Babri Masjid – Ram Janmabhoomi: Contextualising The Historical Content

COPYRIGHT THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD A photograph of the Babri Masjid from the early 1900s.
COPYRIGHT THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD A photograph of the Babri Masjid from the early 1900s

History is to be interrogated. Subjected to scanners, sieved and then made to make a standpoint. Eye witnesses accounts or contemporary or near contemporary sources are to be thoroughly probed, as only then, it would become a delving point to pronounce the veritable conclusion-elusive of its biasness or with any pre-judicial pretence. Obviously, the same criteria would have to be sought to help find out Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammed Babar’s (1483-1530 AD), the founder of the Mughal empire in India, connection, with of course, the Babri Masjid (1528 AD). The masjid in his name, stands no where today, as it was demolished on Dec 6, 1992. But, the issue of Babri Masjid/ Ramjanambhumi persists, to find out if ever a temple was razed to build a Babri Masjid on its site. The title-suit of the same,1 is divided into a Hindu side and a Muslim side. The former stakes a claim of it being the birth place of Lord Rama, and Babri Masjid constructed on the demolished temple site, while the latter-refuses the notion.

Thus, the first signpost of inquiry would have to happen, against Babarnama-The Memoirs of Babar, and its dispassionate audit, would reveal, that Babar never went inside the city of Ayodhya, but rather he had stayed at a distance of about six-to-eight miles, from Ayodhya, on March 28, 1528 AD, at the northern bank of river Ghagra. Ghagra river is also called river Saryu.

So, Babar would stay (on the northern banks of Ghagra) for about week and his forces had reached inside Ayodhya, even prior to his encampment, near Ayodhya. It is, thus, evident that Babar had neither demolished any temple in Ayodhya, and nor, had constructed, any mosque, himself. Had he given any order, for demolition of any temple, or for construction of any mosque, in place there-of (Ayodhya), he would have definitely enquired about the ‘said construction’ of mosque with Meer Baqi Tashqandi2 -his commander of forces. Meer Baqi Tashqandi had called for his audience, on his encampment, during the next summer season while he (Babar) was returning from the Bihar side. Moreover, Babar would have himself narrated about the ‘said demolition’ of temple had he had got done so as he was not shy of mentioning of desecration of idols which were broken by him on the grounds that they were nude. Babar, had also inquired about the construction of different buildings, regarding construction of which he had given orders, at any place, even an year ago. It is also evident from Babarnama, that Meer Baqi Tashqandi had stayed in Ayodhya by defeating Bayazid 3 and Babar had called him during his next year visit to a place near Ayodhya. Therefore, it can be annulled that even if some papers of Babarnama have gone missing, as the activities of Babar, during the period of April 2, 1528 AD and September 8, 1528 AD are unknown, yet, it becomes clear that Babar had sought to know about the construction of buildings, even after one year, and which have no reference of any demolition of temple or construction of any mosque, at the site of Babri Masjid.

It is also worth mentioning that Babarnama is in Turkish language which was translated to Persian and from Persian to English but some writers have claimed to have studied it from Turkish also. And, all the authentic translations of Babarnama made by John Leyden, John Erskine, FG Talbot and AS Beveridge were duly produced before the full bench at Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, Lucknow but were not relied upon. Its Hindi translation by Ather Abbas Rizvi has also been submitted.

So, did Babar demolish idols? Well, regarding the desecration of idols? Yes, they were desecrated at Urva, near Gwalior, obviously, because, they were nude. Regarding his meeting with Bayazid, the next summer season (in 1529), it is mentioned in Babarnama that while proceeding from Dalmau, Rae Bareli, he had mentioned in his diary, that on June 13, 1529, Bayazid had come to meet him along with the army of Avadh. He had named Meer Baqi Shugrawal as well. It shows that Bayazid was the in-charge of the area (of Ayodhya). Babarnama is therefore, not to be found with any reference regarding the demolition of any temple or the construction of any mosque-on the site of the Babri Masjid. There is also, not to be found, any reference, regarding anything of this order, in Humaniyunama too. Babar was succeeded by Naseer-ud-din Muhammed Humaiyun (1508-1556).

