About the St Thomas reference in Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Shashi Tharoor

St Thomas by Georges de la Tour  (1593 – 1652)This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend. – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Page 280 of former minister and current Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica contains an interesting assertion.

Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St. Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Malabar Coast sometime before 52 CE and was welcomed on shore, or so oral legend has it, by a flute playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christians well before any Europeans discovered Christianity.

Although Tharoor identifies the incident of St. Thomas being welcomed to Malabar by a flute-playing Jewish girl as part of folklore, he states that the arrival of St. Thomas to the Malabar Coast as a historical fact.

The good news is that he’s not the first one to state that myth as a historical truth. The biggest of political leaders in India have obediently accepted this historical myth. In one of his works, the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote:

Few people realise that Christianity came to India as early as the first century after Christ, long before Europe turned to it, and established a firm hold in South India….

This statement was repeated in a different way by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in his St. Thomas Day speech at New Delhi, in 1955:

Remember St. Thomas came to India when many countries in Europe had not yet become Christian and so these Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries. And it is a matter of pride for us that it happened….

This famous legend as well as the assertion that Christianity came to India before it went to Europe is a tactic to make it a sort of indigenous religion, even if it came from the Middle East. The statements made by our great leaders are based on the following incidents:

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (itself a disputed fact), came to India in 52 CE. He landed at Maliankara (Cranganore) in Kerala, preached the Gospel, produced miracles, and got many converts.

Then he went to Mailepuram (Mylapore), and from there to China, but after some time returned to Maliankara, and from there came again to Mylapore where he spent the rest of his life preaching, converting a large number of the low-caste Hindus.

The aforesaid points make St. Thomas appear as socio-religious reformer who aimed to ameliorate the woes of local residents—specifically those suppressed under the caste system. As every tale of reformers goes St. Thomas was also disliked by the orthodox elements (which in the Indian context are the Brahmins) of the land that were determined to finish him. This risky situation made Thomas take refuge in a cave at a mountain located near the present St. Thomas Mount. Unfortunately the great Saint was murdered by one of those zealous Brahmins at St. Thomas Mount. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried in 73 CE.

This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend.

Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict

Now let’s see what some historical, and even Christian religious texts have to say about this tale:

  1. D. Burnell, in an article in the Indian Antiquary of May 1875, writes, “The attribution of the origin of South Indian Christianity to the apostle Thomas seems very attractive to those who hold certain theological opinion. But the real question is, on what evidence does it rest? Without real or sufficient evidence so improbable a circumstance is to be at once rejected. Pious fictions have no place in historical research.”
  2. Prof. Jarl Charpentier, in St. Thomas the Apostle and India, writes, “There is absolutely not the shadow of a proof that an Apostle of our Lord be his name Thomas or something else — ever visited South India or Ceylon and founded Christian communities there.”
  3. Rev. J. Hough, in Christianity in India, writes, “It is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord embarked on a voyage … to India.”
  4. Cosmas the Alexandrian, a theologian, geographer and merchant who traded with Ethiopia and Ceylon, visited Malabar in 520-525 CE and provided the first acceptable evidence of Christian communities there as noted in his Christian Topography. There is no mention of any Thomas in his works.
  5. Regarding the fabled Apostle of Jesus, Thomas, early Church Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius had stated outright that Apostle Thomas settled in ‘Parthia’, and established a church in Fars (Persia). This is supported by the 4th century priest Rufinus of Aquileia, who translated Greek theological texts into Latin, and the 5th century Byzantine church historian, Socrates of Constantinople, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History, the second edition of which survives and is a valuable source of early church history. None of those sources speak of St. Thomas visiting India.
  6. Bishop Stephen Neill who had spent many years in South India examined the St. Thomas story as late as 1984. “A number of scholars,” wrote Neill, “among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and Jesuit Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what can only be called Thomas romances, such as reflect vividness of their imagination rather than the prudence of historical critics…. Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.”

And to top them all, in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI himself declared that Thomas never came to India. But his declaration was toned down after a complaint from the so-called St. Thomas Christians who still believe Thomas came to India and converted their ancestors. Now the question: where did it all begin?

Bardaisan / BardesanesThe chief source of this tale is a Gnostic Syrian fable, Acts of Thomas, written by a poet named Bardesanes at Edessa around 201 CE. The text says the apostle went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are ‘Mazdei’ (a term used for Zoroastrians) and have Persian names. The term “India” in Acts is used as a synonym for Asia.

The Acts identifies St Thomas as Judas, the look-alike twin of Jesus, who sells him into slavery. The slave travels to Andropolis where he makes newly-weds chaste, cheats a king, fights with Satan over a beautiful boy, persuades a talking donkey to confess the name of Jesus, and is finally executed by a Zoroastrian king for crimes against women. His body is buried on a royal mountain and later taken to Edessa, where a popular cult rises around his tomb. Even in this story, it is clear that St. Thomas never visited India.

Thomas of CanaThere is another popular fable among Indian Christians about one Thomas of Cana, a merchant who led a group of 400 Christians from Babylon and Nineveh, out of Persia in the 4th century CE, when Christianization of the Roman Empire motivated the Persians to persecute their Syriac-speaking Christian minority. These Christians apparently landed in Malabar around 345 CE.

Based on this tale, a section of St. Thomas Christians believe Thomas of Cana to be known as St. Thomas.

And so it is clear that nothing much is known about St. Thomas beyond these stories which have been refuted by historical evidence.

Even after reading the refutation of this tale of St. Thomas by strong historical evidence, the likes of Tharoor will claim that these ‘fables’ are historical facts, in no less than a full length book of the genre Pax Indica belongs to. The reason is not far to seek: Tharoor’s parroting of the St. Thomas myth arises from the Indian secularist template for keeping the secular fabric of India intact.

Sita Ram GoelBut there are deeper, more fundamental reasons why the St. Thomas myth must be debated and re-debated.

The reason is given in detail by Sita Ram Goel in his Papacy: Its Doctrine and History.

Firstly, it is one thing for some Christian refugees to come to a country and build some churches, and quite another for an apostle of Jesus Christ to appear in flesh and blood for spreading the Good News. If it can be established that Christianity is as ancient in India as the prevailing forms of Hinduism, no one can nail it down as an imported creed brought in by Western imperialism.

