Paper II: Historical evidence versus hysterical invention

The judgement and the lore of Ramjanmabhoomi

Courtesy: Delhi Press Archive

2.1. While there was no disagreement among the parties involved in the suit that the belief in Ayodhya being the birthplace of Lord Ram is currently widely held (para 4316), this is far from saying that this belief goes in time to remote antiquity or that Ayodhya has always been a great pilgrim centre on account of its association with Lord Ram’s birthplace or that the worship of Lord Ram has been conducted there (or at any site therein) from “time immemorial”, as decreed by Justice S. Agarwal (para 4070).

2.2. Justice Sudhir Agarwal rightly regards inscriptions as a primary piece of evidence (para 4146) so let us first see what the Sanskrit inscriptions tell us. None of the Sanskrit inscriptions at or relating to Ayodhya before 1528 contain any reference to Lord Ram directly by that name or to any sanctity attaching to Ayodhya on account of its being the place of his birth.

2.3. The first inscription at Ayodhya, dated to the first century BC/ AD on palaeographic grounds, is in Sanskrit, by Dhanadeva, the ruler of Kosala, who built a shrine (niketan) in honour of his father Phalgudeva (Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XX, pp. 54-58). There is here no reference to any deity at all. A memorial inscription at Belgaum, Karnataka, of AD 105 (published in Epigraphia Indica, XXXIX, pp. 183-188), is inscribed on a memorial pillar raised for a Brahmin of the Kashyapa gotra (clan) hailing from Saketa (Ayodhya) who is praised for his knowledge of the Yajurveda and performance of sacrifices but with no reference anywhere to his worship of Lord Ram or even devotion to Vishnu.

2.4. A copperplate containing a grant made by Samudragupta, the famous Gupta conqueror, and dated to Year 5 of the Gupta era (=AD 328-29) was issued from “the great camp of victory, containing ships [boats?], elephants and horses, situated at Ayodhya”. It gives no title to Ayodhya by which to suggest any sanctity attaching to it on any deity’s account, let alone on Lord Ram’s (DR Bhandarkar et al, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III, New Edition, pp. 228-231). Emperor Kumaragupta’s stone inscription at Karamdanda, a village 12 miles from Faizabad/ Ayodhya, is dated Gupta Year 117 (=AD 435-36). It pays obeisance to the image of the deity Mahadeva, ‘known as Prithvishvara’, and speaks of Brahmins from Ayodhya ‘conversant with penances, recitation of sacred texts, the mantras, the sutras, the bhashyas and pravachanas’. No reference is made to the worship of Lord Ram or to Brahmins devoted to his worship (ibid, pp. 280-282). In the Damodarpur copperplate inscription of Vishnugupta of the Gupta Year 224 (=AD 542-43), Ayodhya is again simply mentioned with no epithets for either sanctity or association with Lord Ram (ibid, pp. 361-63). Such is also the case with the eighth century Dudhpani rock inscription from Jharkhand which refers to Ayodhya without any honorifics or sense of its sanctity while speaking of three merchants from that place (Epigraphia Indica, II, pp. 343-45).

2.5. The inscription which contains a reference to it next in time is the Chandavati copperplate of the Gahadawala ruler Chandradeva. It is dated Samvat 1150 (=AD 1093) and its find-spot (Chandrauti) is near Varanasi. The ruler refers to his visit to Ayodhya in what is, for our purposes, a remarkable passage:

“after having bathed at the Svargadvara tirtha at the sin-effacing (confluence) of the Sarayu and Ghargara at Ayodhya – also called Uttara Kosala – on Sunday the fifteenth day of the dark half of the month of Asvina in the year eleven hundred fifty increased by fifty, also in figures Samvat 1150, Asvina vadi 15, Sunday, on the sacred occasion of a solar eclipse – after having duly satisfied the sacred texts, divinities, saints, men, beings and the group of the departed ancestors – after having worshipped the sun whose splendour is potent in rending the veil of darkness – after having praised him (Shiva) whose crest is a portion of the moon and whose body consists of the earth, water, fire, air, ether, the sacrificing priest, the moon and the sun – after having performed adoration to the holy Vasudeva, the protector of the three worlds – after having sacrificed to fire an oblation of abundant milk, rice and sugar – after having offered oblations to manes – have conferred [the grant on the Brahmans]…”

Here we see that the ‘sin-effacing’ quality at Ayodhya derives from the confluence of the rivers and worship is offered to Lords Shiva and Vasudeva but Lord Ram himself escapes mention, what to speak of any realisation that any sanctity adhered to Ayodhya from any association with Lord Ram. The inscription has been published with full discussion, text and translation in Epigraphia Indica, XIV, pp. 192-196, and the extract given above is from the translation furnished in it.

