[Reader-list] Detecting underground temples a la WMD search in Iraq
aiindex at mnet.fr
Wed Aug 27 05:56:01 IST 2003
India: Digging for Secularism ?
South Asia Citizens Wire Special
August 27, 2003
"Searching for a temple under the mosque at Ayodhya is like finding
WMD in Iraq."
- Gail Omvedt [One of India's well known insurgent Anthropologists]
o o o
'Mumbai blast-Ayodhya connection speculative'
By E Jayakrishnan in New Delhi
Monday, 25 August , 2003, 15:42
o o o
The Ottawa Citizen [Canada] August 26, 2003
Canadian scientist's work may have sparked deadly blast in Mumbai
o o o
Sify, India August 26, 2003
Ayodhya to be key issue in UP polls
o o o
The Times of India, August 26, 2003
NEW DELHI: The Archaeological Survey of India's excavation report on
Ayodhya, suggesting ''a huge structure indicative of remains, which
are distinctive features associated with the temples of north
India'', has been found wanting at many levels by archaeologists and
Archaeologist Suraj Bhan, who visited the site during the excavation,
says the report has not ''taken into account'' certain features of
the western wall of the pre-Babri Masjid chamber.
* According to him, the burnt brick wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
structure had a carved stone laid in the foundation. ''This has not
been taken into account. If it was, this could have precluded the
possibility of the structure being associated with Hindus, since they
never used carved stone in foundation,'' he says.
* The pillar bases are not of the same type. ''Fifty pillar bases are
not of the same type, which means they were used in different
structures,'' he says. R C Thakran of Delhi University, who also
spent a long time in Ayodhya during excavation, concurs. ''I have
seen the material in the pillar bases. Pieces of early mediaeval
bricks, thinner, smaller and less wide were found. Can it take a
massive structure?'' he asks.
Supriya Varma of Panjab University, who spent months in Ayodhya as an
expert of Sunni Waqf Board, has also pointed out glaring omissions in
* Though ASI suggests that from 10th century onwards, the site had a
shrine followed by a temple with different structural phases, its
report also talks of ''animal bones recovered from various levels of
''If there was a shrine and temple at this site, how do we account
for the presence of animal bones?'' she asks.
* She also says stone and decorated bricks could have been used in
any building, not necessarily only in a temple. Further, the carved
architectural members have come from the debris and not from a
According to Bhan, the ASI report has also not taken into account the
intrusive nature of pillar bases and the Ramchabutra. He says in
June, when he visited the site, the ASI had dug into the Babri Masjid
floor. ''It means that there was a structure later than the Masjid
He says that the water reservoir in the south-eastern corner made of
lime and calcrete was later filled and the chabutra made, now known
as Ramchabutra. ''Excavation showed that even the chabutra was dug
into the Babri Masjid. This proves that the chabutra was a later
construction,'' he explains.
On the ASI's claim of continuity in structure from 10th century
onwards, Thakran says if there is any continuity, it is of ''lime
surkhi floor'', associated with Islamic architecture. He says there
is also continuity between the floor of the Masjid and walls of
The most glaring mistake is that despite admitting that during and
after period IV (Gupta level) up to period IX (late and post-Mughal),
regular habitation deposits disappear, resulting in mixing of earlier
material with the contemporary - creating problems of dating - it has
selectively used some of the artifacts for dating and excluded others.
o o o
The Hindu, August 27, 2003
ASI report raises more questions
By Anjali Mody
New Delhi AUG. 26. The report of the Archaeological Survey of India
on its excavation at Ayodhya is unlikely to settle the academic
debate, and will prolong the legal dispute on what lay beneath the
disputed site. While proponents of the theory that a 12th Century
Hindu temple preceded the Babri Masjid say that they have been
vindicated, the opposing side is readying to question the basis of
the ASI's claim.
A great deal of the heat will focus on the ASI's conclusion that it
has found material at the site "indicative of remains which are
distinctive features found associated with the temples of North
India". To sustain this claim, the report states that some
architectural remains found on the site bear stylistic comparison to
another building from the 12th Century. Describing the "massive
structure below the disputed site", the ASI report states that one of
the architectural fragments, which belongs to the 12th Century, is
"similar to those found in Dharmachakrajina Vihara of Kumaradevi at
Sarnath which belongs to the early 12th Century''.