Secondly, the Catholic Church in India stands badly in need of a spectacular martyr of its own. Unfortunately for it, St. Francis Xavier died a natural death and that, too, in a distant place. Hindus, too, have persistently refused to oblige the Church in this respect, in spite of all provocations. The Church has to use its own resources and churn out something. St. Thomas, about whom nobody knows anything, offers a ready-made martyr.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church can malign the Brahmins more confidently. Brahmins have been the main target of its attack from the beginning. Now it can be shown that the Brahmins have always been a vicious brood, so much so that they would not stop from murdering a holy man who was only telling God’s own truth to a tormented people. At the same time, the religion of the Brahmins can be held responsible for their depravity.

Fourthly, the Catholics in India need no more feel uncomfortable when faced with historical evidence about their Church’s close cooperation with the Portuguese pirates, in committing abominable crimes against the Indian people. The commencement of the Church can be disentangled from the advent of the Portuguese by dating the Church to some distant past. The Church was here long before the Portuguese arrived. It was a mere coincidence that the Portuguese also called themselves Catholics. Guilt by association is groundless.

To reword a phrase used by the famed novelist S.L. Bhyrappa ‘Secularism can never be strengthened by projecting historical lies.’ Hence it is imperative for students of history as well as those claiming to be historians to challenge these distortions in our public discourse. – India Facts, 1 August 2014

References

  1. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple
  2. Sandhya Jain, Merchant Thomas to Saint Thomas
  3. Tejasvi Surya, The Mylapore St. Thomas Myth that just doesn’t seem to die: Part 1 [and 2]
  4. Ishwar Sharan, Wikipedia & Encyclopaedia: Their counterfeit St. Thomas entries exposed

Swami Vivekananda on the historicity of Jesus Christ – Sister Nivedita

Swami Vivekananda & Sister Nivedita (R) in Kashmir (1898)

Wanderings with Swami Vivekananda by Sister NiveditaOur Master had been talking of Christian ritual as derived from Buddhist, but one of the party would have none of the theory.

“Where did Buddhist ritual itself come from?” She asked.

“From Vedic,” answered the Swami briefly.

“Or as it was present also in southern Europe, is it not better to suppose a common origin for it, and the Christian, and the Vedic rituals?”

“No! No!” he replied. “You forget that Buddhism was entirely within Hinduism! Even caste was not attacked, it was not yet crystallised, of course! And Buddha merely tried to restore the ideal. He who attains to God in this life, says Manu, is the Brahmin. Buddha would have had it so, if he could.”

“But how are Vedic and Christian ritual connected?” persisted his opponent. “How could they be the same? You have nothing even corresponding to the central rite of our worship!”

“Why yes!” said the Swami, “Vedic ritual has its Mass, the offering of food to God, your Blessed Sacrament, our prasadam. Only it is offered sitting, not kneeling, as is common in hot countries. They kneel in Tibet. Then, too, Vedic ritual has its lights, incense, and music.”

“But,” was the somewhat ungracious argument, “has it any common prayer?”

Objections urged in this way always elicited some bold paradox which contained a new and unthought-of generalisation.

He flashed down on the question.

“No! And neither had Christianity! That is pure Protestantism and Protestantism took it from the Mohammedans, perhaps through Moorish influence!

“Mohammedanism is the only religion that has completely broken down the idea of the priest. The leader of prayer stands with his back to the people, and only the reading of the Koran may take place from the pulpit. Protestantism is an approach to this.

“Even the tonsure existed in India, in the shaven head. I have seen a picture of Justinian receiving the Law from two monks, in which the monks’ heads are entirely shaven. The monk and nun both existed, in pre-Buddhist Hinduism. Europe gets her orders from the Thebaid.”

Jesus Christ by El Greco“At that rate, then, you accept Catholic ritual as Aryan!

“Yes almost all Christianity is Aryan, I believe. I am inclined to think Christ, never existed. I have doubted that, ever since I had my dream—that dream off Crete.* Indian and Egyptian ideas met at Alexandria, and went forth to the world, tinctured with Judaism and Hellenism, as Christianity.

“The Acts and Epistles, you know, are older than the Gospels, and St. John is spurious. The only figure we can be sure of is St. Paul, and he was not an eye-witness, and according to his own showing was capable of Jesuitry “by all means save souls” isn’t it?

No! Buddha and Mohammed, alone amongst religious teachers, stand out with historic distinctness, having been fortunate enough to have, while they were living, enemies as well as friends. Krishna I doubt; a yogi, and a shepherd, and a great king, have all been amalgamated in one beautiful figure, holding the Gita in his hand.

Renan‘s life of Jesus is mere froth. It does not touch Strauss, the real antiquarian. Two things stand out as personal living touches in the life of Christ, the woman taken in adultery, the most beautiful story in literature, and the woman at the well. How strangely true is this last, to Indian life! A woman, coming to draw water, finds, seated at the well-side, a yellow-clad monk. He asks her for water. Then He teaches her, and does a little mind-reading and so on. Only in an Indian story, when she went to call the villagers, to look and Hillel the Elderlisten, the monk would have taken his chance, and fled to the forest!

“On the whole, I think old Rabbi Hillel is responsible for the teachings of Jesus, and an obscure Jewish sect of Nazarenes, a sect of great antiquity suddenly galvanised by St. Paul, furnished the mythic personality, as a centre of worship.

“The Resurrection, of course, is simply spring-cremation. Only the rich Greeks and Romans had had cremation any way, and the new sun-myth would only stop it amongst the few.”


* In travelling from Naples to Port Said, on his way back to India, in January 1897, the Swami had a dream of an old and bearded man, who appeared before him, saying “This is the island of Crete,” and showing him a place in the island, that he might afterwards identify. The vision went to say that the religion of Christianity had originated in the island of Crete and in connection with this gave him two European words, one of which was Therapeutae which it declared, were derived from Sanskrit. Therapeutae meant sons (from the Sanskrit putra) of the Theras, or Buddhist monks. From this the Swami was to understand that Christianity had originated in a Buddhist mission. The old man added “The proofs are all here,” pointing to the ground. “Dig and you will see!”
As he awoke, feeling that this was no common dream, the Swami rose, and tumbled out on deck. Here he met an officer, turning in from his watch. “What o’clock is it?, said the Swami. “Midnight!” was the answer. “Where are we?” he then said; when, to his astonishment, the answer came back “fifty miles off Crete!”
Our Master used to laugh at himself for the strength of the impression that this dream had made on him. But he could never shake it off. The fact that the second of the two etymologies has been lost is deeply to be regretted. The Swami had to say that before he had had this dream, it had never occurred to him to doubt that the personality of Christ was strictly historic. We must remember, however, that according to Hindu philosophy, it is the completeness of an idea that is important, and not the question of its historical authenticity. The Swami once asked Sri Ramakrishna, when he was a boy, about this very matter. “Don’t you think!” answered his Guru, “that those who could invent such things were themselves that?” – Extracted from  Chapter 8 of Notes of some wanderings with Swami Vivekananda by Sister Nivedita

