Rasoi Mosque. “
Now in 1856, British take over Awadh and there is a petition by Khatjib and u Addhin against the continued Hindu worship at Babari Masjid. In 1877 The Gazetteer of Oudh published this
“ The Muhammadan on that occasion actually charged up the steps of the Hanuman Garhi, but were driven back with considerable loss. The Hindus then followed up this success, and at the third attempt, took the Janmasthan, at the gate of which seventy-five Muhammadans are buried in the Martyrs grave (Ganj-e-Shahidan). Eleven Hindus were killed. … It is said that up to that time the Hindus and Muhammadans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since British rule a railing has been put up to prevent disputes, within which in the mosque the Muhammadans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings. “
In 1886 there is petition by Mahant Raghuber Das to build a temple just outside the Babari Masjid, which is rejected by the British as “event occurred 356 years ago is too late now to remedy the grievance”
I can go on and on from here on, but I think it will be a waste of time and will only cause pain to our hearts. I think I have provided you enough evidence to clarify that it is not a dispute just cooked up recently by politicians to gain votes. It is an old dispute and many riots have occurred in the past over it. Another important thing to note is that you get testimonies from so many Muslim historical figures that are proudly announcing that they broke these temples and built a mosque in its place.
In conclusion when you look at the facts the situation is quite clear, Babari masjid controversy is purely based on ideology. It is quite clear that there was a temple at the spot where the Masjid was built and a billion Hindus believe that this is the birthplace of Rama, which makes this places important for the Hindus. As far as the Muslims are concerned, barring Mecca, Medina and Al Aqsa mosque, no other mosque is of great importance in Islam, as a Muslim can pray anywhere. Actually the problem is neither the Hindus, nor the Muslims. Hindus consider the place sacred and want a temple built there, which is a valid request and barring a few radicalized Muslims, most of the modern Indian Muslims will be happy to allow Hindus to build a temple there. Infact there is dispute between Shias and Sunnis also regarding this are and Shias have declared that if they win then they will give the spot to the Hindus. The case is pretty straightforward. It is only the pseudo intellectuals who are a roadblock in all this and have made things complicated due to their ideology.
India has a long history of broken temples on which mosques were built. Often these things are suppressed so as not to cause tensions between Hindus and Muslims. But I think that is not the right way to go. Hiding truth is never a good idea; it only helps the extremists to make use of it. It is a historical fact that in the past, Muslim rulers have destroyed places of worship of other religions. You see it in all the different cultures. The well-known Parthenon, which was the temple of Athena in Greece, was also converted to mosque when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
So why hide such historical facts? We never hide that untouchability was practiced in India; we actually highlight it so that same mistakes are not repeated again. Most Hindus and Muslims are reasonable people and I am pretty sure through open dialogue things can be sorted out. So instead of hiding these facts, we need to make everyone aware of this so that the same mistakes are not repeated in the future. There are so many other important ancient iconic places, which are languishing as insignificant mosques. As Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, it is our duty to revive our ancient Indian heritage, which was lost due to the ignorance. So we must all make sure that these great historical sites are restored to their previous magnificence. As for the extremists, I am pretty sure Indian army and police can take care of them.
Originally published at https://stoicsadhu.com on November 9, 2019.