Ayodhya
 
Evidence II
   


ARCHAEOLOGY TOUR

Discoveries at the site I: The Temple City of Ayodhya

Until recently, much of the evidence was literary, based on accounts in chronicles, supplemented by some archaeology around the site. Even then, archaeology left little doubt regarding the existence of a previous temple at the site at which the Babri Masjid is situated. Ayodhya has drawn the attention of competent archaeologists including a few internationally known experts like B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta.

As a result, the volume of data available is huge running into several volumes. Some of it has probably been rendered obsolete by discoveries following the demolition of December 6, 1992. They settle once and for all the question: Was there a Hindu temple at the site before Babri Masjid was built in 1528?

Let us next look at what archaeology has to say about the Ayodhya site. The first point to note is that Ayodhya lies in a region that is generously watered, and has therefore been densely populated since time immemorial.

As a result, archaeological work at Ayodhya is more difficult, and has not been on the same scale as at Harappan sites lying a thousand miles to the west. And for the same reasons, luck plays a large role in the success of any exploration at Ayodhya, which is true of archaeology in general. Here is what a leading archaeologist, Dr. S.P. Gupta (former director of the Allahabad Museum), has to say about recent excavations at Ayodhya. Gupta probably has the most extensive experience among the archaeologists to have explored the site.

From 1975 through 1980, the Archaeological Survey of India under the Directorship of Professor B.B. Lal, a former Director General of the Survey, undertook an extensive programme of excavation at Ayodhya, including the very mound of the Ramajanmabhumi on which the so-called "Janmasthan Masjid" or Babri Mosque once stood and was later demolished on 6th December 1992.

This is an interesting observation: the Babri Mosque was known also as the 'Janmashtan Masjid' even to the Muslims! Obviously they believed it to be the birthplace of Rama ? not Babar. We shall see later that until the Secularists showed them the value of it, the Muslims never used Negationism; far from it, they took great pride in their record of vandalization of Hindu sacred places. To continue with Gupta's account:

At Ayodhya, Professor Lal took as many as 14 trenches at different places to ascertain the antiquity of the site. It was then found that the history of the township was at least three thousand years old, if not more ... . When seen in the light of 20 black stone pillars, 16 of which were found re-used and standing in position as corner stones of piers for the disputed domed structure of the 'mosque', Prof. Lal felt that the pillar bases may have belonged to a Hindu temple built on archaeological levels formed prior to 13th century AD ...

On further stratigraphic and other evidence, Lal concluded that the pillar bases must have belonged to a Hindu temple that stood between 12th and the 16th centuries. "He also found a door-jamb carved with Hindu icons and decorative motifs of yakshas, yakshis, kirtimukhas, purnaghattas, double lotus flowers etc."

Pillar bases found at the site of the 'mosque'

What this means is that Lal had found evidence for possibly two temples, one that existed before the 13th century, and another between the 13th and the 16th centuries.

This corresponds very well indeed with history and tradition. We know that this area was ravaged by Muslim invaders following Muhammad of Ghor's defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 AD. This was apparently rebuilt and remained in use until destroyed again in the 16th century by Babar.

Impressive as these discoveries are, Lal had actually been somewhat unlucky. He had barely missed striking a trench containing a treasure trove of Hindu artifacts from the medieval period. As Gupta tells us:

Prof. Lal had hard luck at Ramajanmabhumi. His southern trenches missed a huge pit with 40 and odd sculptures just by 10 to 12 feet. But he did get the pillar bases of the pre-16th century demolished-temple which others did not get.

Excavation was resumed on July 2, 1992 by S.P. Gupta, Y.D. Sharma, K.M. Srivastava and other senior archaeologists. This was less than six months before the demolition (which of course no one then knew was going to take place). Their particular interest lay in the forty-odd Hindu artifacts that had been discovered in the pit missed by Lal. These finds had been widely reported in the newspapers. Gupta, a former Director of the Allahabad Museum and an expert on medieval artifacts had a special interest in examining the finds. He tells us:

The team found that the objects were datable to the period ranging from the 10th through the 12th century AD, i.e., the period of the late Pratiharas and early Gahadvals. The kings of these two dynasties hailing from Kannauj had ruled over Avadh and eastern Uttar Pradesh successively during that period.

These objects included a number of amakalas, i.e., the cogged-wheel type architectural element which crown the bhumi shikharas or spires of subsidiary shrines, as well as the top of the spire or the main shikhara ... This is a characteristic feature of all north Indian temples of the early medieval period and no one can miss it ? it is there in the Orissa temples such as Konarak, in the temples of Madhya Pradesh such as Khajuraho and in the temples of Rajasthan such as Osian.

There was other evidence ? of cornices, pillar capitals, mouldings, door jambs with floral patterns and others ? leaving little doubt regarding the existence of a 10th - 12th century temple complex at the site of Ayodhya. So Lal had been right in believing there was an earlier temple ? prior to the one destroyed by Babar. More discoveries were made following the demolition of December 6. All these discoveries leave no doubt at all about the true picture.

The discovery of a number of Kushana period terracotta images of gods and goddesses earlier made it clear, first, that at the Janmabhumi site Hindu temples were built several times during the 2000 years with the interval of only 450 years, from 1528 to 1992, when the Muslims destroyed the temple and occupied the site and also built a new structure they called 'Janmabhumi Masjid' in their own record; ... (See below.)

And finally, the temple was destroyed sometime after the 13th century AD, in every likelihood in the early 16th century, as is fully borne out by the inscriptions of Mir Baqi found fixed in the disputed structure from back in time, during the British days as is clear from the accounts given by Mrs. A. Beveridge in her translation of Babur-Nama published in 1926.