 

See also

Cultures use myths, scholars misuse them – Shivaji Singh

Prof. Shivaji Singh“In The Origins of the World’s Mythologies, Michael Witzel misses no opportunity to point out that Gondawana peoples were inferior to Laurasians (present western world), a fact he claims is demonstrated by mythology! This is the genesis of his hatred for Indian traditions—Indians are a Gondwana people!” – Prof. Shivaji Singh

Lakshman, Rama & SitaMyths are integral to any culture; they give life and vibrancy to the cultures in which they are created. Philosopher-historian Peter Munz observed, “Myths and their motifs invariably constitute the leaven of the weltanschauung of a culture and permeate its fabric and identity in the way matter and form inform the world of reality. But like matter again myths, in their own world, cannot be related to time and space. Ipso facto ahistorical, they impart meaning to the intractable mass of unaccounted and unaccountable past by selection, by focusing a few bits of the past which thereby acquired relevance and universal significance” – ‘History and Myth’, Philosophical Quarterly, VI: 1-6, 1956

In fact, cultures are sets of images (bimba-vidhaana). A culture is, therefore, best defined in terms of the metaphors, symbols and images that it uses, and myths play the lead role in the formation of the mental templates that shape these signs and signals. 

Myths, motifs, and mythology

But what are ‘myths’? Myths are legends that relate to divine or semi-divine beings, popular stories describing exploits of gods and goddesses and supreme human beings. They are handed down from earlier times and their truth is accepted without any scrutiny.

Two other categories of legends do not pertain to divinities. One is saga (folk tales), the other marchen (a German word, popularised by folklorists, for fairy tales). These also contribute to the formation of a mythology, but it is mostly and primarily out of myths that mythologies are made. That justifies the name ‘mythology’ and also explains why mythology, the discipline dealing with myths, is called devasaastra in India.

The ideas and themes that go to make a myth are called its motifs. Myths are culture specific, but motifs – the building blocks of myths – very often transcend cultural boundaries. The motifs, ‘Sky Father, Earth Mother’, ‘Cosmic Egg’, ‘The Great Flood’, etc., are found equally in Indian mythology and the mythologies of Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, and other countries to various extents.

Prof. Michael WitzelFrom mythology to comparative mythology 

This observed commonality of mythological motifs gave rise to comparative mythology. In the 19th century, comparative mythological studies became greatly fashionable, mainly to buttress support to the so-called Aryan invasion theory. This theory, as we know, is in crisis today and despite being reformulated again and again by substituting ‘migration’, ‘trickle-in’, in place of invasion, its validity remains extremely doubtful. However, comparative mythology still continues as a convenient weapon to fight The Origins of the World’s Mythologiesideological battles. The latest in this genre is Harvard Professor Michael Witzel’s recently published The Origins of the World’s Mythologies (Oxford University Press, 2012).

This is a lengthy offering (686 pages), well organised, with clear-cut thematic chapters, copious references and a systematic bibliography. The concept of myth is tolerably well analysed. The author’s previous work in the field is summarized and the manner in which his approach differs from that of his poorvasuuris explained. But there is a hidden agenda, perhaps originating from the author’s ideological and psychological aberrations and a few other drawbacks such as a demonstrably uncalled for attempt on the part of the author to venture into a field for which he is ill-equipped.

Michael Witzel is currently in a precarious situation. The fast flowing anti-Hindu and pro-AIT winds on which he has been flying his kites high have slowed down considerably. He can either step back and admit that he has been talking nonsense all these years, as some think is advisable, or he can move on.

He has chosen the latter course, thanks to a new development in western academics. The growing corpus of work of archaeologists, geologists and population geneticists has contributed to growing knowledge about the prehistoric past and transformed the atmosphere in the Humanities and Social Science departments of universities. Scholars are now more interested in pre-3000 BCE than in the post-3000 BCE era. Witzel has seized this opportunity to shift to an earlier chronological horizon, and hence the study of the origins of the world’s mythologies.

The problem is that he lacks the academic abilities and expertise for this complex field. Witzel chose mythology under the impression that myths are ahistorical and their space-time coordinates can therefore be easily manipulated. But though the time-frame of myths are unknown, they cannot be pushed back in time beyond a limit, a fact that he clearly did not realise as he set out on his academic adventure.

For instance, leave aside 50 to 60 thousand BCE horizons when our earliest ancestors, Homo sapiens sapiensstarted moving out of Africa; coming down to as late as the beginning of the Neolithic Age around 10 to 12 thousand BCE, we find that the father-mother relation was unknown. The women folk had the impression that they become pregnant because of bathing in a particular pond or sitting under a certain tree. How could a ‘Sky-father, Earth-mother’ motif develop before that time? Thus there is indeed a time limit beyond which the origin of a specific motif cannot be placed.

Mythology was a poor choice for Witzel if he desired to roam in the misty pre-10,000 BCE world. The origins of language might have been a better choice, given his claimed linguistic expertise, to investigate how Palaeolithic man’s speaking skills developed over time in tune with tool manufacture and such things.

Laurasia & Gondwana ContinentsIn The Origins of the World’s Mythologies, Witzel misses no opportunity to point out that Gondawana peoples were inferior to Laurasians (present western world), a fact he claims is demonstrated by mythology! This is the genesis of his hatred for Indian traditions – Indians are a Gondwana people!

The Harvard Professor may be excused for his wrong assumptions relating to myths and mythology, he may be pardoned for using discarded models in analysing mythological inter-relationships, but should he be spared for sharing racist ideas? If considering dark-skinned Gondwana peoples as a whole to be inferior to white-skinned Laurasians is not racism, what is racism? Oxford University Press needs to explain its decision to publish such a book. –  Vijayvaani,  7 February 2014

» Dr Shivaji Singh is former Professor and Head, Dept. of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, University of Gorakhpur, UP, India

Chronology and the Upanishads – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad ElstAccording to Hindu tradition, the grandfather of the Mahabharata heroes is the one who ordered the Vedas in their definitive and still prevailing form: Krishna Dvaipayana alias Veda-Vyasa, … In the oldest Upanishads already, the Rg-, Sama- and Yajur-Veda are mentioned as known and complete wholes. So, the Upanishads started at or after the time of the Mahabharata battle, though at a different location. … The first six or so of the Upanishads easily predate the Buddha. The line of thought laid down in the Upanishads thus had almost a thousand years to develop, between the Mahabharata war (ca. -1400) and the Buddha (-500). – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Vedic Rishi A famous Flemish emeritus professor recently reacted to my off-hand mention of a date for the major Upanishads, viz. “second millennium BCE”. He thought that this should be 900-500 BCE, a date obviously borrowed from the textbooks. It is no big deal that a Western philosopher, not specializing in the chronology of Indian history, should abide by the received wisdom in this matter; but the few specialists know it to be highly controversial.

