Rear view of the Babri Masjid
|Completed||Constructed – 1527
Demolished – 1992
The Babri Masjid (translation: Mosque of Babur), was a mosque in Ayodhya, a city in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on Ramkot Hill ("Rama's fort"). It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally by militant Hindu nationalist groups developed into a riot involving 150,000 people, despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major cities in India including Mumbai and Delhi.
The mosque was constructed in 1527 on the orders of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and was named after him. Before the 1940s, the mosque was also called Masjid-i-Janmasthan, translation: ("mosque of the birthplace"). The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims. Numerous petitions by Hindus to the courts resulted in Hindu worshippers of Rama gaining access to the 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.
- 1 Architecture of the mosque
- 2 History
- 3 Archaeological Survey of India report
- 4 Demolition
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 2010 Court Verdict
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Architecture of the mosque
The rulers of the Sultanate of Delhi and its successors, the Mughal 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. 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 establisrasbari 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 (1828–1833). 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 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 Muslim emperor Babur established his authority over the whole of northern India when he conquered the Rajputana kingdom of Mewar and the Hindu King of Chittodgad, Rana Sangrama Singh, at the Battle of Khanwa. After this victory, his general, Mir Baqi became governor of the region around Awadh.
Mir Baqshi built the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya naming it after Emperor Babur, after destroying a pre-existing temple of Rama at the site. 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."
According to the judge, the 265 inscriptions found on 6 December 1992 after demolition of the disputed structure, along with other architectural remains, leave no room for doubt that the inscription is written in the script of Devnagri of 11th and 12th century.
All three judges accepted that under the mosque is a Hindu temple. Two of the judges accepted that that temple was specifically demolished.
According to Jain Samata Vahini, a social organisation 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 quoted writings of 18th century Jain monks stating Ayodhya was the place where five Jain tirthankars, Rishabhdeo, Ajitnath, Abhinandannath, Sumatinath and Anantnath stayed. The ancient city was among the five biggest centres of Jainism and Buddhism prior to 1527.
Some Muslims and other non-Muslim critics and historians claim that there is no historical record indicating any destruction, or even the existence of a Hindu Temple at the site when Mir Baqi erected the Masjid in 1528. When Ram idols were allegedly placed in the Mosque illegally on 23 December 1949, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, G. B. Pant, demanding their removal because "a dangerous example is being set there." The local administrator, Faizabad's deputy commissioner K. K. Nayar dismissed Nehru's concerns. While he admitted that the installation of the idols may have been "an illegal act", Nayar refused to remove them from the mosque claiming that "the depth of feeling behind the movement ... should not be underestimated." In the 2010 the High Court verdict that gives two-thirds of the land to Hindu Temple, thousands of pages of the verdict were devoted to quotes from Hindu scriptures. According to Manoj Mitta, "The mischief played with the idols, in a bid to convert a masjid into a mandir, was central to the adjudication of the title suits."
Muslims and other critics discount as politically motivated the archaeological reports that are relied upon by Hindu groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Munnani to lay claim to the Babri Masjid site. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust said that certain evidence from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) rules out a possible Hindu temple rather than provide evidence for one existing before the mosque was erected.
"After Babar had gained a footing in Hindustan by his victory at Panipat in 1526 and had advanced to Agra, the defeated Afghan house of Lodhi still occupied the Central Doab, Oudh, and the eastern districts of the present United Provinces. In 1527, Babar, on his return from Central India, defeated his opponents in Southern Oudh near Kanauj, and passed on through the Province as far as Ayodhya where he built a mosque in 1528, on the site renowned as the birthplace of Rama. The Afghans remained in opposition after the death of Babar in 1530, but were defeated near Lucknow in the following year."
Conflicts over the site
The first recorded incident of violence over the issue between Hindus and Muslims in modern times took place in 1853 during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. A Hindu sect called the Nirmohis claimed the structure, contending that the mosque stood on the spot where a temple had been destroyed during Babar's time. Violence erupted from time to time over the issue 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.
According to the District Gazetteer Faizabad 1905, "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 19 January 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 17 March 1886, dismissed the appeal. A Second Appeal was filed on 25 May 1886, before the Judicial Commissioner of Awadh, W. Young, who also dismissed the appeal. With this, the first round of legal battles fought by the Hindus came to an end.
