Continued from Previous Page
While delivering the historical judgment on the Ram Janmbhumi – Babri Masjid dispute on 9 November 2019, the Supreme Court observed that Hindus got the disputed site in Ayodhya for the construction of Ram temple because they made a better case by producing evidence, which was better than that furnished by Muslims, to prove that they had uninterruptedly worshipped inside the disputed structure believing the inner sanctum to be the birth-place of Lord Ram. On the other hand, the Muslim parties could not produce evidence to prove exclusive possession and prayer at the site. Earlier too while the case was being heard on the day-to-day basis, the judges had made it clear that the religious faith, belief or trust would not be the sole basis for granting relief to any party; instead, it had to be overall merit of the quality and accuracy of evidence put forth by the parties to sustain their claim.
As observed by the court, a wealth of material emerged before them during the course of trial. This included a total of 533 exhibits produced by the plaintiffs and defendants that broadly included religious texts, travelogues, gazetteers, translations of inscriptions on pillars, reports of archaeological excavation, photographs prior to demolition and details of artifacts found at the disputed site. Oral depositions included large number of witnesses of facts, expert witnesses comprising of historians, archaeologists, epigraphist and religious matters on behalf of both parties. As the oral depositions may have some element of subjectivity or even distortion of facts, such evidences have been largely ignored while all other factual evidences have been briefly dealt with in this part.
Ayodhya and Ram – Fiction or Real
Some cynics and detractors have raised questions on the very existence of Lord Ram or Ayodhya citing both as mythological or fictional character and place. Geographically, Ayodhya and Faizabad are twin cities under the Faizabad district (now Ayodhya district) of Uttar Pradesh, India in the modern age. Traditionally, the legendary city of Ayodhya finds a mention as the birthplace of Lord Ram, who is a legendary King and the most revered deity among Hindus in several ancient texts including two epics Valmiki’s Ramayana, Vedvyasa’s Mahabaharata and major Puranas like the Skanda Purana, Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavad Purana, and so on. Ancient Sanskrit-language epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata mention a legendary city called Ayodhya, which was the capital of the Ikshvaku kings of Kosala, including Lord Rama. The saga is exclusively narrated by Maharshi Valmiki in the epic Ramayana in the background of his Kingdom of Kosala, which almost corresponds with the region of present day Awadh, Uttar Pradesh, while many other ancient Sanskrit-language texts too have sections/chapters dedicated to Lord Ram and other Ikshvaku kings of Kosala with Ayodhya as their capital.
The Brahmanda Purana is one of the oldest 18 Major Puranas which, according to Indologists and scholars, dates back to 4th to 6th BCE. The Purana refers to an elaborate text “The Adhyatma Ramayana” comprising of about 4500 verses and one of the verse names Ayodhya as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Saptapuri) for Hindus owing to their belief as the birthplace of Ram; others being Mathura, Haridvara, Kashi, Kanchi, Avantika and Dwarka. The Garuda Purana too has glorified Ayodhya among the seven holiest places for Hindus in India. The Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana, the latter often referred as the "Fifth Veda”, are also among the oldest religious books which describe Lord Ram as King of Kosala and his glorification as the God in manifested form. In Bhagavad Purana, Skandha (Canto) 9, Chapters 10-12, entire genealogy of the Ikshvaku kings including Lord Ram has been described. The narratives of Ram as Kosala King with Ayodhya as his capital along with the associated characters Sita, Lakshman, Bharat, Hanuman, Ravan not only exist in various texts in the South Asian nations of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka but also in the far east Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Some historians aka scholars have intentionally or unintentionally tried to create confusion and controversy about the terms Kosala, Saket and Ayodhya, particularly calling the latter as a mythical or imaginary city. Multiple names of a place is not something very unconventional or unacceptable, as many historical cities have been differently named from time to time. Saket is only another name used for the legendary city in the past. As it appears, the term Ayodhya in the present form has been continuously used after the Gupta emperor Skandagupta moved his capital here and named the city as Ayodhya. Some historical records also suggest that Gautam Buddha and Mahavira, preachers of Buddhism and Jainism respectively, also visited and stayed in the city for some time. The Jain text Paumachariya has clarified that Aojjha (Ayodhya), Kosala-puri (Kosala) and Saeya (Saket or Saketa) are synonyms for one and the same city. In several references, Ayodhya and Saket are interchangeably used to denote the city even today. Notwithstanding cynism and denial of some, the existence and belief of Hindus in Ayodhya and Lord Ram is real and cannot be dismissed as mere figment of imagination.
