ASI excavations prove temple existed beneath Babri Masjid – K.K. Muhammed

Destruction of Babri Masjid in January 1992

After a comprehensive analysis of the evidences that had surfaced during the excavation and the discovery of historical artifacts, the Archeological Survey Of India came to the conclusion that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. – K.K. Muhammed

It was in 1990 that the issue of Ayodhya became hot. Before that, in 1978 itself, as a student of archaeology, I had the opportunity to survey Ayodhya. As a student of School of Archaeology, Delhi, I was a member of the team headed by Prof B.B. Lal, which was carrying out an extensive survey at Ayodhya.

We found that there existed brick foundations, which supported the pillars of a pre-existed temple. No one had viewed such findings as controversial those days. We examined the facts with due sense of history as archaeological experts.

There were temple-pillars embedded on the walls of Babri Masjid. These pillars were made of a particular stone called black basalt. There were poorna kalasas engraved at the bottom of the pillars as was the practice in the 11th–12th centuries.

In temple art, poorna kalas is one among the eight auspicious symbols of prosperity. Not one or two, there were 14 such pillars before the mosque was demolished in 1992.

I could see the pillars closely. The team headed by B.B. Lal included officials of the ASI and us 12 students from the School of Archaeology. We spent around two months at various explorations at Ayodhya. Mir Baqi, Babar’s army chief, constructed this mosque using remnants of a temple, which was either demolished by him or had been demolished by someone else.

While excavating on the back and sides of the mosque, we found brick platforms on which the black basalt pillars used to rest. It was based on these facts that I made a statement in 1990 that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. The moderates among Muslims had started to think that it is better to leave Ayodhya for Hindus and solve the dispute. Some Muslim leaders felt that leaving Ayodhya to Hindus would take the wind out of the sails of VHP. Had such voices got prominence, it would have been possible to diffuse the situation.

A few historians under the leadership of S. Gopal, Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra started questioning the historicity of the Ramayana. They argued that there is no record of demolition of a temple before 19th century. They even declared Ayodhya to be a Buddhist–Jain centre and they took part in various official meetings as experts on the side of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).

Many BMAC meetings were conducted under the leadership of Dr Irfan Habib who was chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Though member secretary M.G.S. Narayanan of ICHR objected to the meetings of BMAC being conducted in ICHR, he was overruled by Irfan Habib.

The Leftist historians had tremendous influence in newspapers and periodicals, and articles published by them questioning the facts of Ayodhya created confusion in the minds of general public. They were responsible for the volte-face of even the moderates among the Muslims who had favoured a settlement.

Had only this compromise worked out, it would have been a major turning point in the history of Hindu-Muslim relations in our country. This would have resulted in the natural solution to other various contentious issues also.

This lost opportunity demonstrated that not just Hindu-Muslim fanaticism, but Communist fanaticism is equally dangerous to our nation.

My statement came out on December 15, 1990. By then, historians and archaeologists had started fierce arguments from both sides. I made it clear in my statement that I had seen remnants of a temple beneath the Masjid.

The most important artifact, which came out during demolition at Ayodhya, was the stone plaque called Vishnu Hari Shila. On the plaque it was inscribed in Nagari script of 11-12th Century in Sanskrit that this temple is dedicated to Vishnu (Rama is the avatar of Vishnu) who killed Bali and the 10- headed (Ravana).

In 1992, when Dr Y.D. Sharma and Dr K.M Srivastava studied the site they could find small statues of Vishnu’s avataras, Shiva, Parvati etc. made of clay.

These belonged to the Kusana period (100-300 AD). In 2003, when excavations were again conducted, as ordered by the Allahabad High Court, more than 50 brick foundations, which once supported the pillars of the temple were found.

The “amalaka, which is usually found on the top of the temple and makar pranali” through which the abhisheka water flows, were also excavated. Uttar Pradesh’s Archaeology director, Ragesh Tiwari, submitted a report that when the front yard of the Babri Masjid was leveled, 263 temple-related artifacts were found. After a comprehensive analysis of the evidences that had surfaced during the excavation and the discovery of historical artifacts, the Archeological Survey Of India came to the conclusion that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid.

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court also reached the same conclusion. To make the excavation impartial, it was ensured that 52 Muslims were included in the team of 131 of excavators. Not just that, the excavation was conducted in the presence of the representatives and archaeological historians belonging to the BMAC group, Suraj Bhan, Mondal, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon. The ASI had once again, proved its impartiality. – DNA, 6 November 2018

» K.K. Muhammed is an archaeologist who was the Regional Director (North) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He is currently serving as Project Archaeological Director in the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Ayodhya Dispute Timeline

 


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  1. Supreme Court of India

    Ayodhya and the law – P. P. Rao – The Hindu – Chennai – Mar 19, 2002

    The Ayodhya dispute has once again moved to centre stage. The legal dispute dates back to 1949. In 1989 all the suits were transferred to the Allahabad High Court to be heard together. In August 1989, the Allahabad High Court ordered the status quo in respect of the disputed structure. On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished in broad daylight in the presence of almost all the leaders of the BJP with the notable exception of Atal Behari Vajpayee. The demolition was in flagrant violation of the orders of the Supreme Court, which permitted only bhajan by the kar sevaks, and a breach of the assurances given by the BJP Government in Uttar Pradesh. Later, the Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh, was convicted for contempt of court and sentenced to imprisonment. After the demolition, the idols were replaced on the disputed land the same evening. A temporary structure was also put up. In the night, President’s Rule was imposed in the State and the Assembly dissolved. The country witnessed widespread communal riots resulting in the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property on a large scale. Communal harmony suffered a severe setback.

