Hindu Vivek Kendra

-By Dr. B.P. Sinha*

The significance of archaeological evidence in the context of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy, is being keenly stressed by both the contending parties - VHP and BMCC.  Being one of the few having the first hand experience of both as a historian and a field archaeologist for many decades, I would like to point out the inadequacy of archaeology as the only or even a dominant source for the reconstruction of ancient Indian history.  Our knowledge about our past will be very poor if we ignore archaeology and it will be still poorer if we depend on archaeology alone as our most important source.  While archaeology is a young and growing science in India, other sources such as epigraphy, numismatics and literary evidences have for much longer time been analysed and collated to build a framework of ancient Indian history, and therefore, archaeology as a tool is useful for confirmatory evidence mainly.

Archaeology, as a positive science gives us information about material life of periods as unfolded by different stratas exposed from it that what it has not exposed, never existed.  Momentous archaeological discoveries are like Archimedies 'Eureka' i.e.  chance discoveries, and the same chance goddess may bestow luck to other archaeologists disclosing from within the womb of the mother earth such knowledge missed by previous, may be well-versed, archaeologists.  So it is always safe and wise to qualify the results of archaeological discoveries as 'to-date' or 'so far.' This self-evident, but often ignores, virtue of caution can be demonstrated.  When we were excavating Chirand, luxurient chalcolithic ceramic culture eas noticed on the earliest exposed level in many trenches down to the virgin soil.  But in one of the trenches was discovered evidence of an earlier neolithic culture, a pleasant surprise to the excavator who was almost going to close the excavation, then underway for many years.  What a loss to knowledge it would have been! Again if R.D. Bannerji and Marshal had been excavating "Mohenjadaro" today under the present-day financial constraints and expensive archaeological technique of vertical digging, it was very likely that they would have stopped the digging after laying bare the so-called coolie quarters with elements of "Harappan" pottery & building activities; but then we would have missed the massive Harappan architecture and its special monuments for which the civilisation is most famous.  The point is that in view of lack of extensive horizontal excavations of all stratas of a site, its full history is not possible to be grasped.  Moreover, in the context of getting archaeological proof of our pre-historic past & personalities one should ask the question what sort of evidence will prove the historicity or non-historicity of the Epic or Vedic characters.  As no evidence of writing before Asoka (leaving out the Harappan script) has been available so far, no contemporary written material for the time of "Rama" or Krishna" should be expected.  The cultural sequence exposed in the various stratas could give only relative chronology but no absolute chronology.  Even when "C 14" (carbon-14 archaeological test) dates would give some approximate bracket in absolute dates to the excavated cultures, as there is no certainty or unanimity about the exact period of time when "Rama" or "Krishna" flourished, how far one would be right in assigning one or the other set of "dated cultures" unearthed in trenches as the culture of the time of Rama or Krishna.  This would be arguing from the unknown to the unknown, particularly when we are not sure whether cultures depicted in the "Ramayana" or the "Mahabharata" works which were definitely much later composed than the time of the heroses, must have contained elements of culture, more of their authors' times then of their pre-historic heroes.  Thus the inadequacy of archaeological evidence and literary works as well for the period of Rama or Krishnaparticularly, material culture-architecture should be self-evident.  In view of no evidence of use of stone as building material before "Ashoka" or of burnt brick before "Buddha" is available, the literary references to the luxurous buildings described in Epics and the "Puranas" will never be confirmed by archaeology.  Wood-construction must have perished under the bowels of earth down the millennia.  The difficulty of reconciling the literary evidence and the archaeological evidence "to date" is thus obvious.  The easiest way chosen by many is to reject wholesale the testimony of the ancient literature the Epics and the Puranas for the period before the time of the Buddha.  But this selective rejection is not beyond reproach.  The same scholars who reject the Puranic dynastic lists before the Buddhist period, have used the same Puranas for the political and dynastic history of the Buddhist period.  But, it is hardly fair then, giving allowances for emendation, glosses, imagination to reject the entire pre-Buddha dynastic list as sheer figment of imagination, particularly when some kings, priests and peoples mentiones in the Vedic literature are mentioned in the Epics and the Puranas.

