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Friday, January 19, 2007

Ayodhya - Layers

Ayodhya is an extremely sensitive issue.

Most Indians see it objectively and fairly, there are a few, just a few
Hindu & Muslim fanatics, who would like to see this divide us more.

Nope's. No issue is going to divide us. The extremists can fool some
but not all Indians.

In 1853, the Governor General of India, Lord some one wrote to
to his majesty King. "Hindus and Muslims have come together again
and have built the Ram Chabootra" this means the end of Raj. (It is
in one of the British Gazettes that I have seen when I did a radio
show on the topic in 2001. It was covered by Dallas Observer
as a lead story. I will find the piece and post it.)

You know what they did, when Muslims and Hindus came
together - initiated the pork and beef fat to go into rifles to divide
us again, it failed. Then in 1871 they created a census, the first of
its kind to divide us again, it failed. It will fail again and again in
the process we will lose precious lives, who knows which one would have
become an Indira Nooyi, Ambani, Bhatia or a Premji...The goons who
create this mess are hurting our nation and they will be long gone.
One nation under God with liberty and justice for all.
Till then we have to put up with fanatics on both sides.

All notes that will help us build a cohesive India will be appreciated
Legitimate national press articles will be posted, not the gossip
and tabloids. I value your opinion more than the one propagated
by the tabloids.

Absolutely no hate mail will be posted on this group.
It is our duty to build things and not destroy. What we see
is not necessarily the truth. Finding the truth is one's own
responsibility. Truth brings relief.

Jai Hind.
Mike Ghouse

AyodhyaLayers of truthASI report, hinting at a Siva temple beneath the Masjid, could debunk Janmabhoomi claim

By R. Prasannan

Yes, there certainly was a 10th century shrine where Babri Masjid stood. Apparently, it was not a Ram temple. It appears to have been a Siva temple.That, in brief, is what the Archaeological Survey of India, risking its 142-year-old reputation, has told the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court which had ordered an excavation of the Ayodhya site.

Artist's impression of the Babri Masjid and the excavated site with conjectured columns; (below left) the bricks for the proposed Ram temple

Then, what about the Ram temple? There is no mention of a temple, only of evidence of a massive structure, fragments of which speak about their association with temple architecture of the Saivite style. "During the early mediaeval period (11th-12th century AD) a huge structure, nearly 50 metres in north-south orientation was constructed which seems to have been short-lived." On the remains of this "was constructed a massive structure with at least three structural phases and three successive floors attached with it. The architectural members of the earlier short-lived massive structure with stencil cut foliage pattern and other decorative motifs were reused in the construction of the monumental structure having a huge pillared hall (or two halls) which is different from residential structures, providing sufficient evidence of a construction of public usage....

It was over the top of this construction during the early 16th century that the disputed structure [Babri Masjid] was constructed, directly resting over it." This 'summary of results' is likely to please the temple votaries, but the details in the preceding chapters are unlikely to please devotees of Ram or Rahim. Least of all, the world of archaeologists. The team led by Hari Majhi and B.R. Mani seems to be worried more about peers. Apparently anticipating academic criticism and an assault on the ASI's credibility, they have explained that they "excavated 90 trenches in a limited time of five months, soon after which the excavation report is required to be submitted within 15 days.

This is an unprecedented event in the history of 142 years of the existence of the Survey." What the excavators claim to have found was nothing startling. Remnants of a 10th century shrine had been unearthed earlier, but the ASI digging has confirmed the existence of "a partly damaged east-facing brick shrine" which "is a circular structure". The shrine looks similar to the Chirenath temple at Sravasti or the Saivite temples of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. Only one Vaishnavite temple is reported to be similar. "On stylistic grounds the present circular shrine can be dated to the 10th century AD when the Kalachuris moved in this area and settled across the Sarayu. They possibly brought the tradition of stone circular temples".

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad too had been talking of a Siva temple but had dated it to the 7th century. In fact, on August 12, the VHP, based on their observers' report, had admitted to there having been a Siva temple. But "immediately above it there exists a wide brick wall belonging to Temple 1 of early mediaeval period (8-9th century)." VHP had also been claiming that the early mediaeval temple's walls collapsed and a second temple was built in the 12th century. And it was over the floor of the second temple that the Babri Masjid was built. The VHP can also claim victory from the mention of some construction activity during the early mediaeval period. "In this deposit, foundations to support pillars of columns were sunk, which were overlaid with a 4-5 cm thick floor which had a grid of square sandstone bases for pillars projecting out, only a few still survive".

The VHP is likely to claim that these pillars supported a grand Ram temple which was demolished by Babar. B.B. Lal, whose Ramayana site excavations in the 1970s started it all, had also talked about these pillar bases. However, D. Mondal questions this, saying that these pillar bases would have been unable to support "load-bearing pillars of stone". Mondal also says that the pillar bases are not contemporaneous, but belong to different structural phases. In other words, they were not built together as base pillars of one superstructure, ("a grand 10th century temple," as BJP president Venkaiah Naidu claimed) but belonged to different periods when they supported different superstructures.

