Revisiting Ram Janmabhoomi – Part II
Readers would remember that in Part – I of this series, I had promised to share some notes on this issue and a summary of historical/ archaeological evidence.
In this Part (Part – II), I have made an attempt at explaining the backdrop to a very complex situation in an easy-to-understand and hopefully well articulated, manner citing historical and archaeological evidence. Most of what I have noted below is extracted from various arguments that have been put forward in support of reclaiming the Janmabhoomi.
In the following part (Part III), I will try and summarise the arguments put forward by the AIBMAC (All India Babri Masjid Action Commitee) and the documents of evidence and rejoinder by VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad).
Most of you may not remember this but in a post on my blog more than four years ago, I wrote:
I see the Ayodhya movement as inseparably linked to a revival of Hindu pride. Lord Shri Ram’s character can be an ideal template to bring together the disparate elements within present day Hindu religion. Being an earlier epic than Mahabharata, the Ramayana has strong elements that support a cohesive society, much before the degradation of the varna-ashram dharma into the jati-pratha system (e.g. the characters of Valmiki, Shabri, Jatav, Shri Hanuman etc). These need to be highlighted and woven together to win mass support for reclamation of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya.
To this I would add:
I also see this as a great opportunity to bring to a close a painful chapter in contemporary Indian history and to give everyone an opportunity to move beyond historical grievances & injustices of the past.
Before we delve into the history of the Janmabhoomi, it may be helpful to recollect what Gandhi-ji said about mosques built after destroying temples:
“Mosques built after destroying temples are the sign of slavery and Muslims should hand over the same to Hindu Society”
Source: Mahatma Gandhi in ‘Navjeevan’ dated July 17, 1937 [ quoted here ].
Below, a glimpse into the historical and archaeological evidence supporting the case of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi.
My first historical reference comes from Ayodhya Movement – Facts and the Debate which mentions that there were numerous armed conflicts and attempts made by Hindus over the past centuries to regain control of the Janmasthaan.Some extracts below (emphasis mine):
As per historians, since 1528 there have been at least 76 armed conflict in which over 300,000 Hindus sacrificed their lives to restore the Ram Janma Bhoomi temple.
…the only conflict free periods were when they were allowed to worship inside the disputed structure. For example, in order to avoid further conflict, during the latter part of his reign Akbar allowed Hindus to build a platform known as ‘Ram Chabutra’, and to install and worship images of Ram Parivar in the so called Babri compound. This practice was later opposed by Aurungzeb which resulted in most battles for the control of the shrine during his reign.
In 1751 A.D. Maratha Sardar Malhar Rao Holkar after defeating the Pathans in the plains of Ganga and Yamuna, asked Nawab Safderjang to hand over Ayodhya, Kashi and Prayag to the Peshwas. In a letter dated February 23, 1756, Nanasaheb Peshwa asked Sardar Scindia to annex Ayodhya and Kashi as the handover of these holy places was already promised to Raghoba Dada by Suja-uddoula.
Later in 1789 A.D. Sardar MahadJi Scindia did annex Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi, but due to his untimely demise was not able to restore the temples of Ram Janma Bhoomi, Krishna Janma Bhoomi and Kashi Vishweshwar back to Hindus.
…According to the British records by Thornton (1854 A.D.) and Carnegie (1870 A.D.) till 1855 A.D. Hindus continued to worship Ram in the 3 domed structure. During the First War of Independence of 1857 the local Muslim leader Amir Ali persuaded the Muslims to finally hand over the disputed place to Hindus and jointly fight with the British. However the British won the War of 1857 and Amir Ali and Hindu leader Baba Ram Charan Das were publicly hanged from a tree near the Ram Janma Bhoomi.
The British subsequently put a railing wall between Babri structure and the courtyard and separated the Muslim worshipers who got the Babri structure and Hindus had no choice but to do puja outside in the courtyard.
…In 1934, during the armed conflict between Hindus and Muslims the Babri structure was damaged. Since 1936, the Babri structure was an abandoned building and did not function as a community mosque for local muslims. There is no evidence of any Mutawalli or Imam or Muazzin or Khatib or Khadim having functioned as the mosque management as such for the up keep and maintenance of the ‘mosque’.
On December 23, 1949 the image of ‘Ramalalla’ appeared in the disputed structure and Hindus resumed prayers and worship inside. On December 29, 1949 Additional Magistrate Markandey Singh confiscated the building and handed over the posession to Priya Dutta Ram as Receiver, who assumed charge of the same on January 5, 1950.
After almost 12 years, on December 18, 1961 the Sunni Waqf Board filed the law suit seeking the possession of the disputed structure. This law suit was liable to be dismissed since the then prevalent statute of limitation for property takeover of 6 years had already passed.
Since December 23, 1949 there have been daily Hindu prayers and worship at the Ram Janma Bhoomi Temple…Babri was not a functional Mosque, and it has been a functional temple for atleast 42 years.
*** End of Extracts ***
Next, let us look at evidence from archeology. Past excavations and studies suggest that a temple did exist at the same site (as) and underneath, the disputed structure. This has also been corroborated by the report of the ASI – which was submitted to the court on Augist 25, ’03. From Proof of temple found at Ayodhya: ASI report, some excerpts (emphasis added):
In what could be a turning point in the Ayodhya dispute, the Archaeological Survey of India has reported to the high court that its excavations found distinctive features of a 10th century temple beneath the Babri Mosque site.
