Archaeology of Ayodhya

Ayodhya, India

The Archaeology of Ayodhya concerns the excavations and findings in the Indian city of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh, much of which surrounds the Babri Mosque location.

QuotesEdit

  • Excavation at the disputed site of Rama Janmabhùmi-Babri Masjid was carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India from 12 March 2003 to 7 August 2003. During this period, as per the directions of the Hon’ble High Court, Lucknow 82 trenches were excavated to verify the anomalies mentioned in the report of the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey which was conducted at the site prior to taking up the excavations. A total number of 82 trenches along with some of their baulks were checked for anomalies and anomaly alignments. The anomalies were confirmed in the trenches in the form of pillar bases, structures, floors and foundation though no such remains were noticed in some of them at the stipulated depths and sports. Besides the 82 trenches, a few more making a total of 90 finally were also excavated keeping in view the objective fixed by the Hon’ble High Court to confirm the structures.”
  • Subsequently, during the early medieval period (eleventh-twelfth century A.D.) a huge structure, nearly 50 m in north-south orientation was constructed which seems to have been short-lived, as only four of the fifty pillar bass exposed during the excavation belong to this level with a brick crush floor. On the remains of the above structure 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 structure, providing sufficient evidence of a construction of public usage which remained under existence for a long time during the period VII (Medieval-Sultanate level-twelfth to sixteenth century A.D.). It was over the top of this construction during the early sixteenth century, the disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it. There is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50 × 30 m in north-south and east-west directions respectively just below the disputed structure. In course of present excavations nearly 50 pillar bases with brick bat foundation, below calcrete blocks topped by sandstone blocks were found. The pillar bases exposed during the present excavation wall of the earlier construction with which they are associated and which might have been originally around 60 m (of which the 50 m length is available at present). The centre of the central chamber of the disputed structure falls just over the central point of the length of the massive wall of the preceding period which could not be excavated due to presence of Ram Lala at the spot in the make-shift structure. This area is roughly 15×15 m on the raised platform. Towards east of this central point a circular depression with projection on the west, cut into the large sized brick pavement, signify the place where some important object was placed. Terracotta lamps from the various trenches and found in a group in the levels of Periods VII in trench G2 are associated with the structural phase.
    • ASI report of 2003, , quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited.
  • Subsequently, during the early medieval period (eleventh - twelfth century A. D.) a huge structure, nearly 50 m in north-south orientation was constructed... On the remains of the above structure 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 which remained under existence for a long time during the period VII (Medieval-Sultanate level - twelfth to sixteenth century A. D.) It was over the top of this construction during the early sixteenth century, the disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it.”
    The Hon'ble High Court, in order to get sufficient archaeological evidence on the issue involved „whether there was any temple/structure which was demolished and mosque was constructed on the disputed site‟.., had given directions to the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate at the disputed site where the GPR Survey has suggested evidence of anomalies which could be structure, pillars, foundation walls, slab flooring etc. which could be confirmed by excavation . Now, viewing in totality and taking into account the archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the structure and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards upto the construction of the disputed structure alongwith the yield of stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural' members including foliage patterns, âmalaka [a fruit motif], kâpotapâlî [a “dovecot” frieze or cornice] doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranâla (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.”
    • ASI Report 2003, Archaeological Society of India. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2012). The argumentative Hindu. New Delhi : Aditya Prakashan. Chapter: Ayodhya’s three history debates.
  • ‘Our excavations in Ayodhya in 1978 proved the existence of a temple dating to the 11th century. The ASI report just pushes it back by 50 or 100 years.’
    • K.N. Dixit. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • The team found that the objects were datable to the period ranging from the 10th through the 12th century AD, i.e., the period of the late Pratiharas and early Gahadvals. (...) These objects included a number of amakalas, i.e., the cogged-wheel type architectural element which crown the bhumi shikharas or spires of subsidiary shrines, as well as the top of the spire or the main shikhara ... This is a characteristic feature of all north Indian temples of the early medieval period (...) There was other evidence — of cornices, pillar capitals, mouldings, door jambs with floral patterns and others — leaving little doubt regarding the existence of a 10th-12th century temple complex at the site of Ayodhya."
