Date: 9/25/2003


.................Pioneer 23rd September 2003

.................Ayodhya: the dance of Shiva

.....................By Sandhya Jain

According to a popular Puranic story, Shiva once emerged from deep samadhi and uttered the single word: `Rama.' Surprised, Parvati asked what this meant, as she had never heard the word before. Shiva replied that this was hardly surprising, as the time had not come to bring it to the surface of his consciousness. He then tells the bemused goddess the story of the coming avatarhood of Rama…

Now that the Ayodhya excavations have yielded evidence of a certifiable Rama temple, Shiva has again come to the fore to rescue Vishnu's avatar from Marxist calumny and legal obfuscation. Many Indians will recall the country's historic battle for the return of a Chola Nataraja bronze that surfaced in London some decades ago. The Government of India filed a case in the London High Court claiming the Nataraja as a property of a ruined Chola temple at Pattur, Tanjore district, and the murti made a triumphant return during the premiership of late Rajiv Gandhi.

An expert involved in recovering the Nataraja, Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu, has suggested that the London High Court's verdict regarding the legal right of a ruined temple has a bearing on the Ayodhya case. This is pertinent as the Hindu community struggled for the site for centuries and made a valiant attempt through the legal process in the British period as well (discussed in previous articles). The colonial judges upheld the justice of Hindu claims to the Janmabhoomi, but refused to rule in their favour on grounds of law and order.

In the Nataraja case, however, Dr. Nagaswamy points out, the London High Court upheld that: "As long as even a single slab belonging to the ancient ruined temple is found in the site, the temple continues to exist in the eye of law and has its right to claim its possession." This temple had remained without worship for a long period, but the keynote of the Indian Government's argument was "once a temple, it remains always a temple." The London judges conceded the rights of the temple, which was respectively upheld by the Appeal Court in London, the Privy Council and the apex court. Thus, the official view of the Indian Government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, as argued in the London court, was that the existence of ruins at the original site entitled the temple to be treated as an existing entity in the eyes of the law, regardless of the fact that it was not under worship.

The implications for Ayodhya are breathtaking. Apart from the discovery of three distinct temples in the recent excavation, the site has a deity under worship (Ramlalla Virajman), which clearly establishes its status as a temple. What is more, during Muslim rule itself, the Hindus had secured a Ram chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi as token recognition of their original claim to the site. They further managed to install the deity in 1948 and had secured public puja from 1986 onwards.

Dr. Nagaswamy says the London High Court accepted the claim that a Hindu temple comprises the temple building and enshrined image, as well as the consecrated space around it. Well, the Ram chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi at Ayodhya fall within the consecrated space of the old temple. Moreover, as temples have often been destroyed by disuse (migration of population), fire, floods, earthquakes or invasions, the London court decided, on examining the ritual and historical position, that "any ruined temple could be brought back to worship at any point of time by purificatory rites."

Clearly this sets a valuable precedent for Ayodhya, and claimants to the title suit would do well to apprise the Allahabad High Court of this judgement. Further, the Archaeological Survey of India should end its public silence and facilitate public study of the evidence by publishing the reports of its archaeologists, along with drawings, photographs and stratification plans. It should also seek court permission to combat the dubious scholarship of those casting aspersions on the findings and questioning the personal integrity of its staff.

Meanwhile, given the unending savage ferocity with which the ASI report is being vilified in sections of the media, it may be pertinent to look at some preliminary views formulated by reputed but retired archaeologists, who spoke out on behalf of serving colleagues at a public function in the capital on 13 September 2003. Dr. K.N. Dikshit asserted that the placement of the excavated pillars conclusively established the structure found was a temple. He said the building was consistent with temple plans associated with the Gupta era.

Dr. Dikshit observed that certain findings, such as amalak (circular stone used in temple shikars) were exclusive to temples and never existed in masjids in any part of the world. Ridiculing the contention that the circular Shiva temple discovered was a tomb, he said the pranala (chute for exit of abhishek water and milk) exists only in a temple and has no place in an Islamic structure. Moreover, no Islamic tomb is round from the base; it is always octagonal and has vertical walls.

But the most exciting aspect of the Ayodhya excavations, according to Dr. Dikshit, is that they establish human habitation at Ayodhya from 1500 BC, which is seven hundred years earlier than previously thought. This has settled the controversy about the antiquity of the Ramayana vis-à-vis the Mahabharata. Prior to this, archaeologists had seriously begun to wonder if the Mahabharata was the older epic, in opposition to the Hindu tradition that the Ramayana was older. This is an important vindication of Hindu civilizational memory.

Dr. Swaraj Gupta, beloved bete noire of Marxist intellectuals, said the temple complex built at the site around the tenth century AD was probably swept away by Saryu floods, and that the controversial round Shiva temple belonged to this period. The grand temple at the site was built in the twelfth century, of which fifty pillar bases and a 150 feet long and six-foot wide wall have been excavated. The distance and alignment of the pillars clearly suggest a temple. Dr. Gupta pointed out that during the apocalyptic events of 6 December 1992, a shilalekha (inscription) was found in the Nagari script, which clearly stated that King Govind Chand of Kanauj had built and dedicated a temple to Vishnu Hari, who had slain Bali and Dashanan (Ravana). This is irrefutable evidence that the temple was a Ram Mandir, as Rama alone killed Ravana.

Dr. Jagatpati Joshi, former Director General of the ASI, said the excavations showed that the materials of the old temple that was flooded were reused in the new twelfth century temple, along with niches and the retaining wall. Rejecting the Marxist claim that the red surkhi floor indicated an Islamic structure (the mosque-over-mosque theory mentioned in my last article), he said the practice of crushing bricks for road materials existed in India from the time of Mohenjodaro, and was found at several sites since then. More pertinently, the stratification clearly showed that the Babri Mosque cut into the pillar bases of the earlier temple. Dr. Joshi averred that nowhere in the world had evidence surfaced of a mosque being erected over a mosque, though there were several instances of a mosque being built over a temple.

.........................End of matter