The Supreme court is holding day-to-day hearings on the Ram Janmbhumi-Babri Masjid case and is likely to give a verdict by November 18. KK Muhammed, former regional director, North, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was part of the team of archaeologists which had carried out the first excavation at the site in 1976-77. He maintains that there is enough archaeological proof of a grand temple below the Babri Mosque. He spoke to TOI on why he thinks Muslims should voluntarily hand over the land at Ayodhya.
Q: What do you have to say about the Ayodhya case being heard in the Supreme Court?
A: There are three important issues. First is archaeological evidence, second is literary evidence and the third is the social issues.
Q: What is the archaeological evidence to prove whether there was a pre-existing temple or not?
A: Archaeologically there are enough evidence to say that below the controversial Babri mosque, there were temple remains. In fact, there was a grand temple structure.
Two excavations were carried out at the site.
The first excavation was carried out in the year 1976-77 under eminent archaeologist BB Lal, who was the director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 1968 to 1972.
I was a member of the excavation team and the only Muslim who had participated in the excavation.
The excavation took place at a time when Saiyid Nurul Hassan, himself a historian, was the then Union minister of state (with independent charge) of education, social welfare and culture between 1971 and 1977.
Excavation has two important components. As per the procedures, we first conducted surface exploration to find out the remains on the surface. The controversial mosque was under the custody of the police and no common visitors were allowed inside. But as were part of the excavation team, we were allowed inside it.
Moreover, the Ayodhya issue was not as heated up as it became later.
When we went inside, I saw 12 pillars of the mosque which were made from temple remains.
Q: How do you say that the pillars belong to some temple? And did you take pictures of the pillars?
A: No, I did not take pictures at that time. But other pictures are available now.
In almost all the temples of the 12th and 13 th centuries, you get ‘Purna Kalasha’ at the base. It is the structure of a ‘ghada’ (water pitcher) from which foliage would be coming out. It is the symbol of prosperity in Hinduism and is known as ‘Asht-Mangala Chinha’ – one of the eight auspicious symbols.
If you want to see it further, you can go to Quwwatul Islam mosque near Qutub Minar. This mosque was also made out of the spoils of 27 temples. There is evidence for this as well. There is a book called Taj-ul-Masir written by Hassan Nizami, a contemporary historian. He says that temples were destroyed and a mosque was constructed out of it.
There is also an inscription in front of the Quwwatul mosque which says that it was made out of the spoils of 27 temples. When you go inside, you can see a number of ‘Purna Kalashas’ and a number of gods and goddesses.
Similar things were there in Babri mosque also. There were no gods and goddesses but ‘Asht-Mangala Chinhas’ were there. So, on the basis of these, any archaeologist would say that these are temple remains.
Subsequently, BB Lal undertook excavations behind the mosque on the western side of the mosque. The pillar bases were also excavated. A number of terracotta sculptures were found. If it is a mosque, you will never get depiction of human beings or animals because it is ‘haraam’ (forbidden or proscribed) in Islam. This means there was a temple.
But these findings were not highlighted by BB Lal because our excavation purpose was not to establish whether there was a temple or not. We just wanted to see the cultural sequence of the place.
Q: So, were BB Lal’s findings ever highlighted? Wasn’t there a critique of how the study findings were presented?
A: Unfortunately, a group of Left historians led by Romila Thapar, DN Jha and RS Sharma among others went to the media around 1990 and falsely claimed that no temple remains were found in the excavation. They also said the report did not mention anything about the temple remains.
BB Lal was forced to defend. He made it clear that we got a number of temple remains but we did not make it an issue.
At that time, I was a deputy superintending archaeologist posted at Chennai. I came out with a press statement through a letter to the editor in a national newspaper.
I said that I was the only Muslim who had participated in that excavation and we got a number of temple remains.
I further said that this is as important for Hindus as Mecca and Medina for Muslims. Therefore, Muslims should willingly hand it over to Hindus.
There was a senior IAS officer, I Mahadevan, a prominent archaeologist who had written a book on Indus script, came out with another statement. He said one group says there are temple remains and another group says there are no temple remains. Then why can’t we undertake another excavation?
Q: So the second excavation was carried out under orders of the Allahabad High Court. What do you say about its findings?
A: The second excavation was carried out in 2003 as per the directions of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. By that time, the mosque had been destroyed. Before the excavation, a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted. It found that there were several structures within below the ground. Many anomalies were reported. Anomalies meaning that you will be getting structures below the Babri Masjid.
The excavation was carried out under the supervision of archaeologists Hari Manjhi and BR Mani. Since this excavation was carried out as per the direction of the court, the report assumes the status of a Court Commissioner’s report and it is fully authentic. The ASI excavation was neither for Nirmohi Akhara nor for Vishwa Hindi Parishad (VHP) nor for Sunni Waqf Board. It is an impartial and scientific report by ASI.
During the first excavation, the controversial structure was having 12 temple pillars reused in the mosque.
Excavation also exposed bases on which many pillars were standing.
But in the second excavation, more than 90 pillar bases in 17 rows were exposed. It means that the structure was imposing and large.
The structure discovered was a temple below the Babri Mosque and dated back to the 12th century AD.
They also got temple ‘pranala’. We have to bathe the deity and the ‘abhishek jal’ flows through ‘pranali’. The pranali is mostly ‘makara pranali’, having a crocodile face.
Crocodile is a symbol of river Ganga. In some of the temples, before reaching the ‘garbha griha’ (sanctum sanctorum), on the one side there would be a lady standing on crocodile and on the other side there would be a lady standing on tortoise.
This means that you are taking a symbolic bath in rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the underground Saraswati. After cleansing yourself of all the previous sins, you are going to the main God.
