A Page From History
Archaeological evidence of Sri Ram and His birthplace
By Dr BB Lal
WHEN the Britishers left India in 1947, there was an yawning gap in our knowledge of ancient Indian history. We had at one end of the scale the Harappan Civilisation which, in its mature stage, ranged in date from circa 2600 to 2000 BCE, and on the other the period of Sodasa Mahajanapadas (Sixteen Big States) beginning around the sixth century BCE.
Excerpts from the book Rama: His Historicity, Mandir and Setu, Evidence of Literature, Archaeology and other Sciences by Dr BB Lal; Rs. 190 (PB), Aryan Books International, Pooja Apartments, 4-B, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi. Archaeologically, very little was known about the intermediary period and thus it was loosely termed as the ‘Dark Age’, although there was nothing ‘dark’ about it. It was indeed a great challenge for Indian archaeologists. (pp-15)
..The readers will kindly forgive me for this seemingly unwanted and long introduction. But I thought it was necessary to let the readers know how, encouraged by the results (though by no means immense) of my excavation at Hastinapur (that established the historicity of the Mahabharata), I embarked upon my next project, namely ‘Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites’. Though conceived while in the Survey (ASI), I could not undertake it since as the Director General almost all my time was taken up by administrative and other allied matters. It was only after my voluntary retirement from the Survey (ASI) in 1972 that I could plan to take up this project, to begin with at the Jiwaji University, Gwalior, and later with full attention at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla. The Survey (ASI) helped me in the field work which ran from 1977 to 1986, by deputing staff of its Excavations Branch, which for most of the time was headed by Shri KN Dikshit. (pp-19)
“Was there a temple in the Janmabhoomi area at Ayodhya preceding the construction of the Babri Masjid?” (pp-54)
As mentioned earlier (pp-20), excavations were carried out in the Janmbhoomi area at Ayodhya as part of the project ‘Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites’. Of the trenches laid out in this area, one was immediately to the South of and almost parallel to the boundary wall of the Babri Masjid, the intermediary space being hardly four metres. (pp-50)
..Attached to the piers of the Babri Masjid there were twelve stone pillars which carried not only typical Hindu motifs and mouldings but also figures of Hindu deities (Figs. 2.3). It was self evident that these pillars were not an integral part of the Masjid but were foreign to it. Since, as already stated, the pillar-bases were penetrating into the Masjid complex, a question naturally arose whether these bases had anything to do with the above mentioned pillars affixed to the piers of the Masjid. (pp-55)
…However, since these pillar-bases raised a question about their relationship with the pillars affixed to the piers of the Masjid, which evidently had originally belonged to a Hindu temple, these did draw public attention. The first reaction that came up from a certain category of historians (Eminent Historians) was to deny the very existence of these pillar-bases. Their approach was simple: If there were no pillar-bases, the question of their relationship with the pillars affixed to the piers of the Babri Masjid became automatically redundant. These historians took recourse to publishing all sorts of unsavoury comments in the newspapers. However, when they were told that the pillar-bases were not someone’s fancy but their photographs (along with the negatives), taken at the time of the excavation, did exist in the photo-archives of the Excavations Branch of the ASI, they gave up their first exercise in denial, of which more would be said later. (pp-55)
…Curiously, events take their own course. On December 6, 1992, the Masjid was demolished by the karsevaks who had assembled in large number at the site. The demolition, though regrettable, brought to light a great deal of archaeological material from within the thick walls of the Masjid. From the published reports it is gathered that there were more than 200 specimens which included many sculptured panels and architectural components which must have constituted parts of the demolished temple. Besides, there were three inscriptions, of which two are illustrated here. (pp-61)
Of the above mentioned three inscriptions, the largest one is engraved on a stone-slab measuring 1.10 x .56 meters, and consists of twenty lines. It has since been published by Professor Ajaya Mitra Shastri of Nagpur University in the Puruttatva No. 23 (1992-93), pp-35. (Professor Shastri, who unfortunately is no more, was a distinguished historian and a specialist in Epigraphy and Numismatics). The relevant part of the paper reads as follows: ‘The inscription is composed in high-flown Sanskrit verse, except for a 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 for our purpose here. 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 the earlier kings was constructed. This wonderful temple was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya situated in the Saketamandala showing that Ayodhya and Saketa were closely connected, Saketa being the district of which Ayodhya was a part. Line 19 describes God Vishnu as destroying King Bali (apparently in Vamana manifestation) and the ten headed personage (i.e. Ravana). (pp-63-64)
The inscription makes it abundantly clear that there did exist at the site a temple datable to circa 11th-12th century CE (AD). The sculptures and inscribed slab that came out from within the walls of the Masjid belonged to this very temple. (pp-64)
It has been contented by certain historians (Eminent Historians) that these images, architectural parts and the inscribed slab were brought by the karsevaks from somewhere else and surreptitiously palced there at the time of the demolition of the Masjid. This contention is absolutely baseless.
