Ram Janmabhoomi

Ram Janmabhoomi

Ram Janmabhoomi (राम जन्मभूमि) refers to a tract of land in the North Indian city of Ayodhya which is claimed by Hindu nationalists as the birthplace of Rama. It is believed that, prior to 1528, a temple stood at this site and that in 1528 the temple was demolished on the orders of Mughal invader Babur and a mosque was built on its ruins. This mosque came to be known as the Babri Masjid. A movement was launched in 1984 by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) eventually leading to the destruction of the building on the morning of December 6 1992 by radical Hindu activists. The VHP wants to erect a temple dedicated to Ram Lala (infant Ram) at this spot. Many Muslim organizations, on the other hand strongly oppose the building of the temple.

It was until about 1990 the standard view that an ancient Ram Janmabhoomi temple was demolished and replaced with the Babri Mosque. References such as the 1986 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica reported that "Rama’s birthplace is marked by a mosque, erected by the Moghul emperor Babar in 1528 on the site of an earlier temple". [15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1986, entry "Ayodhya", Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.] According to the Hindu view, the ancient temple could have been destroyed on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur. This view is challenged by Marxist historian [e.g. Romila Thapar. Tom Bottomore: Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Blackwell, Oxford 1988, entry “Hinduism”.] and Indian historians since the early 1990s. However, several contemporary archaeologists such as Prof. B.B. Lal and Western historians, such as Koenraad Elst have provided historical evidenceFact|date=February 2007 that lends a greater legitimacy to the Hindu claims of the Ram Janmabhoomi. Elst has alleged that the counterclaims made by Muslims and 'mainstream' Indian historians are politically motivated rather than those having a scholarly legitimacy. He has also alleged 'open hostility' on the part of (predominantly J.N.U. - based) Indian History - academia to his scholarship. [http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/foundnlost.html] [http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/notemple.html] [http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/evidence1.html] .

Background

Colonial British records maintain that efforts to replace the mosque with a temple had been on since before independence in 1947, but had been continually stymied by both the central government and various Indian courts.

According to the Ramayana the site of Ram's birth is situated in the city of Ayodhya in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh state of India. Ayodhya is a city sacred to devotees of Vishnu, who Hindus believe took birth as King Ram, and has several temples devoted to the deity. [http://btg.krishna.com/main.php?id=592] [http://www.religiousworlds.com/mandalam/jyot2.htm]

Chronology of events

In 12th century, a temple complex is built in honour of Lord Ram

In 1528, the Babri Masjid is constructed on the orders of the Mughal leader Babur post destruction of existing ram mandir.

In 1949, idols of Lord Ram appeared in the Babri Masjid. The semi-governmental Wakf Board, an Indian Muslim trust owned the land on which the mosque stood. Both Hindu and Muslim parties launch civil suits and the Indian government, declaring the site "disputed", locks the gates to the mosque. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1844930.stm BBC.com] Timeline: Ayodhya Crisis, 5 July, 2005]

In 1984, a movement is started for the creation of Ram Janmabhoomi temple by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, under the leadership of L K Advani.

In 1986, a district judge of Uttar Pradesh, orders the opening of the disputed structure to Hindus. This, allegedly, came from the Congress government which tried to balance the favour shown to the Muslims in Shah Bano controversy.

In 1989- 1990, the VHP intensifies its activities by laying foundations of the Ram temple on the adjacent property. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar proposes negotiations which only intensify the crisis.

In 1992, on December 6, the Structure is forcibly demolished by Kar Sevaks. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4651619.stm] BBC Mark Tully, "Eyewitness: Ayodhya destruction" London, UK, July 5, 2005] The then Narasimha Rao led Congress government let a makeshift temple appear in its place before moving the courts for status quo. [ [http://us.rediff.com/news/2001/jul/28nayar.htm] Kuldeep Nair, "Editors and Prime Ministers" [http://us.rediff.com Rediff] ] The demolition of the mosque triggered large-scale rioting.

In 2005 Kashmiri terrorists attacked the Ram Mandir and were gunned down by security forces (for more information see Ram Mandir Attack).