2.6. We now finally come to the controversial inscription that was allegedly found by the mob that demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992. For reasons given in Note 2.1, annexed to this paper, it is likely to be a plant, having been lifted from the Lucknow Museum. This is partly allowed for by Justice Agarwal himself, at least in para 4384 when he does not insist that this inscription proved the construction of a Vishnu-Hari temple at the site of the Babri Masjid, which he indeed should have if the kar sevaks’ alleged discovery of it in the debris of the Babri Masjid was genuine: The Lucknow Museum’s missing inscription had actually been found in Treta ka Thakur in Ayodhya. The date in the extant inscription has been erased though it belongs obviously to the late Gahadavala times. Its exact date would be Samvat 1241, or AD 1184, if it is identical with the Lucknow Museum inscription which bore this date, according to the summary published by A. Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, ASI, Calcutta, 1889, p. 68).

The extant inscription records the building of a Vishnu-Hari temple but the name ‘Ram’ for the deity never occurs. The claim that it represents the site of Ramjanmabhoomi had been rejected by the VHP’s own witness, Dr KV Ramesh, whose reading of the inscription Justice Sudhir Agarwal has also accepted (para 4154). The inscription begins with the praise of Lord Shiva; and attributes the beauty of Ayodhya to “the presence of Avimukta (i.e. Shiva), goddess Visalakshi (i.e. Parvati) and Lalita (Durga)” with no mention of Lord Ram. Even when referring in one sentence to Vishnu, his praise covers his four incarnations: “who killed Hiranyakapisu, subdued Bana in battle, destroyed the prowess of Bahraja and performed many such deeds, he killed the wicked Dasanana (Ravana) who could be more than ten”. (For the text and translation of the inscription, see Pushpa Prasad, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, IHC, Patna, 2004, pp. 351-359.) Clearly, even to the builders of the Vishnu-Hari temple, Ram, as incarnation of Vishnu, did not require to be mentioned separately or specifically despite the temple being in Ayodhya. Indeed the presiding deity at Ayodhya was held to be Shiva, not even Vishnu.

None of the Sanskrit inscriptions at or relating to Ayodhya before 1528 contain any reference to Lord Ram directly by that name or to any sanctity attaching to Ayodhya on account of its being the place of his birth

2.7. Such is the evidence of inscriptions which, unlike many Sanskrit texts, can be dated fairly precisely either because dates are given on them or on palaeographic grounds. Nowhere do we find in them any remote reference to the sanctity enjoyed by Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Ram.

2.8. The same is the case with two very well-known dated texts, both of immense historical importance. One is the account of the travels of the famous Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang (name also transcribed as Yuan Chwang and, in Pinyin, Xuan Zhuang), who visited Ayodhya (‘O-yu-t’o’ or ‘A-yu-te’) in the time of Harshavardhana, in the earlier half of the seventh century. His description of the city runs to nearly five pages in Samuel Beal’s translation (Buddhist Records of the Western World, London, 1884, Vol. I, pp. 224-229; also see the summary with commentary on his account in Thomas Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, 629-645 AD, London, 1905, Vol. I, pp. 354-359). Yet nowhere do we find any reference to the town being celebrated as a birthplace of Lord Ram or even of any great brahmanical establishments or temples there.

