Above: Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers at the disputed site in Ayodhya/Photo: UNI
The Ayodhya arguments acquired another angle with the finding of two inscriptions at the mosque and have become a source of contention between the presiding deity and the Sunni Waqf Board
By Atul Chandra in Lucknow
Two stone inscriptions found at the time of demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 have now become important points of argument in the title suit between Ram Lalla Virajman, the presiding deity, and the Sunni Waqf Board. Muslims are heavily relying on these inscriptions—one at the entrance and the other at the pulpit of the mosque—to bolster their claim.
However, during a hearing in the last week of August, senior advocate PN Mishra, who is representing Ram Mandir Punaruddhar Samiti (Revitalising Committee) said that the inscriptions were either badly damaged or destroyed during riots in 1934. He said: “I have proved in high court that the stone inscriptions were forged” as the two inscriptions had a different time for the mosque’s construction.
One of these inscriptions has been quoted having the words: “By the order of Shah Babar, Amir Mir Baki built the resting place of angles (sic) in 923 AH, i.e. 1516-17”. The inscription at the entrance refers to Mir Baki of Isphahan in 935 AH, i.e. 1528-29 AD.
The inscription being considered important by the Hindus is named the Vishnu Hari inscription. It is on a 1.10 x.56 m slab and has 20 lines inscribed on it. Dated 1140, it says that the temple was dedicated to “Vishnu, slayer of
Bali and the ten-headed one”, the Ravana. Ram was said to be an incarnation of Vishnu.
According to Ajay Mitra Shastri, then Chairman of Epigraphical Society of India and an expert in numismatics and epigraphy, who examined the inscription: “It is composed in high-flown Sanskrit verse, except for a small portion in prose, and is engraved in the chaste Nagari script of the eleventh-twelfth century AD. It was evidently put up on the wall of the temple, the construction of which is inscribed on it.”
According to a Muslim lawyer, it is this inscription, which is broken into two parts, that the Hindus are using as evidence to prove their claim but the Muslims don’t consider it significant.
Another inscription, a 1901 stone one, which specially caught the attention of the Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, bears the words “Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Nitya Yatra”, in Devanagari script. The word Janmabhumi is engraved in English also. The Court was reportedly shown a photograph of the inscription which is part of a report dated January 30, 1992. On seeing the words, the bench felt that the “evidence, if accepted, will be crucial to hold the place to be the birth place of Lord Ram”. At this, Mishra explained that the inscription “was ordered by then magistrate Edward to mark out important places to visit in Ayodhya”. The inscription is said to be at the entrance leading to the sanctum sanctorum. Mishra said this inscription supported the claim of the Hindus that this place was associated with their faith and belief and that Ayodhya was Lord Ram’s birth place. The Allahabad High Court judgment also records this inscription.
There is another stone inscription with the words Sita Koop. It dates to the British period.
In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) told the Allahabad High Court that it had found sufficient evidence of a 10th century BC onwards temple below the disputed structure which was demolished on December 6, 1992. Human activity at the site dates back to the 13th century BC. The ASI’s 574-page report submitted to the High Court stated that there was proof of a “massive and monumental” structure of 50×30 m dimension that existed just below the disputed structure. The report said that deep penetration radar imaging showed pillar bases with brickbat foundation, while damaged sculptures of a “divine couple”, decorated bricks and stones, lotus motifs, images of animal and birds et cetera were among the excavation’s finds which, the Hindus argue, have no place in a mosque.
Raising these archaeological findings during the ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, CS Vaidyanathan, the counsel for Ram Lalla Virajman, said that as per the Shariat, the ASI’s findings were “contrary to mosque”. Vaidyanathan argued that this crucial evidence suggested that “even though the mosque was built over a pre-existing temple or ruins of it, presence of human and animal images proved it was never used as a mosque”. Even if Muslims offered prayers at the place “it will not classify to be a mosque”, he said and gave the example of Muslims offering prayers on public roads without the place being designated as a mosque. On the basis of archaeological findings, he argued that before the construction of the mosque, there stood a massive structure which was open to the public. This structure, he said, belonged to the 2nd century BC.