History

19th century

Claims have been made that worship took place on a platform called "Ram Chabutara" prior to Independence.According to British sources, Hindus and Muslims used to worship together in the Disputed Structure in the 19th century until about 1855. P. Carnegy wrote in 1870:

: "It is said that up to that time, the Hindus and Mohamedans alike used to worship in the mosquetemple. Since the British rule a railing has been put up to prevent dispute, within which, in the mosque the Mohamedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings."P. Carnegy: A Historical Sketch of Tehsil Fyzabad, Lucknow 1870, cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 81-85504-16-4 p.8-9, and by Peter Van der Veer "Religious Nationalism", p.153] This platform was outside the disputed structure but within its precincts. Hindu protagonists say that they have been demanding the return of the site for centuries, and cite accounts from several western travellers to India during the Mughal rule in India.

Archaeology of the site

Little archaeological work was done either on the historic building or its site prior to the illegal demolition. After the mosque built by Babar was illegally demolished, the site was bulldozed, disrupting the earth, and so archaeological results from after the demolition are very indefinite. Despite this, an archaeological survey was attempted.

Literary sources

:"See also Ayodhya, Harsh Narain"Harsh Narain (1993) cited more than 130 references to the temple in English, French, Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

Joseph Tieffenthaler

The Austrian Jesuit Joseph Tieffenthaler wrote in 1768: “Emperor Aurangzeb got demolished the fortress called Ramcot, and erected on the same place a Mahometan temple with three cupolas. Others believe that it was constructed by Babor.” [(Quoted by R.S. Sharma et al.: Historians Report, p.19)] Tieffenthaler also writes that Hindus celebrated Ram Navami (Rama's birth festival) in front of the mosque, and that the mosque was built on a temple. [(A.K. Chatterjee: “Ram Janmabhoomi: some more evidence”, Indian Express, 27-3-1990 and "History and Geography of India", by Joseph Tieffenthaler, (published in French by Bernoulli in 1785))] He wrote: "The reason is that here existed formerly a house in which Beschan (Vishnu) took birth in the form of Rama and where it is said his three brothers were also born. Subsequently Aurangzeb and some say Babar destroyed the place in order to prevent the heathens from practising their ceremonies. However, they have continued to practice their religious ceremonies in both the places knowing this to have been the birth place of Rama by going around it three times and prostrating on the ground." [Joseph Tieffenthaler, "History and Geography of India", 1785, publisher: Bernoulli, France, cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 p.8-9, and by Peter Van der Veer "Religious Nationalism", p.153]

The tradition of treating the site as the birthplace of Rama appears to have begun in early l8th century. The earliest suggestion that the Babri Masjid is in proximity to the birthplace of Ram was made by the Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler, whose work in French was published in Berlin in 1788. It says:

"Emperor Aurangzeb got demolished the fortress called Ramkot, and erected on the same place a Mahometan temple with three cuppolas. Others believe that it was constructed by Babar. We see 14 columns of black stone 5 spans high that occupy places within the fortress. Twelve of these columns now bear the interior arcades of the Masjid; two (of the 12) make up the entrance of the cloister. Two others form part of the tomb of a certain Moor. It is related that these columns, or rather the debris of these columns, were brought from Lanka (called Ceylon by the Europeans) by Hanuman, chief of the monkeys." which in French reads as

"l'empereur Aurungzeb détruisit la forteresse appelée Ramkot et construisit sur le même emplacement un temple musulman avec 3 dômes. D'autres pensent qu'il a été construit par Babar. On peut voir 14 colonnes faites en pierre noire qui soutiennent des découpages ..."

"... Plus tard Aurungzeb, ou, selon certains, Babar, détruisit l'endroit afin d'empêcher des païens de pratiquer leurs cérémonies. Toutefois ils continuèrent à pratiquer leurs cérémonies religieuses dans ce lieu, le connaisant comme celui de la naissance de Rama, en en faisant 3 fois le tour et en se prosternant à terre.."

We see on the left a square platform 5 inches above ground, 5 inches long and 4 inches wide, constructed of mud and covered with lime. The Hindus call it bedi, that is to say, the birth-place. The reason is that here there was a house in which Beschan, (Bishan-Vishnu) took the form of Rama, and his three brothers are also said to have been born. Subsequently, Aurangzeb, or according to others, Babar razed this place down, in order not to give the Gentiles (Hindus) occasion to practice their superstition. However, they continued to follow their superstitious practices in both places, believing it to be the birthplace of Rama." [http://www.muslimsonline.com/babri/babrikpp.htm Questions of history]

This record reveals that Aurengzeb demolished the Ramkot fortress; that either he, or Babar constructed a Masjid there; the 12 columns of black stone pillars were brought from Lanka; and when veneration of Rama became prevalent after the 17th century, a small rectangular mud platform was built to mark the birthplace of Rama.