2.9. The second text is that of Alberuni’s Kitab al-Hind, a matchless survey of Indian religion, culture and geography compiled in Arabic in c. 1035 AD and translated by Edward C. Sachau into English as Alberuni’s India, 2 Vols., London, 1888. Here there are various references to Lord Ram mainly in connection with his overthrow of Ravana, his conquest of Lanka and his crossing by the dyke of Rameshwara to reach Lanka. There is mention of the recommended size of his idol (I, p. 117), his being an incarnation of Vishnu (I, p. 397), his killing a Chandala ascetic (II, p. 137) and a notice of the Ramayana (I, p. 310) (all references are to Sachau’s translation). But though Ayodhya (‘Ajodaha’) is described (I, p. 200) in his sketch of the main cities and routes, no connection of it with Lord Ram is mentioned, in contrast to Mathura whose connection with God Vasudeva (Krishna) is explicitly mentioned (I, p. 199).

2.10. When we turn to Sanskrit texts, it is to be observed that no Sanskrit text composed before the 16th century AD has been cited before the Allahabad high court, which in any passage lauded Ayodhya explicitly as the birthplace (janmabhoomi, etc) of Lord Ram, not even Valmiki’s Ramayana, or attributed its sanctity as a pilgrimage centre to this cause (paras 4089 to 4091); and this is tacitly admitted by Shri MM Pandey, the VHP advocate (para 4092), and by Justice Agarwal himself (see para 4217 and para 4355, concerning the Hindu belief in the location of Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya).

2.11. We may now look into the text which has really made the Ram story a household legend in the Hindi-speaking area, Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas, completed in Akbar’s reign some time around AD 1570. In it there is no reference to Ram Janmasthan. The only reference that could be presented to the high court is from its chapter, ‘Uttarakhand’, where Tulsidas speaks of his visits to Awadhpuri and witnessing Janm Mahotsav, the birth celebration of Lord Ram (para 4354). Could Tulsidas have ignored Ram Janmasthan, had such a site been identified by his time, and should he have then not mourned that so holy a site had been desecrated by the construction of a mosque 50 years earlier? Quite obviously, Tulsidas was neither aware of the alleged Janmasthan nor its supposed desecration.

2.12. The issue here is not of the antiquity of Lord Ram – the period that the Ramayana of Valmiki was compiled is attributed by most scholars to the period from the third century BC to the second century AD. The late DC Sircar, one of India’s most eminent historians and epigraphists, in his monograph, Problems of the Ramayana, Hyderabad, 1979, pp. 1-4, while denying the historicity of the Ramayana story, assigns to Valmiki’s Ramayana the dates we have just mentioned. He also points out (pp. 28-30) that Ram begins to be mentioned among the heroes whom rulers aspire to emulate from the second century AD. From a historical point of view, there can be no dispute with DC Sircar; but the real issue is not the antiquity of the Ram story but the time when Ayodhya attained a particular repute as the birthplace, not simply the capital city, of Lord Ram, from which arises the further issue of when anyone began claiming any particular spot within Ayodhya as the site of Lord Ram’s birth.

No Sanskrit text composed before the 16th century AD has been cited before the Allahabad high court, which in any passage lauded Ayodhya explicitly as the birthplace of Lord Ram or attributed its sanctity as a pilgrimage centre to this cause

2.13. We have shown above that there is no evidence from inscriptions or from texts until the 16th century that there was any particular spot within Ayodhya for the birthplace of Lord Ram. Abul Fazl’s Ain-i Akbari, written in 1595, in passages submitted to the high court, speaks of Ayodhya or Awadh as “the residence (bungah)” – not the birthplace – of Raja Ramchandra (text, Nawal Kishor ed., Lucknow, 1892, Vol. II, p. 78; Jarrett’s translation, ed. J. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1949, II, p. 182). Similarly, when, in 1608-11, William Finch visited Ayodhya, then, quite contrary to Justice Agarwal’s representation of the sense of his passage (para 4375), he did not at all refer to “the fort of Ramchandra where he was borne (sic!)”. Finch’s exact words are: “Here are the ruins of Ranichand’(s) [so spelt] castle and houses which the Indians acknowledge for the great God, saying he took flesh upon him to see the tamasha of the world.” Moreover, according to Finch, pilgrims did not come here to visit Ramchandra’s castle but “wash themselves in the river nearby” (text in W. Foster, Early Travels in India, 1583-1619, reprint, New Delhi, 1968, p. 176).

