In continuation of the series of articles, videos and talks on the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi issue, here is valuable archival footage of an interview by Wilderness Films with renowned archaeologist and Padma Bhushan awardee, Professor B.B. Lal and fellow archaeologist Dr. S. P. Gupta.
Professor B. B. Lal trained under veteran British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler and went on to serve as the Director General of Archaeological Survey of India from 1968 till 1972. During the period of 1975 to 1980, Professor Lal undertook the excavation of sites related to the Ramayana as Director – Projects of Archaeological Survey of Ramayana sites. He chose five important sites for his excavation work viz. Ayodhya, Sringaverapura, Bharadwaj Ashram, Chitrakoot and Nandigram.
In what went on to become one of his landmark archaeological achievements that would change the entire discourse on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, Professor Lal unearthed, quite literally, undisputable evidence pointing to the existence of a temple underneath the structure of Babri Masjid.
Professor Lal explains in the interview how he and his team excavated deep trenches on the western side of the Babri Masjid, barely two metres from the outer wall of the mosque. The findings of the excavations revealed early medieval levels, Gupta levels, Kushan levels, Shunga levels and further down up to the 3rd-4th century BC. In one of the trenches, Professor Lal and his team dug up to about 7-8 feet further down and found Northern Black Polished Ware and other artefacts which went back to 7th century BC, revealing the earliest occupation of the Janmabhoomi site from early 7th century BC at the lowest levels.
Another trench was dug up on the southern side of the Babri Masjid, almost touching the outer wall, and the evidence found there too confirmed the findings of the western-wall site. Similar evidences were found from the excavation sites at Sringaverapura, Bharadwaj Ashram and Chitrakoot, which were all associated with Lord Ram in the Ramayana. In fact, Professor Lal and his team excavated trenches at 14 places in Ayodhya to ensure that they did not miss the lowest levels, and they got the same kind of evidence from all these sites.
The first and most significant archaeological evidence of a temple underneath Babri Masjid came from the trench adjoining the southern wall of the Masjid, in the form of a series of brick pillar-bases. Professor Lal presented a paper titled, “Historicity of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana: What has Archaeology to Say in the Matter?” in a seminar on “New Archaeology and India” organized by Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) in October 1988. In this paper, he stated, “In the Janmabhumi 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.”
The pillar bases, which would have carried the pillars, were oriented in the cardinal directions i.e. North-South and East-West. Likewise, inside the Masjid were found 14 black stone pillars, also oriented in the cardinal directions. These black stone pillars had typical Hindu motifs carved on them and were dated around 1100 AD. The base of the black stone pillars was slightly smaller than the base of the brick foundations, which was as per architectural norms of keeping the base of the foundation wider than the base of the actual pillar.
It is important to note here that parts of destroyed temples were often used in constructing mosques over them and leaving plinths and parts of these temples exposed was a common practice of Muslim invaders. This was done as a show of strength, as testified by the inscription on Quwwat – ul – Islam mosque in the Qutub Minar complex in New Delhi, which boasts of having destroyed as many as 27 temples to build the mosque. The very name Quwwat – ul – Islam denotes the might of Islam. The idea behind this crass display of strength was to impress upon the invaded populace, the might of the invader, and to ‘strike terror in the heart of the kafir’ as a potent means of psychological warfare.
In addition to the pillar bases and pillars found in the mosque, further evidence came in the form of pottery specimens during the excavations. A number of glazed pottery specimens found in the same layer of excavation exposing the brick-bases proved the ‘layer of destruction’ to be around 15th century AD. This glazed pottery was typical of the Muslim period in India and was never found before the 13th century AD. Connecting the circumstantial evidence of the pillar bases and the black stone pillars with the circumstantial evidence of glazed pottery, Professor Lal ascribed the destruction of the temple around 15th century AD.
In order to corroborate the findings of Dr. B. B. Lal and his team, various literary evidences, art history evidences and archaeological evidences were cross-checked and verified to arrive at a sound, indubitable conclusion. As fellow archaeologist and former Director of Allahabad Museum, Dr. S. P Gupta reveals in the interview, upon cross checking the three types of evidences, it was found that the temple that lay underneath the Babri Masjid had faced East, which was attested by the fact that Rama belonged to the clan of Suryavanshis, and so the temple would have been designed in a manner that the first rays of the sun fell on the main murti or idol in the Garbhagriha. Geomorphological evidence from the site also showed the existence of a 40-feet deep ditch at the back of the mosque, where the temple once existed and where a branch of the river Sarayu once flowed. This also corroborated the existence of the Garbhagriha at the spot where stood the central dome of the mosque.
The 14 pillars of the said temple, which still exist in the mosque complex and which belonged to the 11th century AD, showed upon close examination carvings of yakshas carrying kalasha or purna ghata and dwarapalas holding a trident or trishul in one hand. These carvings were typical of Hindu architecture and proved beyond doubt that there existed at temple at the spot. The black stone used in the pillars, popularly known as kasauti, commonly found in the Nepal Terai or Kumaon-Garhwal region and not in the Gangetic plains, was used by people of the time exclusively for carving the main murtis or idols of gods and goddesses to be installed in temples as it was considered highly valuable.
As summarized by Dr. S. P. Gupta in the interview, all the above-mentioned circumstantial evidence pointed to the existence of a temple dedicated to Vishnu, or specifically, the Rama form of Vishnu, at the site of the Babri Masjid from 11th century AD till 15th century AD. If they had a free hand to excavate under the Babri Masjid, Dr. Gupta clearly stated that they expected to find the remaining of the 84 pillar-bases, 6 of which had already been excavated on the south side of the mosque. In addition to the pillar bases, Dr. Gupta categorically expected to find sculptured panels of the temple, as they had found that wherever temples were destroyed by Islamic invaders, sculptured panels of those temples were used in the construction of mosques at the same sites. As was common practice, the sculptured side of the stone panel was either used upside-down or inside-out with the smooth side of the stone facing outside in the wall of the mosque, which was then plastered to make it look smooth. Additionally, Dr. Gupta also expected to find remains of other subsidiary temples, shrines and temple-structures.
While the facts and evidences presented by Professor Lal and his team speak for themselves, it is rather unfortunate to hear the uninformed and irresponsible solutions, comments and opinions presented by politicians like the then Member of Parliament, Shri Vasant Sathe and opinion-makers like the presenter of the video. The patronizing attempt to lay the blame for the centuries-old dispute on politicians’ hunger for power and votes, and the vacuous platitudes about the country’s secular ideals being sacrificed at the altar of political calculations point to a shallow and inadequate understanding of the real issue.
Rooted in the dominant, deeply entrenched Leftist-Marxist narrative, this callous disregard for the sentiments of the majority community and outright denial of the civilizational trauma suffered by Hindu society at the hands of motivated, barbaric Islamic invaders needs to be challenged, and more importantly, addressed if Hindu society is to be healed for good.
It is imperative that a nondiscriminatory, equitable approach be adopted by all parties involved in the dispute to address the grievances of Hindu society, which has been trying to retrieve Ram Janmabhoomi, their holiest of sites for centuries, for a lasting and peaceful solution.
- Proof of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya? Prof. B B Lal on Ramayana Site Archeological Survey and Babri Masjid
- The Battle For Rama: Case Of The Temple At Ayodhya – Dr. Meenakshi Jain
Featured Image Credit: https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/rama-history-behind-the-legend