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A view of the Babri Mosque, pre-1992.

The Babri Mosque (Hindi: बाबरी मस्जिद, Urdu: بابری مسجد), Babri Masjid or Mosque of Babur was a mosque in Ayodhya, on Ramkot Hill ("Rama's fort"). It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally developed into a riot involving 150,000 people,[1] despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque would not be harmed.[2][3] More than 2000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major Indian cities including Mumbai and Delhi.[4] The mosque was constructed in 1527 by order of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India.[5][6] Before the 1940s, the mosque was called Masjid-i Janmasthan ("mosque of the birthplace").[7] It is alleged Babur's commander-in-chief, Mir Baqi, destroyed an existing temple at the site which commemorated the birthplace of Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and ruler of Ayodhya. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims.[8] Although there were several older mosques in the city of Ayodhya, an area with a substantial Muslim population, including the Hazrat Bal Mosque constructed by the Shariqi kings, the Babri Mosque became the largest, due to the importance of the disputed site. The political, historical and socio-religious debate over the history and location of the Babri Mosque and whether a previous temple was demolished or modified to create it, is known as the Ayodhya Debate.

Contents

Architecture of the mosque

The rulers of the Sultanate of Delhi and its successor Mugal Empire were great patrons of art and architecture and constructed many fine tombs, mosques and madrasas. These have a distinctive style which bears influences of 'later Tughlaq' architecture. Mosques all over India were built in different styles; the most elegant styles developed in areas where indigenous art traditions were strong and local artisans were highly skilled. Thus regional or provincial styles of mosques grew out of local temple or domestic styles, which were conditioned in their turn by climate, terrain, materials, hence the enormous difference between the mosques of Bengal, Kashmir and Gujarat. The Babri Mosque followed the architectural school of Jaunpur.

Babri was an important mosque of a distinct style, preserved mainly in architecture, developed after the Delhi Sultanate was established (1192). The square CharMinar of Hyderabad (1591) with large arches, arcades, and minarets is typical. This art made extensive use of stone and reflected Indian adaptation to Muslim rule, until Mughals art replaced it in the 17th century, as typified by structures like the Taj Mahal.

The traditional hypostyle plan with an enclosed courtyard, imported from Western Asia was generally associated with the introduction of Islam in new areas, but was abandoned in favour of schemes more suited to local climate and needs. The Babri Masjid was a mixture of the local influence and the Western Asian style and examples of this type of mosque are common in India.

The Babri Mosque was a large imposing structure with three domes, one central and two secondary. It is surrounded by two high walls, running parallel to each other and enclosing a large central courtyard with a deep well, which was known for its cold and sweet water. On the high entrance of the domed structure are fixed two stone tablets which bear two inscriptions in Persian declaring that this structure was built by one Mir Baqi on the orders of Babur. The walls of the Babri Mosque are made of coarse-grained whitish sandstone blocks, rectangular in shape, while the domes are made of thin and small burnt bricks. Both these structural ingredients are plastered with thick chunam paste mixed with coarse sand.

The Central Courtyard was surrounded by lavishly curved columns superimposed to increase the height of the ceilings. The plan and the architecture followed the Begumpur Friday mosque of Jahanpanah rather than the Moghul style where Hindu masons used their own trabeated structural and decorative traditions. The excellence of their craftsmanship is noticeable in their vegetal scrolls and lotus patterns. These motifs are also present in the Firuyyz Shah Mosque in Firuzabad (c.1354) now in a ruined state, Qila Kuhna Mosque (c.1540, The Darasbari Mosque in the Southern suburb of the walled city of Gaur, and the Jamali Kamili Mosque built by Sher Shah Suri this was the forerunner of the Indo Islamic style adopted by Akbar.

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Babri Masjid acoustic and cooling system

"A whisper from the Babri Masjid Mihrab could be heard clearly at the other end, 200 feet [60 m] away and through the length and breadth of the central court" according to Graham Pickford, architect to Lord William Bentinck (1828–1833). The mosque's acoustics were mentioned by him in his book 'Historic Structures of Oudhe' where he says “for a 16th century building the deployment and projection of voice from the pulpit is considerably advanced, the unique deployment of sound in this structure will astonish the visitor”.