Kushana period artifacts from the 'mosque' site

So archaeology also leaves little doubt about the existence of theprior temple. Then came the explosion of Decembr 6, 1992.

On Top of the Page

This demolished not only the Babri Masjid but the whole case of the Secularists and their allies. It revealed a major inscription that settles the question once and for all.

Discoveries at the site II: the Hari-Vishnu inscription

The demolition on December 6, 1992 changed the picture dramatically, providing further support to the traditional accounts ? both Hindu and Muslim. Some of the kar-sevaks, no doubt influenced by all the publicity about history and archaeology, went on to pick up more than two hundred pieces of stone slabs with writing upon them. These proved to belong to extremely important inscriptions, more than a thousand years old. In effect, the kar-sevaks had done what archaeologists should have done years ago; they had unearthed important inscriptions ? in howsoever a crude form ? something that should have been done years ago by professional historians and archaeologists. The inscriptions, even the few that have been read so far, shed a great deal of light on the history of not only Ayodhya and its environs, but all of North India in the early Medieval, and even the late ancient period.

In any other society, these inscriptions and other archaeological artifacts would not only be greeted with glee ? as Biblical scholars did the Dead Sea Scrolls ? but there would also be a mad scramble among researchers to see what new discoveries they could make. But the Secularists' reaction was the exact opposite of this: they wanted the whole thing suppressed. They claimed, without examination, that all the two-hundred and fifty odd pieces of epigraphical records were forgeries planted during the demolition, and demanded a police investigation. This is a point worth noting: they wanted not an investigation of artifacts by scholars, but a police investigation.

To return to the inscriptional finds, it will be years before scholars can come up with a complete picture, but they have already yielded much valuable information. Here is what S.P. Gupta found upon examining the two-hundred and fifty or so stone pieces with writing upon them:

Not all were ancient, since scores of them, generally rectangular marble tiles, bore the dedicatory inscriptions in the Devanagari script of the 20th century. However, at least three dozens of them were certainly ancient, belonging to the period bracketed between 10th and 12th centuries AD. (In The Ayodhya Reference: pp 117-18)

The most important of these deciphered so far is the Hari-Vishnu inscription that clinches the whole issue of the temple. It is written in 12th century AD Devanagari script and belongs therefore to the period before the onslaught of the Ghorids (1192 AD and later). Gupta tells us:

This inscription, running in as many as 20 lines, is found engraved on a 5 ft. long, 2 ft. broad and 2.5 inches thick slab of buff sandstone, apparently a very heavy tablet ... Three-fourths of the tablet is found obliterated anciently. The last line is also not complete since it was anciently subjected to chipping off. A portion of the central part is found battered, maybe someone tried to deface it anciently.The patination [tarnishingincluding wearout] is, however, uniform all over the surface, even in areas where once there were inscriptions. (op. cit. pp 118-19)

The 12 century 'Hari-Vishnu' inscription found at the 'mosque site'

Gupta is an archaeologist and not an epigraphist trained to read ancient inscriptions. It was examined by Ajay Mitra Shastri, Chairman of the Epigraphical Society of India. Shastri gave the following summary. What the inscription tells us is of monumental significance to the history of Medieval India.

The inscription is composed in high-flown Sanskrit verse, except for a very small portion in prose, and is engraved in chaste and classical Nagari script of the eleventh-twelfth century AD. It has yet to be fully deciphered, but the portions which have been fully deciphered and read are of great historical significance and value ... [It has since been fully deciphered.]

It was evidently put up on the wall of the temple, the construction of which is recorded in the text inscribed on it. Line 15 of this inscription, for example, clearly tells us that a beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari, built with heaps of stones ... , and beautified with a golden spire ... unparalleled by any other temple built by earlier kings ... This wonderful temple ... was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya situated in Saketamandala. ... Line 19 describes god Vishnu as destroying king Bali ... and the ten headed personage (Dashanana, i.e., Ravana). (op. cit. 119; emphasis mine. Original Sanskrit quotes given by Shastri are left out.)

Need we say more ? a temple for Hari-Vishnu who killed the ten-headed Ravana, in the temple city of Ayodhya? So Ayodhya was known as a temple city even then; Saketa was the ancient name of the district. The inscription confirms what archaeologists Lal and Gupta had earlier found about the existence of a temple complex. And yet the Secularists and their allies have been telling the world that there was no temple!

Part of dwara-palaka (gate keeper) found at the 'mosque' site

Summary of findings

We may now sum up the findings based on both literary and archaeological/epigraphic evidence:

1 All the literary sources without exception, until the Secularists began their negationist masquerade, are unanimous that a Rama temple existed at the site known since time immemorial as Rama Janmabhumi.

2. Archaeology confirms the existence of temples going back to Kushan times, or about 2000 years. This date may well be extended by future excavations assuming that such excavations will be permitted by politicians.

3. Archaeology records at least two destructions: the first in the 12th-13th century; the second, later, in all probability in the 16th. This agrees well with history and tradition that were temple destructions following the Ghorid invasions (after 1192 AD) and restored, and was destroyed again in 1528 by Babar who replaced it with a mosque. This is the famous ? or infamous ? Babri Masjid that was demolished by kar-sevaks on December 6, 1992.



Another 12th century inscription found at the 'mosque' site

4. A large inscription discovered at the site dating to 11th-12th century records the existence of numerous temples including a magnificent one in which Hari-Vishnu was honored as destroyer of the ten-headed Ravana. Ayodhya was always known as a temple city.

These facts drawing upon several literary and archaeological sources leave no doubt at all that a temple located at a site sacred to the Hindus was destroyed to build a mosque under Babar?s express orders.

 

 

 
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