An ASI report from 1921 talks of this Vihara as having been built by
Kumaradevi, the Buddhist wife of Govindachandra, King of Kannauj. It
says that the archaeological find was first designated as the remains
of a Buddhist monastery. However, Dayaram Sahni, who beame the ASI's
first Indian Director-General in the 1930s, reinterpreted the
findings as those belonging to a temple. Mr. Sahni based his
interpretation on the grandeur of the structure that, he said, was
unlike any monastery. He said the absence of images of deities was
not sufficient reason to say that this was not a temple. Far from
settling the issue, this comparison is only likely to keep the
academic debate on the interpretation of artefacts from the Ayodhya
The ASI report, however, contains more than discoveries of "remains
which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of
North India". The most significant finding, from an archaeological
point of view, is that the evidence of the first human settlement of
the site has been put at 1300 BC. This is several centuries earlier
than findings at similar settlements (classified by archaeologists as
Northern Black Polished Ware period) in the Gangetic plain. The
earliest dates for NBPW cultures is around 700 BC with the majority
being nearer 400-300 BC. If proven, this would make a significant
contribution to the understanding of history of the period. The ASI's
claim rests on Carbon14 dating of two samples found on the site.
Other findings at the site will also interest those who have traced
the site's connection with the Ramayana story. The report records
finding terracotta images of the mother goddess, female figurines and
remains of votive tanks, as late as the third century AD.
Archaeologists say that these are evidence of folk worship, and "are
not associated with Vaishnav worship", to which the Ramayana
tradition belongs. There are other places in India where evidence of
structures associated with Vaishnav worship has been found from the
early centuries of the first millennium AD.
o o o
The Hindustan Times [ India] August 27, 2003
Excavations in Ayodhya go back to 1969-70, when an archaeological
team from the Benaras Hindu University began digging in three
separate localities. Their results were first announced in the pages
of Indian Archaeology - A Review, the principal organ of the ASI. The
history of Ayodhya was described as going back to the NBP (Northern
Black Polished Ware) Period, "which is generally accepted as covering
the sixth to perhaps the first centuries BC".
This is of more than incidental significance, for Rama is described
in the Valmiki Ramayana as having been born in the Treta Yuga, or
thousands of years before the present-day Kali Yuga, which itself
began in 3102 BC. Yet there is no archaeological evidence to support
the view that Ayodhya was inhabited at that time; and it is much less
likely then that the Ayodhya of today could have been the large urban
settlement, replete with palaces and buildings on a grand scale, that
the Ayodhya of the Valmiki Ramayana purports to be.
As Sarvepalli Gopal and others would have it, and as I have
previously stated, the Ayodhya of the epic poem is 'fictional', and
what is later taken to be Ayodhya is none other than Saketa, which
the king Skanda Gupta (aka Vikramaditya) renamed Ayodhya, no doubt
because "he was trying to gain prestige for himself by drawing on the
tradition of the Suryavanshi kings, a line to which Rama is said to
It is agreed that habitation in Ayodhya continued after the NBP
period into the end of the Gupta period; between the 6th and the 11th
centuries, Ayodhya appears to have been abandoned. Following the
first round of excavations, in 1975, B.B. Lal, who had just retired
as Director-General of the ASI, initiated a project on the
archaeology of the 'Ramayana sites'. In the reports that he submitted
to the ASI in 1976-77 and 1979-80, he acknowledged this "break in
occupation", and the rehabilitation of the disputed site "around the
11th century AD".
Lal not only made no mention of any pillar-bases, he went so far as
to say that though "several later-medieval brick-and-kankar lime
floors [had] been met with", "the entire late period was devoid of
any special interest". Is not the 'late period' the very time when
the temple is supposed to have been demolished? Notwithstanding these
reports, Lal was much later, towards the end of 1990, to submit that
certain brick bases he had excavated in the Seventies were meant to
support pillars and thus suggested "the existence of a temple-like
structure in the south of the Babri masjid".
B.B. Lal's extraordinary delay in making known his 'findings',
particularly when they contradict the earlier published results, has,
of course, been questioned, but that is the least of the objections
that have been raised by historians and archaeologists opposed to the
Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Turning first to the carvings on the
pillars, it has been argued that they are far from offering any
irrefutable association with Vaishnavism: they lack the emblems
through which Vishnu is known - the shankha (conch shell), chakra
(wheel), gada (mace) and padma (lotus). The motifs on the pillars
suggest varying dates between the 9th and the 11th centuries; to be
more precise, "eight of them are dissimilar, the pattern of carvings
or decorative sculptures being quite different from each other",
while the remaining four, though carrying similar motifs, "do not
necessarily occur in a particular grouping".