    • Prof. S. P. Gupta , quoted in Narain, Harsh. 1993. The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute
  • There are also several types of cornices, pillar capitals, mouldings as well as door-jambs with meandering floral patterns. The images of chakrapurusha, Parashurama, matridevi, Shiva and Parvati, etc. provide further proof to their being members of a 10th-12th century Hindu temple-complex.
    • Prof. S.P. Gupta on the temple remains examined in 1992-93. S.P. Gupta: If Only the Court had Examined the Evidence in: India., & Dasgupta, S. (1995). The Ayodhya reference: The Supreme Court judgement and commentaries.
  • It was then found that the history of the township was at least three thousand years old, if not more, and that at Ramajanmabhumi there stood a huge structure on a parallel series of square pillar-bases built of several courses of bricks and stones. When seen in the light of 20 black stone pillars, 16 of which were found re-used and standing in position as corner stones of piers for the disputed domed strucutre of the 'mosuqe', Prof. Lal felt that the pillar-bases may have belonged to a Hindu temple built on archaeological levels formed prior to the 13th century AD (...)
    • Prof. S.P. Gupta on the excavations between 1975 and 1980 at Ayodhya. S.P. Gupta: If Only the Court had Examined the Evidence in: India., & Dasgupta, S. (1995). The Ayodhya reference: The Supreme Court judgement and commentaries.
  • "Several of the temple-pillars existing in the mosque and pillar- bases unearthed in the excavations conducted in the south of the mosque (although in the adjoining plot of land) show the same directional alignment. This will convince any student of architecture that two sets of material remains belong to one and the same complex. Secondly, the archaeological history of Islamic glazed ware in India goes back to the eleventh century, not the fifteenth ; in the fifteenth only a particular type of glazed ware was brought to India. Here at Ayodhya one kind of Islamic glazed ware was even a local imitation of the thirteenth century. Therefore, when we observe that here we recovered Islamic glazed ware of different periods, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, from below the floor level of the mosque, we are telling the truth of archaeological discoveries."
    • S.P. Gupta. Reported in Indian Express, 6/12/90. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • Mr. Sharma has not given a single piece of archaeological or historical evidence in support of what he says. The archaeological and other evidence from art history indicate that there was a Brahminical temple at the place where the mosque stands today. The iconographical features like vanamala and karandmukut show that it was probably a Vaishnava temple.
    • S. P. Gupta, quoted by Peter Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p.219, n.55. quoted from Koenraad Elst. Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple (2002)
  • There were stone pillars bearing Hindu motifs and sculptures... The beginning of the settlement at Ayodhya would appear to go back to the last quarter of the 2nd millennium BCE. ... In the uppermost levels... were encountered rows of pillar bases... the entire complex could be dated from the twelfth to fifteenth century CE. Attached to the piers of the Babari Masjid here were twelve stone pillars which carried not only typical Hindu motifs and mouldings but also figures of Hindu deities. It was self-evident that these pillars were not an integral part of the Masjid but were foreign to it. ... The first reaction that came up from a certain category of historians was to dney 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 fo the Babari Masjid became automatically redundant. ... However ...[later] they gave up their first exercise in denial.... 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 once constituted parts of the demolished temple. ...
    • Lal, B. B. (2008). Rāma, his historicity, mandir, and setu: Evidence of literature, archaeology, and other sciences. New Delhi: Aryan Books International. pp. 23, 54 ff.