2.14 The Skanda Purana is the first Sanskrit text which mentions the existence within Ayodhya, among thirty and odd sacred spots, of one spot that it calls “Ramajanma” – Lord Ram’s birth-spot (see ABL Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part III, Vol. I, Lucknow, 1983, pp. 75-83, ‘Ramajanma’ on p. 83). But when was the Skanda Purana compiled?

2.15. Now, the Skanda Purana is a work with many versions. Thus, for example, “the SV Press (Bombay) and NK Press (Lucknow) editions of Skanda Purana vary considerably in the names of pradesas mentioned in the Kumarika Khanda. The former mentions 75 names while the latter has only 63” (ABL Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, Lucknow, 1976, pp. 25-26). Obviously, the text continued to be added to or altered till much after the original compilation, to produce variations of this scale. Even Dr TP Verma, a leading witness of the VHP, also an epigraphist and Sanskritist, admitted that the Skanda Purana is not over 400 years old (para 4411, sub-para XXX).

2.16. But the text is clearly still more recent. Under Mathura desa, it mentions (II.Ii.13, 12) Vrindavana as one of “the famous sacred spots of Vraja” (Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, p. 72). But there is no dispute that Vrindavana was held to be a purely celestial place until Shri Chaitanya declared a spot near Mathura to be the earthly Vrindavana and this discovery occurred in 1515 AD. (See Nalini Thakur, ‘The Building of Govindadeva’, in: Margaret H. Case ed., Govindadeva: A Dialogue in Stone, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, 1996, p. 11.) In fact, the place was called Dosaich and the name Brindaban/ Vrindavana came into common use for it only in the 17th century when sects other than those of Shri Chaitanya also extended recognition to it. Thus it is not possible for the Skanda Purana’s text as we have it today to have been compiled before a time that must be much later than 1515, for it took time for Chaitanya’s claimed discovery to be widely accepted.

2.17. Another proof of the lateness of the text is shown by the reference in the Skanda Purana to Sitapur. The Skanda Purana (VII.i.35.24-26, III.ii.39, 25, 35, 37, 293) says that Sitapur was founded by Lord Ram and named after Sita. It speaks of 55 villages near Sitapur held under grants by Brahmins, and some of them named by it have indeed been identified with those in the town’s vicinity (Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, p. 128). But the name Sitapur is a popular alteration of the original name, ‘Chitapur’, under which it appears in the Ain-i Akbari, the great Mughal gazetteer compiled in 1595. (See for Chitapur/ Sitapur: Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire, Delhi, 1982, Text, p. 28, col. c.)

2.18. Clearly then, the Skanda Purana, if we continue to regard it as a unified text, cannot be older than the 17th century with later additions being possible. And if we concede that it can have interpolations made in it after the 17th century as well then too the date of its reference to a ‘Ramajanma’ site at Ayodhya becomes dubious owing to the supposition that it is one among the possibly many post-17th century interpolations.

2.19. In para 4384 Justice Agarwal seeks to find evidence of pilgrimage to Ayodhya on account of “the record of the Sikh religion showing that Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to Ayodhya in 1510 or 1511, told his companion that it is the birth place of Lord Rama.” This evidence Justice Agarwal had discussed in paras 4333-4351 at length. In para 4351 he expressly accepted it only in so far as that “Guru Nanak while travelling to various places also came to Ayodhya” and held that nothing further could be assumed, contrary to the claims of the Hindu parties (defendants in Suit-4). Yet here, in para 4384, despite his earlier finding, Justice Agarwal is making use of the same piece of evidence, entering a detail he had not earlier accepted. It was submitted to him that the janamsakhi quoted for the purpose is not one recognised by Sikh scholars as reliable, that the standard account of Guru Nanak based on traditionally recognised janamsakhis in MA Macauliffe’s The Sikh Religion, OUP, Vol. I, London, 1909, giving an account of Guru Nanak’s travels in northern India on pp. 43-84, never mentions Ayodhya among the places he visited. This is also the case with the account in Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, Orient Longman, Bombay, 1950, pp. 5-11.