Jalal-ud-din Muhammed Akbar (1542-1605) succeeded Humanyun. In Ain-e-Akbari ( Institutes of Akbar) written by Abul Fazl, there is a reference of Ayodhya, as well as about Lord Rama but there is no mention of either demolition of any temple or about the construction of Babri Masjid, although, it is vividly given that Ayodhya was known as the place of birth of Lord Rama. On the other hand Ain-e-Akbari notes about the existence of important temples at several other places, including Allahabad, Varanasi, Neemsar ( today in Sitapur) and dozens of other places. It is thus, evident that no important place/temple of religious significance was there in Ayodhya during the days of Akbar. It was during this period that Tulsi Das who was the most important devotee of Lord Rama had written Ramcharitramanas (Lord Rama’s Epic) but he has also not made any reference of any such alleged Ramjanambhumi temple or of any alleged demolition, there of, by Babar or Meer Baqi Tashqandi.

In the subsequent period of Noor-ud-Din Muhammed Jehangir (1569-1627), Shahab-ud-din Muhammed Shahjahan (1592-1666) and Muhi-ud-Din Muhammed Aurengzeb (1618-1707)-there is no reference of any such alleged Ramjanambhumi temple, or demolition, there of, by Babar or Meer Baqi Tashqandi. In other books of history relating to medieval and Mughal periods, there is the same line, of no alleged demolition of Ramjanambhumi temple while there is a detailed mention of the desecration of Somnath Temple, in Gujarat by Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, in 11th century. Why did the historians refer to Somnath temple and leave Ramjanambhumi temple-if ever there was such an incident?

After the contemporary accounts, the second plank, would therefore obviously be, the near contemporary sources. This would include books concerning some travelogues. One of it is edited by William Foster, entitled as Early Travels in India (1583-1619) has an account of William Finch ( 1608-1611) but the concerned account does not find any citation of the existence or demolition of any Ramjanambhumi temple, while, there is a specific mention of Oudh ( Ayodhya) 4 . He had described Ayodhya as “a citie of ancient note, and state of a Potan king, now much ruined, the castle built foure hundred yeeres agoe. Heere are also the ruines of Ranichand(s) castle and houses which the Indians acknowled(g)e, for the great God…..” Here, the word Ranichand has been used for Ramchandra, the Hero of the Ramayana 5. In this travelers account, it has also been mentioned that some two miles on the further side of river (Saryu or Ghagra) is a cave of his ( Rama’s) with a narrow entrance where it is thought his ashes were buried 6.

The next important extract of the book is related to a French publication by Father Joseph Tieffenthaler 7. His visit of Ayodhya is said to be of 1789. He had heard about the demolition of a fortress called Ramkot and construction of a Muhammedan temple at the same place. It was also said that this was constructed by Babar. He has referred to a house where Vishnu was born under the image of Rama but in the same description he has also mentioned that the place is encircled by a low wall in which one enters to the front hall by a low door. This description does not tally with the shape of Babri Masjid as it was encircled by a high wall and had no low doors but three high mehrabs (entrances) for entry into the verandah having three domes.

There is no other book of history of contemporary or near contemporary period giving any reference of Ayodhya of Ramjanambhumi. Following the same line, it also becomes incumbent to examine the later-on books too. This category would intake the publications of 19th and 20th century. So, automatically, the first to handle would be, the extract of East India Gazetteer, 1st published in 1816, by Walter Hamilton. It gives the description of Oudh ( Ayodhya) as an ancient capital of the province of Oudh, situated on the South side of river Ghagra where remains of the ancient city of Oudh, the capital of the great Rama were still to be seen. He also refers to the mass of rubbish and jungle, among which were the reputed sites of temples, dedicated to Rama, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman (all Hindu deities) . But, there is no mention of either demolition of Ramjanambhumi temple by Babar or construction of Babri Masjid at the site of the said Ramjanambhumi temple. Hamilton, has quoted extensively from the narrative of Avadh by Abul Fazl of 1582 (Ain-e-Akbari)

The second gazetteer is by Montgomery Martin. 8 It refers to Ayodhya, but without the ostensible anecdote of the place of the birth of Lord Rama at any particular site, at Ayodhya. Although, it does refer to “ the bigot by whom the temples were destroyed, is said to have erected mosques, on the situation of the most remarkable temples; but the mosque at Ayodhya which is by far the most entire and which has every appearance of being the most modern, is ascertained, by an inscription on its walls 9 to have been built by Babar, five generations before Aurengzeb. This renders the whole story of Vikramaditya, exceedingly, doubtful, specially as what or said to be the ruins of his fort…… “I am inclined to suppose that it was a part of the building actually erected by Rama.”