Existence and Nature of Shrine
The disputed land is situated at the erstwhile village of Kot Rama Chandra alias Ramkot at Ayodhya and an old structure of a mosque existed at the site until 6 December 1992. The disputed site has religious significance for the Hindu devotees, who believe that Lord Ram was born there. Accordingly, the Hindus refer it as Ram Janmbhumi or Ram Janmasthan (i.e. birth-place of Lord Ram) and assert that an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Ram existed at the disputed site, which was demolished by Mir Baqi upon Ayodhya’s conquest by Mughal Emperor Babur. On the other hand, the Muslims contend that the mosque was built by or at the behest of Babur on the vacant and virgin land. Though the significance of the site for the Hindus is not denied by litigant, the case of the Muslims is that their community is the sole proprietor of the land and Hindus have no proprietary claim whatsoever over the disputed property.
At the outset, it may be mentioned that unlike some left and left-centric politicians, mediapersons and intellectuals of the country, the Muslim parties and their counsel did not dispute Lord Ram or his birth at Ayodhya. In other words, they did not have issues with the faith and belief of the Hindus about the birth of Lord Ram at Ayodhya as described in Valmiki‘s Ramayan; instead, they disputed the claim of Hindus that the place below the central dome of the erstwhile Babri Masjid is the place of birth of Lord Ram. The Muslims expressly contested the existence of a Ram Janmbhumi temple at the site of Babri Masjid. On the other hand, Hindus claim that there was a Ram temple the site of his birth place in Ayodhya, which was demolished by the Minister/General Mir Baqi in 1528 and masjid was constructed at the same site on the behest of Mughal emperor Babur.
There seems uncertainty about who, Vikramadityas of Gupta period around 4th century or kings of Gahadavala dynasy of the 11th century, constructed the temple under reference. The Gahadavala dynasty ruled the region in 11th and 12th centuries and is known to have built several Vishnu temples promoting Vaishnavism; some of these temples survived till Aurangzeb's rule. A famous historian and Indologist Hans T. Bakker had earlier concluded the existence of a temple at the birth place of Lord Ram built by the Gahadavalas. Vishnu Hari inscriptions recovered from the site strengthened the view of a Gahadavala king having constructed the said temple but Indian historian RS Sharma suggested that the said inscription was of 17th century origin mysteriously "thrust and concealed in the brick-wall" of the Babri mosque. He author proposes to deal with these issues in the later part of this article.
With this background, it becomes necessary to illustrate the disputed site and surrounding features as material evidence for the readers to make up own mind about the existence and nature of Hindu shrine, if any, at the disputed site. The Faizabad Commissioner had submitted a report on 25 May 1950 (part of judgment now), annexing two site plans with the following structural details of the disputed site:
- The existence of two entry gates to the disputed site, described as Hanumat Dwar and Singh Dwar; Hanumat Dwar is main gate with a stone slab fixed to the ground containing the inscription - Shri Janma Bhumi Nitya Yatra, and a big coloured picture of Shri Hanumanji is placed at the top of the gate.
- The presence of two black Kasauti stone pillars at the entry point of Hanumat Dwar containing engraved images of ‘Jai’ and ‘Vijai‘;
- The northern gate – Singh Dwar - has got at its top images of Garuda in the middle and two lions one on each side. The image of ‘Garuda‘ is flanked by lions on either side;
- An engraved stone image of 5’ long known as Varah Bhagwan on the outer wall, to the south of Hanumat Dwar;
- Ramchabutra admeasuring 17 X 21 feet containing a small temple with idols of Lord Ram and Janki;
- On the south-eastern corner, a semi-circular platform attached to the neem-pipal tree containing idols of Panchmukhi Mahadev (Shiva), Parvati, Ganesh and Nandi;
- The platform called Sita Rasoi containing the foot prints of Lord Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan;
- The railing separating the inner and outer courtyards;
- The presence of twelve black Kasauti stone pillars supporting the three arches of the mosque which contained carvings of (a) Lotus flowers; (b) Tandava nritya; (c) Lord Hanuman; and (d) Lord Krishna. Carvings on the other pillars found obliterated;
- The idol of infant Lord Ram placed on a platform with two steps in the central portion of the domed structure; • A parikrama around the disputed structure; and
- The existence of structures surrounding the disputed site including huts of sadhus/bairagis and the wall called ‘sita-koop’.
The adjacent areas have another raised platform as “Shankar Chabutra”, huts and dhunis of sadhus, Sita Koop, inscription “Sumitra Bhawan”, carved image of Shesh Nag, Narad Chabutra and samadhis of ancient sages such as Angira, Markandeya, Gautam, Shandilya, Garg, and other sages.