If faith and religious propaganda were to be the deciding elements for establishing a “historical event” and its locale (birthplace of Lord Ram) then the hon’ble high court need not have gone into the historical evidence at all. The case stood prejudged

It is also clear that darshan or image worship is totally alien to beliefs that Guru Nanak propagated (see JS Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, being Vol. II.3 of The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 30-33, with Guru Nanak quoted as rejecting specifically the display of devotion to Krishna, Sita and Ram). It is thus clear that no reliance can be put on the alleged janamsakhi. One may recall here Professor WH McLeod’s words of caution against using the janamsakhis for “our knowledge of the historical Nanak” (The Evolution of the Sikh Community: Five Essays, Delhi, 1975, p. 23). How much more must this caution apply to a mention in an unrecognised janamsakhi like the one on which Justice Agarwal relies.

2.20. It may here be mentioned that the VHP’s insistence on the popular name Masjid Janmasthan from about 1858 as proof of the mosque being built on Lord Ram’s birth-site (para 4092, sub-paras (U) and (V)) obviously reverses the actual development of nomenclature. The name Masjid Janmasthan is only reported from documents of the mid-19th century when the Janmasthan lore had been established and the locality and neighbourhood of Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi (destroyed by the kar sevaks in 1992) had come to acquire the name.

2.21. Similarly, the fact that certain Muslim witnesses or pleadings in the legal proceedings after 1949 did not take issue with the fixing of the Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya or the vicinity of the Babri Masjid (paras 4092(c), 4159 and 4161) has no other significance than that they were merely repeating the current local belief. Such statements, as Justice Agarwal recognises at least once (para 4161), have no historical value. Nevertheless, he proceeds to give the following ruling:

“We are not concerned with the existence of that [Ram] temple [in actual fact?] but what we intend to point out [is?] that the existence of birthplace in this very area is an admission by the plaintiffs. The persons, jointly interested in the suit, are bound by the admission of any of them” (para 4397).

The discussion of the extensive evidence we have examined above should leave us in no doubt that there exists no proof that any sanctity attached to Ayodhya or any place within it on account of its containing the birth-site of Lord Ram before the 17th or more probably the 18th century; and even with regard to Ayodhya being the place over which Lord Ram had ruled, it is only in the late 16th century that Ayodhya as a place is first assigned an exceptionally high, sacred status on this account. It is therefore most unlikely that either in the 11th-12th century or in the 13th and 14th centuries a massive temple could have been built in Ayodhya to commemorate Lord Ram’s site of birth, whether at the site of the Babri Masjid or elsewhere.

2.22. Now, this conclusion should be of the greatest significance for deciding whether a mosque built in 1528 should have been demolished and then the bulk of the land handed over to build a Ram temple when there is no proof that in 1528 or thereabouts anyone believed that the mosque represented the birth-spot of Lord Ram. A contrary assertion could be made only on the basis of mere conjectures and surmises. But having offered this precise caution against conjectures and surmises, Justice Agarwal rules as follows in para 4374:

“The only thing the court should not to do is to base its conclusion on mere conjectures and surmises. Here we have not to consider the historicity of Ayodhya or Lord Ram but only to find out whether the place in dispute according to the belief, faith and traditions of Hindus is the site where Lord Ram was borne (sic!). Even if we have to draw an inference whether this is a place where Lord Ram is borne (sic!) we need not to record a finding like mathematical calculation but it has to be decided on the preponderance of probability. As we have already said that if Lord Ram was borne (sic!) at Ayodhya then there must be a place which can be identified for such purpose. It is no where suggested by plaintiffs (Suit-4) for the Muslim parties that except the property in dispute there was any other place in Ayodhya which is believed by the Hindu people as place of birth of Lord Ram. What they submit is that there was another temple on the north site of the property in dispute which is called Janmasthan temple and therefore that can be the place of birth. But the antiquity of that temple goes back to only about 200-300 years i.e. not beyond 18th or 19th century.”

Now, the rejection of another Ram Janmasthan temple, currently extant, only on the grounds that its construction does not go beyond AD 1700, may not at all be historically sound, since, as we have seen, the notion of the locale of the janmasthan of Lord Ram at any particular spot in Ayodhya may not itself go beyond the 18th century.