When scholar upon scholar claims just as off-hand that the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Katha etc. Upanishads date from 900-500 BC, I always wonder: how do they know this? Where did they get it? The texts themselves never give such a date, nor other premodern texts referring to them.

Gautama BuddhaA few scholars even date them all later than 500 BCE, the time of the Buddha. Animated by the “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good” doctrine, they are puzzled by the existence of undeniably profound ideas in the Upanishads, clearly related to the Buddhist teachings, so they want to explain these as “borrowed from Buddhism”. Of course, the notion of Buddhism as a separate religion was constructed only recently, by the first Western Buddhologists, whereas Hindu tradition rightly considers the Buddha as only one of the Hindu sect founders/leaders of his time, though for sociological reasons (his high birth and top connections) the most successful one. Hindu writers of idol-making manuals treat the Buddha on a par with Krishna and the others. At any rate, the linguistic anteriority of the preclassical Sanskrit of the Upanishads date them to before the Buddha and to his probable contemporary Panini, the codifier of classical Sanskrit. Though most Western and Westernized scholars share this “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good” framework, they still agree that the great Upanishads definitely predate the Buddha. That is why these works don’t refer to any specifically Buddhist concept while basic Buddhism does refer to generally Upanishadic concepts.

But for them, 900 BCE is more than enough time distance to 500 BC. The Upanishads should not be dated earlier, for then the Aryan invasion framework runs into difficulties. This is roughly as follows:

  • 1700-1500 BCE: Indo-European or “Aryan” nomads invade India;
  • 1500-1200 BCE: they compose the Rg-Veda;
  • 1300-500 BCE: they compose the other Vedas and their ancillary literature;
  • 900 BCE onwards: among these writings are the Upanishads.

In Chinese history, all important and numerous unimportant events are dated precisely from at least the 8th century BCE, and approximately so for a thousand years earlier. In Indian history, by contrast, many important events or the birth years of famous persons are only vaguely known, mostly but not even always in their proper chronological order, and without any absolute chronology. We maintain that the usual estimate for the first Upanishads misses the mark by at least five hundred years.

Devi Saraswati blesses Rishi YagnavalkyaThere are only few chronologically relevant references in the Upanishads, and that mostly to other insecurely dated characters of Hindu literature. Thus, Yajnavalkya of Brhadaranyaka fame wins a debate at the court of king Janaka of Videha, and this king is usually taken to be the father of the Ramayana’s heroine Sita, also known by her patronymic Janaki. But that doesn’t get us very far, if only because the paucity of data makes it difficult to be sure that the same Janaka is meant, as this is not an unusual name. But the larger literary framework contains better chronological clues.

The ecliptic was divided into 28 lunar houses, like in China and Arabia, rather than in the 12 Babylonian-Hellenistic signs of the Zodiac. The precession of the equinoxes, at 1° per ca. 71 years, makes data about the relation between fixed stars and equinoxes or solstices or other seasonal phenomena into a secure chronological pointer. For instance, an ancillary work of the Vedas, the Vedanga Jyotisha (“Veda-Ancillary of Stellar Science”, at that time meaning astronomy though now used to refer to astrology), conventionally dated to 500-200 BCE, dates itself twice to ca. 1350 BCE, viz. by explicitating which stars are on the winter solstice and spring equinox points. This is an explicitly post-Rg-Vedic texts, so the Rg-Veda was already complete by the time the Aryan Invasion Theory lets the Aryans invade India. It is quite amusing to read the mental and verbal acrobatics which conformistic scholars try out to neutralize this inconvenient evidence.

The Atharva-Veda lists all the lunar houses, starting with Krttika/Pleiades, presumably because it was on the spring equinox point, which it was ca. 2300 BCE. The Yajur-Veda also gives this position thrice. But could this not be a reminiscence, a classical enumeration which endured even when the asterism concerned had, after some 900 years, shifted and left the place of honour to the next asterism? Unlikely, for astrologers typically change the list to reflect the changing of asterisms on the equinoctial point; they no longer treat Krttika as number 1. The Shatapatha Brahmana, traditionally held to be from the same period (but which modern textbooks date to 900 BCE or so), later than the Rg-Veda but just before the Upanishads, confirms this synchronism by referring to the same position, telling us that Krttika “never swerves from the east”, i.e. from the equinox, the intersection of ecliptic and equatorial plane. This passage, like the Vedanga Jyotisha passages, is part of a practical instruction under which to conduct a certain ritual, so it is observational par excellence, not a traditional prayer-type text where an ancient reminiscence might have survived.

Death of BhishmaThe Kaushitaki Brahmana points to the same period, ca. 2300 BCE, by means of a different astronomical pointer, viz. the star Regulus on the summer solstice point. Another text where the position of Regulus is mentioned, is the epic Mahabharata, but there it is said that an event, the death of the hero Bhishma coinciding with the full moon near Regulus, took place after the winter solstice, i.e. centuries after 2300 BCE.

The importance of this information is that it shows how the astronomical evidence does not always support a high chronology. Indians say that the war described in the Mahabharata took place in 3139 BCE. This is based on the length of the Four Ages given in the Puranas, a type of mythohistorical literature from the first millennium CE. The doctrine of Four Ages is very ancient, attested also in Greek and Germanic mythology, but their quantification is apparently linked with the precession of the equinoxes, discovered by Hipparchos ca. 150 BCE and introduced in India only in subsequent centuries. There are no pre-Hellenistic mentions of the fourth age starting in the 32th century BCE, 37 years after the Mahabharata war, as Hindus traditionally (i.e. Puranically) believe. The astronomical evidence of the Mahabharata itself, however, points to well after 2300 BC.