Now, according to Pargiter's reconstruction of the Dynastic synchronisms of the Puranas, Rama-Dasarathi is about 30 generations or so, earlier than Krishna of the Mahabharata.  But, according to archaeological evidence to date Ayodhya, the traditional homecity of Rama is not earlier 8th century B.C., while in Hastinapur and other Mahabharata sites, PGW culture equated with the Mahabharata pottery by Mr. B.B. Lal is dated between 110-800 B.C., & the Mahabharata war was fought according to Lal in 836 B.C., according to Pargiter in 950 B.C.  So, Rama who was not the founder of Ayodhya must have come much after 800 B.C., and should be nearer Buddha than Krishna; especially when many archaeologists place PGW later than Lal has put it.  But, the excavator of Dwarka and the pioneer of marine archaeology, Mr. S.R. Rao has found evidence of the submerged city of Dwarka of Krishna, which he would place not later than 1500 B.C. Dwarka was later than Hastinapur which was founded by Kuru, while the former was founded by Krishna himself.  All this discussion just points to the insufficiency of the available archaeological date and lack of consensus among archaeologists about the period of the Epic-Puranic heroes.  Would it therefore be wise today to fix the chronology, and even relative chronology of Rama and Krishna with any degree of certainty.  More extensive diggings may shed some more light on the vexed problem.  It would be sheer bravado, therefore on this evidence to deny the historicity of Rama and Krishna so richly portrayed in ancient historical traditional accounts.  Even the archaeological excavations do not confirm the history of Ayodhya in the past, post NBP or Post-Maurya period.  The Sunga, Kuhana and Gupta stratas have been rather bare, but epigraphy, coins and literature speak of flourishing Ayodhya in these and earlier periods.  Archaeology has not revealed anything of the prakars, pratolis, devapatha referred to by Patanjali in the Mahabhashya.  Neither we have found in the excavation evidence of Buddha's and Adinathas' association with Ayodhya.  Should we reject Buddhist and Jain evidence as imaginary as the Epic? We should particularly remember that the Jaina tradition of line of Tirthankars is consistent and quite reasonably reliable.  1st, 2nd, Ikshavaku dynasty of Ayodhya, which this certainly antedated 8th century B.C. Dhanadeva's inscription, the coins of Mitra-kings of Ayodhya, and the fortification of Ayodhya, its capital city-architecture of the time of Gupta Kings, Vikramaditya & Baladitya of the 5th-6th century A.D., are all unknown to archaeology of Ayodhya.  Would we be justified to reject the epigraphic, numismatic and literary evidence? And where are the Samgharamas described by Hsuan Tsang and associated with Vasubandhu and Asanga? It is not only the "Epic Ayodhya" but even "Gupta Ayodhya" that is uncorroborated from archaeology.  But, both traditions and other historical sources vouchsafe for an active and living Ayodhya-Mahatamaya appended to the Skanda-purana should be dated not later than 9th century A.D.  It refers to "Sir Ram Janmabhoomi" and other sacred places.  According to Vikramankadeva charita, Bilhana came to Ayodhya on pilgrimage.  Therefore, to think of Ayodhya as an important place for Hindus only from the 14th century onwards is all hogwash.  Sculptural representations of Ramayana scenes in temples have been found in different parts of India from the 3rd century onwards.  Sri Krishnadeva has drawn our attention to senes from Ramayana sculptured at the Ikshavaku art centre of Nagarjunikonda in Andhra pradesh dated in the 3rd Century A.D.  The sculptured stucco panels at Aphasad in Bihar, depicting as many as eight scenes from the Ramayana were introduced to the scholarly world by the present author, and they are dated in the 7th century A.D.  The depiction of redemption of Ahalya by Rama is vividly depicted in the Gupta temple at Deogadh dated in 6th Century A.D.  Similar scene depicted on a terracotta and belonging to the Gupta period has been found at Sravasti.  In a stone niche from Nachna (4th-5th Century A.D.) earlier than Deogadh example, Surpanekha's episode has been beautifully engraved.  Numerous Ramayana scenes on Angkorvat (Vishnu temple) in Cambodia are testimony to the spread of Ramayana fame in the S.E Asia.  Ramayanic scenes at Ellora (8th century) are well-known.  Sculptures representing Ramayana scenes are found in Karnatak.  The scene depicting Meghanada dragging Hanuman to Ravana's court was first noticed as Nachna (M.P.) and is found at the Varahi temple at Chaurasi (dt. Puri, Orissa) of the 10th Century A.D.  From the Chinese sources it has been shown that the Ramayana was a well-known and popular story in the time of Vasubandu.  The public recitation of the Ramayana is referred to the manuscript of kalpanamanditika of the 2nd century A.D. found in Central Asia.  The Paumacarita of Vimalasuri dated in the 1st Century A.D. is a recast of the Ramayana story.  The Khotanese and the Tibetan version of the Ramayana further prove the antiquity and widespread of the Epic story.  A distinguished scholar (B. N. Puri) held that on the basis of available evidence the Ramayana was known in Central Asia from the 2nd century A.D. may be still earlier, as Asvaghosha who wrote Buddha charita was indebted to Valmiki and is said to have lived in Ayodhya.  The recitation of the Ramayana is referred to in a Kambuja inscription of the 6th century A.D. Recitation of only secret texts is reasonable.  The above very bried summary of Rama in art and literature from the 1st century A.D. down to the 12th Century A.D., makes it clear that Rama was held in great reverence not only in almost all parts of India, but also in South-East Asia, and Central Asia.  The worship or deification of Rama is also as ancient.  Even if we exclude the evidence of the Balakanda and the Uttarkanda or the Ramayana showing Rama to be an incarnation of Vishnu, believed to be no part of the original Ramayana of Valmiki, they are certainly not as late as Ramanand or Kabir.  But Kalidasa in the Raghuvansa (4th-5th Century A.D.) refers to Rama as a divine figure.