2.23. What is highly interesting is Justice Agarwal’s insistence that it is not historical evidence (which he thinks must rest “on mere conjectures and surmises”) but “the belief, faith and traditions of Hindus” on which alone apparently one can rely, without the tedium of scrutinising evidence and testing facts. When it comes to the story he wishes to authenticate, then, given the belief, etc of Hindus, “mere conjectures and surmises” can be given full play. For example, simply on the basis of the Babri Masjid containing 14 black basalt pillars, for which Justice Agarwal uses the word kasauti, Justice Agarwal offers us the following detailed narration of what must have happened:

“As we have further discussed, the Hindus did not desist from entering the inner courtyard [when?] and continued not only to enter therein but to worship the place as well as the images (!) on the black kasauti pillars [set up by Muslims in the mosque!]. What was the structure of the erstwhile temple before the disputed structure is not known but it appears that due to affixation of black kasauti pillars mainly at the central dome after the construction of the new structure [Babri Masjid], the Hindu people continued to worship thereat believing the same as the central point of the birthplace of Lord Ram. Since (sic) we do not find any detail as to how it was being worshipped earlier, but from the subsequent [post-1949?] conduct, practice and traditions, in the absence of anything contrary, one can reasonably believe that the (sic!) in the past also it must be the same” (para 4400).

Now, what are the implications of this conjectural reconstruction? That while the Babri Masjid was built (let us remember, after demolishing a temple, in accordance with Justice Agarwal’s judgement), its builders took care to install 14 black basalt pillars in or near the central dome in order to permit Hindus to worship “thereat” though in fact no images of divinities were to be found there. Had that been the case, one wonders why did the kar sevaks destroy all 14 of the kasauti pillars, the fragments of only one being found by the ASI in the debris of the Masjid. This very action shows that the so-called kasauti pillars could not have been the objects of Hindu worship, contrary to Justice Agarwal’s suppositions.

Finally, it is all a matter of faith:

“Once we find that by way of faith and traditions, Hindus have been worshipping the place of birth of Lord Ram at the site in dispute, we have no reason but to hold in a matter relating to such a kind of historical event that for all practical purposes (!) this is the place of birth of Lord Ram” (para 4407).

If faith and religious propaganda were to be the deciding elements for establishing a “historical event” and its locale (birthplace of Lord Ram) then the hon’ble high court did not need to have gone into the historical evidence at all. The case stood prejudged.

Hiuen Tsiang provides a detailed description of Ayodhya but with no reference to the town being celebrated as the birthplace of Lord Ram

2.24. We may now consider the further determination by Justice Agarwal of exactly where Lord Ram was born within the Babri Masjid campus. No text or claim prior to 1949 is produced to the effect that the spot where Lord Ram was born was situated right under the central dome of the mosque. In 1949 when the mosque locks were broken and a mob installed the idols under the central dome of the mosque (a fact on which all the three judges agree), the idea clearly was that the act would absolutely prevent Muslim use of the mosque, since Muslims could not pray in front of an idol. Had the idols been installed anywhere else within the inner yard of the mosque, Muslim prayers could still conceivably be performed.

2.25. Justice Agarwal reads this violent move quite differently, by accepting the assertions of a stream of VHP witnesses in para 4411, many (not all) of whom predictably declared before the bench that the exact site is where the idols are now installed, as if the Muslims, by building the central dome of the mosque in 1528, provided the exact spot where the garbh griha of the future Ram temple could be raised and venerated as Lord Ram’s birth-site! It should be noted that not a single of these witnesses was able to cite any pre-1949 documented assertion of the claim. One reads (after Hobsbawm) of the invention of tradition; here there is a flagrant invention of faith, an invention to justify a forcible act performed by a shameless breaching of the law. It is unfortunate that from the above unsupported statements of one party in the suit it should be decided that “a bare reading” of them “makes it clear and categorical (!) that the belief of Hindus by tradition was that birthplace of Lord Ram lie (sic!) within the premises in dispute and was confined to the area under the central dome of three-domed structure” of the Babri Masjid (para 4412).