This lower chronology is supported by another passage from the Puranas. As said, it mixes historical data with mythology, so we have to be very cautious, but the following sentence is sufficiently clear. The Puranas record that either 1050 or 1015 years elapsed between the birth of Mahabharata hero Arjuna’s grandson Parikshit and the coronation of Magadha-based emperor Mahapadma Nanda in either 378 or 382 BCE. This puts the Mahabharata war (predating Parikshit’s birth by less than a year) in about 1400 BCE. This is earlier than the textbooks’ date of 900 BC, but lower than the traditional date. It is further confirmed by archaeological periodization. The second half of the second millennium BCE marked the high tide of chariot warfare, cfr. the war between the Hittite and Egyptian empires or the Trojan war. Chariot warfare is central to the Mahabharata story, not some literary addition by a later editor. And there was simply no chariot warfare in 3139 BCE.

Rishi VyasaAccording to Hindu tradition, the grandfather of the Mahabharata heroes is the one who ordered the Vedas in their definitive and still prevailing form: Krishna Dvaipayana alias Veda-Vyasa, “analyser/editor of the Veda”. In the oldest Upanishads already, the Rg-, Sama- and Yajur-Veda are mentioned as known and complete wholes. So, the Upanishads started at or after the time of the Mahabharata battle, though at a different location. The Bharata clan was based between the Yamuna and the Saraswati/Ghaggar, in present-day Haryana, while Yajnavalkya, the philosopher featured in the first Upanishad, is shown winning a debate at the court of king Janaka in Mithila, in the present-day Bihar, far to the east. At any rate, the first six or so of the Upanishads easily predate the Buddha. The line of thought laid down in the Upanishads thus had almost a thousand years to develop, between the Mahabharata war (ca. -1400) and the Buddha (-500).

Conclusion: the astronomical evidence (not treated in its completeness here) is internally consistent, faithfully following the relative chronology of the different Vedic writings, e.g. it does not date the Upanishads earlier than the Rg-Veda. It is higher than the conventional AIT chronology, irreconcilable with it. But it is also lower than some of the wilder chronologies popular in India.

» Koenraad Elst distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. He studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.in/

Alexander vs Porus: Beyond the fog of war – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Rakesh Krishnan Simha“At the Battle of Hydaspes, the Macedonians realised they were dealing with an enemy of uncommon valour. Sensing defeat they called for a truce, which Porus accepted. The Indian king struck a bargain – in return for Ambhi’s territories, which would secure his frontiers, Porus would assist the Macedonians in leaving India safely.” – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Alexander the GreatMarshal Gregory Zhukov, the legendary Russian commander, said the Macedonians had suffered a catastrophic defeat in India. In the final part of this analysis, fact and fiction are separated.

After defeating Persia in the year 334 BCE, Alexander of Macedon was irresistibly drawn towards the great Indian landmass. However, the Persians warned him the country was no easy target; that several famous conquerors had fallen at the gates of India.

The Persians told him how their greatest king, Cyrus, who had conquered much of the civilised world, had been killed in a battle with Indian soldiers exactly two centuries before Alexander.

And in an earlier antiquity, the Assyrian queen Semiramis, who had crossed the Indus with 400,000 highly trained troops, escaped with just 20 troops, the rest being slaughtered by the Indians.

In his book, Foreign Influence on Ancient India, Krishna Chandra Sagar says 150 years before Alexander, Indian archers and cavalry formed a significant component of the Persian army and played a key role in subduing Thebes in central Greece.

Alexander, however, knew no fear. More than anything else, he wanted to invade India. It would prove to be a strategic blunder.

Marshal Georgy ZhukovZhukov’s take

“Following Alexander’s failure to gain a position in India and the defeat of his successor Seleucus Nikator, relationships between the Indians and the Greeks and the Romans later, was mainly through trade and diplomacy. Also the Greeks and other ancient peoples did not see themselves as in any way superior, only different.”

This statement by Russia’s Marshal Gregory Zhukov on the Macedonian invasion of India in 326 BCE is significant because unlike the prejudiced colonial and Western historians, the Greeks and later Romans viewed Indians differently. For instance, Arrian writes in Alexander Anabasis that the Indians were the noblest among all Asians.

In fact, Arrian and other Greeks say the Indians were relentless in their attacks on the invaders. They say if the people of Punjab and Sindh were fierce, then in the eastern part of India “the men were superior in stature and courage”.

All this is glossed over by Western historians, in whose view the one victory over king Porus amounted to the “conquest of India”. But the Greeks made no such claim.

Battle of Hydaspes – Hardest ever

Greek contemporary writers describe the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) as the hardest fought of all Alexander’s battles. Frank Lee Holt, a professor of ancient history at the University of Houston, writes in his book, Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions: “The only reference in Arrian’s history to a victory celebration by Alexander’s army was after the battle with Porus.”

Alexander’s army did not indulge in celebrations after the Battle of Gaugamela where they defeated 200,000 Persians. No wild festivities were announced after the Battle of Issus where they defeated a mixed force of Persian cavalry and Greek mercenaries.

The fact they celebrated after the Battle of Hydaspes suggests they considered themselves extremely lucky to survive after the clash with the Hindu army, with its elephant corps.

King Porus (Puru) & Alexander at the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum)If Porus lost, why reward him?

According to the Greeks, Alexander was apparently so impressed by Porus he gave back his kingdom plus the territories of king Ambhi of Taxila who had fought alongside the Macedonians.

This is counter-intuitive  Ambhi had become Alexander’s ally on the condition he would be given Porus’ kingdom. So why reward the enemy, whose army had just mauled the Macedonians?

The only possible answer is at the Battle of Hydaspes, the Macedonians realised they were dealing with an enemy of uncommon valour. Sensing defeat they called for a truce, which Porus accepted. The Indian king struck a bargain – in return for Ambhi’s territories, which would secure his frontiers, Porus would assist the Macedonians in leaving India safely.

Alexander’s post-Hydaspes charitable behaviour, as per Greek accounts, is uncharacteristic and unlikely. For, in battles before and after, he massacred everyone in the cities he subdued.

Why pay off a vassal?

Before the battle, Alexander gave king Ambhi 1000 talents (25,000 kilos) of gold for fighting alongside the Macedonians. The only explanation is Ambhi was driving a hard bargain. He knew the rattled Macedonian army was seeking to quickly exit India. He thought he could use the Macedonians to remove his rival Porus. However, Porus’ decision to offer Alexander combat checkmated those plans.

Porus's elephant cavalry.Tired of fighting: Lame excuse

Greek sources say Alexander retreated from India because his soldiers were weary, homesick and close to mutiny. Imagine if German soldiers had told Hitler they were tired of fighting? They would have been summarily shot. In Alexander’s time, the punishment was crucifixion.