As for the (demolished) Masjid, while both Hindu and Muslim plaintiffs and defendants refer it as Babri Masjid and generally believe it to have been constructed by Mir Baqi, there are conflicting versions about whether Babur or Aurangzeb was behind it. Despite its three domes structure and oral witnesses’ submission of offering namaz justifying its Islamic character, it lacked many features typical of a masjid. The following features were found absent or deficient as required for a mosque in Islamic jurisprudence:
- The tomb of the disputed masjid was in deviation of the style developed by Turkis during fifteenth century and the Mehrab of the Masjid was found lacking;
- On the north door in the front facing each other there were two tigers in the style of taking leaps and between the two was a peacock. This is not a characteristic of a mosque;
- The various Hindu idols are painted and their scriptions were found in the disputed mosque;
- The disputed mosque was without minarets for calling Ajan and there was no place for water storage for Vazoo;
- Babur never dedicated the property of disputed mosque to ALLAH. The material of the old temple was largely used in building the mosque and a few of the original columns are still in good preservation. They are of closed grained black stone (Kasauti) bearing various Hindi Bas-reliefs. The Holy Koran does not permit the construction of a mosque on the site of temple after demolishing the temple;
- A mosque must be built in a place of peace and quiet and near a place where there is a sizeable Muslim population. According to the Tenets of Islam, a mosque cannot be built at place which is surrounded on all sides by temples / religious structures of other faiths with the sound of music, Conch shells or Ghanta Ghariyalis;
- According to the claim laid by the Muslims in the present suit, the building is surrounded by a graveyard known as Ganj Shahidan. Also there is a mention in the Faizabad Gazetteer about the burial of seventy-five Muslims at the gate of Janmasthan and the place being known as Ganj Shahidan after the battle of 1855. This position makes the building invalid to be used as a mosque for offering of prayers except the funeral prayers.
During the hearing, some Muslims witnesses admitted that a building built on somebody‘s land by force will not be a mosque because demolishing any place of worship is forbidden in Islam. Citing Shariyat, some witnesses agreed that if picture or idol of any living being exists over the walls or pillars of mosque, then the namaz offered there would be ‘Makruh‘ (undesirable). One Muslim witness submitted that if a place of worship belonging to a particular religion is demolished, it would remain a place of worship for that faith and if it was proved that a temple on a disputed site was forcibly demolished for the construction of a mosque, the shrine would continue to be treated as a temple.
The counsel for Hindu parties citing Hadees pointed out breach of cardinal principles of Islamic law in the Babri case such as: Azaan must be called at least twice a day; mosque must have a Vazoo or place for ablution; mosque should not have visual images of idols, floral designs or the human form; no ringing of bells is permissible in the area surrounding a mosque; two religious places are impermissible on one plot of land; land should not be usurped for the construction of a mosque; and graves should not be situated in close-proximity to a mosque. To counter aforesaid deviations, the counsel for the Muslim parties pleaded that the concept of ‘Makruh‘ means something which is undesirable but not prohibited; and this is a purely spiritual idea about what makes worship dearer to Almighty Allah.
Three Inscriptions and Vishnu Hari Inscription
The counsel appearing for the Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) cited three sets of texts and inscriptions said to be installed in the disputed building on sole basis as evidence for determining the period of construction and to co-relate it with Babar reportedly referred to in certain Gazetteers and documents etc.
- The first document is the text by Fuhrer titled “The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur with notes on Zafarabad, Sahet-Mahet and other places in the Northern-Western Provinces and Oudh”. The original edition of the book is of 1889 and reprinted in 1994 by the ASI. In Chapter X of the aforesaid book, there is a reference to three inscriptions suggesting the Babri mosque was constructed at Ayodhya in 1523 A.D.;
- The second documentary evidence cited Babur-Nama, in which two inscriptions reportedly exist and purportedly translated by AS Beveridge in 1920s;
- The third set of texts in support of the inscriptions is published in “Epigraphia Indica-Arabic-Persian Supplement 1964-65” and reprinted in 1987. The text is attributed to Maulvi M Ashraf Husain and is edited by ZA Desai.
Incidentally, while divulging with the contents relating to Babur in three inscriptions installed on the disputed building, Fuhrer also made the following observation:
“The old temple of Ramachandra at Janamasthanam must have been a very fine one, for many of its columns have been used by the Musalmans in the construction of Babar's masjid. These are of strong, close-grained, dark-coloured or black stone, called by the natives “kasauti’, - touch-stone slate, and carved with different devices. They are from seven to eight feet long, square at the base, centre and capital, and round or octagonal intermediately.”