Modern architects have attributed this intriguing acoustic feature to a large recess in the wall of the Mihrab and several recesses in the surrounding walls which functioned as resonators; this design helped everyone to hear the speaker at the Mihrab. The sandstone used in building the Babri Mosque also had resonant qualities which contributed to the unique acoustics.

The Babri mosque’s Tughluquid style integrated other indigenous design components and techniques, such as air cooling systems disguised as Islamic architectural elements like arches, vaults and domes. In the Babri Masjid a passive environmental control system comprised the high ceiling, domes, and six large grille windows. The system helped keep the interior cool by allowing natural ventilation as well as daylight.

Legend of the Babri Mosque’s miraculous well

The reported medicinal properties of the deep well in the central courtyard have been featured in various news reports such as the BBC report of December 1989 and in various newspapers. The earliest mention of the Babri water well was in a two line reference to the Mosque in the Gazette of Faizabad District 1918 which says “There are no significant historical buildings here, except for various Buddhist shrines, the Babri Mosque is an ancient structure with a well which both the Hindus and Mussalmans claim has Miraculous properties.” There is incredible similarity between so-called miraculous properties of water of Babri mosque well and Kaaba's Zamzam Well.

Ayodhya is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and the annual Ram festival is regularly attended by over 500,000 people of both the Hindu and Muslim faiths, and many devotees came to drink from the water well in the Babri Courtyard. It was believed drinking water from this well could cure a range of illnesses. Hindu pilgrims also believed that the Babri water well was the original well in the Ram Temple under the mosque. Ayodhya Muslims believed that the well was a gift from God. Local women regularly brought their new born babies to drink from the reputedly curative water.

The 125 foot (40 m) deep well was situated in the south-eastern section of the large rectangular courtyard of the Babri Mosque. There was a small Hindu shrine built in 1890 joining the well with a statute of Lord Rama. It was an artesian well and drew water from a considerable distance below the water table. Eleven feet (3 m) in radius, the first 30 feet (10 m) from ground level were bricked. It drew water from a reservoir trapped in a bed of shale sand and gravel, which would explain the unusually cool temperature of the water. The water contained almost no sodium, giving it a reputation of tasting ‘sweet.’ Accessing the well oinvolved climbing onto a three foot (1 m) platform, where the well was covered with planks of thick wood with an unhinged trapdoor. Water was drawn by means of a bucket and long lengths of rope and due to its claimed ‘spiritual properties’ was used only for drinking.

Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya both considered the Babri Mosque Complex a haven of peace and spiritual tranquillity. Many people in the area, of both faiths, had a profound belief in the miraculous properties of its cold and pure underground water, which was reinforced by abundant local folklore.

History

Origins

Hindu account

When the Muslim emperor Babur came down from Ferghana in 1527, he defeated the Hindu King of Chittodgad, Rana Sangrama Singh at Sikri, using cannon and artillery. After this victory, Babur took over the region, leaving his general, Mir Baqi, in charge as viceroy.

Mir Baqi allegedly destroyed the temple at Ayodhya, built by the Hindus to commemorate Rama's birthplace, and built the Babri Masjid, naming it after Emperor Babur.[9] Although there is no reference to the new mosque in Babur's diary, the Baburnama, the pages of the relevant period are missing in the diary. The contemporary Tarikh-i-Babari records that Babur's troops "demolished many Hindu temples at Chanderi"[10]

Palaeographic evidence of an older Hindu temple on the site emerged from an inscription on a thick stone slab recovered from the debris of the demolished structure in 1992. Over 260 other artifacts were recovered on the day of demolition, and many point to being part of the ancient temple. The inscription on the slab has 20 lines, 30 shlokas (verses), and is composed in Sanskrit written in the Nagari script. The ‘Nagari Lipi’ script was prevalent in the eleventh and twelfth century. The crucial part of the message as deciphered by a team comprising epigraphists, Sanskrit scholars, historians and archaeologists including Prof. A.M. Shastri, Dr. K.V. Ramesh, Dr. T.P. Verma, Prof. B.R. Grover, Dr. A.K. Sinha, Dr. Sudha Malaiya, Dr. D.P. Dubey and Dr. G.C. Tripathi.