The Macedonian army had a system of rotation where large batches of veteran soldiers were released to return home (with sufficient gold and slaves). In their place, fresh troops eagerly poured in from Europe.

If they were weary of constant warring, it is inexplicable why these soldiers chose to fight their way through obstinately hostile Indian territories. The homesick soldiers would have preferred the garrisoned northwestern route they took while coming in. Why would a brilliant commander subject himself and his troops to further violence when all they wanted was a peaceful passage home?

Clearly, the Macedonians were in a mess and not thinking straight. Not the sign of a victorious army.

Alexander's route into India and out again.Need for glory

David J. Lonsdale, a lecturer in Strategic Studies at the University of Hull, writes: “Alexander’s invasion of India and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 both appear reckless and unnecessary from a strategic perspective. Therefore, perhaps they can both be explained by the sheer naked ambition of the two commanders.”

Alexander’s tragedy was he was in a Catch-22 situation. The Macedonians and Greeks welcomed the wealth from the conquered lands, but the man who ensured this flow was persona non grata.

In Greek eyes a Macedonian was hardly an equal. The Greeks hated Alexander for sacking their cities and enslaving their people. In his own country, he was an outsider for being half-Albanian, from his mother’s side. The common people suspected him of murdering his father.

So in order to retain the loyalty of his troops, Alexander had to wage constant war while also taking great personal risks in battle. For, he could not be seen as weak, let alone beaten.

A few years before the Indian campaign, a large part of the Macedonian army was massacred by the [Indo-]Scythians (Hindu StraboShakas, the Buddha’s clansmen) at Polytimetus, present day Tajikistan. Alexander warned his surviving troops not to discuss the massacre with other soldiers.

Strabo, the Greek historian wrote: “Generally speaking, the men who have written on the affairs of India were a set of liars…. Of this we became the more convinced whilst writing the history of Alexander.” – Russia & India Report, 3 June 2013

» Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based writer. According to him the only inspiration he needs is outrage – when he sees propaganda masquerading as journalism. He, therefore, writes on stuff the media distorts, misses or ignores. He can be contacted on rakeshmail@gmail.com

Indian war elephant against Alexander’s troops (1685).

See also

Jesus in Japan: The little-known legend – Franz Lidz

Jesus in Japan

Franz Lidz“In ancient times … villagers maintained traditions alien to the rest of Japan. Men wore clothes that resembled the toga-like robes of biblical Palestine, women wore veils, and babies were toted around in woven baskets like those in the Holy Land. Not only were newborns swaddled in clothes embroidered with a design that resembled a Star of David, but, as a talisman, their foreheads were marked with charcoal crosses.” – Franz Lidz

To the Tomb of Christ at Shingo, JapanOn the flat top of a steep hill in a distant corner of northern Japan lies the tomb of an itinerant shepherd who, two millennia ago, settled down there to grow garlic. He fell in love with a farmer’s daughter named Miyuko, fathered three kids and died at the ripe old age of 106. In the mountain hamlet of Shingo, he’s remembered by the name Daitenku Taro Jurai. The rest of the world knows him as Jesus Christ.

It turns out that Jesus of Nazareth—the Messiah, worker of miracles and spiritual figurehead for one of the world’s foremost religions—did not die on the cross at Calvary, as widely reported. According to amusing local folklore, that was his kid brother, Isukiri, whose severed ear was interred in an adjacent burial mound in Japan.

A bucolic backwater with only one Christian resident (Toshiko Sato, who was 77 when I visited last spring) and no church within 30 miles, Shingo nevertheless bills itself as Kirisuto no Sato (Christ’s Hometown). Every year 20,000 or so pilgrims and pagans visit the site, which is maintained by a nearby yogurt factory. Some visitors shell out the 100-yen entrance fee at the Legend of Christ Museum, a trove of religious relics that sells everything from Jesus coasters to coffee mugs. Some participate in the springtime Christ Festival, a mashup of multi-denominational rites in which kimono-clad women dance around the twin graves and chant a three-line litany in an unknown language. The ceremony, designed to console the spirit of Jesus, has been staged by the local tourism bureau since 1964.

The Japanese are mostly Buddhist or Shintoist, and, in a nation of 127.8 million, about 1 percent identify themselves as Christian. The country harbors a large floating population of folk religionists enchanted by the mysterious, the uncanny and the counterintuitive. “They find spiritual fulfillment in being eclectic,” says Richard Fox Young, a professor of religious history at the Princeton Theological Seminary. “That is, you can have it all: A feeling of closeness—to Jesus and Buddha and many, many other divine figures—without any of the obligations that come from a more singular religious orientation.”

Grave of Jesus in Shingo, JapanIn Shingo, the Greatest Story Ever Told is retold like this: Jesus first came to Japan at the age of 21 to study theology. This was during his so-called “lost years,” a 12-year gap unaccounted for in the New Testament. He landed at the west coast port of Amanohashidate, a spit of land that juts across Miyazu Bay, and became a disciple of a great master near Mount Fuji, learning the Japanese language and Eastern culture. At 33, he returned to Judea—by way of Morocco!—to talk up what a museum brochure calls the “sacred land” he had just visited.

Having run afoul of the Roman authorities, Jesus was arrested and condemned to crucifixion for heresy. But he cheated the executioners by trading places with the unsung, if not unremembered, Isukiri. To escape persecution, Jesus fled back to the promised land of Japan with two keepsakes: one of his sibling’s ears and a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair. He trekked across the frozen wilderness of Siberia to Alaska, a journey of four years, 6,000 miles and innumerable privations. This alternative Second Coming ended after he sailed to Hachinohe, an ox-cart ride from Shingo.

Upon reaching the village, Jesus retired to a life in exile, adopted a new identity and raised a family. He is said to have lived out his natural life ministering to the needy. He sported a balding gray pate, a coat of many folds and a distinctive nose, which, the museum brochure observes, earned him a reputation as a “long-nosed goblin.”

When Jesus died, his body was left exposed on a hilltop for four years. In keeping with the customs of the time, his bones were then bundled and buried in a grave—the same mound of earth that is now topped by a timber cross and surrounded by a picket fence. Though the Japanese Jesus performed no miracles, one could be forgiven for wondering whether he ever turned water into sake.

Japanese image of JesusThis all sounds more Life of Brian than Life of Jesus. Still, the case for the Shingo Savior is argued vigorously in the museum and enlivened by folklore. In ancient times, it’s believed, villagers maintained traditions alien to the rest of Japan. Men wore clothes that resembled the toga-like robes of biblical Palestine, women wore veils, and babies were toted around in woven baskets like those in the Holy Land. Not only were newborns swaddled in clothes embroidered with a design that resembled a Star of David, but, as a talisman, their foreheads were marked with charcoal crosses.