However, while archaeology has so far failed to prove or disprove the hoary antiquity of Ayodhya going back to 2nd millennium B.C., or that of the historicity of Rama, it has certainly clearly indicated that the Babri Maszid stands on the ruins of a pre-Islamic structure of the 10th-11th centuries.  That brick-pillar bases placed at uniform distances going into section of the excavated trenches are extending into the Babri Maszid complex cannot be doubted.  About a dozen pillars used in the mosque are standing testimony to the fact that parts of a damaged Hindu structure have been appropriated in the construction of the mosque.  It is now contended by some leading motivated historians that the structure was a Buddhist one, may be one of which Husan Tsang refered to in his account of Ayodhya.  But, the distinguished historians failed to mention rather may be as a deliberate move to spread disinformation that the Chinese pilgrim has mentioned no less than 10 'deva' temples, which would be Brahmanical only.  What is wrong to ascribe one of these Brahmanical templese lying ruined under the Maszid? And should we forgive the Muslims for destroying the Buddhist structure? One is reminded of Goldsmiths' famous schoolteacher who went on arguing though vanquished still.  However, the most crucial point in the archaeological evidence has been missed.  The structure belongs to the 10th-11th centuries A.D.  So it was constructed more than a couple of hundred years after the Chinese pilgrim.  The chances of the structure being Buddhist are dim.  We all know that as a result of Shankaracharya's digvijaya and other causes Buddhism suffered mortal injuries and soon disappeared from the land of its birth.  We know that under the patronage of the Buddhist Pala kings, it survived in Bihar and Bengal only.  One would like to know if Buddhist monuments of substantial dimensions were erected in the 10th century and later, east of Banaras.  It is, therefore, a valid point to hold that Babri Maszid stands on the destroyed Hindu temple of the Pratihara or sahadavala times, who were all Hindus by faith.  We are not aware of any ruling dynasty of 9th-10th centuries in this part of the country claiming to be Buddhist by faith, and it is well established that Buddhism largely flourished on royal munificance.  Unfortunately, the details of the so-called Salabhanjika figure found in the Babri Maszid have not been given.  But, granting the presence of the motif, it is hardly fair to rule the ruined structure, whose parts were appropriated in the Maszid, on this ground alone as Buddhist.  It has been well-argued and documents elsewhere that in the post-Gupta periodthe motif was adapted by Hindu sculptors & salabhanjika model was modified to represent Lakshmi, Ganga and Yamuna.  In the Harshacarita Lakshmi has been compared to a salabhanjikaadorning the arm of a great hero like a victory-stand.  From the same book it has been inferred that columns engraved with salabhanjika motifs were found in royal apartments.  The word salabhanjika occurs in Aryasaptasat of Goverdhanacharya, a court poet of Lakshamanaursena (12th century A.D.) a Hindu by faith.  The Allahabad Museum houses many salabhausika figures in dancing poses under mango tree.  They are representatives of Jamsat-art.  So the motif was not exclusively Buddhist in the post-Gupta period.  It is really strange that while the obvious conclusion is that the structure was Hindu, the obduracy to ignore Hindu religion and art has made a particular brand of historians to look for a very unlikely explanation instead of the obvious one.

There should be no valid reason, now to hold that the structure over which the Babri Maszid stands was not Hindu in character.  Then who destroyed the temple? It is possible that Mahmud Ghazni or more probably Muhammad Ghori plundered Ayodhya as well, but as traditions persist that the maszid was built in the time of Babar, and it is natural to hold that the temple was destroyed in his time as well.  Since the time of the prophet Muhammed, the Muslim conquerors or invaders have been destroying un-Islamic structure and idols from China to Spain including Arabia, Iran and India.  And Babar could very well emulate the persistent tradition.  Meer Baqi's inscription in the mosque clearly states that it was built at the command of Babar in 1528.  And if not Babar, Mohmud Ghazni or Muhammad Ghori.  How does it weaken the Hindu standpoint? Unfortunately, the pages containing the events between April 2 and 18 September have been long lost irretrievably.  Babar believed in and led jihad against Hindu rivals, and he did smash jain idols and mutilated many jain temples in 1925 such as in Urwah Valley near Gwalior as is admitted in his autobiography.  In 1927 after his victory over Ranasanga in jihad against non-muslims, Babar took the title of Ghazi, as he himself claims in Babarnama.  Before the battle, on the eve of his jihad against the Rana, he broke his drinking cups into pieces in a manner, in which if Allah wills, the idols of the idolators will be smashed." So where remains the case that Babar, a tolerant ruler, could not destroy the Hindu temple at Ayodhya.  He certainly demolished many Hindu temples at Chanderi when he occupied it and Babar was in for a jihad covering a dar-ul-hab into dar-ul-Islam.  There is a persistent evidence coming from Muslim sources since 1858 that the controversial site was known as Janmabhumi site on the basis of earlier medieval sources certainly not on British detail.