While finding several anomalies in various versions of inscriptions including some rubbings, judges concluded that the inscriptions were not authentic and hence it could not be held either that the disputed building was constructed by or under the orders of Babur or that it was constructed in 1528. In fact, one of the Allahabad High Court judges had recorded that the preponderance of probability shows that “the building in dispute was constructed at some later point of time and the inscriptions thereon were fixed further later but exact period of the two is difficult to ascertain.”
On these findings, the approach and stand of Muslim parties through counsels was that whether the mosque was built in 1528 or thereafter would essentially make no difference because the records on which they place reliance in regard to their claim of worship, use and possession of masjid actually commenced around 1860.
The Vishnu Hari inscription is the name given to a Sanskrit language inscription recovered from the debris during the demolition of the disputed structure on 6th December 1992. The inscription is on the stone with a dimension of 115cm X 55cm. Under the orders of the Court, it was deciphered by Dr KV Ramesh, an expert epigraphist, and taken on record as evidence on the request of Hindu parties. The inscription is partially damaged and not dated but has been assigned to the middle of the 12th Century AD on paleographical grounds and the internal evidence provided by the inscriptional text. The entire text of the inscription is in Sanskrit verse of fairly high literary excellence with the paleographical and orthographical features peculiar for the period to which it belongs.
The text begins with opening salutation to Lord. The verses 21 to 24 mention the construction of a lofty stone temple by Meghasuta dedicated to Lord Vishnu Hari and verse 27 refers to Lord Vishnu's incarnations as Narasimha, Krishna, Vamana and Ram. Important historical information that this epigraph provides is the mention of Govindachandra of the Gahadavala dynasty, who ruled over a fairly vast empire from 1114 to 1155 A.D. The other information derived from it suggests that Ayodhya was the headquarters of Saket Mandala during the period. During the examination/cross-examination, Dr Ramesh deduced from his findings that the Vishnu temple constructed by Meghasuta must have been in existence in the temple town of Ayodhya from twelfth century AD and inscription may have been prepared by his successors in the Gahadavala dynasty.
The leading counsel (Dr Rajeev Dhavan) of Muslim parties questioned the competence of Dr Ramesh stating he was not a historian and that no specific importance or focus on Lord Ram has been made in the inscription. He also raised technical objections on witness and the manner in which the inscription was found. Following detailed examination, the court concluded that the knowledge and competence of the expert witness (Dr KV Ramesh) is beyond doubt so also is the genuineness and authenticity of the inscription. However, in view of prevailing disbelief in the manner of the recovery of the inscription from the site, the inscription cannot be the sole basis to conclude that the Vishnu Hari temple which is referred to in the inscription was the temple which existed at the site of the demolished structure.
In the past also, following the questions raised by historian RS Sharma and allegations that the inscription was smuggled from the Lucknow State Museum, the director Jitendra Kumar displayed the Hari-Vishnu inscription on the museum’s record in a press conference stating that it was not on display but was not missing. He also explained that the shape, colour and textual content in the Hari-Vishnu inscription of the museum and Vishnu-Hari inscription recovered from the debris at the disputed site were different.
Findings of ASI
At the direction of the Allahabad High Court in 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had carried out excavation at the disputed site at Ayodhya. The excavations were carried out under the supervision of experts including archaeologists and historians with a team of 131 labourers that included 52 Muslims. The archaeologists reported evidence of a large non-Islamic structure pre-existed on the site of the Babri Masjid. In the past also, the former Director General ASI BB Lal led team of archaeologists had carried out a limited study of the area in 1975-76 and observed rows of pillar-bases suggesting existence of a pre-existed building larger than the Babri mosque, possibly of a temple. In July 1992 too, eight eminent archaeologists went to the Ramkot hill, who suggested that the inner boundary of the disputed structure rests, at least on one side, on an earlier existing structure, which “may have belonged to an earlier temple”.
The final ASI report dated 22 August 2003 was comprised of 574 pages compiled in ten chapters: Introduction; Cuttings; Stratigraphy and Chronology; Structure; Pottery; Architectural Fragments; Terracotta Figurines; Inscriptions, Seals, Sealings and Coins; Miscellaneous Objects; Summary of Results.
The excavations gave ample traces that there was a huge pre-existing structure beneath the three-domed Babri mosque. Ancient perimeters from East to West and North to South beneath the Babri structure included beautiful stone pieces bearing carved Hindu ornamentations like lotus, Kaustubh jewel, alligator facade, etc., used in these walls. More than 30 pillar bases, three layers of floors, an octagonal holy fireplace (Yagna Kund), molded bricks of round and other shapes in vogue only 2,000 years ago, Gupta and Kushan period bricks, numerous ornate pieces of touchstone (Kasauti stone) pillars, Terracotta religious figures, serpent, elephant, horse-rider, saints, etc., have been found.