2.26. Both the violent acts of 1949 and 1992 (when the Masjid was demolished) thus receive their legitimisation not so much on the basis even of faith as on the basis of frenzied propaganda and post-facto inventions. Violators of law have thus, despite the presence of courts of law, been able to successfully take over and trivialise the great Indian tradition of a benevolent and just Ram.


Note 2.1

The Vishnu-Hari temple inscription and the story of an illegal plant

2.1.1. A. Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta, 1889, p. 68) noticed an inscription found at Ayodhya, “dated Samvat 1241, or AD 1184, in the time of Jayachandra of Kanauj, whose praises it records for erecting a Vaishnava temple”. From these brief words it is not absolutely ruled out that Fuhrer merely assumed from the date Sam. 1241/ 1184 AD that the inscription referred to Jayachandra, the Gahadavala ruler who ruled from AD 1170 to 1194 (Roma Niyogi, The History of the Gahadavala Dynasty, Calcutta, 1959, pp. 102-12), without actually finding the name recorded in the inscription; and that, further, assuming him to be the contemporary ruler, he held Jayachandra to be responsible for building the Vaishnava temple whose construction the inscription recorded along with praise for the builder. These questions cannot however be directly resolved, since the inscription described by Fuhrer has mysteriously disappeared.

2.1.2. This inscription had been reportedly found at Treta ka Thakur in the town of Ayodhya and is described by Fuhrer as “written in twenty incomplete lines on a white sandstone, broken off at either end, and split in two parts in the middle” (Fuhrer, op. cit., p. 68). It was placed by Fuhrer in the Fyzabad Museum. According to Hans Becker, Ayodhya, Part I, Göttingen, 1986, p. 52, it was then transferred to the Lucknow State Museum where it was assigned No. Arch. Dep. 53.4. The inscription bearing this number was examined by Dr Jahnawi Sekhar Roy, with the cooperation of Dr TP Verma. Though failing to read it, Dr Roy published its photograph in her ‘Note on an Ayodhya Inscription’ in Ayodhya: History, Archaeology and Tradition, ed. Lallanji Gopal, Varanasi, 1991.

Examining the palaeography of this ‘inscription’, Professor Pushpa Prasad has found that what is treated by the Lucknow Museum as a single inscription really consists of two largely illegible texts on two unrelated stone blocks, one of which carries a text of Gahadavala affiliation while the other is palaeographically of Chandella provenance! (Pushpa Prasad, ‘Three Recently Found Inscriptions at Ayodhya’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, pp. 348-50). These findings make it clear that the original 20-line inscription has been removed from the Lucknow State Museum and in its place two totally unrelated illegible blocks have been put together so as to make up 20 lines, the same number of lines on the inscription that was recorded by Fuhrer.

False inscriptions: Broken truths

2.1.3. This discovery sheds new light on the possible origins of the inscription allegedly obtained from the Babri Masjid by the VHP kar sevaks in December 1992. Before we proceed further, we may notice certain curious facts about the VHP kar sevaks’ find. The alleged inscription they claim to have found on December 6, 1992 had never been previously noticed in the mosque, so that its written side could not have been exposed but must have faced the inside of the thick wall where it would have been pressed upon by rubble and mortar. But the inscription now passed off as the one found in the destroyed mosque bears no such signs: its face seems indeed mint-fresh, as if it has not come out of rubble but out of some museum. One notes immediately that it in fact consists of 20 lines written on a slab which is broken vertically in the middle and so precisely matches the description of the Treta ka Thakur inscription given by Fuhrer. The part on the bottom where the words for the date should have been engraved seems to have been deliberately broken off.

There are thus naturally strong grounds for the suspicion that this is really the inscription found by Fuhrer, surreptitiously removed from the Lucknow Museum and paraded off as a find from the Babri Masjid. It actually gives the genealogy and history of a family of local chiefs of Ayodhya, two of whom successively held the Saketa mandala (Saketa being the other name of Ayodhya and mandala meaning district). The current lord of Ayodhya, Anayachandra, is said to have constructed “the beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari” (“the Vaishnava temple” in Fuhrer’s notice). The king whom this chief owed allegiance to is stated to be Govindachandra who, if he is the Gahadavala ruler of this name, ruled from 1114 to 1155 (Pushpa Prasad, op. cit., p. 353; her translation of the inscription is on pp. 353-55 and the text on pp. 355-59).