    Within a few days, President’s Rule was imposed in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, the remaining three States governed by the BJP. This was challenged in the Supreme Court. A nine-judge Bench without a single dissent upheld the imposition of President’s Rule. Through separate but concurring judgments, the judges explained what secularism, a basic feature of the Constitution, meant and the attitude expected of the state towards all religions. They said religion could not be mixed with any secular activity of the state. The encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited. The state has to remain neutral towards all religions. Justice K. Ramaswamy observed: “The state is prohibited to patronise any particular religion as state religion and is enjoined to observe neutrality.”

    The validity of The Acquisition of Certain Areas at Ayodhya Act, 1993, under which the land surrounding the Babri Masjid was acquired and is held by the Centre was challenged before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. Three of the five judges upheld the Act except Section 4(3) which provided for abatement of all pending suits and legal proceedings without an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The dissenting judges held that the Act favoured one religious community and disfavoured another and therefore it was unconstitutional. In passing, they observed, “Hinduism is a tolerant faith. It is that tolerance that has enabled Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism to find shelter and support upon this land. We have no doubt that the moderate Hindu has little taste for the tearing down of the place of worship of another to replace it with a temple. It is our fervent hope that moderate opinion shall find general expression and that communal brotherhood shall bring to the dispute at Ayodhya an amicable solution long before the courts resolve it.”

    Taking note of the fact that the interest claimed by the Muslims was only over the disputed site where the mosque stood before demolition and that they claimed no title over the entire remaining property acquired, of which a large part comprises properties of Hindus, the Court observed: “The justification given for acquisition of the larger area including the property in respect of which title is not disputed is that the same is necessary to ensure that the final outcome of adjudication should not be rendered meaningless by the existence of properties belonging to Hindus in the vicinity of the disputed structure in case the Muslims are found entitled to the disputed site. This obviously means that in the event of the Muslims succeeding in the adjudication of the dispute requiring the disputed structure to be handed over to the Muslim community, their success should not be thwarted by denial of proper access to, and enjoyment of rights in, the disputed area by exercise of rights of ownership of Hindu owners of the adjacent properties. Obviously, it is for this reason that the adjacent area has also been acquired to make available to the successful party, that part of it which is considered necessary, for proper enjoyment of the fruits of success of the final outcome of the adjudication. It is clear that one of the purposes of the acquisition of the adjacent properties is the ensurement of the effective enjoyment of the disputed site by the Muslim community in the event of its success in the litigation; and acquisition of the adjacent area is incidental to the main purpose and cannot be termed unreasonable.”

    The court added: “However, at a later stage when the exact area acquired, which is needed for achieving the professed purpose of acquisition, can be determined, it would not merely be permissible but also desirable that the superfluous excess area is released from acquisition and reverted to its earlier owner.” Rejecting the plea that the acquisition of the adjacent area was unnecessary for achieving the objective of settling the dispute relating to the disputed area, the court observed: “In case the superfluous area is not returned to its owner even after the exact area needed for the purpose is finally determined, it would be open to the owner of any such property to then challenge the superfluous acquisition being unrelated to the purpose of acquisition.”

    Perhaps the only portion of the judgment on the basis of which the Central Government formed its view and presented it to the Supreme Court through the Attorney-General on March 13, 2002, is to the effect that the provision of Section 6(3) “however does not countenance the dispute remaining unresolved or the situation continuing perpetually. The embargo on transfer till adjudication, and in terms thereof, to be read in Section 6(1), relates only to the disputed area, while transfer of any part of the excess area, retention of which till adjudication of the dispute relating to the disputed area may not be necessary, is not inhibited till then, since the acquisition of the excess area is absolutely subject to the duty to restore it to the owner if its retention is found to be unnecessary as indicated”. With regard to the context these two sentences only mean that in the event of resolution of the dispute earlier by means other than adjudication, it should be possible to determine the surplus area and return the same to the owners. The judgment has to be read as a whole and understood in proper context, having regard to the object sought to be achieved by the Act as reiterated by the Court in several places in the judgment. Inconsistency cannot be attributed to the judgment. The interim order passed by the Supreme Court on March 13 is in consonance with the letter and spirit of the majority judgment of the Constitution Bench and the Acquisition Act.

    It is unfortunate that the BJP-led Government instead of maintaining strict neutrality, in terms of the law declared in S.R. Bommai’s case in 1994 and also in its capacity as a statutory receiver under the Act, has espoused the cause of the VHP and the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. The stand taken by the Attorney-General was also unexpected.

    ~ P. P. Rao is Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court.

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