On the other hand, a reputed journal India Today, published in its issue dated December 31, 1992, a photograph, which shows the karsevaks carrying on their shoulders a huge stone-sculpted with a long frieze, after having picked it up from the debris. (pp-64)
The above mentioned historians have also alleged that the inscription has been forged. This is behaving like the Village School Master of Oliver Goldsmith, who, ‘though vanquished would argue still’. So many eminent epigraphists of the country have examined the inscribed slab and not even one of them is of the view that the inscription is forged. (Note: Emphasis as appearing in the book) Anyway, to allay misgivings, I append here a note from the highest authority on epigraphical matters in the country, namely the Director of Epigraphy, ASI, Dr KV Ramesh (Appendix II). In it he first gives a summary of the inscription, then an actual reading of the text and finally an English translation thereof. While many scholars may like to go through the Note, it maybe straightaway here that according to it this temple was built by Meghasuta who obtained the lordship of Saketamandala (i.e. Ayodhya) through the grace of the senior Lord of the earth viz Govinda Chandra, of the Gahadavala dynasty who ruled over a vast empire, from 1114 to 1155 CE. (pp-66)
In this entire context, it also needs to be added that there exist hundreds of examples, all over the country, of the destruction of temples and incorporation of their material in the mosques during the medieval times. For example, right in Delhi there is the Quwwatu’l-Islam Mosque (‘Might of Islam’) near the Qutb Minar, which incorporated parts of a large number of temples that had been wantonly destroyed by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. A figure shows, standing within the mosque complex, a colonnade which was constructed by using sculpted pillars of the demolished 27 Hindu and Jain temples. This was a matter of glory for the conqueror as has been recorded by himself in an inscription still existing on inner lintel of the eastern entrance of the mosque. Its English translation, by Maulvi Zafar Hasan, is as follows: “The fort was conquered and this Jami Masjid was built in (the months of) the year 587 (1191-92 AD) by the Amir, the great and glorious commander of the army, (named) Qutub-ud-daulat-wa-d-din, the Amir-ul-umara Aibak Sultani, may God strengthen his helpers. The material of 27 temples, on (the erection of) each of which 2,000,000 Deliwals had been spent, were used in (the construction of) this mosque. May God the great and glorious have mercy on him who should pray for the faith of the founder of the good (building) (pp-66).
To sum up, the evidence presented in the foregoing paragraphs in respect of the existence of a Hindu temple in the Janma Bhumi area at Ayodhya preceding the construction of the Babri Masjid is so eloquent that no further comments are necessary. Unfortunately, the basic problem with a certain category of historians and archaeologists-and others of the same ilk-is that seeing they see not or knowingly they ignore. Anyway, in spite of them the truth has revealed itself. (pp-68)
(A world renowned archaeologist the writer was the Director General of the ASI. His excavations cover a very wide range. At Kalibangan, Rajasthan, he unearthed a prosperous city of the Harappan Civilisation. The excavations at Hastinapur have established that there was a kernel of truth in the Mahabharata, even though the epic is full of interpolations. The excavations at Ayodhya have shown that the Ramayana too has a basis in history. In 1961 he conducted excavations in Egypt too. The President of India honoured him with Padma Bhushan.)
AUTHENTICATING Prof Lal is this statement of Shri KK Muhammad, Deputy Superintendent Archaeologist (Madras Circle) as appeared in the English daily, Indian Express on December 15, 1990: “I can reiterate this (ie. the existence of the Hindu Temple before it was displaced by the Babri Masjid) with greater authority – for I was the only Muslim who had participated in the Ayodhya excavations in 1976-77 under Prof. Lal as a trainee. I have visited the excavation near the Babri site and seen the excavated pillar bases. The JNU historians have highlighted ONLY ONE
PART OF OUR FINDINGS WHILE SUPPRESSING THE OTHER.” Muhammad went to add: “Ayodhya is as holy to the Hindus as Mecca is to the Muslims; Muslims should respect the sentiments of their Hindu brethren and voluntarily hand over the structure for constructing the Ram Temple.”