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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Muslims made Ayodhya capital of Awadh

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas 

Archeology and history are entwined and complement each other. Perhaps for the first time in independent India’s history both these sciences have been under the scanner vis-a-vis the Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid dispute.

Ever since the full bench consisting of Justice Syed Rafat Alam, Justice Khem Karna and Justice Bhanwar Singh gave orders to excavate the disputed Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya on 5 March 2003 and the subsequent tabling of the report by the Archeological Survey of India on 22 August 2003, there has been an intense debate surrounding the ASI findings. 

Interestingly during the last phase of the arguments in the court the focus of attention zeroed in on a book called Ayodhya by Hans Bakker, published in 1986 by the Dutch publisher, Groningen. The book had been submitted in the High Court by former judge who is serving the Hindu side of the case.

The book assumed a much greater significance as it has been relied upon by the plaintiffs in the Other Original Suit (O.O.S) No. 5 of 1989 and is technically known as paper No. 120-C. The same has been affirmed by Thakur Pratap Verma who has appeared as friend of the plaintiffs alongwith Dr. S.P Mittal, and has affirmed to the findings of Bakker.

"What I have tried to bring before the court is the fact that such ‘small and big structures’ owing to the political developments at Ayodhya, brings out clearly that they were built by the Muslims" said Mushtaq Ahmad Siddiqui, a counsel from the Muslim side.

Why this book? "Because, whatever was found in the excavations, the ASI should have based its reports on those finds…But, the ASI has travelled beyond and, moreover, it has also referred from the same book...The ASI has prepared the report for the site in question covering approximately a period of 1000 years and tried to prove the theory of existence of a temple at the site. The ASI ought to know while making its comments, that this book which is filed by the plaintiff himself, could catch ASI in its own net," Siddiqui said.
The main reason to read the book from cover to cover was because of a statement given by the ASI in its report on p. 70 (1st volume) referring to figure No. 17 as ‘the circular shrine’ in trench E-8 and F-8. ‘The circular-outer face (of it) as a pranala to drain out the water, obviously after the abhisheka of the deity.’ 

Mushtaq Siddiqui cites from the account of witness Dr. SP Mittal, an author of several books and who has guided over 30 PhD students. He digs deep into history and brings up the point that in 1193-94 AD, after about 18 decades, the rule of Gaharwala dynasty and Rajput finally ended and India came under Muslim rulers, and the Awadh province with Ayodhya as its capital was formed. During Gaharwala rule and also sometime thereafter the area was ruled by local Bhars-Pasis. Dr. SP Mittal in his deposition (p. 259) acknowledged that Gaharwala dynastic king or his deputy rulers never made Ayodhya their capital. Dr. Mittal, during his deposition in 2003 had said that since 1206 AD, the Sultanate rule commenced in India, the Sultanate rulers appointed governors in Awadh and those governors made Ayodhya their capital, he said. "I do not exactly recollect in which year after 1722 AD the capital was shifted from Ayodhya to Faizabad and then from Faizabad to Lucknow. However, it is certain that till 1722 AD Ayodhya remained the capital of Awadh," he deposed.

But, then what happened to the Bhars? Hans Bakker describes, ‘Universal tradition, too, assigns the whole district to the Bhars, mysterious race who owned the greater part of Oudh and were considered as natural enemies of both Hindus and Musalmans alike.’ Neville, Settlement Commissioner of Ayodhya in 1860, says about Bhars going down into oblivion: "It would seem that they were driven eastwards by the Rajput colonists. The common story of the Rajput taking up service with Bhar Chief and then ousting his master is frequent in Faizabad as elsewhere.”

After the fall of Bhars and the establishment of Muslim suzerainty what change did Ayodhya undergo? "Muslim rulers developed Ayodhya as a big commercial focus during their rule. It continued to serve as a strategic centre. A fort was built and other construction undertaken for the defense of the city, protection was also provided along the river," said Siddiqui.

In short, Ayodhya remained a Muslim town from 1194 AD until 1722 AD when Mir Muhammad Amin, Sa’adat Khan was appointed governor of Oudh (Awadh) by the emperor Muhammad Shah at Delhi. After him Shujaud-Daula took over Ayodhya and thereafter Asaf-ud-Daula moved his capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775 AD. "Ayodhya was always ruled by Muslims and therefore whatever construction was undertaken was by Muslims; on the contrary Rajputs did not make Ayodhya their capital or even a subordinate capital within their kingdom," said Siddiqui. 

What is the purpose of all these historical accounts? "I have brought to the notice of the Court that Tulsidas’ Ramcharitra Manas gave birth to Ramanite sites in Ayodhya which none knew earlier. Prior to this epic by Tulsidas, there was no sanctity of Ayodhya as a Hindu religious place as it was ruled by Muslims for seven centuries and the place in question now known as Ram Kot (Fort of Ram) is the fort initially built by Muslim rulers in the 13th century which was reconstructed from time to time according to political and military requirements," Siddiqui elaborated.

"After the Ramcharitra Manas, people started naming places by the names found in the epic, like Kaushalya Bhawan, Kanak Bhawan Lomash, Bidneshwar and Gulaila Mandirs (where Ram played) and Datun Kund (where he performed ablutions). In fact, every aspect of Rama’s life was introduced into Ayodhya. Rama’s cult was born in 1554, but structures against these names would start getting built only after the 18th century,’’ he said.

The ASI, on the other hand, has drawn a parallel with ‘the circular shrine’ with those present in Shiva Temple in Madhya Pradesh, Surya Temple Fatehpur, UP, and Sharawasti in Fatehpur, UP, to support that the said structure (p. 70, ASI report) is a circular shrine. "This circular shrine would be a piece of a flour-mill run by bullock power or it might be the place of minting coins or may be a Buddha Stupa but not exactly what the ASI claims," he countered. 

"Moreover, there are many things the ASI has not referred to in its report like Huqqa, more than one kiln, bones and glazed wares. It seems the ASI is hell-bent to prove a point," he said. Thus a book originally submitted by Deoki Nandan Agarwal has rendered transparent many an opaque aspect of Ayodhya. Deoki Agarwal is a former judge of Allahabad High Court who after his retirement became the Vice President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council)."They submitted the book, but unfortunately, without reading it first," said Siddiqui.
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