Traces from the period 1300 BC to 12th century AD including Shunga (200 BC), Kushan (100-300 AD), Gupta (320-600 AD) and post-Gupta period up to 11-12th century were recovered. These included a wide range of articles and artifacts such as a round signet with a legend in Asokan Brahmi, terracotta figurines of female deities, beads of terracotta and glass, wheels and fragments of votive tanks, terracotta mother goddess, human and animal figurines, beads, bangle fragments, hairpins, pottery, stone and brick structures, ceramics with red ware and large-sized structures, a copper coin with the legend Sri Chandra (Gupta), illustrative potsherds of the Gupta period, and so on. A circular brick shrine with an entrance from the east and a provision for a water-chute on the northern wall was also found.
The ASI report concluded as under:
“Now, viewing in totality and taking into account the archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards upto the construction of the disputed structure along with the yield of stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranala (waterchute) in the north, fifty pillar bases in association of the huge structure, are indicative of remains which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.”
It may be relevant to point out here that the SCWB initially built up their case on a premise that the mosque was constructed on a virgin land with no existence of a Hindu temple as alleged and there was no evidence to suggest that the structure was at the place which Hindus believe to be the birth-place of Lord Ram. As the excavation progressed unraveling a pre-existing structure at the site, they changed their approach and a new case was put forth that the structure below the disputed structure is of Islamic origin namely, either an “Idgah” or “Kanati Masjid”. This shift in position of the Muslim parties excluded the possibility that the structure which was found below the disputed structure might have been of origin which was not religious. ASI report concluded that underlying structure could not be the floor of Idgah or Kanati Mosque because pillars are always absent in Idgah - a strong reason among others - so that maximum persons could be accommodated in minimum space for offering prayer.
This shift in stand was pointed out by the Allahabad High Court and also noted by the Supreme Court. The report had also concluded that the floor which supports the foundation of pillar bases was a floor of a Temple. The counsel of Muslim parties inter alia raised several objections on ASI Report such as inconsistent findings on the periods attributed to the artifacts, mutilated sculpture of couple not being divine, artifacts such as lotus being not necessarily Hindu religious structures, and so on. These objections including averments of proclaimed expert Archaeologists of Muslim parties were rejected by the Court as even otherwise their stand was found varying on many counts. For instance, one witness said that these finds were not at all recovered from the layers while others said otherwise. Court held that no Islamic religious artifacts have been found during excavation while the artifacts relating to Hindu religious nature were in abundance. To arrive at this conclusion, a host of photo plates including Plate No. 50 (Kapotpalli), No.51 and 62 (floral motifs shown in walls), No.88 (Cobra hood i.e. Nag Devta), and various other Gods and Goddesses in human shape (Plate Nos. 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 114, 115, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 126, 129) were reckoned.
Endorsing the conclusions of Justice Sudhir Agarwal of Allahabad High Court on the ASI report, the Supreme Court held the following as worthy conclusions:
- The Babri mosque was not constructed on vacant land;
- The excavation indicates the presence of an underlying structure below the disputed structure;
- The excavation of the walls of the underlying structure coupled with the presence of pillar bases supports the conclusion of the ASI of the presence of a structure underlying the disputed structure;
- The underlying structure was not of Islamic origin;
- The foundation of the disputed structure rests on the walls of the underlying structure; and
- Artifacts, including architectural fragments, which have been recovered during excavation have a distinct non-Islamic origin.
The obvious inference that could be derived is that the disputed structure was not raised on a virgin, vacant or unoccupied land as there already existed a structure, if not much bigger then at least comparable and bigger than the disputed structure, at the site in dispute. Also the erstwhile structure was religious in nature and clearly non-Islamic one. While constructing the disputed structure, the intact material like stones, pillars, bricks etc. of the erstwhile structure were used. The artifacts recovered during excavation by the ASI team are mostly related to Hindu religious places, even if it is assumed that some of the items may be in use of other religions too. At the same time, any Islam specific artifacts etc. have not been found during the excavation. If the entire archaeological evidences including decorated bricks, mutilated sculpture of divine couple, and carved architecture including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine with pranala (water-chute), and pillar bases in association of the huge structure are considered in totality, it clearly indicates a pre-existing structure at the disputed land akin to the temples of north India.
Religious Scriptures and Texts
The Hindu parties laid their claim traversing through the ancient Indian history as the cornerstone of the edifice of Hindus faith and belief in the birth-place of Lord Ram. He is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and this faith and belief is principally founded on the significance attached to Ayodhya based on the religious scriptures, namely Valmiki‘s Ramayan, Skand Purana and Sri Ramacharitmanas.