However, this account does not explicitly mention the existence of a temple but a mud platform.

Mirza Jan

Mirza Jan was a Muslim who participated in an attempt reconquest the Hanuman Ghari temple (which is a few hundred yards from the Babri Mosque) during Wajid Ali Shah's rule. :Mirza Jan wrote in 1856 that “a lofty mosque has been built by badshah Babar” on “the original birthplace of Rama”, so that “where there was a big temple, a big mosque was constructed, and where there was a small temple, a small mosque was constructed”. [Mirza Jan, "Hadiqa-i Shahada (“The garden of martyrdom”)",1856, Lucknow, cited by VHP evidence bundle "History vs. Casuistry", Voice of India, Delhi, 1991, p.14; also cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 p.8-9, and by Peter Van der Veer "Religious Nationalism", p.153]

:Mizra Jan also wrote: ‘wherever they found magnificent temples of the Hindus ever since the establishment of Sayyid Salar Mas’ud Ghazi’s rule, the Muslim rulers in India built mosques, monasteries, and inns, appointed mu’azzins, teachers, and store-stewards, spread Islam vigorously, and vanquished the Kafirs. Likewise, they cleared up Faizabad and Avadh, too, from the filth of reprobation (infidelity), because it was a great centre of worship and capital of Rama’s father. Where there stood the great temple (of Ramjanmasthan), there they built a big mosque, and, where there was a small mandap (pavilion), there they erected a camp mosque (masjid-i mukhtasar-i qanati). The Janmasthan temple is the principal place of Rama’s incarnation, adjacent to which is the Sita ki Rasoi. Hence, what a lofty mosque was built there by king Babar in 923 A. H. (1528 A.D.), under the patronage of Musa Ashiqan! The mosque is still known far and wide as the Sita ki Rasoi mosque. And that temple is extant by its side (aur pahlu mein wah dair baqi hai) ’ (Mirza Jan: Hadiqa-i Shahada (“The garden of martyrdom”), Lucknow 1856p. 247). Mirza Jan also wrote (quoting a relative of Aurangzeb), that the temples of Rama, Shiva, Krishna as well as Sita's Kitchen (i.e. part of the Ramkot complex) "were all demolished for the strength of Islam, and at all these places mosques have been constructed". [Sahifa-i Chahal Nasaih Bahadur Shahi, "Letter of the Forty Advices of Bahadur Shah", also cited in VHP evidence bundle. History vs. Casuistry, p. 13-14.), cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 p.8-9, and by Peter Van der Veer "Religious Nationalism", p.153]

But there are others who contest the writing as an exaggerated version of history in a book that is on Martyrdom and published at least three hundred years later to the construction of the Babri Mosque.

Shykh Muhammad Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami

Shykh Muhammad Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami (1811-1893) wrote: ‘According to old records, it has been a rule with the Muslim rulers from the first to build mosques, monasteries, and inns, spread Islam, and put (a stop to) non-Islamic practices, wherever they found prominence (of kufr). Accordingly, even as they cleared up Mathura, Bindraban, etc., from the rubbish of non-Islamic practices, the Babari mosque was built up in 923(?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Musa Ashiqan in the Janmasthan temple (butkhane Janmasthan mein) in Faizabad-Avadh, which was a great place of (worship) and capital of Rama’s father’ (p. 9). ‘Among the Hindus it was known as Sita ki Rasoi’ (p. 10). [Shykh Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami, "Muraqqah-i Khusrawi" or "Tarikh-i Avadh" cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 ] Zak Kakorawi, in his publication of the work of Shykh Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami, also includes an excerpt written by Mirza Rajab Ali Beg Surur. Mirza Rajab Ali Beg Surur (1787-1867) wrote in Fasanah-i Ibrat that ‘a great mosque was built on the spot where Sita ki Rasoi is situated. During the regime of Babar, the Hindus had no guts to be a match for the Muslims. The mosque was built in 923(?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Mir Ashiqan… Aurangzeb built a mosque on the Hanuman Garhi… The Bairagis effaced the mosque and erected a temple in its place. Then idols began to be worshipped openly in the Babari mosque where the Sita ki Rasoi is situated,’ (pp. 71-72).