The next gazetteer is of 1858 by Edward Thortan 10. It has a citation of a “native tradition that 360 temples built by Vikramaditya were demolished by Aurengzeb and also that a quadrangular coffer of stone, white washed, five ells long four broad, and protruding five or six inches above ground is pointed out as a cradle in which Rama was born…….Who perished in AC 775….”. Yet, it is bereft of any talk about the demolition of any temple by Babar is given.

A peculiar document with significant value is called as Four Reports Made During the Years 1862, 63, 64, and 65 11. In the same document 12 there is a discussion of Ayodhya of Rama (which is) said to have been destroyed in about 1426 BC, Janamsthan or ‘birth place temple’ of Rama is situated at about ½ mile from Laxman ghat, there is no any pointer of its destruction by Babar, no reference about the existence of any such temple by Fa Hian or Hiuen Tsiang who had visited Ayodhya in 7th century AD. Another document of historical value 13 has a citation 14 of Hiuen Tsiang’s visit of 7th century but with no reference of Janamsthan or Janambhumi temple. It locally affirmed about construction of mosque by Babar at the site of Janamsthan temple. Described it as the place where Ram Chandra was born. Referred to the local saying that up to 1855 Hindus and Muslims alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Perhaps, the first reference comes about Babar’s role in the destruction of Rama’s temple, that too, on hearsay of the local people. The next to fall with the same information15 is almost repetitive 16 of P. Carnegy’s 17 description 18, with the addition of last sentence under the sub-heading of ‘‘Hindu and Musalmaan’’

P. Carnegy’s 19 still had some buyers as from his book 20 AF Millet 21 says it 22 under the same headlines in paragraph 619, Millett has made a reference to an Appendix A but no such Appendix giving the list of 360 or 42 temples said to have been built by Vikramaditya is given! Hence, it become quite contradictory as he could not substantiate any Vikramaditya temple to have been destroyed by Babar.

Later on references, can be ascertained through, A Fuhrer works 23 as he on 24 and half a page 25 elaborates about Ayodhya. His standpoint is based upon the description of Ayodhya as given by Cunningham 26.While the observations of the last paragraph 27 are by and large the same as mentioned in the Gazetteer of 1877-78 with slight variations. HR Nevill 28 has taken 29 excerpts from P. Carnegy’s 30 book with some additions about census of 1869 etc. The Imperial Gazeteer of India, 31 refers 32 to the birth place in the outer portion of the mosque built by Babar. ‘ A small platform and shrine mark the birth place’ closely is a larger temple in which is shown the cooking place of Sita 33 . Thereafter HR Nevill’s 34 work are found to be a reproduction of the matter given in the Gazetteer of 1905 35. Last but not the least is the work accomplished by Esha Basanti Joshi 36. She has given information mostly based on the material published in the earlier Gazetteers.

Thus, history has been tried to be analysed un-plucked, made to speak-out unscathed in no unequivocal terms, about how the issue of Babar, and later Mughals, and their connection with Babri Masjid, has had its time in the annals of Indian history. The nation was given the verdict, on Sep 30, 2010, that Ram Mandir is actually the birth place where Babri Masjid stood, built over a demolished temple site!

Judgement had been done. Lock, stock and court hammer, which of course came on account of religious faith, and is now facing challenge in the SC, as most arguably-‘the evidence’, had been pejoratively thrown to the wind. But, at this crucial juncture the nation ought to know as to how the facts were overruled, to steer through the victory of faith. Would these facts bear a stand, in the apex court, to scuttle down fiction, is what only time would tell.

The writer has written extensively on Ayodhya issue, is a lawyer, journalist and a former UP State Information Commissioner.


1- This title-suit was changed into a partition suit, by the use of the inherent powers of HC, which in its order on Sep 30, 2010, divided the Babri Masjid site into three parts, two-third of it to Nirmohi Akhara and Bhagwan Sri Ram Lala Virajman and one-third to the Muslim side. The Lucknow full bench of Allahabad HC had Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice DV Sharma and Justice SU Khan. This order was challenged in the SC, which finally has ordered its day-to-day hearing from Aug 5, 2019 under Justice Rajan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachurna, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice SA Nazir.