The Skanda Purana is the largest Mahapurana with over 81,000 Sanskrit verses among the genre of eighteen Hindu Mahapuranas. The earliest palm-leaf manuscript is reckoned to be of 8th century AD on paleographic grounds. This finding also suggests that the original text must be of even earlier vintage. The text include discussions on the cosmogony, mythology, genealogy, geography, Dharma, temples, festivals, gemology, and virtues and evil. The Purana has seven Khandas, the 2nd Khanda is Vishnu Khaá¹‡á¸a, or a Vaishnava Khanda consisting of nine sections, in which the eighth section “Ayodhyamahatmya” with ten chapters is relevant glorifying Ayodhya and Lord Ram.
Contents of specific verses of the Skanda Purana have been cited by the Hindu parties’ specific evidence in support of their claim. These verses glorify Lord Ram as being manifested form of the Supreme Brahman (Vishnu) and holy city of Ayodhya as the divine and splendid City is on the bank of the river Sarayu. Specific verses from the Purana were quoted as evidence of the place of birth of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. During the testimony, Jagadguru Ramanandacharya submitted that according to his study and information, the disputed site at Ayodhya was the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram and from time immemorial and as per traditions and faith, the disputed site was recognized as the birthplace of Lord Ram and that the place was being worshiped on a continuing basis since ages. Similar, illustrations were also given from Vilmiki’s Ramayana and Tulsidas’s Shri Ramcharitmanas.
Several Hindu witnesses, who were examined/cross-examined, furnished statements of their faith and belief in the place under the central dome as being the birth-place of Lord Ram. These witnesses explained the basis of their belief by interpreting the texts of the aforesaid scriptures viz. the Ayodhya Mahatmya of Skanda Purana, Valmiki Ramayana and Shri Ramacharitmanas. The judges observed that these religious texts mention about the birth of Lord Ram at Ayodhya but they do not identify any particular place in Ayodhya which can be said to be his place of birth with precision. When such dispute is raised then the court goes by the well accepted principle in the law of evidence particularly as applicable in civil cases, i.e., preponderance of probability. This preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.
Books, Travelogues & Gazetteers
A large number of citations from the books, travelogues, gazetteers and reports were presented in the court by the Hindu parties as evidence in support of their claim of the disputed site as Janmasthan of Lord Ram. The leading counsel of Muslim parties, Dr Rajeev Dhavan objected to use of the gazetteers and accounts prior to 1858 as evidence by the Hindu parties, which the apex court overruled stating that the Gazetteers prepared during the regime of the East India Company in the Nineteenth Century contain a record of public history and they are clearly admissible under Section 57 of the Evidence Act. In view of the overall length and scope of the article as also for the sake of brevity, only some of them have been given a place here; the evidences included here are illustrative and not comprehensive but they give fairly lucid account of the disputed site being the birth place of Lord Ram.
The book Ayodhya by Hans T. Bakker published in 1986 is a thesis submitted to University of Groningen by this Scholar in 1984. After elaborate research, comparison and consideration all relevant aspects, Bakker in Chapter XXI of his book opined that original location of the Janma Asthan is comparatively certain since it seems to be attested by the location of the mosque built by Babur, in the building of which materials of a previous Hindu temple were used and are still visible. The mosque is believed by general consensus to occupy the site of the Janma Asthana and after the destruction of the original temple a new Janmasthana temple was built on the north side of the mosque separated from it by a street.
Bakkar’s book has illustrated account of five historical temples at Ayodhya: A Vishnu Hari temple at the Chakratirtha ghat in Ayodhya, Harismriti temple at the Gopratara ghat, Chandra Hari temple on the west side of the Svargadwara ghat, Dharma Hari temple on the east side of the Svargadwara ghat and a Vishnu temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi site. According to general belief, one of these temples was swept away by the Saryu river, the fate of another (Harismiriti temple) is unknown, while the other three were replaced by mosques, including the temple at the Janmbhumi. The same book also contains reference of Guru Nanak Devji visiting Ayodhya in 1510-11 to have darshan in Ram Janmbhumi temple.
The Babri masjid does not find a mention in the Ain-i-Akbari, the 16th century book on Mughal emperor Akbar’s administration written by Abu’l Fazl, but the second volume of the book under the title "The Subah of Oudh" gives a description of Awadh (Ayodhya) as one of the largest cities and holiest places of antiquity in India due to Sri Ram(Chandra), who in the Treta age combined in his own persona both the spiritual supremacy and the kingly office. The third volume of the Ain-i-Akbari contains an illustrated account of the religion, philosophy and sciences of the Hindus, including the details of 9 avatars of Supreme Being (Lord Vishnu), Sri Ram(chandra) being one.