The museum contends that the local dialect contains words like aba or gaga (mother) and aya or dada (father) that are closer to Hebrew than Japanese, and that the old village name, Heraimura, can be traced to an early Middle Eastern diaspora. Religious scholar Arimasa Kubo, a retired Tokyo pastor, thinks Shingo may have been settled by “descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel.”

As if to fuel this unlikely explanation, in 2004, Israeli ambassador Eli Cohen visited the tombs and dedicated a plaque, in Hebrew, to honor the ties between Shingo and the city of Jerusalem. Embassy spokesman Gil Haskel explained that while Hebrew tribes could have migrated to Japan, the marker was merely “a symbol of friendship rather than an endorsement of the Jesus claims.”

Another theory raises the possibility that the tombs hold the bodies of 16th-century missionaries. Christian evangelists first came to Japan in 1549, but bitter infighting for influence and Japanese converts led to a nationwide ban on the religion in 1614.

Jesus's own will and testament! It is signed "Jesus Christ, father of Christmas."Believers went underground, and these Hidden Christians, as they are called, encountered ferocious persecution. To root them out, officials administered loyalty tests in which priests and other practitioners were required to trample a cross or an image of the Madonna and the baby Jesus. Those who refused to denounce their beliefs were crucified, beheaded, burned at the stake, tortured to death or hanged upside-down over cesspools to intensify their suffering. For more than 200 years, until an isolated Japan opened its doors to the West in 1868, Christianity survived in scattered communities, which perhaps explains why Shingo’s so-called Christian traditions are not practiced in the rest of the region.

The key to Shingo’s Christ cult lies in a scroll purported to be Christ’s last will and testament, dictated as he was dying in the village. A team of what a museum pamphlet calls “archeologists from an international society for the research of ancient literature” discovered the scripture in 1936. That manuscript, along with others allegedly unearthed by a Shinto priest around the same time, flesh out Christ’s further adventures between Judea and Japan, and pinpoint Shingo as his final resting place. (As luck would have it, the graves of Adam and Eve were just 15 miles west of town.)

Curiously, these documents were destroyed during World War II, the museum says, allowing it to house only modern transcriptions—signed “Jesus Christ, father of Christmas”—inside a glass case. Even more curiously, Jesus lived during Japan’s Yayoi period, a time of rudimentary civilization with no written language.

Junichiro Sawaguchi, the eldest member of the Shingo family regarded as Christ’s direct descendants.The original scrolls were brought to Shingo by an Eastern magi that included the Shinto priest, a historian and a charismatic Christian missionary who preached that the Japanese emperor was the Jewish Messiah. They were joined by Shingo Mayor Denjiro Sasaki, a publicity hound eager to make the town a tourist destination. Sasaki led them through a valley of rice fields and up a slope to a bamboo thicket that concealed the burial mounds. For generations, the land had been owned by the garlic-farming Sawaguchis.

One of the clan, a youth named Sanjiro, was renowned for his blue eyes, something seldom seen in Japan and, as nationalist historian Banzan Toya insisted, proof that the Sawaguchis were progeny of Jesus and Miyuko, who, to complicate matters even more, is variously known as Yumiko, Miyo and Mariko. Among the magi’s other extravagant finds were seven ancient pyramids, all of which were said to predate the ones built by the Egyptians and the Mayans by tens of thousands of years. The heap of rocks generously dubbed the Big Stone God Pyramid is just down the road from the Christ tomb. Miraculously, the historian and the priest stumbled upon the rubble a day after they stumbled upon the graves. A sign beside this Shinto sanctuary explains that the pyramid collapsed during a 19th-century earthquake.

Shinto is a religion of nature, and during the imperialist fervor that gripped Japan before World War II, its message of Japanese uniqueness was exploited to bolster national unity. “Religious organizations could only operate freely if they had government recognition,” says Richard Fox Young.

Out of this constraint came “State Shinto”—the use of the faith, with its shrines and deities, for propaganda, emperor worship and the celebration of patriotism. Considerable resources were funneled into attempts to prove the country’s superiority over other races and cultures. Which sheds celestial light on the discovery of Moses’ tomb at Mount Houdatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture. Press accounts of the period detailed how the prophet had received the Hebrew language, the Ten Commandments and the first Star of David directly from Japan’s divine emperor.

Santa on the cross in Tokyo.Such divine condescension implies that Shingo’s Christ cult has very little to do with Christianity. “On the contrary,” says Young. “It’s more about Japanese folk religion and its sponginess—its capacity for soaking up any and all influences, usually without coherence, even internally.”

That sponginess is never more evident than during Yuletide, a season that, stripped of Christian significance, has taken on a meaning all its own. It’s said that a Japanese department store once innocently displayed Santa Claus nailed to a crucifix. Apocryphal or not, the story has cultural resonance.

Shingo is modestly festive with frosted pine trees and sparkling lights, glittering streamers and green-and-red wreaths, candles and crèches. In Japan, Christmas Eve is a kind of date night in which many young people ignore the chaste example of Mary—and instead lose their virginity. “It’s the most romantic holiday in Japan, surpassing Valentine’s Day,” says Chris Carlsen, an Oregon native who teaches English in town. “On Christmas Day, everyone goes back to work and all the ornaments are taken down.”

Junichiro Sawaguchi, the eldest member of the Shingo family regarded as Christ’s direct descendants, celebrates the holiday much like the average Japanese citizen, in a secular way involving decorations and Kentucky Fried Chicken. A City Hall bureaucrat, he has never been to a church nor read the Bible. “I’m Buddhist,” he says.

Asked if he believes the Jesus-in-Japan yarn, Sawaguchi shakes his head and says, coyly, “I don’t know.” Then again, notes Carlsen, the Japanese tend to be quite tactful when airing their opinions, particularly on contentious topics. “The Christ tomb has given Shingo a sense of identity,” he says. “If a central figure like Mr. Sawaguchi were to dismiss the story, he might feel disloyal to the town.”

But does Sawaguchi think it’s possible that Jesus was his kinsfolk? Momentarily silent, he shrugs and spreads his palms outward, as if to say, Don’t take everything you hear as gospel. – SmithsonianJanuary 2013

» Franz Lidz a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, a contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio, and is a correspondent for Smithsonian, Slate, WSJ, GQSports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer, Men’s Journal, AARP the Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Golf Digest and has written for the New York Times since 1983, on travel, TV, film and theater.