While Vaidyanathan said that the evidence was important to prove that the mosque was not built on a vacant piece of land and the archaeologists showed that a temple pre-existed there, the Supreme Court wanted to know if the massive structure was a place of worship.
Arguing for the Akhil Bhartiya Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Revitalisation Committee, Mishra referred to a map to prove the birth place of Ram. However, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan representing the Sunni Waqf Board pointed out discrepancies in the map, which is part of the Court’s records. Mishra said that at the time of excavation, the ASI found seven rows of pillars, and in keeping with the Hindu traditions, there were 85 pillars in all.
Away from the court room, another battle seems to be in the making between those claiming to be Ram’s descendants and their numbers are rising by the day. Around 1,000 people from Madhya Pradesh recently reached the pilgrim city claiming to be descendants of the Ikshvaku dynasty to which Ram belonged. The rally, organised by the Akhand Raghuvanshi Samaj Kalyan Mahaparishad, had originated from Bhopal. Its leaders, which included Birendra Raghuvanshi, a BJP MLA from Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri, submitted a memorandum to the district administration demanding early construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site.
The memorandum was addressed to the prime minister and the president of India. Harishankar Singh Raghuvanshi, the national president of the organisation, said that the rally was in response to the Supreme Court’s query whether anyone from the Raghuvansh dynasty was still living in Ayodhya.
Kshatriyas are not the only ones laying claim to the mythological king’s legacy. Hanuman Prasad Agarwal, an advocate in Chhattisgarh, has also filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming to be Ram’s descendant. Basing his claim on Agar Bhagwat, Agarwal told reporters that as sons and grandsons of Maharaj Agrasen, Agarwals were descendants of Lord Ram. “It is written in Agar Bhagwat that Maharaja Agrasen, who is the ancestor of Agarwal community, is the 34th generation of Kush, Ram’s son,” he is reported to have said.
Also joining the list of claimants was the founder of Rajasthan’s Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, who said: “I am the descendant of Luv, Lord Ram’s elder son. I am a Sisodiya Rajput, considered to be the descendant of Lord Ram.” Kalvi now wants to be a party in the Ayodhya case. Earlier, two Rajasthan royals and a lawyer had staked claim to the haloed legacy.
First, it was Diya Kumari, BJP MP from Rajsamand in Rajasthan and a descendant of Jaipur’s royal family who said that her family was the descendant of Lord Ram. Her father, she said, was the 309th descendant of Vishnu’s incarnation. “We belong to the Kushwaha or Kachhawa clan,” she said and offered proof to support her claim. Kushwahas claim to be descendants of Kush, Lord Ram’s younger son. Kalvi, interestingly, backed her claim.
In a Facebook post, Rajasthan Congress leader Satyendra Singh Raghav dismissed Diya Kumari’s claim and said that Raghav Rajputs were the real descendants of Lord Ram. As per Valmiki Ramayan, the post said, Kush and Luv were made kings of Dakshin (south) and Uttar (north) Kaushal, respectively.
Not to be left behind in the race were the Mewar royals. Lakshyaraj Singh of the erstwhile royal family of Mewar claimed that they were the descendants of Luv. According to him, Luv’s descendants moved to Ahad (Mewar) and established the Sisodiya dynasty.
According to Kalidas, Raghav said: “Ram ordained Luv as the ruler of Sharavati and Kush as ruler of Kushavati.” While Sharavati is modern-day Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh, Dakshin Kaushal, of which Kushavati was the capital, is in the present-day Chhattisgarh, where lawyer Agarwal wants a piece of the legacy pie.
All these “descendants” eventually may not merit much importance by the Supreme Court or make any difference to the outcome of the long-drawn legal battle, as the apex court only enquired about “Raghuvanshi” descendants in Ayodhya. But there’s no stopping anyone from making a claim.