(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 17, 2010
of Belief vs
judges have given their verdict “as per faith and belief of Hindus”.
common people suppose that verdicts go only by facts and legal points.
offenders can even evade punishment for lack of evidence. Here, the
was centered on a basic question- the ownership of the site. But what
verdict? The basic concern became whether this was the place where Ram
One of the judges ruled that the site has been worshipped as the
Ram since time immemorial by Hindus. But, what do we
mean when we talk about ‘time immemorial’? Isn’t
there any recorded evidence regarding the period during which this
Every belief has a
history. When have
people started believing that the site in Ayodhya is the birth place of
they believe this even before the creation of Hindu faith? Did they
this even before the birth of Ram? Or, say, from the day he was born?
supplies us with evidence at our disposal that allows us to speak of
What evidence can we gather from the ‘known history’ of Ayodhya?
Those who believe in
historicity of lord
Ram claim his date to be around 2000 BC. That is, about 4000 years ago.
According to their calculations the Mahabharata war happened 2900 years
The Mahabharata war
is believed to have taken place 65 generations after Rama. So there
is the view that he
existed about 4000 years ago. So belief in Rama cannot have started
there is no archaeological evidence to show that at the time when
Rama was supposed to be born there was any habitation in or around
Human habitation began there 1300 years later, around 2700 years ago.
artifacts found belongs to the Maurya times, which is around second
The situation gets further complicated when we find reference to
Atharva Veda, a text written in 1000-800 BC. Here Ayodhya is clearly a
city, the abode of gods, surrounded by light on all sides.
physical presence of Ayodhya is mentioned in
a Buddhist Pali text, ‘Nikaya’ where it is located on the river Ganges
on the river Sarayu. The text mentions the names of many rivers. So it
impossible to equate Ganges with Sarayu.
This cannot be the Ayodhya in Faizabad. The identification is
by the accounts of Hsuan Tsang who visited India in seventh century AD. Hsuan Tsang writes of Ayodhya,
1.5 km away from the Ganges as a major centre of Buddhism
monasteries and stupas and few non-Buddhists. The famous Chinese traveller
(fifth century AD) also described Ayodhya as one of the
of Buddhism. It is interesting to note that Ayodhya is also a Jaina
Jaina tradition associates Ayodhya with the birthplace of two
though no specific places are mentioned. References to Ram’s Ayodhya
appear in the Gupta age. At the present site of Ayodhya, there is no
evidence until the Gupta period that can be used to identify Ayodhya with Rama, the son
of King Dasrath.
Now let us come to the
Ramayana. The Ramayana
in its present form extends to about 24,000 slokas. It is said that the
of the Ramayana,
gradually underwent its transformation from a text of 6000 verses to
24,000 verses in
four stages. The first version of the Ramayana is said to have been
written at least 2000 years ago.
But this great epic helps little in determining
the geographical location of Ayodhya.
Ram Sharan Sharma writes, 'Ayodhya seems
to have emerged as a place of religious pilgrimage in medieval times.
chapter 85 of the Vishnu Smriti
as many as 52 places of pilgrimage… it does not include Ayodhya in this
Lakshmidhara’s ‘Kritya Kalpataru’ written in the twelfth century also
a large number of places of pilgrimage but neither Ayodhya nor the
birthplace of Ram finds mention in it. The court may have talked of a
holding its ground from times
immemorial, but in Tulsidas’s
appears as the most important place of pilgrimage for the Hindus.
Brihaspati Misra in 1420
AD gives us
another long list of places of pilgrimage and again Ayodhya is notably
a noble at the court of the Emperor Akbar was a close friend of
Tulsidas. Not even
for once does he refer to Ayodhya as an important place of pilgrimage.
his ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ mentions the importance of Ayodhya as a place of Hindu
and the residence
of Ramachandra, but does not mention the existence of any shrine
a European traveller who visited Ayodhya in 1608-11 talks about the
of the ruins of Ramkot,
castle of Ram but makes no mention of Ram’s birthplace or Ram
Janmabhoomi. Ram Chaturman, who wrote his “Chahar Gulshan”
in AD 1759-60, describes Ayodhya (the entire place) as “the birthplace
220 years after the construction of the Babri Masjid, there was no
suggestion anywhere in recorded history that there was a precise site
birth, where the holy structure had been destroyed and a Masjid built
Hindu, Muslim or Christian in his writing has mentioned such a thing.
But then the question naturally arises, from
when did this belief come into existence? The
credit goes to French
Jesuit priest, Tiffenthaler, who stayed in Awadh in 1766-1771 (just fifty years after
the death of Aurangzeb) who states in his History
and Geography of India that the emperor
Aurangzeb destroyed a fortress called Ramkot and built at the same
Muhammedan temple. Others say it has been built by Babar. But he does
of the Ram temple. This is the first time we find a reference to Hindu
reveals that Aurangzeb demolished the Ramkot fortress; that either he,
or Babar (!) constructed a Masjid there.
However, this account does not explicitly mention the existence of a
a raised area of mud.
we can clearly infer that a
tradition of treating the site as the birthplace of Rama was being
built up and
the first account by an outsider, a Jesuit priest and non-Indian,
1788, 250 years after the Babri Masjid was constructed. From
this moment forward, virtually all British references to Ayodhya stated
the claim was true. Therefore the recorded evidence of
belief started from here. The so-called history of the Babri
began to arise to become assumed truths believed by the majority of the
population. Francis Buchanan
who visited Ayodhya in about 1810 and recorded the traditions,
temple-destruction theory but he is quite vague about the construction
mosque upon a temple.
shadows of bitterness
lengthened with the passing years. The conflict grew more aggressive. A
tract was composed by Mirza Jan
in AD 1855-56 under the title Hadiqa-i- Shuhada. He claimed
that forty years
earlier (1816) he had read a tract by a Persian princess in the Mughal
describing the destruction of temples in Ayodhya and elsewhere. The
supposedly written by the daughter of Bahadur Shah Ibn states that the
birthplace of Krishna, the place of Sita Rasoi, the place of Hanuman
demolished. But the book has never been found. Subsequently a few Urdu
magazines published stories of temple destroyed to build mosque. The
on both sides started speaking in the same vein.
point deserves special
mention. The British in India always planned to perpetuate their
policy of divide and rule on
communal lines. The temple-mosque controversy provided a golden
them. This policy became manifest in the days of the Wahabi movement.
tried to incite the religious passions of Hindus and direct them to
the history of “faith” in
this case dates back to merely 150 years, not from “time immemorial”.
been reared by some fanatical Hindus and Muslims and fanned by the
the last 150 years only.