The first twenty verses are the praises of the king Govind Chandra Gharhwal (AD 1114 to 1154) and his dynasty. The twenty-first verse says the following; "For the salvation of his soul the King, after paying his obeisance at the little feet of Vamana Avatar (the incarnation of a god as a midget Brahmana) went about constructing a wondrous temple for Vishnu Hari (Shri Rama) with marvelous pillars and structure of stone reaching the skies and culminating in a superb top with a massive sphere of gold and projecting shafts in the sky - a temple so grand that no other King in the History of the nation had ever built before."

It further states that this temple (ati-adbhutam) was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya.

In another reference, the Faizabad District Judge on a plaint filed by Mahant Raghubar Das gave a judgment on 18 March 1886. Though the plaint was dismissed, the judgment brought out two relevant points;

"I found that Masjid built by Emperor Babur stands on the border of the town of Ayodhya…. It is most unfortunate that Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 358 years ago it is too late now to remedy the grievance. All that can be done is to maintain the parties in status quo. In such a case as the present one any innovation would cause more harm and derangement of order than benefit."

Jain account

According to Jain Samata Vahini, a social organization of the Jains, "the only structure that could be found during excavation would be a sixth century Jain temple".

Sohan Mehta, the General Secretary of Jain Samata Vahini, claims that the demolished disputed structure was actually built on the remnants of an ancient Jain temple, and that the excavation by ASI, ordered by Allahabad High Court to settle the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute, would prove it.

Mehta quotied writings of 18th century Jain monks stating Ayodhya was the place where five Jain teerthankars, Rishabhdeo, Ajeeth Nath, Abhinandanji, Sumati Nath and Anant Nath, stayed. The ancient city was among the five biggest centres of Jainism and Buddhism prior to 1527.[11]

Muslim account

Muslims generally dispute the legitimacy of Hindu claims to the site and their significance. They believe the archeological reports relied on by the Hindu nationalist groups Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Munnani to lay claim to the Babri Masjid site are politically motivated and inherently biased against Islam.

Disputes over the site

The first recorded incident of violence over the issue between Hindus and Muslims took place in 1853 during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh.

According to the District Gazetteer Faizabad 1905, it is said that "up to this time (1855), both the Hindus and Muslims used to worship in the same building. But since the Mutiny (1857), an outer enclosure has been put up in front of the Masjid and the Hindus forbidden access to the inner yard, make the offerings on a platform (chabootra), which they have raised in the outer one."

Efforts in 1883 to construct a temple on this chabootra were halted by the Deputy Commissioner who prohibited it on January 19, 1885. Raghubir Das, a mahant, filed a suit before the Faizabad Sub-Judge. Pandit Harikishan was seeking permission to construct a temple on this chabootra measuring 17 ft. x 21 ft., but the suit was dismissed. An appeal was filed before the Faizabad District Judge, Colonel J.E.A. Chambiar who, after an inspection of spot on March 17, 1886, dismissed the appeal. A Second Appeal was filed on May 25, 1886, before the Judicial Commissioner of Awadh, W. Young, who also dismissed the appeal. With this, the first round of legal battle fought by the Hindus came to an end.

During the "communal riots" of 1934, walls around the Masjid and one of the domes of the Masjid were damaged. These were reconstructed by the British Government.

At midnight on December 22, 1949, when the police guards were asleep, statues of Rama and Sita were quietly brought into the mosque and erected. This was reported by the constable, Mata Prasad, the next morning and recorded at the Ayodhya police station. The following morning a large Hindu crowd attempted to enter the mosque to make offerings to the deities. The District Magistrate K.K. Nair has recorded that "The crowd made a most determined attempt to force entry. The lock was broken and policemen were rushed off their feet. All of us, officers and men, somehow pushed the crowd back and held the gate. The sadhus recklessly hurled themselves against men and arms and it was with great difficulty that we managed to hold the gate. The gate was secured and locked with a powerful lock brought from outside and police force was strengthened (5:00 pm)."

On hearing this news Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru directed UP Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant, to see that the deities were removed. Under Pant's orders, Chief Secretary Bhagwan Sahay and Inspector-General of Police V.N. Lahiri sent immediate instructions to Faizabad to remove the deities. However, K.K. Nair feared that the Hindus would retaliate and pleaded inability to carry out the orders.