However, some observers have likened this account very similar to this Colonial exchange between the British Viceroy and the Prime Minister "Every civil building connected with Mahommedan tradition should be levelled to the ground without regard to antiquarian veneration or artistic predilection." British Prime Minister Palmerston's Letter No. 9 dated 9 October 1857, to Lord Canning, Viceroy of India, Canning Papers.

Guru Nanak

According to Bhai Man Singh's Pothi Janam Sakhi (late 18th century), Guru Nanak visited Ayodhya and said to his Muslim disciple Mardana: 'Mardania! eh Ajudhia nagari Sri Ramachandraji Ji ki hai. So, chal, iska darsan kari'e. Translation: 'Mardana! this Ayodhya city belongs to Sri Ramachandra Ji. So let us go for his darshan [visit with God] .' [ Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", pp 14-15, 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 ] Nevertheless, Guru Nanak does not specifically state which temple should be visited.

Abul Fazl

In Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari (1598), Ayodhya is called “one of the holiest places of antiquity” and “the residence of Ramchander”. It mentions the celebration of Rama's birth festival (Ram Nomi) in Ayodhya. [( [Ram Sharan Sharma|R.S. Sharma et al.: Historians’ Report, p.16.)] However, again no specific spot was identified, in this account. He even mentions small details such as two Jewish priests lay buried in Ayodhya. Yet there is not the remotest reference to Ram's birthsite, let alone to any mosque built on it. Clearly the tradition did not continue Ram's birthplace to the existing town of Ayodhya, or the site occupied by the Babri Masjid.

Other sources

A. Führer wrote that: 'Mir Khan built a masjid in A.H. 930 during the reign of Babar, which still bears his name. This old temple must have been a fine one, for many of its columns have been utilized by the Musalmans in the construction of Babar's Masjid.' [(A. Führer: The Monumental Antiquities and Inscriptions in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Archaeological Survey of India Report, 1891, pp 296-297) cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 ]

H.R. Neville wrote that the Janmasthan temple "was destroyed by Babar and replaced by a mosque." [(H.R. Neville in the Barabanki District Gazetteer, Lucknow, 1905, pp 168-169)] He also wrote "The Janmasthan was in Ramkot and marked the birthplace of Rama. In 1528 A.D. Babar came to Ayodhya and halted here for a week. He destroyed the ancient temple and on its site built a mosque, still known as Babar's mosque. The materials of the old structure [i.e., the temple] were largely employed, and many of the columns were in good preservation."H.R. Neville, Fyzabad District Gazetteer, Lucknow, 1905, pp 172-177) cited by Harsh Narain "The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources", 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164 ]

William Flinch, AD 1608,the British historian William Flinch who stayed in India during AD 1608-11 gives a detailed description of Ayodhya and the castle of Ramchand (Ramkot), "extensive enough to undertake a search for gold." Though he does not mention the birthplace of Rama, he gives a detailed account of the place where the ashes of Ram are kept. "Some two miles on the further side of the river in a cave of his with a narrow entrance, but so spacious and full of turnings within that a man may well loose himself there if he taketh not better heed; where it is thought his ashes were buried. Hither resort many from all parts of India, which carry from thence in remembrance certain grains of rice as black as gunpowder which they say have been preserved ever since." Had the place been considered sacred for being the birthplace of the Lord Rama, it should have become one of the places of pilgrimage. Instead the place where his ashes are kept was considered a place of veneration.

According to Romila Thapar "If we do not take Hindu mythology in account the first historical description of the city dates back recently to the 7th century, when the Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang observed there were 20 Buddhist temples with 3000 monks at Ayodhya, amongst a large Hindu population. In 1528, nobles under Mughal emperor Babur constructed a mosque over the disputed site. The mosque, called the Babri Masjid, has become a source of contention for some Hindus. At the end of the 19th century, Ayodhya contained 96 Hindu temples and 36 Muslim mosques. Little local trade was carried on, but the great Hindu fair of Ram Navami held every year was attended by about 500,000 people."Inote|Thapar (2000)|Thapar2000.