The Faizabad District Judge on a complaint filed by Mahant Raghubar Das gave a judgment on 18 March 1886. Though the complaint 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."
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.
The mosque and its appurtenant land, a graveyard known as Ganj-e-Shaheedan Qabristan, were registered as Waqf No. 26 Faizabad with the UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs (Muslim holy places) under the Act of 1936. The background of harassment of Muslims during the period has been recorded in two reports by the waqf inspector Mohammad Ibrahim, dated 10 and 23 December 1949, respectively to the secretary of the Waqf Board.
At midnight on 22 December 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 FIR lodged by Sub-Inspector Ram Dube, Police Station Ayodhya, on 23 December 1949 states: "A group of 50–60 persons had entered Babri Mosque after breaking the compound gate lock of the mosque or through jumping across the walls... and established therein an idol of Shri Bhagwan and painted Sita Ram, on the outer and inner walls with geru (red loam)... Afterward, a crowd of 5–6 thousand persons gathered around and while chanting bhajans and raising religious slogans tried to enter the mosque but were deferred." The following morning, a large Hindu crowd attempted to enter the mosque to make offerings to the deities. The District Magistrate K.K. Nayar 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 Vallabhbhai Patel directed UP Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant and Uttar Pradesh Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to see that the deities were removed. (Ref. Sardar Patel-select Correspondence 1945–50 edited by R. Shankar; Anatomy of Confrontation by S. Gopal) 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. Nayar feared that the Hindus would retaliate and pleaded inability to carry out the orders. The by-election to the local MLA seat involving opposition leader J. B. Kripalani complicated matters further and no action was taken. J.B. Kripalani in his autobiography accused the Uttar Pradesh government of communalising the issue to win the election. His contention is supported by Nehru era historian and stalwart Sarvepalli Gopal in his work "Anatomy of Confrontation". The Official History of Congress has dismissed this claim as mere propaganda.
In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) launched a massive movement for the opening of the locks of the mosque, and in 1985 the Rajiv Gandhi government ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya to be removed. Prior to that date the only Hindu ceremony permitted was a Hindu priest performing a yearly puja for the icons there. After the ruling, all Hindus were given access to what they consider the birthplace of Rama, 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 BJP leader, LK Advani, started a Rath yatra, embarking on a 10,000 km journey starting from the south and heading towards Ayodhya.
Archaeological Survey 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 Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble. The summary of the ASI report  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."||”|
The excavation began on 12 March 2003 on the acquired land on the high court's order and by 7 August 2003 when it ended, the ASI team had made 1360 discoveries. A bench, comprising Justice S R Alam, Justice Bhanwar Singh and Justice Khemkaran, had asked the ASI to submit the report and as per the order, the Archaeological Survey of India submitted its final report in the Allahabad high court. The 574-page ASI report consisting of written opinions, maps and drawings was opened before the full Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court. The report said there was archaeological evidence of "a massive structure just below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural activities from the 10th century onwards". The ASI report said there is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50x30 metres in north-south and east-west directions respectively just below the disputed structure. In course of present excavations nearly 50 pillar bases with brickbat foundation below calcrete blocks topped by sandstone blocks were found. The area below the disputed site remained a place for public use for a long time till the Mughal period when the disputed structure was built which was confined to a limited area and the population settled around it as evidenced by the increase in contemporary archaeological material including pottery. The report said the human activity at the site dates back to 13th century BC on the basis of the scientific dating method providing the only archaeological evidence of such an early date of the occupation of the site.
A round signet with legend in Asokan Brahmi is another important find of this level, according to the report. The report said the Shunga period (second-first century BC) comes next in order of the cultural occupation at the site followed by the Kushan period. During the early medieval period (11–12th century AD) a huge structure of nearly 50 metres north-south orientation was constructed which seems to have been short lived as only four of the 50 pillar bases exposed during the excavation belonged to this level with a brick crush floor. On the remains of the above structure was constructed a massive structure with at least three structural phases and three successive floors attached with it. The architectural members of the earlier short-lived massive structure with stencil-cut foliage pattern and other decorative motifs were reused in the construction of the monumental structure which has a huge pillared hall different from residential structures providing sufficient evidence of construction of public usages which remained under existence for a long time during the period. The report concluded that it was over the top of this construction during the early 16th century that the disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it.
