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The Babri Masjid (translation: Mosque of Babur), was a mosque in Ayodhya, India. Located in Faizabad district, it was one of the largest mosques in the Uttar Pradesh state. According to the mosque's inscriptions, it was built in 1528–29 CE (935 AH) by Mir Baqi, on orders of the Mughal emperor Babur (after whom it is named).
The mosque was located on a hill known as Ramkot ("Rama's fort"). According to a section of Hindus, the Mughals destroyed a structure marking the birthplace of Rama (Ram Janmabhoomi) to build the mosque, a claim denied by the Muslims. The political, historical and socio-religious debate over the history of the site and whether a previous temple was demolished or modified to create it, is known as the Ayodhya dispute.
Starting in the 19th century, there were several conflicts and court disputes between Hindus and Muslims over the mosque. On 6 December 1992, the demolition of the Babri Masjid by militant Hindu nationalist groups triggered riots all over India, leading to around 2,000 deaths.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Architecture
- 3 History
- 4 Demolition
- 5 Archaeological excavations
- 6 2010 court verdict
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The name "Babri Masjid" comes from the name of the Mughal emperor Babur, who is said to have ordered its construction. Before the 1940s, it was called Masjid-i-Janmasthan ("mosque of the birthplace"), including in the official documents such as revenue records.
The rulers of the Delhi Sultanate and their successors, the Mughals, 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 Sultanate. When viewed from the west side, it resembled the Atala Masjid in Jaunpur.
The architecture of the mosque is completely a replica of the mosques in the Delhi Sultanate. Babri was an important mosque of a distinct style, preserved mainly in architecture, developed after the Delhi Sultanate was established Babari 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.
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 (1828–33). 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 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.
The inscriptions in the Babri Masjid premises state that the mosque was built in 935 AH (1528–29 CE) by Mir Baqi in accordance with the wishes of Babur. However, some historians have argued that it was built during the Delhi Sultanate period (13th-15th century), and may have been renovated during Babur's period. R. Nath has stated that, judging from the architecture of the mosque, it should be taken to have been built in the pre-Mughal period.
According to an early 20th-century text by Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar and the surrounding historial sources examined by historian Harsh Narain,[note 1] the young Babur came from Kabul to Awadh (Ayodhya) in disguise, dressed as a Qalandar (Sufi ascetic), probably as part of a fact-finding mission. Here he met the Sufi saints Shah Jalal and Sayyid Musa Ashiqan and took a pledge in return for their blessings for conquering Hindustan. The pledge is not spelled out in the 1981 edition of Ghaffar's book. Lala Sita Ram, who had access to the older edition in 1932 wrote, "The faqirs answered that they would bless him if he promised to build a mosque after demolishing the Janmasthan temple. Babur accepted the faqirs' offer and returned to his homeland."
While the inscription states that it was built on orders of Babur in 1528, there are no other records of the mosque from this period. The Baburnama (Chronicles of Babur) does not mention either the mosque or the destruction of a temple. The Ramcharit Manas of Tulsidas (AD 1574) and Ain-i Akbari of Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak (AD 1598) made no mention of a mosque either. William Finch, the English traveller that visited Ayodhya around 1611, and wrote about the "ruins of the Ranichand [Ramachand] castle and houses" where Hindus believed the great God "took flesh upon him to see the tamasha of the world." He found pandas (Brahmin priests) in the ruins of the fort, but there was no mention of a mosque.
The first known report of a mosque appears in a book Sahifa-I-Chihil Nasaih Bahadur Shahi, said to have been written by a daughter of the emperor Bahadur Shah I (and granddaughter of Aurangzeb) in the early 18th century. It mentioned mosques having been constructed after demolishing the "temples of the idolatrous Hindus situated at Mathura, Banaras and Awadh etc." Hindus are said to have called these demolished temples in Awadh "Sita Rasoi" (Sita's kitchen) and "Hanuman's abode."  While there was no mention of Babur in this account, the Ayodhya mosque had been juxtaposed with those built by Aurangzeb at Mathura and Banaras.