Alleged censorship

Hindu parties cite that several attempts to censor information regarding the destruction of the Ram Janmabhoomi (and other temples) have been discovered. The book "Hindustan Islami Ahad Mein" by Maulana Hakim Saiyid Abdul Hai, which included a chapter that described the demolition of the Ram Janmabhoomi and other temples, was suddenly missing in most libraries. The English version (1977) has the passages that described the destruction of temples censored out.

The book Muruqqa-i Khusrawi by Sheikh Mohammed Azamat Ali Nami, published by Zaki Kakorawi with the financial aid of the F.A. Ahmad Memorial Committee, has a chapter describing the destruction of the Ram Janmabhoomi censored out. Zaki Kakorawi later published the relevant chapter independently. He wrote about this incident that the "‘suppression of any part of any old composition or compilation like this can create difficulties and misunderstandings for future historians and researchers’". [(Amir Ali Shahid aur Ma’rkah-i Hanuman Garhi, p. 3)]

Ram Janmabhoomi temple construction

The matter is under court investigation but this does not seem to deter the VHP in preparing for its grand construction and some models and basic stone work has already been completed channelled by different organisations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which gains substantial amount of cashflows from expatriate Hindu populations in the US and Europe. Various workshops in different parts of India are working continuously since Sept. 1990. Till 2001, about 45% of the work on Ground Floor was completed.


= The Ayodhya debate =

Notes

References

*Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. 1996. Edited, translated and annotated by Wheeler M. Thacktson. New York and London: Oxford University Press.
*Swapan Dasgupta et al.: The Ayodhya Reference: Supreme Court Judgement and Commentaries. 1995. New Delhi: Voice of India. ISBN 81-85990-30-1
*Ayodhya and the Future of India. 1993. Edited by Jitendra Bajaj. Madras: Centre for Policy Studies. ISBN 81-86041-02-8 hb ISBN 81-86041-03-6 pb
*Elst, Koenraad. 1991. . 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India. [http://voi.org/books/ayodhya/]
*Elst, Koenraad, Ayodhya, The Finale - Science versus Secularism the Excavations Debate (2003) ISBN 81-85990-77-8
*Elst, Koenraad, (2002) ISBN 81-85990-75-1
*Emmanuel, Dominic. 'The Mumbai bomb blasts and the Ayodhya tangle', "National Catholic Reporter " (Kansas City, August 27 2003).
*Sita Ram Goel: "Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them", Voice of India, Delhi 1991. [http://voi.org/books/htemples1/] [http://voi.org/books/htemples2/]
*Harsh Narain. 1993. The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources. Delhi: Penman Publishers.
*R. Nath. Babari Masjid of Ayodhya, Jaipur 1991.
*A. Nandy, S. Trivedy, S. Mayaram, Achyut Yagnik, "Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and Fear of the Self", Oxford University Press, USA (1998), ISBN 0195642716.
*Rajaram, N.S. (2000). Profiles in Deception: Ayodhya and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Delhi: Voice of India
*Thakur Prasad Varma and Swarajya Prakash Gupta:" Ayodhya ka Itihas evam Puratattva— Rigveda kal se ab tak (‘History and Archaeology of Ayodhya— From the Time of the Rigveda to the Present’)". Bharatiya Itihasa evam Samskrit Parishad and DK Printworld. New Delhi.
*Thapar, Romila. 'A Historical Perspective on the Story of Rama' in Thapar (2000).
*Thapar, Romila. "Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History" (New Delhi: Oxford University, 2000) ISBN 0-19-564050-0.
*Ayodhya ka Itihas evam Puratattva— Rigveda kal se ab tak (‘History and Archaeology of Ayodhya— From the Time of the Rigveda to the Present’) by Thakur Prasad Varma and Swarajya Prakash Gupta. Bharatiya Itihasa evam Samskrit Parishad and DK Printworld. New Delhi. (An important work on the archaeology of the temple.)
*History versus Casuistry: Evidence of the Ramajanmabhoomi Mandir presented by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to the Government of India in December-January 1990-91. New Delhi: Voice of India.

In fiction

*The Babri riots are depicted in the 1995 film Bombay.
* Nasrin, Taslima: Lajja

ee also

*All India Babri Masjid Action Committee
*Babur
*Ram Karmabhoomi
*Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques

External links

* [http://www.wac.uct.ac.za/croatia/s7.htm A closer look at the Ayhodya issue]
*Koenraad Elst, [http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ad.html Articles on the Ayodhya Debate]


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