Muslim groups immediately disputed the rulings. 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.
However, one of the judges that divided the area, Judge Agarwal, noted that many of the "independent historians" displayed an "ostrich-like attitude" toward the facts and in fact lacked any expertise on the subject while they were "withering under scrutiny". Apart from this, most "experts" were found to be interconnected: either they had built up their expertise reading news articles or they had professional associations with other "expert witnesses" for the Waqf Board and deposed to support statements of other witnesses(PW-16, 20 and 24). The court also found that the entire opinion of another witness, Prof. D Mandal, was short of the requirement as an opinion of an Expert and he had written a book only on the basis of a critical analysis of a small booklet published by Prof. B.B.Lal and beyond that made no further or other study/research etc. Another expert (3618 ) gave statement on oath without any probe and not on the basis of knowledge, rather it was on the basis of opinion. The Allahabad High Court upheld the ASI's findings.
On 6 December 1992, LK Advani and others met at Vinay Katiyar's residence. They then proceeded to the disputed structure, the report[which?] 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 teenage Kar Sevak was "vaulted" on to the dome and that signalled the breaking of the outer cordon. The report notes that at this time Advani, Joshi and Vijaya 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."
Demolition planned in advance
In a 2005 book former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Joint Director Maloy Krishna Dhar claimed that Babri Masjid demolition was planned 10 months in advance by top leaders of RSS, BJP and VHP and raised questions over the way the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, had handled the issue. Dhar claimed that he was directed to arrange the coverage of a key meeting of the BJP/Sangh Parivar and that the meeting "proved beyond doubt that they (RSS, BJP, VHP) had drawn up the blueprint of the Hindutva assault in the coming months and choreographed the 'pralaya nritya' (dance of destruction) at Ayodhya in December 1992... The RSS, BJP, VHP and the Bajrang Dal leaders present in the meeting amply agreed to work in a well-orchestrated manner." Claiming that the tapes of the meeting were personally handed over by him to his boss, he asserts that he has no doubts that his boss had shared the contents with the prime minister (Rao) and the Home Minister (S B Chavan). The author claimed that there was silent agreement that Ayodhya offered "a unique opportunity to take the Hindutva wave to the peak for deriving political benefit."
Liberhan Commission findings
A 2009 report, authored by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, blamed 68 people for the demolition of the mosque – mostly leaders from the BJP and a few bureaucrats. Among those named in the report were AB Vajpayee, the former BJP prime minister, and LK Advani, the party's then (2009) leader in parliament. Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh during the mosque's demolition, has also 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 Education Minister in NDA Government Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi have also been found culpable in the demolition in the Liberhan Commissions' Report.
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. Many terror attacks by banned jihadi outfits like Indian Mujahideen cited demolition of Babri Mosque as an excuse for terrorist attacks. In Bangladesh hundreds of shops, homes and temples of Hindus were destroyed.
In popular culture
In fiction, Lajja, a controversial 1993 novel in Bengali by Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, has a story based in the days after the demolition. After its release, the author received death threats in her home country and has been living in exile ever since.
The events that transpired in the aftermath of the demolition and the riots are an important part of the plot of the films Bombay (1995), Daivanamathil (2005), both the films won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration at the respective National Film Awards; Naseem (1995), Striker (2010), and also mentioned in Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The file pictures from the television footage of the demolition of the mosque are shown as a flashback and as a cause of the subsequent communal riots and the Bombay blasts of 1993 in the film Black Friday (2004 film)
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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Babri Masjid.|
- Babri Masjid Information Site.
- Report of Liberhan Enquiry Commission on Demolition of Babri Masjid
- Advani charged with Ayodhya riots – BBC News
- Mumbai riots of 1992–93: Letting sleeping dogs lie
- Holy work destroys peace in India – Time Magazine
- The wrath of Rama – Time Magazine
- 'Timeline: Ayodhya crisis', BBC News (17 October 2003)
- 'Q&A: The Ayodhya dispute', BBC News (15 November 2004)
- The Demolition Video from YouTube
- Hindus and Muslims to Share Holy Site – slideshow by The New York Times
- Research Papers