Following these efforts by the Hindu groups to occupy the mosque, a suit was filed before Faizabad's civil judge on January 16, 1950, by one Gopal Singh Visharad, asking for unrestricted access. The senior saint and former Ramjanmabhoomi Trust chairman, the late Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans also filed a similar suit.

In 1985 the Rajiv Gandhi government ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya to be removed. Until then, only a Hindu priest had been permitted to perform yearly puja for the idols there in 1949. After the ruling, all Hindus were given access to what they consider the birthplace of Rama, and the mosque resumed its function as a Hindu temple.[12]

In 1984, the VHP launched a massive movement for the opening of the locks of the mosque, following which the Faizabad session judge on February 1, 1986, allowed Hindus to worship at the site and the locks were opened.

Archaeology Society of India report

Archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1970, 1992 and 2003 in and around the disputed site have indicated a large Hindu complex existed on the site.

In 2003, by the order of an Indian Court, The Archaeology Society of India was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble.[13] The summary of the ASI report [14] indicated definite proof of a temple under the mosque. In the words of ASI researchers, they discovered "distinctive features associated with... temples of north India". The excavations yielded:

stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of a divine couple and carved architectural features, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broke octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure" [15]

Fallout

The Muslims strongly criticized the report, claiming that it failed to mention any evidence of a temple in its interim reports and only revealed it in the final report which was submitted during a time of national tension, making the report highly suspect.[16]. This view was shared by many Muslim religious groups including the Sunni Waqf Board and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Examining the ASI's conclusion of a mandir (Hindu temple) under the structure, the VHP and the RSS stepped up demands for Muslims to restore the three holiest North Indian mandirs to Hindus.[15]

Demolition

On 6 December 1992, the Liberhan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It has been the longest running commission in India's history with 48 extensions granted by various governments. The commission submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 30 June 2009, more than 16 years after the incident.[17]

Contents of the report were leaked to the news media in November 2009. The report blamed the high-ranking members of the Indian government and Hindu nationalists for the destruction of the mosque. Its contents caused uproar in the Indian parliament.

The Liberhan report has pieced together a sequence of events as they happened on December 6, 1992, the day the Babri Masjid was demolished by Kar Sevaks.

On that Sunday morning, LK Advani and others met at Vinay Katiyar's residence. They then proceeded to the disputed structure, the report says. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Katiyar reached the puja platform where symbolic Kar Seva was to be performed, and Advani and Joshi checked arrangements for the next 20 minutes. The two senior leaders then moved 200 metre away to the Ram Katha Kunj. This was a building facing the disputed structure where a dais had been erected for senior leaders.

At noon, a teenaged Kar Sevak was "vaulted" on to the dome and that signaled the breaking of the outer cordon. The report notes that at this time Advani, Joshi and Vijay Raje Scindia made "feeble requests to the Kar Sevaks to come down... either in earnest or for the media's benefit". No appeal was made to the Kar Sevaks not to enter the sanctum sanctorum or not to demolish the structure. The report notes: "This selected act of the leaders itself speaks of the hidden intentions of one and all being to accomplish demolition of the disputed structure."

The report holds that the "icons of the movement present at the Ram Katha Kunj... could just as easily have... prevented the demolition." [18]

Liberhan Commission findings

Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh during the mosque’s demolition, has come in for harsh criticism in the report. He is accused of posting bureaucrats and police officers who would stay silent during the mosque’s demolition in Ayodhya.

Former Prime Minister of India Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Former Chairman of the opposition Mr. Lalkrishna Advani and Former Education Minister in NDA Government Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi have also been found culpable in the demolition in the Liberhan Commissions' Report.