This ‘makara pranali’ was excavated. Had it been some other architectural member, one could have argued that it belonged to the part of a house. But this ‘makara pranali’ is neither seen in a residential area nor in a bazar area but it is exclusively the property of a temple.
Also, on top of the temple just below the ‘kalasha’, there is another architectural member known as ‘amalka’. It was also excavated.
Below the ‘amalka’ there is the ‘grivah’ and also the ‘shikhara’ portion of the temple in North India. Many architectural members of the ‘shigara’ was also excavated from there by the team.
Besides, 263 pieces of terracotta objects of various gods and goddesses, human figures and female figures were excavated from there.
The hired team by the Waqf Committee said the structure was another mosque before the Babri Mosque. While they call it a structure, ASI calls it a temple.
Had it been a mosque, how could you get these terracotta objects of various living beings? Depiction of any living being is prohibited in Islam.
Then how could you get sculptures of living beings had it been a mosque? So, it was not a mosque.
They also say that it might have been a Jain or a Buddhist temple if their argument that it was a pre-Babri mosque was rejected. But there are no remains of Jainism or Buddhism in that disputed area.
One of the directors of the excavation Hari Manjhi himself is a practising Buddhist and he has never come out with such a strange argument.
Apart from all these things, a ‘Vishnu Hari Sheela Phalak’ inscription was also found in two pieces from the site.
Of course, they were not part of the excavations but were found after the demolition of the mosque. But they form an important circumstantial evidence which clearly says the temple has been dedicated to that incarnation of Lord Vishnu who had killed Bali and a 10-headed person.
All this is evidence which we have in order to establish that there was a pre-existing Hindu temple and that too dedicated to Lord Vishnu at that place.
Q: What is the proof that this second ASI excavation in 2003 was impartial?
A: Firstly, the excavation was completely videographed. Apart from ASI officials there were court-appointed judicial members. There were the so-called experts of Babri mosque. Those who had filed the cases such as Zafaryab Jilani and their advocates were also overseeing the entire excavation process.
Besides, the excavation team comprised several Muslims who were senior archaeologists of the ASI.
They included Ghulam Syeddin Khwaja from ASI, who retired as director Arabic and Persian epigraphy at Nagpur. There also was Atiqur Rehman Siddiqui who retired as superintending archaeologist of Agra.
Zulfikar Ali, who presently is the superintending archaeologist of Chandigarh circle and AA Hashmi, who retired from Chanderi were there.
They not only carried the excavation but they also were co-authors of the report which was submitted to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.
This is highly fool-proof.
Their conclusion was simple – that there was a pre-existing temple below the Babri Mosque and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Q: Was there no dissenting view?
A: No, there was no dissenting view. Nobody had resigned from the team either. Those who differed were the hired experts of the Waqf committee. But they tried to create some confusion.
But the Court Commissioner’s report is crucial and final.
Q: Will these findings contribute in settling the issue by the Supreme Court?
A: Archaeological evidence is fully in favour of a Hindu temple. I only believe that the Supreme Court cannot come out with any other kind of judgment. Even if they do give another kind of judgment, though there is no chance at all, that would be a decision which would not be able to implement. I lived there for two months. I saw that throughout the day and night, people used to continuously visit there and worship. It has that kind of importance for the Hindus.
Q: Archaeological evidence is one aspect of the case. What are the other two which you wished to discuss?
A: There is ample literary evidence to prove that Hindus continued to worship at that place.
In Ain-e-Akbari Volume III, Abu Fazal says that Ayodhya was worshipped by Hindus in the month of Chaitra.
Then there was a traveller known as William Filch (1608-1611) who came to India during the time of Jehangir . In his travelogue, he says a lot of people assembled and worshipped at this place in Ayodhya.
In 1631, during the time of Jehangir and Shah Jahan, a Dutch geographer John Daeleat also speaks about the worship of the place by Hindus.
Thomas Herbert (1606-1682) mentions also speaks about the Hindu worship of the place.
Joseph Taissen Thaler, who wrote in 1766, also speaks about the erection of a cradle at the place. It was for the first time, he said that the temple was destroyed either by Babur or Aurangzeb.
Q: What is the third aspect of the Ayodhya issue?
A: The third and last aspect is the social issue. Ram Temple at Ayodhya is as important for Hindus as Mecca and Medina is for Muslims.
For Muslims, it is neither associated with Prophet Mohammed nor with any of his prominent companions in Islam nor with any Auliya like Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer, Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi or Salim Chisti of Fatehpur Sikri or any Islamic divine personality.
Therefore, Muslims should have willingly handed it over to Hindus.
For that, Hindus should also come forward to construct a grand mosque for Muslims, somewhere in Lucknow or wherever they are in the majority.
In Ayodhya area, the Muslim population is sporadic. Therefore, there is no point in arguing for a mosque in that area.
If Muslims had shown willingness on their part, many of the problems that they facing might have been automatically solved. That would have generated goodwill among Hindus also.
Muslims were ready for this. But these Marxist historians led by Irfan Habib created the problem. It is they who told the Muslim community that they have excavated the place and they did not get anything by which they could say that they there was a temple beneath the mosque.
And none of these people except one or two were archaeologists.They were all simple historians. They were not technically qualified to be archaeologists. They had no excavation experience also. They came out in the open with their own ignorance and Muslims were taken for a ride by those people.
Muslims were in a cleft stick by these people.
Now at least they (Muslims) should show the political maturity to come out of the trap of the Marxist historians. Even now the time has not elapsed. Before the Supreme Court gives its judgment, Muslims should hand over the place to Hindus and create an example. That is my humble request to them.
Source : TOI