The 574-page ASI report consisting of written opinions and maps and drawings was opened before the full Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on Monday morning.
The report said there was archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural activities from the 10th century onwards up to the construction of the disputed structure (Babri Mosque).
…The archaeological evidence and other discoveries from the site were indicative of remains that are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India, the ASI report said.
The ASI report said there is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50×30 metres in north-south and east-west directions respectively just below the disputed structure.
…In a significant observation the report said towards east of this central point, a circular depression with projection on the west, cut into the large sized brick pavement, signifying the place where some important object was placed.
…The report said the human activity at the site dates back to 13th century BC on the basis of the scientific dating method providing the only archaeological evidence of such an early date of the occupation of the site.
…The report said during the early medieval period (11-12th century AD) a huge structure of nearly 50 metres north-south orientation was constructed which seems to have been short lived as only four of the 50 pillar bases exposed during the excavation belonged to this level with a brick crush floor…The report concluded that it was over the top of this construction during the early 16th century that the disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it.
Next, some excerpts from Harsh Narain’s Rama-Janmabhumi Temple: Muslim Testimony that summarises the evidence (based on contemporary records by Muslim scholars) and makes the following points (emphasis added):
The forgoing four-fold documentary evidence leads us to certain incontrovertible conclusions, which can be stated as under…
2. That there did exist a temple called the temple of Janmasthan at Ayodhya, where Rama is believed to have incarnated and that adjacent to it was what is called Sîta kî Rasoî, which might originally have been part of it.
3. That, like Muslim rulers who desecrated Mathura, Vrindavana, etc., Babar chose Ayodhya for spread of Islam and replacement of temples by mosques, thanks to its supreme importance as a holy place of the Hindus, and in 1528, under the patronage of Sayyid Mir Ashiqan, got the so called Babari mosque erected in isplacement of the Rama-Janmasthan temple, certain relics of which appear to have persisted at least till 1855.
4. That the Babari mosque was also called ‘masjid-i Janmasthan’ and ‘masjid-i Sîta kî Rasoî’ from long before 1855.
I would like to conclude this post with a few quotes/ citations. First a brief extract from Koenraad Elst‘s seminal work, “Ayodhya and After” (emphasis added):
…the facts pertinent for the Hindu case:
one, there was a temple there since at least the eleventh century, attested by archaeology;
two, the use of temple materials in the Babri Masjid entirely fulfills a set pattern of temple destruction followed by replacement with a mosque;
three, Hindus continued to worship on the spot to the extent possible, as witnessed by travelers and locals, something they would never have done except on a specially sacred spot and in continuation of a pre-Masjid tradition.
In the words of Sir V. S. Naipaul, Nobel laureate and author of “India: A Wounded Civilization”:
…The people who say that there was no temple there are missing the point.
Babar, you must understand, had contempt for the country (that) he had conquered. And his building of that mosque was an act of contempt for the country. In Turkey, they turned the Church of Santa Sophia into a mosque. In Nicosia churches were converted into mosques too. The Spaniards spent many centuries re-conquering their land from Muslim invaders. So these things have happened before and elsewhere.
In Ayodhya the construction of a mosque on a spot regarded as sacred by the conquered population was meant as an insult. It was meant as an insult to an ancient idea, the idea of Rama, which was two or three thousand years old.
I will end this post with a heartfelt plea to all Muslims in India:
Please consider that the Ram Janmabhoomi issue is not really a matter of discussion, debate, archeology or law.
It is a matter of faith.
And if you genuinely feel for the inhabitants of this land of Bharatvarsha – amongst whom were your ancestors; If you genuinely feel for its culture, for its past, for its glorius heritage, the rich literature and the epics – for the sake of all that, please cooperate with Hindus in building a grand temple – not just in Ayodhya but also in Kashi and Mathura.
That is the way to close this painful chapter. That is the way towards reconciliation.
That is the path to peace.
Parting Thought: From an open letter to Justice Liberhan by Dr S Kalyanaraman:
…Unfortunately, Liberman(sic), you have missed the central point.
You may have known and may possibly also have mentioned in your Commission’s report after 17 years of inquiry that people called Sri Rama, vigrahavan dharmah (quote from Valmiki) meaning: personification of dharma.
It is too deep for tears, Liberman that you have been roped in by the politicos to indulge in quasi-judicing in a situation which cannot be remedied through Law.
Law and Revolution are antithetical, in a way. It is impossible to revolt under law as it has evolved. Revolution by its very nature has to be outside of the judicial system.
…A spiritual movement cannot be compiled as an evidence dossier, Liberman. It has only to be experienced. It is your good fortune that you got immersed for 17 years in many facets of this spiritual movement. I am sure you have grasped the essence of what it was all about. It was a desire by many people to have a shrine for their beloved Sri Rama who had given them their identity, Liberman. You might also have read an article which appeared in Marathi by Prof. Mehendale who cited evidence from an 8th century puranam which gave three routes from three different directions, to reach the janmabhoomi, Ayodhya, of Sri Rama.
Sure, law books will be thrown at me to say that the movement should have been ‘legally’ conducted. But, the problem is, legality is a papal canon and not a spiritual understanding of Hindusthan. I don’t want so far as to say that ‘law is an ass’ which can only bray and is incapable of the cry of revolt. But I will say this. This revolt will NOT go away.