The anti-VHP historians are now likely to argue, as they have done earlier, that these pillar bases had small pillars which supported smaller non-shrine structures such as houses and shops and not a grand temple of carved stone. The confirmation of the existence of a Saivite shrine is likely to start a new debate. Was the "massive structure" built over the debris of a Siva temple? Non-VHP historians are likely to use this to argue that the story about the area being the birthplace of Ram was a later myth. What about the temple claimed to have been built by Vikramaditya which should pre-date the Siva temple?

The only structural pointer to this in the report is the reference to the remnants of Gupta period walls. It says that one of the temple's walls rests on a still earlier wall, datable to Gupta and post-Gupta periods. Remnants of a still earlier wall, dating to the Kushana period, too have been found. One can argue till Ramrajya comesÑor till some miraculous piece of evidence surfacesÑthat this was a Ram temple. In that case, did the Kalachuris or their descendants build a Siva temple over a Ram temple? And someone in 10th, 11th or 12th century build a Ram temple over the Siva temple? This will probably never be answered archaeologically. The dispute then is going be less archaeological and more historical. Historians like Sarvepalli Gopal and Vinay Lal had argued that Ayodhya of the epic is fictional. According to them, Emperor Skanda Gupta (who also styled himself as Vikramaditya) renamed Saketa as Ayodhya in a bid to gain prestige for himself as a descendant of Ram of the epic.

If the VHP is going to be uncomfortable with the finding of a Saivite shrine, the Muslims are likely to question the ASI's unstated conclusion that it was a Hindu shrine that stood there during the sultanate period. It is pieces of evidence like a square slab with Srivatsa motif and the fragment of a lotus medallion motif from 10th to 12th centuries that has led the excavators to conclude that they could be associated with temple architecture.

However, historians like Irfan Habib have been claiming that there was Muslim habitation in the area during this period. Earlier excavations had unearthed animal bones and even human remains which could not have been there if the place was indeed a temple. Presence of animal bones, they had been arguing, meant that it was a residential area (and not a shrine) inhabited by a non-vegetarian community. And that it was in that Muslim habitat that a mosque was raised in 1528 or thereafter. The ASI report mentions the bones, but does not explain how they came to be there.


ASI lawyer Ravi Malhotra with the excavation report Nor is there much mention of glazed pottery from the Sultanate period. Both sides are likely to fill this gap with their theories. The Hindu side could argue that the paucity of Sultanate pottery and ceramics show that the site was 'religiously' Hindu during this period. The Muslims could say that the archaeologists overlooked the culture and structural activity of an entire half millennium and hence the report is incomplete or motivated. The presence of brick-and mortar belonging to Sultanate period also is likely to be a point of debate. (Incidentally, even the Saivite shrine of the immediate pre-Islamic period is found to be a brick structure, and by no means a grand carved stone temple.)

The Muslims are likely to argue that brick-and-mortar is evidence of there having been another mosque in the Sultanate period within a habitat of a meat-eating people. Babar probably renovated this mosque. Whichever way the court decides the matter (the findings may be immaterial to the title suit which is about deciding who owns a piece of property), it is clear that ASI would have to go on answering peer questions.

There are already allegations that standard archaeological practices were ignored. The ASI would have to face questions about the non-existence of any huge amount of stone debris (from the pulled down temple) and even the absence of remnants of a stone workshop (where the stones for the mediaeval temple could have been carved). It may take the next 142 years to answer them.

Mirth and mistrustBy Ajay Uprety

The diggers have dug up controversy. The ASI's 'discovery' of "distinctive features associated with... temples of north India" beneath the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya has irked Muslim leaders and spread joy in the saffron camp. The Muslim leaders are upset since they feel the ASI did not do a thorough job. They suspect that the men with spades were trying to please someone.

The Sunni Central Waqf Board, a party to the temple-mosque dispute, has termed the ASI report "vague and self-contradictory". The All India Muslim Personal Law Board angrily called it 'fabricated'. Zafaryab Jilani, convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, said the report would naturally be challenged in court.

A 14-member expert team had been asked to study the findings, he said. In the three interim reports, the ASI did not mention the existence of a temple-like structure. "How come this sudden revelation?" asked Hashim Ansari, head of the Babri Masjid Reconstruction Committee. Despite misgivings and heartburn, most leaders affirmed that they had faith in the judiciary. The ASI report has, however, emboldened the VHP.Hardliners such as Ram Vilas Vedanti have asked Muslims to accept the fact that a temple existed in the spot. They should hand over the disputed shrines at Mathura and Kashi as well, he said.

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