In popular culture

The events that transpired in aftermath of the demolition and the riots are an important part of the plot of the films like Bombay (1995), Striker(2010) and Naseem (1995), and also mentioned in Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

See also

Ayodhya debate
Babri Mosque
Ram Janmabhoomi
Archaeology
2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack
Liberhan Commission
People and organizations
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
L. K. Advani
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Murli Manohar Joshi
Kalyan Singh
All India Babri Masjid Action Committee
Babur
Bharatiya Janata Party
Koenraad Elst

References

  1. ^ Babri mosque demolition case hearing today. Yahoo News - September 18, 2007
  2. ^ Tearing down the Babri Masjid - Eye Witness BBC's Mark Tully BBC - Thursday, 5 December 2002, 19:05 GMT
  3. ^ Babri Masjid demolition was planned 10 months in advance - PTI
  4. ^ The Ayodhya dispute. BBC News. November 15, 2004.
  5. ^ Flint, Colin (2005). The geography of war and peace. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195162080. http://books.google.com/books?id=7Ms5N7NhGXIC&pg=PA165. 
  6. ^ Vitelli, Karen (2006). Archaeological ethics (2 ed.). Rowman Altamira. ISBN 9780759109636. http://books.google.com/books?id=LTW1Rf-NfJsC&pg=PA104. 
  7. ^ Sayyid Shahabuddin Abdur Rahman, Babri Masjid, 3rd print, Azamgarh: Darul Musannifin Shibli Academy, 1987, pp. 29-30.
  8. ^ Indian Census
  9. ^ "Babri Mosjid -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia. Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/47510/Babri-Mosjid. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  10. ^ Sharma, Religious policy of the Mughal Emperors, page 9
  11. ^ http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=19686
  12. ^ http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?224878
  13. ^ Ratnagar, Shereen (2004) "CA Forum on Anthropology in Public: Archaeology at the Heart of a Political Confrontation: The Case of Ayodhya" Current Anthropology 45(2): pp. 239-259, p. 239
  14. ^ Prasannan, R. (7 September 2003) "Ayodhya: Layers of truth" The Week (India), from Web Archive
  15. ^ a b Suryamurthy, R. (August 2003) "ASI findings may not resolve title dispute" The Tribune - August 26, 2003
  16. ^ Muralidharan, Sukumar (September 2003) "Ayodhya: Not the last word yet" The Hindu 20(19):
  17. ^ Press Trust of India (June 30, 2009). Babri Masjid case: Liberhan Commission submits report to PM. Business Standard.
  18. ^ http://www.ndtv.com/news/india/report_sequence_of_events_on_december_6.php

Further reading

  • Ram Sharan Sharma. Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, People's Publishing House (PPH), 2nd Revised Edition, September, 1999, Delhi. Translated into Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Two versions in Bengali.
  • Puniyani, Ram. Communal Politics: Myths Versus Facts. Sage Publications Inc, 2003
  • Bacchetta, Paola. "Sacred Space in Conflict in India: The Babri Masjid Affair." Growth & Change. Spring2000, Vol. 31, Issue 2.
  • Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. 1996. Edited, translated and annotated by Wheeler M. Thacktson. New York and London: Oxford University Press.
  • 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. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society. 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India. [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. [2] [3]
  • Harsh Narain. 1993. The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources. Delhi: Penman Publishers.
  • Hassner, Ron E., War on Sacred Grounds. 2009. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [4]
  • Romey, Kristin M., "Flashpoint Ayodhya." Archaeology Jul/Aug2004, Vol. 57, Issue 4.
  • Romila Thapar. 'A Historical Perspective on the Story of Rama' in Thapar (2000).
  • 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.
  • Ayodhya 6 December 1992 (ISBN 0-670-05858-0) by P. V. Narasimha Rao

External links

Research Papers


Coordinates: 26°47′44″N 82°11′40″E / 26.7956°N 82.1945°E / 26.7956; 82.1945


Simple English


The Babri Mosque (Urdu: بابری مسجد, Hindi: बाबरी मस्जिद), or Mosque of Babur was a mosque in Ayodhya, India. It was constructed by order of the first Mughal emperor of India, Babur, in Ayodhya in the 16th century. It was built on top of a Hindu Temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi, birthplace of Lord Rama. Babri mosque was destroyed in 1992 when a Rally of Hindus entered to the Ayodhya.After the demolition of the Babri Mosque India faces a major Violance between Muslims and Hindus. In 27 September 2010 an Indian High Court (Allahabad High Court) decided that the Mosque was built on the Shri Ramlala Temple which was destroyed by Babar. Allahabad High Court decided to split the site into three parts.


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