2- He was not Meer Baqi Isphani. Professor Shireen Moosavi of Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India appeared as a historian before the full bench, from the Muslim side, and said that he is wrongly known as Meer Baqi Ishpani. It is in fact a misreading of Asif-e-sani (the great second Vazeer) which is the authentic decipherment in Epigraphic India, a publication of Archeological Survey of India. She contested that he was a Tashqandi ( in Russia today) and a Sunni Muslim ( on page-12 of her testimony).

3- He was Ibrahim Lodhi’s Governor of the Ayodhya. Lodhi had fought the 1st battle of Panipat with Babar in 1526. He held a sway and controlled Ayodhya region. He was challenged by Meer Baqi Tashqandi, and had fled from Ayodhya.

4- The document has been submitted before the full bench. The reference is at page 176. Early Travels in India ( 1583-1619) edited by William Foster.

5- This has been mentioned in the footnote No. 7 at page 176. Early Travels in India ( 1583-1619) edited by William Foster.

6-The extract of this book was filed by Justice DN Agarwal, plaintiff of Other Original Suit (OOS) No. 5 of 1989 and the same was not disputed by the Muslim side. Justice Agarwal was associated with Vishwa Hindu Parishad ( World Hindu Council) and has passed. The full bench has now the full text of the book.

7- The book is Description Historique ET Gerographique DE L’INDE . It is submitted with the full bench.

8- The History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India (Five Volumes). It first published in 1838. Reprinted again in 1976, by Cosmo Publication, New Delhi.

9- This copy is with the full bench.

10- Gazetteers of the Territories Under the Government of the East India Company and the Native States of the Continent of India by Edward Thornton. It reprinted in 1993, by Low Price Publication, Delhi. The reference is from its page ( 739-740).

11- It was written by Alexander Cunningham, first published in 1871 and now published by ASI in 2000 in Two Volumes.

12- Ibid on Page ( 320-327)

13- Historical Sketch of Faizabad With Old Capitals Ajodhia and Fyzabad by P. Carnegy, Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer-1870 Oudh Government Press.

14- Ibid on pages 5,6,7,9,20,21

15- The Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, ( Three Volumes), First published in 1877-78 and Reproduced in India in 1993, published by Low Price Publication , Delhi,

16- Ibid on page 6-7

17- Historical Sketch of Faizabad With Old Capitals Ajodhia and Fyzabad by P. Carnegy, Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer-1870 Oudh Government Press.

18- Ibid on page (20-21)

19- Historical Sketch of Faizabad With Old Capitals Ajodhia and Fyzabad by P. Carnegy, Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer-1870 Oudh Government Press.

20- Ibid on page (20-21)

21- The Report of the Settlement of the Land Revenue of the Faizabad District. Published in 1880, North West Provinces and Oudh Press

22- Ibid on pages 218, 234, 235, 236.

23- The Monumental Antiquities and Inscription in the North Western Provinces and Oudh, Described and arranged by A. Fuhrer, PhD in 1891.

24- Ibid on pages of 295, 296

25- Ibid on 297

  1. The Archeological Report of 1862-63. Prepared by Cunningham. On pages 320-322.

27- The Monumental Antiquities and Inscription in the North Western Provinces and Oudh, Described and arranged by A. Fuhrer, PhD in 1891.

28- Faizabad- A Gazetteer ( Volume XLIII) of the District Gazeteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Written by HR Nevill, ICS, Printed by F Lluker Superintendent, Government Press United Province, Allahabad (1905)

29- Ibid on pages 172-77

30- Historical Sketch of Faizabad With Old Capitals Ajodhia and Fyzabad by P. Carnegy, Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer-1870 Oudh Government Press. On Pages 20-23.

31- Provincial Series , United Province of Agra and Oudh, 1908, in Three Volumes, Published by the Superintendent of Government Printing Press, Calcutta, II Volumes.

32 Ibid on pages 388-389 of Volume II

33-Sita is Rama’s wife

34- Faizabad-A Gazetteer by HR Nevill, ICS , District Gazetteer of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, First Edition 1928, Published by Superintendent Government Press, UP. On its pages 178-181.

35- Faizabad- A Gazetteer ( Volume XLIII) of the District Gazeteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Written by HR Nevill, ICS, Printed by F Lluker Superintendent, Government Press United Province, Allahabad (1905) on Pages 172 to 176.

36- Uttar Pradesh District Gazetteer , Faizabad. By Esha Basanti Joshi, 1960. Published by the Government of UP,. On its pages 34,35,46,47,352,353,354




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