Ayodhya: When did the Centre abandon Sri Ram? – K.N. Bhat

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, UP

K. N. Bhat“The Sunni Wakf Board, one of the plaintiffs, raised detailed objections against the ASI’s report [on its Ayodhya excavations]. ASI officials were cross-examined to discredit the findings, but the high court by its historical judgement on September 30, 2010, held that there was a temple on which the mosque was built. … Where are those Muslim leade­rs who were ready to hand ov­er the place to the Hindus, if it was found that a Hindu temple existed beneath the mos­que? ” – K.N. Bhat

Amit ShahLast Saturday, when Amit Shah, BJP national general secretary and in-charge of Uttar Pradesh for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, told reporters, “I have prayed that we together build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya as soon as possible and restore Lord Ram to his rightful place,” there were frenzied reactions and comments by self-appointed secularists, and this was reflected in the media as if a heinous offence had been committed.

As a lawyer of respectable vintage, I dare say that wishing for a Ram temple in Ayodhya, on the disputed site, is not an offence not legally. Recalling the recent recorded history relating to Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid tells us that the temple issue was in the past treated as a national problem and that it continues to be one.

Following the razing of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the President of India made a reference to the Supreme Court on March 9, 1993, for its opinion on whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed where the Babri Masjid stood.

During the hearing of the special reference and petitions filed by the residents of Ayodhya challenging the Central Ordinance of 1993 that sought to acquire the entire disputed area, the Supreme Court asked the Central government to clarify the purpose of the special reference.

Sri RamaThe then solicitor general of India, Dipankar Gupta, made a statement in writing on behalf of the Union of India on September 14, 1994, that said: The government stands by the policy of secularism and of even-handed treatment of all religious communities.

The Ac­quisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 as well as the presidential reference, ha­ve the objective of maintaining public order and promoting communal harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst the people of India.

The government is committed to the construction of a Ram temple and a mosque, but their actual location will be de­termined only after the Sup­reme Court renders its opinion in the presidential reference.

The government will treat the finding of the Supreme Court on the question of fact referred under Article 143 of the Constitution as a verdict, which is final and binding. In the light of the Supreme Court’s opinion and consistent with it, the government will make efforts to resolve the controversy by a process of negotiations.

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.Government is confident that the opinion of the Supreme Court will have a salutary effect on the attitudes of the communities and they will no longer take conflicting positions on the factual issue settled by the Supreme Court.

“If efforts at a negotiated settlement as aforesaid do not succeed, the government is committed to enforce a solution in the light of the Supreme Court’s opinion and consistent with it. The government’s action in this regard will be even-handed in respect of both the communities. If the question referred is answered in the affirmative, namely, that a Hindu temple/structure did exist prior to the construction of the demolished structure, the government action will be in support of the wishes of the Hindu community. If, on the other hand, the question is answered in the negative, namely, that no such Hindu temple/ structure existed at the relevant time, then government action will be in support of the wishes of the Muslim community.”

This statement was preceded by a White Paper published by the Central government that stated: “During the negotiations aimed at finding an amicable solution to the dispute, one issue which came to the fore was whether a Hindu temple had existed on the site Hari Vishnu inscription found at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.occupied by the disputed structure and whether it was demolished on Babar’s orders for the construction of the masjid. It was stated on behalf of the Muslim organisations, as well as by certain eminent historians, that there was no evidence in favour of either of these two assertions. It was also stated by certain Muslim leaders that if these assertions were pro­ved, the Muslims would voluntarily hand over the disputed shrine to the Hindus. Natu­rally, this became the central issue in the negotiations bet­ween the Vishwa Hindu Pari­shad and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee.”

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declined to respond to the special referen­ce. Instead, it in turn revived and restored the five suits be­fore the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, each claiming title to the disputed land, thus creating ample opp­o­rtunity to find an answer to the query raised by the refere­n­ce. (The five suits had been an­nulled by the 1993 Ordinance.)

Dwarapala from Ayodhya masjid site.The high court, during the course of hearing of the pending litigations in 2003, directed that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should conduct an excavation of the site where the Babri Masjid stood. Stra­n­gely, the Hindus seem to have opposed the move for excavation while the Muslims welcomed it.

The excavation was completed and the ASI submitted a voluminous report in 2003 itself, with photographs and sketches of the details of the revelations and discoveries. The categorical finding was that there was a Hindu temple of antiquity and on its four walls stood the Babri Masjid.

The Sunni Wakf Board, one of the plaintiffs, raised detailed objections against the ASI’s report. ASI officials were cross-examined to discredit the findings, but the high court by its historical judgement on September 30, 2010, held that there was a temple on which the mosque was built.

The high court also recorded a significant finding, stating that the place immediately below the central dome of the demolished structure was, according to the belief of the Hindus, the birthplace of Lord Rama.

Appeals against the judgement of the high court are pending before the Supreme Court, but the ASI’s findings as recorded by the high court should be sufficient to settle the dispute.

Haji MehboobThe nature of the dispute is such that it cannot be resolved through litigation; it will have to be settled amicably.

The pertinent question is, where are those Muslim leade­rs who were ready to hand ov­er the place to the Hindus, if it was found that a Hindu temple existed beneath the mos­que? The Congress governme­nt, not too long ago, made conciliatory efforts. They can do that even now, if they have the will. – Deccan Chronicle, 10 July 2013

HVHI K.N. Bhat, senior advocate,  Supreme Court of India, represented “Ram Lalla” as senior counsel in the litigation before the Allahabad High Court.

Proposed Ram Temple on Babri Masjid site.

See also

  1. Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya – J. Venkatesan

  2. “The material unearthed included pillars with engravings on them and an outlet for water in the form of a crocodile mouth” – Dr. R. Nagaswamy

  3. Ayodhya: Deciding battle for the Hindu Nation – Radha Rajan

  4. Video: Dr. Koenraad Elst comments on Ayodhya history and the Ayodhya verdict 2010 – India Nationalist Post

  5. Ayodhya: Mosque can be relocated according to Islamic principles – Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

  6. Ayodhya: Triumph of Truth – Sandhya Jain

  7. Ayodhya: A Historical Watershed – Girilal Jain

  8. Faith, history, archaeology and logic support the rebuilding of the Ram temple at Ayodhya – R. Balashankar

  9. Sri Ramajanmabhumi and the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission Report – Ashok Singhal

  10. Book Review: Is Sri Rama a modern deity? – Rohit Srivastava

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