The earliest extant account of the mosque's connection to birthplace of Rama comes from the European Jesuit missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler, who visited the site during 1766–71. Johann Bernoulli translated his account from French, and included it in his 1788 work. According to this account, Aurangazeb or Babur had demolished the Ramkot fortress, including the house that was considered as the birthplace of Rama by Hindus. A mosque was constructed in its place, but the Hindus continued to offer prayers at a mud platform that marked the birthplace of Rama. In 1810, Francis Buchanan visited the site, and stated that the structure destroyed was a temple dedicated to Rama, not a house. In 1838, British surveyor Montgomery Martin wrote that the pillars in the mosque were taken from a Hindu temple. Many subsequent sources state that the mosque was constructed after demolishing a temple. A section of historians, such as R. S. Sharma, deny this, and state that such claims of temple demolition sprang up only after the 18th century.
Apart from Hindus, Jains and Buddhists have also claimed the site. According to Jain Samata Vahini, the mosque was built over a 6th-century Jain temple. Similarly, Udit Raj's Buddha Education Foundation has claimed the mosque was built over a Buddhist shrine.
1880s temple construction attempts
In 1853, a group of armed Hindu ascetics belonging to the Nirmohi Akhara occupied the site, and claimed ownership of the structure. Periodic violence erupted in the next two years, and the civil administration had to step in, refusing permission to build a temple or to use it as a place of worship. In 1855, after a Hindu-Muslim clash, a boundary wall was constructed to avoid further disputes. It divided the mosque premises into two courtyards; the Muslims offered prayers in the inner courtyard. The Hindus offered their prayers on a raised platform, known as "Ram Chabutara", in the outer courtyard.
In 1883, the Hindus launched an effort to construct a temple on the platform. After Muslim protests, the Deputy Commissioner prohibited any temple construction on 19 January 1885. On 27 January 1885, Raghubar Das, the Hindu mahant (priest) of the Ram Chabutara filed a civil suit before the Faizabad Sub-Judge. In response, the mutawalli (Muslim trustee) of the mosque argued that the entire land belonged to the mosque. On 24 December 1885, the Sub Judge Pandit Hari Kishan Singh dismissed the suit. On 18 March 1886, the District Judge F.E.A. Chamier also dismissed an appeal against the lower court judgment. He agreed that the mosque was built on the land considered sacred by the Hindus, but ordered maintenance of status quo, since it was "too late now to remedy the grievance". A subsequent appeal before the Judicial Commissioner W. Young was also dismissed on 1 November 1886.
On 27 March 1934, a Hindu–Muslim riot occurred in Ayodhya, triggered by cow slaughter in the nearby Shahjahanpur village. The walls around the Masjid and one of the domes of the Masjid were damaged during the riots. These were reconstructed by the British Government.
In 1936, the United Provinces government enacted U.P. Muslim Waqf Act for the better administration of waqf properties in the state. In accordance with this act, the Babri Masjid and its adjacent graveyard (Ganj-e-Saheedan Qabristan) were registered as Waqf no. 26 Faizabad with the UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs. The Shias disputed the Sunni ownership of the mosque, claiming that the site belonged to them because Mir Baqi was a Shia. The Commissioner of Waqfs initiated an inquiry into the dispute. The inquiry concluded that the mosque belonged to the Sunnis, since it was commissioned by Babur, who was a Sunni. The concluding report was published in an official gazette dated 26 February 1944. In 1945, the Shia Central Board moved to court against this decision. On 23 March 1946, Judge S. A. Ahsan ruled in favour of the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs.
Placement of Hindu idols
In December 1949, the Hindu organization Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha organized a non-stop 9-day recitation of the Ramacharitamanas just outside the mosque. At the end of this event, on the night of 22–23 December 1949, a group of 50–60 people entered the mosque and placed idols of Rama and Sita there. On the morning of 23 December, the event organizers announced over loudspeakers that the idols had appeared miraculously, and exhorted Hindu devotees to come to the mosque for a darshan. As thousands of Hindus started visiting the place, the Government declared the mosque a disputed area and locked its gates.
Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru directed the state's Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant and Uttar Pradesh Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to get the idols removed from the mosque premises. Pant issued orders to remove the idols, but Faizabad's deputy commissioner K. K. Nayar feared that the Hindus would retaliate and pleaded inability to carry out the orders.
On 16 January 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed a civil suit in the Faizabad Court, asking that Hindus be allowed to worship Rama and Sita at the place. In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed another lawsuit demanding possession of the mosque. On 18 December 1961, the Sunni Central Wqaf Board also filed a lawsuit, demanding possession of the site and removal of idols from the mosque premises.