Father Joseph Tieffenthaler visited India during 1766-1771 AD; the English translation of his travelogue was presented before the court. It contains an illustrated description of Oudh (Ayodhya) referring to Sita Rasoi on a mud hill, Bedi (the cradle) and house where Beschan (Ram) was born. According to his account, Emperor Aurengzeb got the fortress “Ramcot” demolished and got a Muslim temple with triple domes constructed at the same place. Tieffenthaler also recounts that some others said the masjid was constructed by “Babor” (Babur) and 14 black stone pillars of five span high from the fortress are visible there; 12 support the interior arcades of the mosque. He also recorded that Aurangzeb or Babur razed the temple “to deny the noble people (Hindus), the opportunity of practicing their superstitions (rituals)”. However, the people “go around three times and prostrate on the floor.” Tieffenthaler’s averments (evidence) clearly indicate that Hindus were worshipping the Janamsthan as a deity in the eighteenth century.
The book Hadith-e-Sehba by Mirza Jaan (1856) refers to the place of worship called as birthplace of Lord Ram adjacent to ‘Sita-Ki- Rasoi’, where the Mosque was constructed by Babar in the year 923 Hijri. The following extract from the book was quoted as evidence:
“The above mentioned place is called seat of father of Lord Rama. Places of Idol worshiping situated here were demolished and even a single piece of any Idol of Hindu religion was not left there un-demolished. The place where was big temple of Hindu people, big Masjid was constructed and the place where was small temple of Hindu people, there small Masjid was constructed. The place of worship is called birthplace of Lord Rama and the place which is adjacent to it, is called "Sita Ki Rasoi" and Sita is called wife of Lord Rama. At that place Babar Shah got constructed a very big Masjid under the supervision of Sayyad Musha Ashiqan in the year 923 Hijri and its history is still maintained. Today the above-mentioned "Sita Ki Rasoi" is called the Masjid.”
In 1858, Awadh was annexed by the British Government, following which most official reports, correspondences and orders have recorded the disputed structure as “Mosque Janma Sthan.” The Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer of Ayodhya and Faizabad, P Carnegy states in 1870 in the Historical Sketch of the then ‘Tehsil Fyzabad, Zillah Fyzabad’ that Ayodhya is to Hindus what Mecca is to the Mohammedans (Muslims) and Jerusalem to the Jews. He categorically mentioned that at the place of Janamsthan, emperor Babar had built a Mosque in 1528 AD, which still bears his name. There are several subsequent Gazetteers, reports of ASI books and reports that refer to the disputed structure as “Mosque Janma Sthan”. The Imperial Gazetteer of India published in 1908 in respect of Faizabad Division and Faizabad, Gazetteer of 1928, are relevant in this regard.
Archaeological Survey of India in its voluminous document “The Monumental Antiquities and Inscriptions in the North- Western Provinces and Oudh” in 1891, while dealing with the Ayodhya city, noted that a mosque was built during the reign of Babur in place of an important Hindu temple namely ‘Janmasthan’. It further added that old temple must have been a very fine one, for many of its column have been utilized by the Musalmans (Muslims) in the construction of Babri Masjid.
The Gazetteer of Bara Banki, Vol 48 (1921), an adjacent district of Faizabad, mentions that Bairagis seized the Janamsthan temple prompting Muslims led by Amir Ali to march towards Ayodhya. They were intercepted by Colonel Barlow of First Regiment of Oudh and in the ensuing conflict the regiment was wiped out besides Amir Ali and many others too were killed. The Chapter 5, Page 169 of the Gazette is relevant:
“...The cause of the occurrence was one of the numerous disputes that have sprung up from time to time between Hindu Priests and the Musalmans of Ajodhya with regard to the ground on which formerly stood the Janamsthan temple, which was destroyed by Babar and replaced by a mosque. Other mosques had been built there by Aurangzeb and others and some of them had fallen into decay. The ground, being peculiarly sacred to the Hindus, was at once seized by the Bairagis and others, thus affording a fertile source of friction...”
An application dated 30 November 1858 bearing name of Syed Mohammed Khatib Moazzim of the Babri Mosque is also relevant. He complained that one Nihang Singh had constructed an earth Chabutra (platform), 'Puja' and 'Havan' is continuing there and in whole of Masjid, "Ram Ram" is written. In 1866, Bairagis placed an idol inside the premises. In the above and subsequent applications of Khatib Moazzim, the description of Babri Mosque was constantly mentioned as "Babri Masjid situated at Janmasthan, Ayodhya". The Deputy Commissioner, Ayodhya, granted permission to Khem Das, Mahant, Janamsthan in 1877 to open the door in the northern wall of the masjid premises to give Hindus a separate route to the Janmasthan. In a conflict in 1934, one dome of the disputed structure was damaged and got repaired by the British administration.