The predominant motifs are floral, conventionalised or stylised
lotuses, and the female figure. All these motifs, while common to
much 'Hindu' art, are also found in early Buddhist art originating
from places like Sanchi and Bharhut, as well as in Jain and Shaivite
architecture. As one scholar has argued, "The only pillar (doorjamb?)
which has anything that may be called a religious motif is the one
found in the 'Sita-ki-Rasoi' (Sita's Kitchen), a structure that stood
apart from the Babri masjid though in the same complex. "On its lower
part, it has a figure with a trishula in its left hand", but the
trishula most emphatically suggests a Shaivite association, "for no
Vaishnava dvarapala [door keeper] can be and has ever been shown with
the trishula as an attribute".
The pillars themselves, Lal and his supporters have claimed, were
sustained by pillar bases that he is said to have excavated. R.S.
Sharma and his colleagues observe that the site notebook that Lal as
a professional archaeologist would have had to keep, as well as the
register of antiquities connected with the Ayodhya excavations, have
not been made available to other archaeologists. Nor has a full
report of Lal's supposed findings, which should have followed the
preliminary report, been published....
....But let us suppose that Lal did excavate some pillar bases, and
let us hear the voice of his supporters first. Is there agreement
that the black pillars and the bases said to support them are
structurally akin, and that both can be dated to the 11th century?
This is certainly not the considered opinion of many professional
Thus D. Mandal, in his monograph Ayodhya: Archaeology After
Demolition, argues in considerable detail that it is "highly probable
that the so-called pillar bases are actually the remnant portions of
walls of different structural phases". He concurs with Sharma et al
that the so-called pillar bases would have been unable to sustain the
"vertical load of large-sized stone pillars", which must be construed
as being decorative rather than load-bearing pillars. In short, in
Mandal's view, "the contention that a 'pillared building' was raised
in the 11th century AD is absolutely baseless".
Similarly, Mandal makes short shrift of alleged "new archaeological
discoveries" at the Babri masjid site of a 'hoard' of sculptures and
other stone fragments bearing figures of Vishnu's incarnations, on
the basis of which a team of eight archaeologists and historians were
able to claim that their finds "prove that there did exist at this
very site a magnificent temple, from at least the 11th century, which
was destroyed to build a mosque-like structure over the debris of the
temple in the 16th century".
A panel depicting incarnations of Vishnu did not, as Mandal notes,
appear in the 'dig photo'; other objects, such as an image of
Shiva-Parvati, "were found some distance away", and in general the
"stratigraphic position and locus of discovery" of various 'finds'
have not been specified. From the point of view of an archaeologist
with professional training, "archaeological finds acquire the status
of evidence when situated in their context", and 'context' in
archaeology is "the concerned stratigraphy, the sequence of soil
deposits and the cultural material that is found in the various
Mandal made then the pointed observation that "not a single
photograph showing the sequential stages of the unearthing of the
pieces of the 'hoard' has so far been published", and this neglect of
stratigraphy marred the entire digging operation. The haphazard
manner in which the digging was conducted did not merely ignore the
stratigraphy of the site, in relation to which both the structural
remains and the objects found there must be assessed, but in fact
destroyed the stratigraphic evidence....
....In the case of Ayodhya, it has been noted by more than one
archaeologist and historian that excavations at Ayodhya have yielded
Islamic glazed ware pottery pieces; all these pieces 'are securely
dated', in the words ironically of one of the protagonists of the
Ramjanmabhoomi movement, to a period between the 13th and 15th
centuries, and on stylistic and comparative grounds, that is in
relation to West Asian pieces, they are determined to be Islamic in
origin. The archaeological evidence, in other words, indicates not a
temple but rather the distinct possibility "of a Muslim settlement"
at or in the proximity of the mosque "from the 13th century onwards".
It is the contention, then, of credentialled critics that the entire
archaeological enterprise to demonstrate the existence of a temple,
more particularly an 11th century Vaishnava shrine dedicated to Rama,
at the Babri masjid site has been marked by scholarly incompetence
and ignorance, exceedingly questionable motives, violation of
professional ethical codes, and even downright dishonesty. Such work
cannot withstand professional scrutiny.
This is an edited extract from The History of History (OUP). The
writer is Associate Professor of History, University of California,
Los Angeles. This article was written before the latest ASI report
was submitted to the Allahabad High Court on August 25.
More information about the reader-list