  • In the 1970s, an ASI team led by Prof. B.B. Lal dug out some trenches just outside the mosque and found rows of pillar-bases which must have supported a larger building predating the mosque. Moreover, in the mosque itself, small black pillars with Hindu sculptures had been incorporated, a traditional practice in mosques built in forcible replacement of infidel temples to flaunt the victory of Islam over Paganism... In 1992, during excavations around the mosque in June and during the demolition on December 6, many more pieces of temple remains, mainly sculptures of Hindu gods and godlings, were discovered.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • “The excavations so far give ample traces that there was a mammoth pre-existing structure beneath the three-domed Babri structure. (…) The bricks used in these perimeters predate the time of Babar. (…) More than 30 pillar bases have been found at equal spans. The pillar-bases are in two rows and the rows are parallel. The pillar-base rows are in North-South direction. A wall is superimposed upon another wall. At least three layers of the floor are visible. (…) These facts prove the enormity of the pre-existing structure. (…) Moulded bricks of round and other shapes and sizes were neither in vogue during the middle ages nor are in use today. It was in vogue only 2,000 years ago. Many ornate pieces of touchstone (kasauti stone) pillars have been found in the excavation. (…) The Gupta and the Kushan period bricks have been found. Brick walls of the Gahadwal period (12th Century CE) have been found in excavations.”... “definitely a structure with a religious purpose: “Beautiful stone pieces bearing carved Hindu ornamentations like lotus, kaustubh jewel, alligator facade, etc., have been used in these walls. (…) An octagonal holy fireplace (yajna kund) has been found. (…) Terracotta idols of divine figurines, serpent, elephant, horse-rider, saints, etc., have been found. Even to this day terracotta idols are used in worship during Diwali celebrations and then put by temple sanctums for invoking divine blessings. (…) The excavation gives out the picture of a vast compound housing a sole distinguished and greatly celebrated structure used for divine purposes.”
    • Chetan Merani. 24 June 2003. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • There is some structure under the mosque.
    • In the winter of 2002-2003, the Court had secretly ordered a search of the site with a ground-penetrating radar. Canadian geophysicist Claude Robillard commenting on these scans with the radar. (Rediff.com, 19 March 2003). Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • [The motifs found] ‘proved the existence of a 7th century Shiva temple’.
    • R.K. Sharma. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • Archaeological findings in Prof. B.B. Lal’s excavation campaign Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites 1975-80 and more recent ones as well as a large number of documents written in tempore non suspecto confirm the hypothesis. Findings of burnt-brick pillar-bases dated to the 11th century in trenches a few metres from the disputed structure, prove that a pillared building stood in alignment with, and on the same foundations system as the Babri Masjid.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple.
  • “Among the structures listed in the report are several brick walls ‘in east-west orientation’, several ‘in north-south orientation’, ‘decorated coloured floor’, several ‘pillar bases’, and a ‘1.64-metre high decorated black stone pillar (broken) with yaksha [= demigod] figurines on four corners’.” ... “what many people have missed out on – due to bias or sloth – is that these are findings only from the period of May 22 to June 6. This is not the full list. If they read the earlier reports, they would also find listed several walls, a staircase, and two black basalt columns ‘bearing fine decorative carvings with two cross-legged figures in bas-relief on a bloomed lotus with a peacock whose feathers are raised upwards’.”
    • Sandipan Deb, In Outlook India (23 June 2003). Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • So great was the compulsion and enthusiasm of the historians to somehow discredit the archaeological evidence unearthed at Ayodhya that one of them, Prof. Irfan Habib, who is known amongst his fellow historians as a great scholar of medieval India, ended up making a great professional howler. He announced that he had dated the artifacts found in the Ayodhya excavations, by the carbon dating technique, and found that these artifacts were of rather recent origin. And it so happened that an officer of the Archaeological Survey reviewed the procedures of Prof. Irfan Habib and found that if Prof. Habib’s dating procedures were to be followed then one would come to the conclusion that the reign of Emperor Akbar is yet to begin: It shall begin in 2009 A.D.!
    • Arun Shourie, THE BUCKLING STATE, in Ayodhya And The Future India, Chapter 2 [1]
  • “In research carried out in the 1970s both Bakker and I relied heavily on the local tradition that Babar’s general had destroyed a temple built on Rama’s birthplace. This tradition is supposedly corroborated by the fact that in the mosque are pillars of a temple (which Bakker ascribes to the eleventh century). The same kind of pillars are also used in the grave of a Muslim pir who is in the local tradition considered to have been instrumental in the demolition of the temple...
    • Peter Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple.
  • “Nevertheless, in a BBC interview in 1991, [B.B.] Lal argued that there had been a Hindu temple for Rama/Vishnu on the spot now occupied by the mosque and that pillars of that temple had been used in constructing the [Masjid]. Lal suggested that further digging should be carried out in order to come up with more evidence - a suggestion that was denounced in the press by the historian Irfan Habib and others as a ploy to demolish the mosque.”