In our opinion the Hindus were never reconciled to the loss of this sacred place and it may be due to opposition that the mosque was not completed - it is without minarets and a pond for ablution (wazu) of namazis in the mosque by the faiithful doen the centuries.  In was probably in recognition of the strength of the Hindu opposition (in vast majority in the city) and in deference to his policy of toleration that according to local tradition Akbar is said to have built the Chabutara on which Hindu idols were installed for worship and the adjacent spot known as Sita-ki-Rasoi was called Sitapak.  The Muslim rulers dared not destroy the sacred site of architecture.  But Hindu sense of grief and loss continued and often violent clashes over the issue of Ram Chabutara or the Janmabhoomi continued in the time of the great Mughals like Jehangir and Aurangzeb, and of the nawabs which must have caused consideratable loss of life.  Long before the British occupied Ayodhya, the European traveller Tieffenthaler who visited the place in 1767, wrote about the Hindu worship being reguylarly conducted in the Maszid and mentions the tradition of the Janmabhoomi temple having been destroyed to make way for the existing mosque.  It is sheer blindfoldness to assert that the dispute was concocted by the British for divide and rule.  One cannot expect the great muslim divine and scholar Maulana Abdul Hai to be writing under British inspiration.  He categorically writes that the Babri Maszid was constructed by Babar on the site of birth place of Sri Ramchandraji.

So there should be no doubt in any reasonable unprejudiced mind that the Babri maszid was built after destroying a Hindu temple.  It is sheer obduracy to argue that Mir Baqi got the Hindu pillars from a few kilometers away to instal in the mosque.  Why was he so much in love with the pillars? It is obvious that he used the pillars which he found after destruction of the temple on the site and a similar evidence has been found in Kutubminar complex.  And it is beyond dispute that for hundreds of years if not thousands, the Hindus have believed this site to be the birth place of their divine Lord Rama.  You cannot whisk away such long held pious belief of millions with even tons of weighty polemics.  Who could dare dispute that the hair in Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar does belong to the Prophet Muhammad? It is absolutely desirable for the Muslim community in the interest of peace and goodwill of the vast majority of their co-nationals to respect the aroused sentiments of the Hindus to agree to relocate the mosque and co-operate with the Hindus in construction of Rama's temple on the site.  Mosques have been and are being relocated on much minor grounds even in muslim countries.  And particularly when the mosque has not been in constant use by the namazis for decades.  I have been a regular visitor of Ayodhya since 1926, and I have seen the continuous worship of 'Rama's idols on the "chabutara" and except for the some Muslims at prayer in the mosque compound.  As has been said above, the mosque without facilities for essential ablution (wazu) for namaz was never very popular with namazis.  And the Hindu worship and also struggle for the repossession of the site continued unabated.  As early as in 1936-37, a bill was introduced in the legislature council of U.P. to transfer the site to the Hindus.  Sri G.B.  Pant, the Chief Minister tried to assuage the roused feelings of both the communities, and it is said that the bill was withdrawn on the unwritten understanding that no namaz was performed; the caretaker and his family could be the only namazis.  And in 1949, the idols were discovered and installed in the garbhagriha, and till 1986, the continuous worship of Sri Ramalala has been on in the maszid with no entry of muslims there.  The Hindu devotees received parshads, had darshan of the deity through iron-grilled window, protected by police.  Since 1987, the Hindus have been worshipping the deities installed in the mosque without any hindrance.  So the Babri Maszid does represent the humiliating experience of the Hindus and the militancy of Islam, and the Hindus throughout centuries have not accepted the fait accompli.  This is not that much true of Mathura or Dwarka sites.  The maszid on the otherhand has never been a very prominent and popular place of worship for the Muslims who congregated in Faizabad with splendid mosques.  The maszid has not been in use since 1936.  In view of all this, is it too much for the Hindus now to build a temple on the site which is traditionally the most pious site for the Hindus, after carefully and piously relocating the mosque at some distance from the site! The muslims may be assured that if they show the necessary grace, wisdom and sense of realism, no aggressive mass Hindu movement against other mosques could be again built up.  Should not the Babari Maszid Co-ordination Committee, and the VHP and BJP think on such a course of action to assure communal amity and peace, the bedrock on which the stability and prosperity of the nation depends.

 (Dr. B.P. Sinha)

*(Professor & Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology (Retired) 

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