In April 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) initiated a campaign to gather public support for Hindu access to of Babri Masjid and other structures that had been allegedly built over Hindu shrines. To raise public awareness, VHP planned nationwide rath yatras (chariot processions), the first of which took place in September–October 1984, from Sitamarhi to Ayodhya. The campaign was temporarily suspended after assassination of Indira Gandhi, but revived in from 25 places on 23 October 1985. On 25 January 1986, a 28-year-old local lawyer Umesh Chandra Pandey, appealed the court to remove the restrictions on Hindu worship in the Babri Masjid premises. Subsequently, the Rajiv Gandhi government ordered the locks on the Babri Masjid gates to be removed. Earlier, the only Hindu ceremony permitted at the site was a Hindu priest performing an annual puja. After the ruling, all Hindus were given access to the site, and the mosque gained some function as a Hindu temple.
Communal tension in the region worsened when the VHP received permission to perform a shilanyas (stone-laying ceremony) at the disputed site before the national election in November 1989. A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, L K Advani, started a rath yatra, embarking on a 10,000 km journey starting from the south and heading towards Ayodhya. On 6 December 1992, BJP, VHP and RSS leaders gathered at the site to offer prayers and perform a symbolic kar seva. At noon, a teenage Kar Sevak (volunteer) was "vaulted" on to the dome and that signalled the breaking of the outer cordon. Soon after, a large number of kar sevaks demolished the mosque.
The country was rocked by communal riots immediately following demolition of the mosque, between Hindus and Muslims in which more than 2,000 people died. In Bombay Riots, around 900 people died. The riots extended to Bangladesh, where hundreds of shops, homes and temples of Hindus were destroyed. Many terror attacks by banned jihadi outfits like Indian Mujahideen cited demolition of Babri Mosque as an excuse for terrorist attacks.
The Liberhan Commission set up by the Government to investigate the demolition later blamed 68 people including senior BJP, RSS and VHP leaders for the demolition. Among those criticized in the report were AB Vajpayee, the party's chief LK Advani, and chief minister Kalyan Singh. A 2005 book by the former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Joint Director Maloy Krishna Dhar claimed the senior leaders of RSS, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal had planned the demolition 10 months in advance. He also suggested that the Indian National Congress leaders, including prime minister P V Narasimha Rao and home minister S B Chavan, had ignored warnings about the demolition for deriving political benefits.
In 2003, by the order of an Indian Court, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble. The excavation was conducted from 12 March 2003 to 7 August 2003, resulting in 1360 discoveries. The ASI submitted its report to the Allahabad high court.
The summary of the ASI report indicated the presence of a 10th-century temple under the mosque. According to the ASI team, the human activity at the site dates back to the 13th century BCE. The next few layers date back to the Shunga period (second-first century BCE) and the Kushan period. During the early medieval period (11–12th century CE), a but short-lived huge structure of nearly 50 metres north-south orientation was constructed. On the remains of this structure, another massive structure was constructed: this structure had at least three structural phases and three successive floors attached with it. The report concluded that it was over the top of this construction that the disputed structure was constructed during the early 16th century.
Muslim groups immediately disputed the ASI findings. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) criticised the report saying that it said that "presence of animal bones throughout as well as of the use of 'surkhi' and lime mortar" that was found by ASI are all characteristic of Muslim presence "that rule out the possibility of a Hindu temple having been there beneath the mosque." The report claimed otherwise on the basis of 'pillar bases' was contested since no pillars were found, and the alleged existence of 'pillar bases' has been debated by archaeologists. Syed Rabe Hasan Nadvi, chairman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) alleged that ASI 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.
The Allahabad High Court, however, upheld the ASI's findings.
2010 court verdict
A land title case on the site was lodged in the Allahabad High Court, the verdict of which was pronounced on 30 September 2010. In their verdict, the three judges of The Allahabad High Court ruled that the 2.77 acres (1.12 ha) of Ayodhya land be divided into 3 parts, with 1/3 going to the Ram Lalla or Infant Lord Rama represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha for the construction of the Ram temple, 1/3 going to the Islamic Sunni Waqf Board and the remaining 1/3 going to a Hindu religious denomination Nirmohi Akhara. While the three-judge bench was not unanimous that the disputed structure was constructed after demolition of a temple, it did agree that a temple or a temple structure predated the mosque at the same site. The excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India were heavily used as evidence by the court that the predating structure was a massive Hindu religious building.
- Sources cited by Harsh Narain:
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