    • Peter Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple.
  • These kinds of art and archaeological evidences establish two things: — one, the antiquity of the site of Ayodhya goes back at least to 700 B.C. — Second, in the 11th century a large structure on pillars was erected at the site now popularly called 'Janmabhoomi'. At this very place, now a 16th century mosque stands. It has 14 black stone pillars, decorated with beautiful floral, faunal and human carving, largely mutilated. The carvings on them show that they were carved in the early 11th century. When compared with similar carvings on the pillars of structures of the 11th century elsewhere in U.P. we find that these are used in temples made of other stones, generally buffish sandstone. It is, thus, clear that the black stone pillars at Janmabhoomi also belonged to a temple. No secular structure in and around Uttar Pradesh used this stone for pillars. — Further, most of the pillars of the 11th century temples were removed at a later date, in the early 16th century, although a few of them are still in their original placement, others are displaced. Originally, there may have been 84 pillars and the area covered by them must have been around seven times more than that covered by the domed structure of the mosque.
    • Ram Janmabhoomi / Babri Masjid at Ayodhya : An Archaeological and Art-Historical Examination, S.P. Gupta. History versus Casuistry: Evidence of the Ramajanmabhoomi Mandir presented by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to the Government of India in December-January 1990-91. Also available at [2]
  • “In conclusion, the GPR survey reflects in general a variety of anomalies ranging from 0.5 to 5.5 metres in depth that could be associated with ancient and contemporaneous structures such as pillars, foundations walls, slab flooring, extending over a large portion of the site. However, the exact nature of those anomalies has to be confirmed by systematic ground truthing, such as provided by archaeological trenching.”
    • High Court in its order dated 5 March, 2003. , quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited. ch 11
  • In the Janmabhumni area. the uppermost levels of a trench that lay immediately to the south of the Babri Masjid brought to light a series of brick-built bases which evidently carried pillars thereon. In the construction of the Babri Masjid a few stone pillars had been used, which may have come from the preceding structure.
    • BB Lal, Historicity of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. in Jain, M. (2017). The battle of Rama: Case of the temple at Ayodhya. 95.
  • Plainly stated, the ASI Report conclusively established that Babri Masjid was not built on virgin land and that the remains found at the site were of religious structures... In other words, the excavations revealed that Babri Masjid was erected over, and with full knowledge of a pre-existing structure... parts of earlier temples and religious members of the last temple were used in the walls of the mosque.
    • Meenakshi Jain, The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya (2017)(p.121)
  • The brick-built pillar bases were only slightly larger than the bases of the fourteen black stone pillars existing in the Babri Masji... The black stone used for the pillars was a highly prized stone and was not used for fabricating pillars in any temple even in Ayodhya. Its use indicated the magnificence and importance of the structure... Fifty-six images of yakshas had been found at the base of fourteen pillars in the Babri Masjid.
    • Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 170-1, citing S.P. Gupta, 1990.
  • Lal or no Lal, the pillar bases built into the mosque walls are there for all to see.
    • Iravatham Mahadevan, quoted in Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 172-3
  • Mr. Mahadevan's comments were really an objective analysis of the archaeological data. I can reiterate this with greater authority, for I was the only Muslim who had participated in the Ayodhya excavation in 1976-77 under Professor Lal...I was at the Hanuman Garhi site, but I have visited the excavation near the Babri Masjid and seen the excavated pillar bases. The JNU historians have highlighted only one part of our findings while suppressing the other.
    • K.K. Muhammad (deputy superintending archaeologist), commenting on Iravatham Mahadevan, who held the JNU historians guilty of "political abuse of history". Indian Express. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society. also in quoted in Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 172-3
  • [Professor K.V. Raman] noted that a "very impressive sculptural panel showing Dashavatars and a terracotta figurine of the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu had been unearthed from the site. It clearly indicated the existence of a Vaishnava temple or a Rama temple as Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu".
    • KV Raman, 1992, in Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 179.
  • A month after the demolition... the authorities... discovered a 2.5 feet broad amalaka of the demolished temple.. The discovery of an inscription on 6th December 1992 should, in the normal course, have settled the Ayodhya controversy.
    • Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 188

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