2.1.4. The inscription that had been noticed by Fuhrer had carried as its date the year 1241 Samvat, corresponding to AD 1184. The extant inscription allegedly found at the Babri Masjid has the date portion chopped off. If this has been done to ward off suspicions about its being the same as the Fuhrer-discovered inscription then we must infer that it had carried the same date, viz. 1241 Samvat/ AD 1184. If so, the ‘Govindachandra’ of this inscription cannot be identical with Govindachandra, the Gahadavala ruler who reigned from 1114 to 1155, as Professor Pushpa Prasad suggests, but must be a Gahadavala prince of the same name who claimed paramountcy over this territory in 1184 as a rival to king Jayachandra. This is strongly suggested by the casual way Govindachandra is referred to in lines 15-16 in the phrase: Govinda-chandra-kshtipala-rajya-sthairyaya, etc, ‘for the stability of Govindachandra’s kingdom’. No titles of a paramount ruler are affixed to him, especially when this was an age when fantastic titles were the vogue – such as Parambhattaraka, Maharajadhiraja, Parameshvara, Parama-maheshvara, Ashvapati, Gajapati, Narapati, Rajatryadhipati vividha vidya vichara vachaspati, which were “usually employed by the Gahadavala kings” (e.g. Epigraphia Indica, XIV, p. 193; Pushpa Prasad, Sanskrit Inscriptions of Delhi Sultanate, Delhi, 1990, p. 56). It is therefore most unlikely that the ‘Govindachandra’ of this inscription is the same as the earlier imperial Gahadavala ruler of that name. Rather, he seems to have been some weak Gahadavala princeling of whom Anayachandra, the local chief of Ayodhya, was a major supporter at this time.

2.1.5. It may be mentioned in passing that this inscription, as read by Dr KV Ramesh, himself a VHP witness before the Allahabad high court (Lucknow bench), makes no mention of the site of the temple being that of “[Ram]janmabhoomi”, as alleged in VHP quarters, but speaks of the builder’s family itself as “[vikrama-]janmabhoomi” which, as KV Ramesh and Pushpa Prasad independently render it, means “the birthplace of valour.” In other words, the temple builder’s family is acclaimed as the fountainhead of bravery. (See Pushpa Prasad, ‘Three Recently Found Inscriptions at Ayodhya’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, see p. 353, line 16, for the translated phrase and p. 356, line 12, for the original phrase in Sanskrit.)

2.1.6. Since the presumed princeling, Govindachandra, is not further heard of, it is possible that Ayodhya passed under the control of Jayachandra after AD 1184. A possible indicator of Jayachandra’s acquisition of control over the area is a copperplate found “near Fyzabad” which contains the grant by Jayachandra (with all the grandiose Gahadavala titles) of village Kamoli or Kemoli in Asuraisha district (pattala), issued from Varanasi on 7 Shudi Ashadha 1243, corresponding to June 14, 1187 (F. Kielhorn, ‘Two Copper Plate Grants of Jayachandra of Kanauj’, Indian Antiquary, XV, 1886, pp. 6, 10-13, with text and translation). The places mentioned in the grant cannot be located and since a copperplate could easily be removed from one place to another, its find-spot near Faizabad (and so also near Ayodhya) is not a decisive piece of evidence; but it certainly poses the probability that by 1187 Jayachandra had been able to establish or restore his authority over Ayodhya and its vicinity.

2.1.7. The above paragraphs are extracted from Irfan Habib, ‘Medieval Ayodhya (Awadh), Down to Mughal Occupation’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 67th Session, Calicut University, 2006-07, Delhi, 2007, pp. 359-61.

2.1.8. It is singular how such strong evidence in relation to the Vishnu-Hari temple inscription, of theft, manipulation and misrepresentation on the part of the VHP, is passed over in silence in the judgement while the harshest language is used for any fancied slip or lapse, however small, on the part of the Muslim plaintiffs or any of their witnesses, as we shall see in Paper IV.

Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17    No.154, Section II, Paper III: Digging out the Proof



Related Articles