The Thanedar Oudh, Sheetal Dubey referred the Babri mosque as “Masjid Janam Sthan” in his report dated 6 December 1858 and the order that was passed on his report on 10 December 1858 too referred he disputed building as “Masjid Janam Sthan”. Another document much relied by the leading counsel of Muslim parties was a letter dated 25 August 1863 sent by the Secretary, Chief Commissioner of Oudh to the Commissioner, Faizabad Division too mentioned the disputed structure as “Janam Sthan Mosque”. In the Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh in 1877, Ayodhya has been elaborately dealt with the mosque referred as Janmashan. These and many other documents including Fuhrer’s prove that the Government officers in the British administration referred the mosque as Janam Sthan Mosque. Thus evidence contained in books, travelogues and gazetteers corroborates the averment that Babri Mosque was constructed at the Janamsthan of Lord Ram.
Four noted historians and Professors, RS Sharma, M Athar Ali, DN Jha and Suraj Bhan submitted a report on 13 May 1991 titled “Babri Mosque or Rama‘s Birth Place? Historians‘ Report to the Indian Nation”. This report was used by the Muslim litigants/parties to booster their claim on the disputed site. The report refused to recognize or give any credence to Skanda Purana (Ayodhyamahatmya) and archaeological findings of Dr BB Lal’s in 1970s at the disputed site including the carvings on the pillars having any Hindu Vaishnavite association. The report held that no grounds existed for supposing a temple of Lord Ram or any temple at the Babri site; no evidence existed that any veneration was attached by Hindus to the spot being claimed as birth place of Lord Ram until the late eighteenth century; and that destruction of temple and related stories were progressive reconstruction of imagined history based on faith.
The report of historians does not need any more analysis or evaluation. The fallacies and bias of these historians reflected in their report already stand vindicated from the detailed findings of the archaeological excavations included in the ASI report of 2003 as also the records of books, travelogues, gazetteers and other accounts before and after the alleged construction of Babri masjid in 1528 in place of a pre-existing temple. DN Jha did not sign the report; Suraj Bhan was cross-examined, who admitted that only two of them had actually visited Ayodhya, they were given only six weeks for study and pressure (from Babri Masjid Action Committee) was being repeatedly exerted so they submitted he report without going through the record of excavation work by BB Lal. He also admitted that he had no knowledge of Hindu Puranas. Late Professor RS Sharma, leader of the historians’ team, was a well-known protagonist of his Marxist methods.
The Supreme Court observed that the historians’ report appeared to be a counterblast to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) campaign and claims in 1991; neither the views of VHP nor the historians’ views could be treated as evidence. Judges observed that the inferences which have been drawn by the historians in regard to the faith and belief of the Hindus in the birth-place of Lord Ram constitute their opinion. The bench held that it cannot rest a finding of fact on the report of the historians and must evaluate the entirety of the evidence. In the past, High Court too had declined to rely on the report as evidence.
A perusal of the complete text of the Supreme Court judgment clearly suggests that the judges have indeed considered merit of the case based on evidence adduced by the two feuding parties. While the position of the Muslim parties about the status of disputed structure as Babri masjid is self-validated by the fact of its demolition on 6th December 1992 by the Hindu kar sewaks, they failed to establish that the masjid was constructed by Babur or his particular minister/general under his order as also the evidence to prove exclusive possession of the site. They also could not convincingly prove continuous obeisance or namaz at the disputed site; as per deposition of witnesses, the last such prayer is recorded as 16th or 22nd December 1949. Three inscriptions and four historians’ report suffered with numerous anomalies and did not pass the judicial scrutiny.
On the other hand, the Hindu parties constantly asserted on the existence of a temple at the disputed site dedicated to Lord Ram, which was demolished upon the conquest of parts of the Indian sub-continent by Mughal Emperor Babur. They produced extracts from the scriptures and texts as evidence of Hindus’ infallible faith and belief for centuries in Ayodhya and Lord Ram; books, travelogues, gazetteers and reports indicating “Mosque at the Janmasthan”; sustainable archaeological evidence of pre-existing Hindu shrine at the Babri site and use of (intact) material from the demolished shrine in the construction of masjid; and continuous offerings of prayer by Hindus till date despite many conflicts and restrictions. Any direct evidence of the demolition of Hindu temple by invaders is not possible after almost five centuries because neither any eye witnesses would be alive nor a possibility of oppressors leaving any cognizable evidence of the criminal act. Rightly so the apex court has relied on the “preponderance of probability” and powers vested in Article 142 of the Constitution to decide the case.
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